After I was diagnosed with PD, it started impacting my day to day life. My PD progressed at faster level and movements deteriorated. MY UPDRS rose sharply from 14 to 35 by early 2015
Manoj Agarwala, CEO 9zest
On the eve of World Parkinson’s Day we interviewed Manoj Agarwala, co-founder 9zest. Here is his battle with Parkinson’s & the story behind the genesis of 9zest. His efforts and outcomes are presented in his own words to encourage the rest of us.
What was your age when you were diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in early 2013.
Give us some insight in your life before you were diagnosed with PD?
I am a successful serial technology entrepreneur based out of Washington DC metropolitan area. I had nurtured GlobalLogic to spread across the globe and on my way to build another flourishing company, hCentive. I was taking bigger strides and had plans to achieve much more and was enjoying every bit of my professional success. I was - and am - enjoying a successful personal life too. I am happily married for 20 years with two wonderful children. I enjoyed workouts, outdoors, tennis and ski.
How did PD impact your life and lifestyle?
After I was diagnosed with PD, it started impacting my day to day life. My PD progressed at faster level and movements deteriorated. My UPDRS rose sharply from 14 to 35 by early 2015. PD started impacting my muscle movements and my posture. I had trouble standing straight and could not even walk 100 meters. I started following a special diet where I would mostly consume liquids to avoid choking as I had trouble chewing and swallowing. Worsening symptoms started affecting my sleep. I would have pain in different parts of the body specially my shoulder which would also restrict my hand movement. I started becoming more dependent as I had trouble driving, writing/typing, and conducting other day-to-day activities.
What did you do to deal with it?
As I researched on PD, I discovered that there is no medical solution for it. However, I was consoled to learn that exercise and physical therapy could assist in improving my condition or slowing the progression of the disease. The recommended physical therapy proved to be challenging as well as expensive because insurance company dictated the location and number of sessions covered. Alternatively, my attempt at having at home therapy proved to be uneconomical. I even tried and hired local fitness and Yoga teachers which again was expensive and lacked experience dealing with PD and its specific symptoms. I was struggling to find a holistic, affordable and sustainable solution to my PD needs.
What did you try next?
I bought a few Yoga CDs and tried to follow them along, but none of these CDs addressed my PD symptoms. I was struggling to find a sustainable and affordable therapy program that suited my specific PD needs. I happened to be visiting a small town in India in May 2015. One of my friends recommended a local physical therapist. She tried a combination of both yoga and physical therapy on me. A few sessions with her showed positive signs on my symptoms. However, I had to return home to USA. My therapist agreed to try therapy via live video-sessions. After a few hiccups we were able to iron out technology issues. I kept experiencing improvement in my mobility. About a year of live video therapy sessions, my PD progression not only slowed but was in fact reversed. My UPDRS improved from 35 to 18 and my symptoms were under control. In fact, I was able to hike 30 miles in a week in Yellowstone park last in summer of 2016. Based on this success, i founded 9zest to bring affordable and sustainable Parkinson’s therapy solution to Parkinson’s community at large.
What does 9zest do?
At 9zest, we have developed a PD therapy app with holistic approach through physical therapy, occupational therapy, yoga, speech therapy and meditation which is specifically designed to manage and reduce PD symptoms.
That sounds interesting, can you tell us more about 9zest PD Therapy app.
First of all this app is one of its kind in the market. The app delivers personalized therapy sessions using a rich library of audio video exercises. It uses Artificial Intelligence and Self Learning Software (9zest Smart) to help our members achieve their goals. The recommended workout protocol varied from day to day; to keep it interesting and to add the element of surprise each day. Also, the workout protocol is unique for each person and is based on their individual needs and symptoms.
What motivated you the most to create such a platform?
It dawned on me that there are 10 million people worldwide and many of them are struggling just as much as I was to find a holistic, easily accessible solution to their PD needs. So the thought of improving quality of lives of millions of people is what motivates me everyday to keep innovating.
What role or importance do you think family and friends and their support play in fighting PD and its symptoms?
I am blessed to have a strong family and a network of close friends who have played a big role in my fight against PD. I would particularly like to single out my wife Archana who has been there all along and has been very supportive in my fight against PD and my endeavour to bring a PD therapy app to Parkinson’s community worldwide. I think family and friends and their support, encouragement, help and direction is very important in this fight against PD and its symptoms. I strongly feel that when you are personally going through a tough phase you need people with positive attitude and all the support and encouragement.
How has your experience been doing PD therapy with the App?
I have been using the PD Therapy App for almost about a year. I am thrilled to share continuous improvement in my symptoms.. The therapy suggested by the app are like 1-on-1 session specifically targeted towards each of the PD symptoms I am facing and have helped improve and control them tremendously.
How physical therapy sessions helped alleviate the impact of PD symptoms and progression on your lifestyle?
Physical therapy sessions have made a positive impact on my life. When my health and life was going downhill, these therapies helped my health go uphill and gave me strength, energy and boosted my confidence to control my PD symptoms towards a better life. These session are like a perfect companion along with medical intervention. It has helped me control and slow down my PD symptoms to the point where I am more independent in my day to day life and I am able to enjoy personal and professional life again.
How is the 9zest program different as compared to other programs or traditional Physical Therapy?
This app has a more holistic approach and is easily available to anyone with PD. The app provides support for managing and improving symptoms such as balance, walking endurance, rigidity, posture correction, facial expression, chewing and fine motor movements. Additionally, it also supports symptoms such as constipation, bowel incontinence, bladder incontinence, shoulder pain, back pain, knee pain, elbow pain, speech therapy, yoga for flexibility, meditation, pranayama for stress reduction and improve sleep/insomnia to help address the need holistically.
What message would you like to provide to People in Parkinson’s community?
Don’t lose hope, commit to regular workout as it can improve quality of life significantly. Lot of research is going on to find a medical cure for PD and I am hopeful that a cure will be found in next few years. In the meantime, continue working out and stay in good shape.