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CHICAGO (CBS) — We often take the simple ability to move our bodies for granted, but movement can be a huge challenge for people with serious neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
A center in the northwest suburbs is helping change that.
CBS 2 recently paid a visit to the NeuroBalance Center in Barrington.
Jennifer Smith’s sparring partners are fighters like her; people who have Parkinson’s disease.
“It’s fun hitting things,” she said. “I love the boxing, because you’re working your whole body; and it’s fun, because you’re hitting things.”
They meet at the NeuroBalance Center in Barrington, a lifeline for people with debilitating neurological diseases.
“They offer the gym side of thing with trainers, and instructors. You can do classes, you can do one-on-one,” Smith said. “They also offer things that we also need; like acupuncture, chiro, massage. They do infusions for M.S. So it’s kind of like a one-stop shop.”
President and founder Joy Wagner knows firsthand how important all of this is. A former nurse, she has M.S. and she said the physical challenges are only one aspect of neurological diseases.
“People are so derailed. Their whole life changed on a dime, and what daily life looks like is completely different all of a sudden, and they’re isolated and they’re angry,” she said. “As soon as you’re active, and the endorphins are released, your whole attitude changes.”
“It’s about creating a new normal that feels as normal as possible,” she added.
“Nobody feels sorry for somebody in here. We all push each other and we push each other hard,” Smith said. “You don’t talk about the disease itself. You just talk about, ‘How ya doing? What do you need? Can I help you with anything?’”
Wagner said she hopes the center will inspire people in other cities to create their own versions, and she’s getting the word out.
Recently, 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl paid a visit. Her husband has Parkinson’s.
Smith said all anything people in her shoes want is to be able to live their best lives.
“It wasn’t because we did something. It’s genetic, or its environmental that we get these diseases. so we didn’t do anything wrong. We just have them, and we’re living with them, and we’re trying to live our best and contribute back to society,” she said.
People from all over — even out-of-towners – are welcome at the center.
There is a small fee for services, as well as a sliding fee scale and scholarships, but the Neurobalance Center is a non-profit. That means it relies heavily on donations to carry out its mission.
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