LSVT Global Team Member Spotlight! Leon Puzon

Leon Puzon: LSVT BIG and LSVT LOUD Volunteer Ambassador

What do you do?

As a volunteer, I interact with both students and clinicians who are working to achieve certification in LSVT LOUD or LSVT BIG. Generally, I am asked to demonstrate the LSVT exercises for one hour with a group of people and one of the LSVT instructors. They can practice the exercises with me, and they can make comments or ask questions. They ask about my effort, give me feedback and comment about how the exercises can help my function.  I do the exercises as I know how, which may not be perfection. I give them an example of a patient they are asked to work with. They look at what I do, assess if I’m doing it as expected and encourage me to do better. They take what they have been taught during the course and apply it to me. It’s like I am a question! They have to figure me out as to what they are expected to do relative to what I am doing. They have to show that they have learned what they have been taught.

How long have you been volunteering with LSVT Global?

Since the spring of 2020.

What is your favorite part of your volunteer role?

I enjoy the interaction with the clinicians knowing that I am helping to develop their skills to teach people with Parkinson’s. It inspires me to continue with LSVT, because I personally know the value and benefits of sustained exercise.

Tell us a little about yourself:

I was born and raised in Montana. I graduated from high school and went to college in Seattle. I earned a degree in Electrical Engineering and worked as a Nuclear Engineer for thirty-nine years at the Puget Sound naval shipyard, where my team repaired and overhauled nuclear ships. When I retired, I worked with my wife Patricia part time at a library. She unfortunately became ill with Lewy Body Dementia, and I was her caregiver for seven years before she passed away.  I then moved to New Orleans to be with my daughter and son in law, where I have been since. 

Before I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2018, I had noticed some difficulties with stumbling when I walked. My daughter is a physical therapist, and she helped me to get into see a neurologist, who referred me to therapy.  I was introduced right away to LSVT BIG and LSVT LOUD by the therapy team at East Jefferson General Hospital. 

I love getting together with other people.  I participate in a number of exercise classes together with other people who have Parkinson’s from all over the world. The classes include LOUD for LIFE, BIG for LIFE, Irish Step Dancing, Dance for Parkinson’s with the New Orleans Ballet Association and Sage’s Parkinson’s Program in Baton Rouge. I also have worked closely Dr. Mark Blanchard, a professor at LSU’s Occupational Therapy Program and his students during research projects they have done related to LSVT BIG.

With all these classes, I enjoy communicating with other people with PD, supporting them and they support me. The classes and things I’m involved in are not something I do just to take up my time.  It is my way of giving back, and this is of great value to me. 

Favorite quote, food, or pastime:

I loved hunting, fishing, and camping when I was growing up in Montana. I also have fond memories of traveling with my adult sons and their families to the Pacific Northwest and Western Australia where we hiked, biked, fished and enjoyed each other’s company. I still enjoy walking, being outdoors, exercising, being with others and helping other people.

One of the other things I enjoy doing is working with the United States Veterans Service Dog organization.  I foster dogs in training and walk with them, so they learn now to maneuver with people who walk more slowly or require stability.

My favorite food is beef shish kebabs, and my favorite quote is “Pump it up!”, which I often hear in one of my exercise classes. It gets me going!

What are some words of wisdom you can share with others?

I have some low points during my life, but I learned how to turn away from my own problems and to re-associate with others.  Reaching out into life and finding yourself really alive is so important. Even with Parkinson’s, my path is an uphill path, not a downhill spiral!   Also, I’d say to therapists, they need to realize that they may not know the impact they are making on their patients until a year or two later.  I hope this inspires and motivates clinicians when they are working with their patients!

“Leon is a great inspiration to us all!  He is always engaging, upbeat and willing to help others. He seems to have a cosmic sense of knowing when to send us the perfect email of gratitude, encouragement or humor that always makes our day! I know Leon says he gets so much from working with our students and faculty, but I am certain we all get far more from him. Leon is a priceless team member. We could not do what we do without him.”

-Cynthia Fox, CEO & Co-Founder, LSVT Global