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FDA-approved device for tremors changes U.S. Air Force veteran's life

It's called the Cala Trio, and it reduces tremors significantly.

SAN ANTONIO — Most don't think about their hand functions until they don't have them. 

Now, a fairly new device approved by the FDA has given those with tremors renewed hope their lives can nearly return to normal. 

About 7 million people in the U.S. have an" essential tremor," referred to as such because it's based on the way the brain is made, and there is no other known cause for it. 

"The first thing that I noticed, my penmanship started to deteriorate. It was a downward spiral from there," said Ben Duncan, who has essential tremors, otherwise known as ET. 

Duncan is a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He says his tremors began 10 years ago. 

"I had problems getting dressed, just trying to button a shirt," he said. "I had problems eating, just trying to hold a spoon or fork."

Even with medication, daily life just wasn't the same. As a woodworker, it was crushing. 

"Before ET, I was in control of my life and my body. ET came along, turned my life upside down, and I lost control."

But then came a device called the Cala Trio. It stimulates nerves in the hand, which sends signals to the brain, thus resetting the nerve and reducing the tremor. 

It's made a world of difference for Duncan.

"I can write, I can print, I can hold stuff steady," he said. "Sure, there's a slight tremor. Like I said: Near-normal." 

Clinical trials for the device showed great improvement. 

"We saw 90% of our patients had improvement in the severity of a tremor," said Dr. Rohit Dhall, medical director for the Clinical Trials Innovation Unit at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, as well as an associate neurology professor. 

But only 50% of those with tremors actually see a doctor or neurologist about them their issue.

"Many providers, many physicians consider it to be a benign disorder, which is not the case," Dhall said. 

Duncan says those with tremors need to be their own advocate, just like he was his own. 

"Sometimes," he said, "you need to be persistent and help your health care provider in getting the best treatment for yourself."  

The Cala Trio is available in San Antonio at these two centers.

You can also check it out online at calatrio.com.