• This 64-year-old man from Madrid has suffered from early Parkinson’s for over 15 years

  • A year ago, her daughter Lourdes realized that she knew how to run, a sport she practiced before falling ill.

  • When Parkinson’s patients perform activities that belong to circuits other than walking -such as playing football or riding a bicycle-, they manage to do them well, explains neurologist Alejandro Méndez Burgos

Only when Félix, a 64-year-old man from Madrid, starts running does he forget about the disease. He was always very athletic. Police Physical Education Instructor, 1st Dan Black Belt in Karate. Runner and rowing player. But all that was cut short more than 15 years ago when he was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s.

What started as a tremor in one of the legs when pressing the car’s clutch ended up with a disability of almost 80%. He needs to be fed and even bathed. To date, it has also affected cognitive functions. “Sometimes he wants to talk, but it’s hard for him to find the words”, admits his daughter Lourdes, who, along with her mother, is dedicated to her father day and night.

Its deterioration has been unstoppable. The medication did not have the expected effect. “The Parkinson’s that my father suffers from is atypical and the therapies and medications that are currently on the market do not work for him”, says the daughter.

The surprise was a year ago. That day, Lourdes took her father to the physiotherapist. “I was alone and I couldn’t carry him because he weighs over 70 kilos and is very tall. I couldn’t walk even 20 meters. So I said to him, ‘Come on, let’s run.’ And suddenly, he was running, he could do this!

Since that day, although at the beginning it is necessary to help him get up, start and get into rhythm, Félix has been able to run a run of almost a kilometer.

gear shift

What happens to Felix is ​​very common among Parkinson’s patients. “When they do activities that belong to circuits other than walking -which is automatic and is the most affected by Parkinson’s disease-, they do them well because they are occupying a different circuit”, explains Félix’s doctor, Alejandro Méndez Burgos, a neurologist at the Hospital El Rosario and La Zarzuela in Madrid. “So when they get stuck, we teach them the trick of acting like they’re climbing a ladder, because with this other circuit, they can also not get stuck on the floor.”

A few days ago, Lourdes posted a video of her father running around on her Twitter account. “Today I want to share how wonderful the brain is. This is my dad, he has had Parkinson’s for over 15 years and has always been a runner. He needs a wheelchair and support so he can walk, but run… Here’s a video for you to see…” The tweet already has 1.2 million views.

“When he runs, he feels free, as if he has come back to life. In fact, he even smiles. And my father never smiles,” says Lourdes.

Play football or ride a bike

“There are football players with Parkinson’s who can’t walk, you give them a ball and they play without any problems. Or gentlemen in a wheelchair with Parkinson’s who have been cycling all their lives, and you ride a bike and they go miles. All are gaits with different characteristics of what it means to walk”, says the neurologist.

“When my dad is rooted to the ground, unable to move, I start singing him a rhythmic song or say, ‘One, two, three… one, two, three.’ And so he manages to keep up with that pace and get out of the blockade”.

Felix’s future, like that of other patients with this disease, is uncertain. His wife and daughter know that he will soon need more help with physical therapy, speech therapy and even the psychological therapies he needs.. “Parkinson’s is very difficult, both for people who suffer from it and for caregivers”, assures Lourdes. “I prefer not to know what we can expect from this disease.” Meanwhile, they live day by day, with the breath that Félix can take and remember, sometimes, the man he was in the past.