NexStride User Stories: John “Fast Johnny” Pistacchi

The Renaissance Man Who Keeps on Moving

John Pistacchi is what many would call a renaissance man. He always has been, and he always will be: a Parkinson’s diagnosis sure won’t change that. 

As a French immigrant who moved to California as a child, John had a wide variety of interests. He played stickball – a popular street spin-off of baseball – along the paved roads of Los Angeles as a kid. He took his athleticism to the intramural sports fields in high school where his varsity soccer team played a championship game in the LA Colosseum, but his interests weren’t just limited to athletics. When he wasn’t on the field, you could often find John fishing off of the jetties at the beaches outside L.A., or pursuing his passion for photography along one of the nation’s most scenic coastlines. 

Academically, John was equally gifted. He attended Loyola University, where one of his professor’s encouraged him to become a writer. Instead, John had taken notice of the abundance of engineering opportunities in the sprouting market of Silicon Valley. He decided to put off writing (he would return with a bang years later), and obtain a master’s degree in engineering from UCLA. From there, John successfully launched and ran his own computer firm, making software development his trade of choice.

To this day – John still pursues a wide variety of interests. During the darker days of COVID, when many folks were too distracted to even think about productivity, John returned to his passion for writing, and published three different books available on Amazon. He says writing is a great way to keep your mind busy, and to stay in touch with friends. He’s now working on his fourth title, an autobiography about a man with a curious mind and a can-do attitude. 

Somewhere in that autobiography, John will tell the story of one of his toughest battles: his ongoing fight with Parkinson’s Disease. 

John was diagnosed eight years ago – in 2014. In his typical humorous tone, John says his diagnosis was relieving to him at first. His son had noticed that his gait was off – and a trip to his regular doctor led to no answers. John thought it might be Parkinson’s Disease, but worried it could be something worse. He took a trip to a specialist and was diagnosed with PD – a relief for him at first, but one that would grow into a difficult challenge. 

Among those many challenges was a struggle with a common symptom of Parkinson’s known as freezing of gait. For John, freezes happen most often when he’s walking up a hill, bridge, or another incline. He reaches the halfway point, and suddenly, his feet won’t respond correctly, or at all. He has trouble taking a step, and feels stuck in his place. It’s a battle that many people with P.D. can associate with, and one that left John feeling immobile. 

“That’s the most frustrating part,” John said about his freezing. “Being halfway up a hill and not being able to move. You’re not down the hill, and you’re not up the hill. You’re halfway. And sometimes I have to wait for somebody to come by and help.” 

But John isn’t one to give up. Determined to keep moving, John sought help to address his freezing, and through the friend of his daughter, he found NexStride. John gave it a try – and found that the visual and auditory cues it provides are helpful in getting out of a freeze.

“That’s what NexStride gives me – that ability to take the next step and get moving again,” said John. “For what I need, it’s ideal… It gets you going and keeps you going.” 

“I use the metronome feature,” John added. “And all of a sudden, I’m walking. It’s really amazing how that works for me.” 

 

“That one trail I go up – that’s a pretty steep trail. I was so intimidated, that I would walk a quarter of a mile out of my way to avoid it. If I did try it, I would invariably get stuck somewhere on the trail  either halfway up, or halfway down. Now I can just walk up and down that thing, actually pretty fast.”

Now in his 70s, John shows no signs of slowing down. He’s attended Rock Steady Boxing classes for the last six years – and makes it a point to stay active despite his P.D. His friends at Rock Steady Boxing call him “Fast Johnny” – and that title has been well earned. For “Fast Johnny,” the dedication to staying active – both mentally and physically – has been crucial for him.

“The basic message is to keep moving” John said. “There’s a couple of components – it’s more than just physical. There’s also the mental side and keeping your mind busy.”

“It’s so easy to just start watching TV,” John says. “But you have to keep moving, and don’t give up.” 

So whether you’re heading into boxing class, or browsing the shelves of a bookstore, keep an eye out for “Fast Johnny,” because you won’t want to miss him.

 

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