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Doc Talk: Implant revolutionizing treatment for Parkinson's disease

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There is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease, but technology is revolutionizing treatment for the neurological disease from which so many people suffer.

Most have heard of pacemakers, which are inserted into the chest to help control abnormal heart rhythms. Something similar exists for Parkinson’s Disease.

It was just before Eugene Todd Staley’s 42nd birthday that he noticed something wrong while he was deer hunting.

“It was pretty cold, and I started to shiver, but I noticed I was only shivering on one side. I started getting a tremor,” said Eugene Todd Staley, of Gettysburg.

The shivers didn’t go away, so he finally saw a neurologist. In 2002, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

“It was pretty devastating.”

His tremors during our interview were pretty bad, but he attributes them to nerves.

“I call that the Michael J. Fox symptom. That’s basically from nervousness and being on TV,” said Staley.

Most of the time, those tremors and his rigidity, another symptom of the Parkinson’s, are gone thanks to a deep brain stimulator, or DBS, implanted inside his body, sending currents to help control the affected parts of his brain.

“The neurosurgeon usually implants the leads and the pulse generator, what we call. And then he’s referred to a neurologist for programming,” said Holy Spirit neurologist Dr. Venkata Jakkampudi.

After surgery, the patient typically goes home the next day and then checks in with neurologists two to three weeks later.

“It works really well for tremors. It works well for your mobility, your rigidity, your walking,” said Dr. Jakkampudi.

We could see the difference in Eugene when Dr. Jakkampudi turned the implant on and off. But Eugene says he sees the difference in everything he does.

“I just try to live my life. It’s just a part of it, and I just got to live with it.”

Staley checks in with his neurologist every six months. The only limitation the implant brings is that he must avoid heavy magnetic fields. Doctors are now also researching if these implants will help patients with dystonia and OCD.

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