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El Paso Parkinson's patients fight disease symptoms

New research this week lends insight into cause

Parkinson's patients fight symptoms

EL PASO, Texas - Big milestones this week in the fight against an incurable progressive movement disorder.

A federal open records request by health care news website MobiHealth News found emails between Apple Inc. and the Food and Drug Administration about the tech company's plans to create a smartphone app that can diagnose Parkinson's disease.

Information from the request released on Nov. 28 showed that Apple has been trading emails with FDA officials about what needs to be done to make the app worthy of government approval.

On Thursday, California scientists released a study showing that the brain disorder may be caused by bacteria living in the gut.

Multiple news agencies reported the findings. According to the study of mice by scientists at the California Institue of Technology, changes to gut microbes can influence the development of Parkinson's-like movement disorders.

In the meantime, El Pasoans living with Parkinson's continue to fight their symptoms. Dozens of them are turning to a new resource in the city: Rock Steady Boxing, a facility dedicated to Parkinson's patients. The non-contact boxing gym has been open since June and is the only one of its kind in El Paso.



Joe Soto and his wife, Helen, have been avid Rock Steady members since it opened. They had traveled across the Southwest to other facilities that emphasized the positive influence that boxing has on Parkinson's symptoms.

They say the gym has given them hope.

"I thought I was finished," Joe said about his feelings upon learning his diagnosis 10 years ago. "I feel young again. I don't feel the Parkinson's (while boxing). I'm balanced. I feel good."

Physical therapist Katherine Reyes-Brooks opened Rock Steady with her husband, Steven.

"It's the only (gym) I know where (members) ... all have Parkinson's, but they don't have to talk about it and just have fun," she told ABC-7.

This gym is personal for Katherine and Steven. Their fathers both have the progressive movement disorder. Framed pictures of their dads are hanging on the wall, overseeing the workout room.

"I wanted to be able to do more for families like ours than just the normal therapy," she said. "They have to have a good support system, and if they don't have a family support system, then that's our job."

Katherine says boxing is ideal to treat Parkinson's symptoms because of the big stances and movements that are associated with the sport.

"Every time they hit, and every time they put the gloves back on, they're getting more feedback through the arms up to the brain," Katherine said.

While there is research into the causes of Parkinson's disease, there is still no cure. But Joe and Helen believe the boxing therapy at Rock Steady is an important link to treating the symptoms that at one time made them feel helpless.

"There's much more to be done here," Helen said. "And now that he's here, he looks forward to it, he comes back enthused, he's back to himself, almost," she added, laughing.

Boxing classes aren't covered by insurance but Katherine said the monthly membership comes out to $1.50 a class.

Rock Steady Boxing is located at 10950 Pellicano, Ste. B-2. Call (915) 307-3283 for more information.


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