Updated: Nov 29, 2021
The most important part of self-transformation is setting your mind to it. Jimmy Choi is an endurance athlete, advocate, and motivational speaker. He has also been living with Parkinson’s for nearly 20 years.
Of particular interest in the AdaRose context, Jimmy has been extremely creative in his use of technology, ranging from becoming TikTok famous to demystify Parkinson's, to co-designing a 3D-printed pill bottle that works well for people who struggle to open traditional models.
Becoming an Elite Athlete
Jimmy is a four time Ninja Warrior contestant and holds Guinness World Records in both push-ups and burpees. He has also run 15 marathons and an ultramarathon. Reaching these achievements was far from easy. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 27, he went into denial and became overweight and out of shape. As his symptoms continued to progress and he suffered a particularly bad fall, he finally reached a low point, and decided to change his life.
Jimmy committed himself to fitness and to building upper-body strength in particular to help him get up more easily from future falls. One step at a time he kept at it, pushing himself and ultimately becoming an elite athlete, all while navigating the daily challenges of Parkinson’s. While he hadn't initially intended to become a world record holder, his diligence enabled him to break previous records.
Even extreme fitness cannot stop the progression of Parkinson's, but it gives Jimmy greater mobility for longer, so he can minimize his dependence on his family members and improve his quality of life. He’s used his athleticism to educate and inspire people, and to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Parkinson’s research through the Michael J. Fox Foundation. All of his work has been supported and made possible in part by his wife, Cherryl Choi, who supports him logistically and emotionally, and has become a model for partners of people living with Parkinson's.
Using TikTok to Engage
Jimmy to started using TikTok in 2020 to see and understand what his daughter was doing on the platform. He saw the physical challenges some TikTok users issued and decided to respond by posting videos of himself, demonstrating that he could do pushups and other exercises (like pushups with his daughter on his back!) even better than users half his age. He quickly realized that he could use TikTok as a platform to share basic education about Parkinson's and raise awareness in a community that is mostly people in their teens and twenties. He doesn't shy away from the difficult and awkward aspects of living with the disease--his posts are fun, frank, and honest. As of today, he has about 200K followers on TikTok and is active on Instagram, too.
Crow-Sourced Designs for 3-D Printed Pill Bottles
Jimmy's TikTok posts had an unanticipated benefit. When he explained to his followers that it's hard for people with Parkinson's to open pill bottles because of their shaking hands, fans responded by tapping their networks to collaborate to design a new shape of bottle that would work better for Jimmy and others with Parkinson's and others with unsteady hands. They quickly prototyped and printed--using a 3D printer--new designs, which they are making available in limited numbers to those who need them at cost.
Increasingly, Jimmy is turning his attention to motivational speaking. His story was recently featured in a book by Michael J. Fox. While there are parts of his story that are fascinating from the perspective of managing Parkinson's or leveraging emerging technologies, Jimmy's journey is universally inspiring. It's ultimately about determination, overcoming adversity, and love.
Watch our interview with Jimmy: