Navin Kumar Plays Table Tennis for Life

By Dean Johnson | Jan. 15, 2015, 2:20 p.m. (ET)

Faced with major challenges – five heart surgeries, a mechanical heart and Parkinson’s Disease – Navin Kumar believes that the sport of table tennis has played a major role not only in helping him survive but helping him to actually improve his health. 

41 years ago Navin was born with a congenital heart condition that has required five major open-heart surgeries to correct the condition. “I should have died within the first year or two of my life based on the condition I was born with but my entire life has been dedicated to defying the odds; I’m blessed with wonderful family and friends who have supported and prayed for me, and of course having a POSITIVE OUTLOOK,” he says. 

Life has definitely not been easy for Navin from a medical standpoint . . . everything from mechanical components in his heart to arrhythmia issues requiring a pacemaker to issues with blood thinning medication. Now he has Parkinson’s Disease to deal with on top of it all. 

Navin told us: “At every opportunity I tell folks how GRATEFUL I am to have my heart and PD conditions.” Why on earth would he say such a thing? “It is because it's the DIFFICULT times in life and how we CHOOSE to deal with those difficult times that shape and define us,” he said. 

“Open-heart surgery number five was 13 years ago,” he said. It was scary because my doctors candidly told me that my chances of survival were slim because one’s heart can only take so many surgeries. I was engaged to my wife at the time. We didn't know if I'd live to see our wedding day. I remember the final moments on the operating table before being put to sleep and remember saying to whatever higher power there is (God) that if now is my time to die then I want to thank you for the privilege of allowing me to enjoy my life until now. But I didn’t believe it was my time to die and I lived to marry the woman of my dreams and see the births of our two little girls.” 

“My life experiences have taught me to take any situation that could be perceived as negative and "flip it" so I see the good in it. Yes, I have Parkinson's but with early diagnosis and immediate treatment, and playing table tennis, I am controlling my Parkinson's and not letting Parkinson's control me,” he insists. 

Navin’s experiences with table tennis have taught him that: “there are definite cognitive benefits associated with the sport. Just the fact that the ball moves so quickly and one’s brain has to work so fast to establish strategies for good ball placement and good technique, it's a no-brainer that table tennis is good for the brain,” he says. Navin is living proof of the benefits of the sport of table tennis. 

Virginia Beach neuropsychologist Dr. Scott Sautter agrees. He describes table tennis as a game of “aerobic chess.” “It’s great for eye-hand coordination, reflexes, balance, planning, strategy and a stress reliever exercising the mind and body in a safe activity,” he said. 

American Parkinson’s Disease Association Hampton Roads, Virginia Chapter becomes Charity Partner of Table Tennis Charity Foundation 

One of USA Table Tennis’ partners, Table Tennis Charity Foundation located in Virginia Beach, Virginia (tabletennisfoundation.org) has recently announced that the American Parkinson’s Disease Association Hampton Roads Chapter has become a Charity Partner of the Table Tennis Charity Foundation and its annual PingPongforCHARITY™ Events. 

Don Bradway, Advisory Board President, APDA Hampton Roads Chapter states: “This partnership will provide a great opportunity to spread the word that exercise helps ‘ease the burden’ of people with Parkinson’s Disease. Research confirms Navin Kumar’s experience –  exercise by people with Parkinson’s Disease improves mobility and leads to accomplishing daily tasks with greater ease. Exercise, such as table tennis, can be fun and will provide more confidence and energy for people with Parkinson’s Disease.” 

“Exercise is an important part of healthy living for everyone,” he says. “However, for people with Parkinson Disease exercise is not only healthy, but a vital component to maintaining balance, mobility and daily living activities. Exercise is associated with a better sense of well being, even across stages and severity of the disease,” he added. 

The benefits of exercise such as table tennis can be identified in two areas – symptom management and slowing disease progression. Many neurologists recommend intense exercise to their patients and also to people who are worried about getting Parkinson’s Disease because of a family connection. The best way to achieve those benefits is to exercise on a consistent basis. People with Parkinson’s Disease enrolled in exercise programs with durations longer than six months, regardless of exercise intensity, have shown significant gains in functional balance and mobility as compared to programs of only two-week or ten-week durations. 

The mission of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association is to educate folks about Parkinson’s Disease, provide information about local resources to support people with the disease and their care partners, and to fund national research programs. 

Table Tennis Charity Foundation, endorsed by, and in partnership with the USA Table Tennis, integrates Table Tennis Sports and Education Programs in local Schools and Senior Communities! “We invite Non-Profit Organizations looking for a unique fundraiser by bringing the Annual PingPongforCHARITY™ Celebrity SLAMFest Events & Recreation Tournaments to their city,” said Ken Lees, founder of the Table Tennis Charity Foundation and creator of the of the PingPongforCHARITY™ Events. “Funds raised will be used by APDA for Parkinson’s Disease regional groups’ coordination and educational material, development and distribution of Parkinson’s Disease educational information, and for the APDA’s national research initiatives,” he said.

 

Nevin Kumar



Navin Kumar competing at the 2014 Nationals in Las Vegas with his official table tennis nickname on his head-band: "The Bionic Man" courtesy of all the mechanical and electronic components implanted in his body that is keeping him alive. Navin was recently deemed eligible to compete for Team USA and represent the USA in international competition for table tennis. He is now the first USATT athlete in history to actively compete at this level with Parkinson's Disease.

Photo courtesy Navin Kumar