“A new lease on life”

Shaking Bill Crawford’s hand, you’d never know he has Parkinson’s, much less that he’s been living with it for more than 15 years. He’s an active, youthful-looking 59-year-old who plays guitar and participates in his church’s music program. He doesn’t have the visible tremors that are a hallmark of the disease.

Bill Crawford playing guitar
Bill plays guitar during worship services at his church.

Bill credits that to two sources: God, and the work of Dr. Craig van Horne at UK HealthCare’s Kentucky Neuroscience Institute. In 2015, Dr. van Horne implanted a nerve from Bill’s ankle into his brain in a groundbreaking new version of an existing Parkinson’s treatment called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS).

A hymnal opened to How Great Thou Art with dates written on the page
“I can plan our church’s worship time. I can still lead others in worship.”

DBS involves implanting electrodes into the brain to help treat the problems associated with Parkinson’s. Dr. van Horne’s new treatment, called DBS Plus, uses the body’s own nerves in combination with electrodes, eliminating concerns about the body rejecting the transplant.

Dr. Craig van Horne of the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute
Dr. Craig van Horne developed the DBS Plus procedure that helped Bill.

“When Dr. van Horne transplanted a nerve into my brain from my ankle, I believe it made a huge difference. I know that I’m shaking much less when I turn my stimulator off than I was even before,” Bill said.

A framed quote that reads Laughter is the Music of the Heart
Music is a theme throughout Bill's office at his church.

This new nerve, controlled by an external stimulator, helps override the abnormal electrical impulses caused by the disease, calming the tremors. The experimental new treatment was launched by Dr. van Horne with the support of a pilot grant from the UK Center for Clinical and Transitional Science. The procedure is available only at UK HealthCare.

Bill Crawford sitting at a desk, examining paperwork
Bill continues to be active in his church, leading worship and doing pastoral work at hospitals.

While there’s currently no cure for Parkinson’s, the results from the treatment show promise—and, in Bill’s case, they’ve been astonishing. Once nearly paralyzed by tremors and weakness, Bill has been able to continue working at his church in his role as a Worship Pastor. He also does pastoral care at local hospitals. He’s gone from taking twelve pills a day before his surgery to none. 

A series of images suspended on a clothesline with pins
“I’m blessed to be able to work at the church and continue to serve.”

“And as a result of Dr. van Horne, and, I believe, God working through his hands, he’s enabled me to walk and keep working and serving the Lord and getting a new lease on life, really.”

Bill Crawford sitting in a church pew
“I believe God put me here in Lexington because this is where UK HealthCare was.”

Find out more about treatments for patients like Bill at UK HealthCare’s Kentucky Neuroscience Institute.

Patrick Gooding sitting at a desk and smiling