Vail Valley: Parkinson’s Power Punch brings healing, hope to patients
EDWARDS — Like many of us, Frank Lynch visited Vail to visit friends and ski. He and wife Patricia stuck around for summer and never left.
Lynch skied 90 days a year until he was 78 year old. He played golf and enjoyed life.
He’s originally from New York City, and lived in New Jersey. He earned his living as board chairman of United States Aviation Underwriters, an aviation insurance company.
He’s also hilarious, tossing off quips:
“I came from a small town. It was so small the head of the mafia was Polish.”
“You’re one in a million,” said an admirer.
“Thank God,” Lynch said, smiling.
‘They don’t know what it is’
Frank and Patricia Lynch moved to the Vail Valley and became active in the Bravo! Vail Music Festival, the local schools, and became friends with Jerry and Betty Ford, traveling the world with them.
He had it all — health, wealth and good friends … until he didn’t.
About 10 years ago he developed what felt like an inner ear problem. It wasn’t. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic told him he had Parkinson’s disease.
“It’s a catch-all disease. They don’t know what it is,” Lynch said.
He doesn’t have tremors, but began to freeze. He couldn’t move for 30 seconds at a time. Neurologists couldn’t help and didn’t explain it very well, he said.
Medications might help for a while, but not forever. Doctors changed his dosage and medications, but the benefits quickly faded, Lynch said.
He was 87 years old, miserable and had given up.
Sometimes there’s nothing better than punching something to make you feel better. It even works for Parkinson’s disease patients.
Parkinson’s Power Punch opened in the Vail Valley with sessions Tuesday and Saturday mornings at Trinity Church in Edwards.
Like Lynch, his daughters are an irresistible force of nature and convinced him to go to physical therapy for six weeks.
At first he pooh-poohed physical training, but his daughters are nothing if not persistent. Exercise helped a little, he said.
He dropped in for a Parkinson’s Power Punch session and the improvement was almost instant.
“I think about the only thing that can help Parkinson’s patients is exercise,” Lynch said. “The only thing I changed was exercise and Parkinson’s Punch. If it helped me, it could help anyone.”
Lynch played golf all his life, and was a scratch golfer. In fact, he shot a 69 to win the club championship at Eagle Springs.
His putting failed him when he got the yips. He’d like to blame Parkinson’s for that, but says he probably can’t.
“I was always a poor putter,” he said, smiling.
Boxing is basic
Rick Schwartz launched Parkinson’s Power Punch around Colorado. He doesn’t get paid for it. He does it because it needs to be done.
He’s a former major league baseball pitcher and executive director of Fox Sports. He and his wife live in Arrowhead most of the year.
When Parkinson’s hit him 17 years ago he thought his life was done. It wasn’t, but it felt that way.
Schwartz did what he had always done — exercise.
Schwartz was watching boxer Anthony Mora train, which is worth watching because Mora is a Golden Gloves boxing champion. Schwartz asked him a question that may not occur to most people.
“Did you ever think of starting a boxing class for Parkinson’s patients?” Schwartz asked.
Mora looked at him like Schwartz had three heads and Mora couldn’t figure out which one to punch. But Mora is a gamer and will try about anything, so he gave it a shot.
It turns out that boxing is great for Parkinson’s patients and nearly anyone else.
Boxing builds hand-eye coordination, balance, fast-twitch muscles and mental acuity through a numbering system. Punches are given numbers, and you have to remember the number and deliver the blow, as in one-two, four-four-three.
Mora, Schwartz and Lee Chow, a 2015 alumnus of the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Physical Therapy Program, launched Parkinson’s Power Punch. They now have 15 locations around Colorado.
“My goal is to keep reaching out in every way I know how so that others with Parkinson’s have the opportunity to have their own miracle happen,” Schwartz said. “I’ve seen miracles. I’ve seen people get better, which is the miracle. And I use the word miracle very carefully. For me, seeing the miracles that have occurred for Frank and others has been my payoff for starting the boxing program.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Are we seeing more bears because there are more bears on the valley floor, or because we’re all spending more time at home? It could be a bit of both.