View Full Version : Not from scoliosis, but athlete's back fusion saves his life. Another NYT story.

05-08-2010, 01:54 AM
I've gotten so I can tell when the story is going to hit home, back-wise just by the title.

Former basketball player, Bill Walton, says he's making his story public to give hope to sufferers of intractable back pain. (And Jess, it was a minimally invasive surgery! No telling from this article how long his fusion was, but it "took eight and a half hours, four incisions, four four-inch bolts, two titanium rods and 'a big Erector-set cage to hold it all together.' He spent a week in the hospital". Wow.).

He was ready to off himself, ate his meals lying on the floor! Many of us have undoubtedly been there. Likewise, the description of his "odyssey" is one many can identify with. Happily, he is now a celebrity spokesperson for the miracles extreme back surgery can create for agonized patients. I rejoiced with him.

Interesting too to read about the company that made his parts - specializes in equipment facilitating minimally invasive spinal surgery.

(Please relocate this thread if better suited to another sub-forum. I thought we pre-surgery candidates need all the surgical inspiration we can get. Likewise, of course, revision patients)


“I had a life that was not worth living,” Walton said Thursday. “I was on the floor and unable to move. The closest that I can come to describe it is, visualize yourself being submerged in a vat of scalding acid, with an electrifying current running through it. And there’s no way to ever get out.”

"...I’ve been able to climb back into the game of life one more time, that’s where I am.”

To help others with debilitating back problems, Walton is telling his story and, true to form, editing out nothing. There were days when he could not get off the floor. He could not sleep. He ate lying down. The pain was so intense that he considered suicide — an admission Walton made public last month in an interview with his hometown paper, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“This type of experience, ordeal, odyssey, it wrecks everything and it changes everything,” Walton said Thursday. “You face every issue imaginable. Every issue — family, social, friends, financial, health — everything in your life is up in the air. You turn your back on people, friends, because it’s awful.”

….“I’ve had two fused ankles, my knees, hands and wrists don’t work; and now I have a fused spine,” Walton said, adding with a smile: “But I’m doing great. And I am back in the game of life. I’m climbing up one more time.”

Remarkably, only one surgery was performed on Walton’s back, and he marks the days the way a recovering alcoholic tracks sobriety: “14 months, 3 weeks, 5 days ago,” he said.

The turning point came when Walton, crippled by the radiating pain, failed to report for an assignment. Jim Gray, the broadcaster and a longtime friend, did the research and put Walton in touch with Dr. Steven Garfin, the chairman of the department of orthopaedics at the University of California, San Diego. Garfin works with a San Diego company called NuVasive, which has developed procedures and tools for minimally invasive back surgery.

According to Walton, it took eight and a half hours, four incisions, four four-inch bolts, two titanium rods and “a big Erector-set cage to hold it all together.” He spent a week in the hospital.

Walton still walks with an odd gait from his three dozen operations, but he looks slender, healthy and upright. For the interview, he stacked two chairs to align himself properly.

05-08-2010, 03:19 AM
thanks for posting that, Amanda!

i went to the website for Nuvasive...very interesting!
it would seem that minimally invasive surgery is the future....so that means that the techniques are getting better and better, as to be expected with all surgeries, sooner or later

oh...if you want to see amazing animations...i think that is what they are...if you go to infospine for dr neel anand....well, i found the videos fascinating...scary, but fascinating

one more note...i edited a post i wrote on the "minimally invasive surgery...possible?" thread...ummmm...had a few pain induced cranky sentences in there...my sincere apologies!

thanks again...


05-08-2010, 07:01 AM
Amanda thanks for posting. Always good to read success stories when heading for surgery or in the healing process.

05-08-2010, 05:12 PM
Well, congrats to all us post op people - we can all say we have one on Bill Walton because I for one have 32 screws and 2 rods. More than he can say.... Ha!