Man diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease hoping to inspire others to take control of your own life

WALKER — One person dealing with debilitating conditions is looking to help others by sharing his story of battling challenging situations like Parkinson’s Disease.

Ryan Leininger was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome in 2012. The syndrome is a very rare and severe condition that affects the nerves. It mainly affects the feet, hands, and limbs, causing problems such as numbness, weakness, and pain.

To help strenghten his hands after his diagnosis, Leininger made hairbows for his daughter.

In 2015, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a degenerative neurological disorder in which the brain cells that typically produce dopamine die off. When the cells die, the brain loses its ability to control movement, which leads to tremors in the hands and feet. People with Parkinson’s can eventually lose their ability to walk and talk and can experience memory loss, behavioral differences, chronic pain, depression, and fatigue. 

After the Parkinson’s diagnosis, Leininger said he distanced himself from others.

“I put up walls around me and distanced myself from reality and social activities, family time, and friends,” he recalled. “I became kind of a bit of a recluse and gained a lot of weight. In 2019, I had brain surgery because my Parkinson’s was progressing.”

Leininger was 37 when he had brain surgery called “deep brain stimulation.” He had the first of two surgeries in 2019 and three deep brain stimulation surgeries in March 2020.

Two years after his first brain surgery, Leininger said a photo in his bathroom mirror motivated him to make some changes.

“In 2021, I was in the bathroom and saw myself. I took a pic in the mirror and was upset with the situation I had put myself in,” he said. “That night, I started walking.”

Dec. 1, 2023, was the second anniversary of Leininger’s fitness journey. It’s been one year since he started a workout regime consisting of 100 sit-ups and 100 push-ups every day.

He said the journey consisted of attending a fitness center four to five times weekly. He does situps, push-ups, and more to keep his joints and muscles moving. He said the more he stays idle, the more he has tremors.

“I walk every day,” he said. “The more time I’m idle, my Parkinsons’ Disease really is more noticeable.”

Leininger said he’s lost nearly 100 pounds in two years. Exercise and weight training have helped with strength, and she said he hopes it helps slow the progression of Parkinson’s symptoms.

One thing that has slowed is the amount of medications he has had to take. Leininger said he went from 24 medications to four.

“I was very depressed and attempted suicide in 2019, overdosing on meds,” he recalled. “I was put in a psychiatric hospital for a week. It was a dark place, but through the help of God, family, and friends, it’s been a complete 180. I did not have all the access weight. I had to use a cane because my feet were hurting so badly. I had gout, but not since I lost the weight.”

He said he hopes his story could inspire others to keep fighting even if it was challenging.

“Something I’ve been doing since last year is being more vocal about my health and the challenges I’ve overcome,” Leininger said. “Hopefully, give someone a perspective on if he can do it, then I can do it. Help someone get through their funk and put a positive spin on a challenging situation.”

Leininger’s weight loss journey is documented on his X (formerly Twitter) account. His YouTube channel is Obese To Fit With Parkinson’s.

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