Eddie Adcock – The Bionic Banjo Player

Eddie Adcock in pre-opFor a musician, there aren’t many things more fearsome than developing a tremor in your picking hand. Eddie Adcock decided not to sit idly by and live with a diminished skill level due to such a complication. During the month of August, he underwent a three stage surgical procedure at Nashville’s Vanderbilt Medical Center, intended to reverse the problem with his right hand.

Adcock celebrated his 70th birthday in June of this year. After years of playing in smoke filled venues, he suffers from emphysema and doctors say it’s possible that the medications he has taken for that have been a contributing factor in the development of his right hand tremor. After trying, unsuccessfully, to control the shaking via a dozen different medications over a period of several years, Adcock has now become the first non-Parkinsons musician to undergo the three stage procedure known as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) at Vanderbilt Medical Center.

The procedure is so new that the Neurosurgery department at Vanderbilt videotaped the surgeries for their own instructional use, and possible PBS broadcast at some point in the future.

The three surgeries include the implantation of a pulse generator (IPG) inside the chest wall, an extension wire from the IPG to the head, and an electrical lead placed in the brain to stimulate brain activity with the electrical pulses.

During the brain implantation surgery, the patient is kept conscious so they may assist the doctors in properly placing the leads. They do this by experiencing its immediate effects on their fine motor skills. In Eddie’s case, this would be his right hand picking the banjo. Eddie took a Deering GoodTime banjo into surgery with him (see the picture at top). I’m sure that was first!

Eddie has related that this was not an easy process to experience.

I came up in music the hard way and learned to be a trouper fast.  Some of those early days were pretty rough, and I’ve been stomped, cut and kicked; but I never went through hell like this — it was the most painful thing I’ve ever endured.  And it was risky.  But I did it for a reason:  I’m looking forward to being able to play music the way I did years ago prior to getting this tremor.  It means that much to me.  I’m far from being done!

He has also expressed appreciation to his neurologists and neurosurgeons, along with all the staff at Vanderbilt. He also sends his thanks to those who sent cards and good wishs, and kept him in their prayers during the month of August. He’s in good spirits now as he recovers from not only the surgery, but also the pre-op hair cut he received.

I’m beginning to get used to wearing a do-rag, though.  The girls seem to like it.

The Bionic Banjo Player does ask for your continued prayer support as he is scheduled for a post-op checkup late this month, and then in early October the IPG will be turned on and the device will be programmed for strength and intensity of signal.