by Jia Li, ITTF Foundation Communication Coordinator.
Originally from Chile, Digna Baynes was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2016. Table tennis was already a part of her life before, and the disease has brought her closer to the sport.
“I have to manage a wide range of symptoms – moving slowly, having less energy, stiffness in my body, and I need to do exercises for at least two hours a day. The weekly table tennis training was not enough so I joined Brighton Table Tennis Club (BTTC) in 2018 to improve my skills and meet my exercise goals.”
As her bond with table tennis increases, Baynes has noticed the social benefits the sport brings in addition to improving her physical and mental health.
“I began combining table tennis with community work. Several times a week, I run the “All Stars” sessions in a park in Brighton where we encourage the community to play table tennis and participate in friendly matches. I have also recently started to help in the children’s sessions on Saturdays at BTTC.”
Baynes is now working on her coaching skills, in the hope to run the “SuperTonnic TT” sessions at BTTC for people with Parkinson’s and long-term health conditions.
“I am a lot more active physically and socially thanks to table tennis since the diagnosis. I hope to help more people to enjoy the benefits of the sport. Playing table tennis improves my coordination, my balance and movement. I feel energised with a sense of freedom in my movements when the stiffness goes away. The need for quick thinking and the adrenalin boost when I play competitively also helps my mental and physical health.”
Krzysztof Bartkowiak considers himself lucky, despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 37, and Lyme disease four years later. The optimism is not out of the blue. After all, he has “been given three chances to live” and he refuses to ever give up.
“I had a serious intestinal operation as a child. It was the first in Poland and the second in the world. I almost drowned in primary school, but a classmate saved me. All this happened for a reason so I will not give up. The Parkison’s started with trembling hands, loss of smell and taste before other symptoms came along, but I will fight for myself and my family. I educate myself about the disease and have been organising meetings for people with Parkinson’s.”
Given a third chance to live, Bartkowiak has decided to help others in similar situations.
“I had been taking care of someone with Parkinson’s and I felt fulfilled and needed. I looked for people who were able to cope with Parkinson’s and I followed their examples. I have met many wonderful people and made new friends along the way. I’m still ill, but I have a different attitude towards the disease now.”
With the newfound positivity towards his conditions, Bartkowiak is actively seeking ways to improve his physical and mental health.
“It is not easy, but I manage. I do various sports such as cycling, swimming, running, boxing and play table tennis. I take part in competitions for which I can qualify. I set new goals to the best of my ability. My latest goal, which I am working towards with all my will, is the World Parkinson’s Table Tennis Championships in Berlin.”
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