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South Jersey man says he got his life back with deep brain stimulation therapy for Parkinson's disease

Deep brain stimulation therapy for Parkinson's disease gave this South Jersey man his life back
Deep brain stimulation therapy for Parkinson's disease gave this South Jersey man his life back 02:24

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- New research is underway to determine if an implant that helps control tremors related to Parkinson's disease can also help those patients sleep better.

Deep brain stimulation has been revolutionary in treating Parkinson's and now researchers at Penn Medicine said its uses could very well be expanding.

It's a typical tremor caused by Parkinson's disease but for 63-year-old Bill Stockl, it's now under control.

"I think it's amazing," he said.

The South Jersey construction worker said it took years to figure out what was wrong. He just didn't feel right but all the tests were normal.

"The not knowing was bad, you can't fix anything if you don't know what the problem is," Stockl said. "After a while, I felt the problem was in my head because everything was coming back fine."

But there was a problem in his brain.

At Penn, he was eventually diagnosed with Parkinson's, a neurodegenerative disorder. Wanting an alternative to medications, Stockl decided to try deep brain stimulation.

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"It's been a revolutionary tool in our pocket," Dr. Pavani Vaswani said.

Neurologist Vaswani said the stimulation is targeted to the part of the brain that causes Parkinson's. That happens with tiny wires being surgically implanted.

The wires are internally connected to a battery that's in Bill's chest and the stimulation is on all the time to keep his symptoms under control.

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"It's been absolutely phenomenal," Stockl said.

The father of four said the implant is also helping him sleep better, which is often disrupted because of Parkinson's.

"It's magic," he said.

"We don't know exactly why this happens," Dr. Casey Halpern said.

Helpern said research is now underway to determine if deep brain stimulation can also be used to treat sleep issues for people with Parkinson's.

"50% probably report an improvement in their sleep quality and they feel more rested after deep brain stimulation," Helpern said.

Stockl said the therapy has been a game-changer.

"I got my life back," he said.

Stockl also has a fitness group they call themselves the "Unshaken."

Exercise is also known to help with Parkinson's.

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