Rock Steady Boxing helps Parkinson’s patients fight back

A punching bag may not seem like the best medicine for Parkinson’s disease, but it seems to have helped students in the Rock Steady Boxing class at Pecos County Memorial Hospital in Fort Stockton.

Physical Therapy Director Jeremy Calzada and his brother Victor, a physical therapist assistant, put the class through a modified boxer’s routine, including walking an indoor track and punching a speed and heavy bag.

Calzada said the students have also suffered from heart problems and stroke.

Glenda Pasqua, a Fort Stockton resident who has Parkinson’s disease, helped bring Rock Steady Boxing to the local hospital. Walking around the track Thursday, Pasqua said she’s felt good since she started taking the class about two years ago. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about three years ago.

Thursday morning, she felt really dizzy.

“I was that close to not coming. By the time I’d been here 15 minutes, I’m fine. It’s amazing,” Pasqua said.

The father-in-law of one of her best friends has Parkinson’s disease. They researched it and found out about Rock Steady Boxing.

The Rock Steady website said it was founded in 2006 by former Marion County, Ind., prosecutor, Scott C. Newman, who has Parkinson’s, a movement disorder that can cause “deterioration of motor skills, balance, speech and sensory functions.”

“The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation estimates there are more than 1 million people in the United States diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and more than 60,000 people are diagnosed each year,” the site said.

Pasqua said her friend started calling the place that trains people for Rock Steady Boxing in Indianapolis, Ind. They told her friend there would not be an opening for a year to train someone, but she persisted and got the program to Fort Stockton.

“It was just a blessing that it happened like it did,” Pasqua said.

She said the classes don’t look like much, but when you don’t attend you can tell the difference.

Usually when the weather gets bad, Pasqua said she gets pneumonia, but this year she hasn’t had anything.

“It’s a magic little program and we’re so glad to have it,” Pasqua said. “And being so isolated from different places makes it even harder. It’s amazing we have this here so far from everything.”

Jeremy Calzada said the class started about two years ago. He said Pasqua and others bought the research to him and said they would pay for training if they would bring their know-how back and teach it to them.

“Most of the time you try to keep the heart rate up, keep the blood flow going to the brain and you’re on that left, right, left, right. The same thing goes with the legs. Most of the time what happens in the brain with Parkinson’s is they get shut down to where left and right want to move at the same time,” Jeremy Calzada said.

He offers his classes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for 45 minutes to an hour. Jeremy Calzada said he lets them rest if they want to, or if they’re done. Some participants really challenge themselves to get to the next level, he said.

“It starts off with stretches and rotates to some balance. Then we start getting the heart rate up with agility stuff with the (rope) ladder and the pushups and the ball kick. This is the big program right here, incorporating the boxing routine,” Jeremy Calzada said.

The rope ladder is on the floor and participants use it to walk backward and forward and do routines to increase agility. The push ups are done against the mirror wall of the aerobics room of the Physical Therapy and Wellness Center.

Jeremy Calzada said he has had patients come in with walkers and canes, but once they started class they were no longer needed.

“That’s why it becomes so addictive. They notice when they take a week or two weeks off, they can feel their body changing in a different direction,” he said.

Along with Jeremy and Victor Calzada, there is a part-time physical therapist, Lydia May. Jeremy Calzada also does home health and has a physical therapist assistant that works with him on that.

He hopes to hire another physical therapist assistant from Odessa College because he needs the help.

Odessa residents Jim Prichard, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about 20 years ago, found out about Rock Steady Boxing through his doctor in Lubbock. Thursday was his first day.

“I’ve heard about it. I know they do wonders with some people. I’m a little tired. I’m getting my blood circulating good,” Prichard said.

He said he feels awkward and clumsy and has no sense of smell and not much of a sense of taste anymore.

“I don’t know if it’s going to help that problem … but I hope it does,” Prichard said.

He added that everyone at the Fort Stockton hospital has been really nice and friendly.

David Young of Fort Stockton has been attending the Rock Steady classes for a little more than a year.

“I had a hole in my colon and I was in the hospital in Odessa for six months. I had three operations. I almost died twice and when I got down here, I weighed 119 pounds and all I could move was my neck,” said Young, who is 75.

At 5-foot-eight, he said he now weighs 170, which he said has to be “all muscle now.”

Young said he attends classes weekly and works out all the time.

“It’s a wonderful class. It improves the personality of everybody that gets involved in it. I like it a lot,” he added.

The hospital may be reached at 432-336-2004 and the email address is

Maria De La Rocha and Diana Mesa test their pugilistic skills at Rock Steady Boxing at Pecos County Memorial Hospital in Fort Stockton on March 15.

Ruth Campbell/Odessa American

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