Back in the ‘80s, Ray Wells could fly through the air to jump kick you if he wanted. He could also serenade you with an original guitar piece, with Spanish-inspired melodies and peppy chord progressions. But in 2001, what he describes as “brain fog” would be the first sign that these passions might be coming to an end — a symptom of a disease he didn’t yet know he had.
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During Memorial Day weekend that year, Wells hopped on his motorcycle with his wife, Christa, and set out with a group of friends — sun shining over them as they wove through tree-lined mountains. The adventure would end abruptly with a crash that luckily didn’t result in any major injuries. In the hospital following the accident, though, a doctor noticed a tremor in his hand, which ultimately led to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
Wells spent nearly a decade taking a variety of medication to treat his symptoms, as playing guitar and practicing taekwondo steadily became too difficult. Then his doctor recommended deep brain stimulation surgery. During surgery, a small device was implanted into Wells’s brain, sending electric pulses to the affected area. While it significantly reduced the symptoms of the disease, balance became a serious issue.
That’s when Ray began high-intensity exercise designed for people with Parkinson’s, attending a class originally developed by Dr. Becky Farley, a pioneer in the field of movement therapy for Parkinson’s.
As Ray’s balance, strength, and movement improved over time, he’s been able to almost halt the progression of his Parkinson’s. A couple years ago he was able enough to get back to his passion of practicing martial arts, and today he’s begun helping lead exercise classes for others with the disease. Going to class is his favorite part of the day, he says, and it’s helping him live the best life he can, in the face of a relentless opponent.
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