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Jan 20, 2021

LSVT Big program a life-changing experience for Moline’s Dick Henning

It is half-past seven on a snowy, mid-winter Friday, and there is pep in Dick Henning’s step, a smile on his face and optimism in his heart.

One of life’s truly wonderful souls, Henning — on this day — is surrounded by his “crew,’’ a group of longtime friends — socially distanced  and scattered about the Moline, Ill., Happy Joe’s Pizza Parlor he owns.

The joint’s jumping.

Thanks to Rock Valley Physical Therapist Kristin Czuba, Henning’s dedication to the LSVT  (Lee Silverman Voice Training) Big program and his amazing bride of 57 years, Pam, the ever-upbeat Moline man is back, working, enjoying those around him and living life to its fullest.

The Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (Loud) came to light in the 1980s as a treatment for speech disorders associated with Parkinson’s disease  It focuses on increasing vocal loudness and is delivered by a speech therapist in sixteen one-hour sessions spread over four weeks.LSVT Big, a derivative of this treatment, is used in treating movement aspects of Parkinson’s disease.

A longtime Quad-Cities-based Happy Joe’s owner and retired Younkers Department Store executive, the 80-year-old Henning suffers from Lewy body dementia, the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease dementia. Protein deposits, called Lewy bodies, develop in nerve cells in the brain regions involved in thinking, memory and movement (motor control).  Henning also deals with Parkinson’s disease-like signs and symptoms such as rigid muscles and slow movements.

Forever active, Henning struggled physically in 2020, but — on the advice of his physician — turned to Rock Valley and its LSVT Big program as an option to improve balance, all movements and day-to-chores. Under Czuba’s watchful eye and diligently working the LSVT Big program, Henning’s quality of life has been greatly enhanced.

A Division I college pitcher in his day and tremendous golfer,  today Henning works  three full shifts at his restaurant and — as much as one can in the middle of a pandemic — keeps a rather  busy social calendar.

When Mother Nature cooperates, you will find Henning back on the golf course playing with his wife and grandson Thomas Lindauer, a third-generation leader in the family business and former professional baseball player.

“Hats off to Kristin and Rock Valley,’’ Pam Henning said of Czuba and those who made their Rock Valley experience special. “She was amazing, Rock Valley was amazing, and the program Dick worked with Kristin in the clinic — and still works at home– has made a huge difference. Kristin was sweet, she was caring and thorough. Dick was in good hands.’’

Czuba, certified in LSVT Big  for three years, says Henning worked thrice weekly for four weeks at Rock Valley’s Valley View (Moline) clinic, finding amazing success. He was taught to understand what normal movements — restricted by his affliction — look and feel like — fostering improvements in brain learning, which is central to the recalibration.

Henning learned to again walk faster with bigger steps and arm swings. He improved his  balance and ability to twist at the waist and improved in several smaller-movement tasks.

“Day-to-day movements, so vital to us all, improved greatly for Dick,’’ said Czuba, a Moline native, who is closing in on her seventh anniversary with Rock Valley Physical Therapy. Czuba,  a tremendous advocate for the LSVT Big program, has been a full-time physical therapist for almost 11 years.

“What happens with Parkinson’s is people don’t have enough dopamine in their brain and that causes their movements to get small, slow and staggered,’’ added Czuba. “And as that happens and over time, your body just accepts that as normal instead of how they used to be.

“With Big, by changing and cueing for right size and speed of movement, it starts to become automatic again. You can retrain the brain to getting back to normal. What we have found through research studies is that people can maintain the gains of physical therapy and doing this program for up two years.’’

Henning, challenged through a variety of movements — some timed while working with Czuba — was released on Christmas Eve, 2020. He remains dedicated to the at-home exercise program Czuba prescribed for him.

“Absolutely, I follow it,’’ Henning said. “When you are active forever, but something takes over your body and slows you there is frustration. So when you find something that improves life drastically for you it’s important to stay the course. This has been amazing. The only drawback is I don’t know if everyone knows this is there for them. You experience change in how you move and get around, but there is a way to get that back. That’s what is amazing about it.’’

Pam Henning, forever a glass-half-full type, says life for her and her husband is so much better having found LSVT Big.

“Dick is proof it works,’’ she said. “He has always been active, always worked and been involved with so many things. It was a struggle for awhile, because Dick was struggling with some tasks you take for granted. Things are so much better. A big part of it was how Kristin worked things with us, her patience and her dedication. Things are really good for us.’’

By: Johnny Marx, Storyteller