Health & Fitness

Column: Getting back to life after health scare

Around 5 a.m. Feb. 1, Super Bowl Sunday, I got out of bed and fell immediately to the floor, taken down finally by a back pain that had been misdiagnosed as a pulled muscle. The pain had grown more and more intense over the past week.

It’s the last thing I remember for the next several days and much of what happened in those days was related to me by my wife, my rock, Elaine.

Unable to move me, she called a neighbor, Greg Frampton, who took a look and said they needed to call 911.

EMTs were there in a few minutes and carried me to Roper St. Francis Medical Center in Mt. Pleasant. About five hours later I was transferred to Roper Hospital in downtown Charleston.

I spent the rest of the day in the Intensive Care Unit where Elaine, my daughter Lori and grandson Jacob watched on a monitor as my vital signs went perilously close to shutting down.

Eventually I stabilized and was moved to a sixth floor room at Roper, my home for the next few weeks.

Over the next several days I had brief glimpses of life around me, but my first coherent memory came on Feb. 10.

That was the day I learned that a staph infection had invaded my spinal column. After some early success, the infection was no longer responding to antibiotics.

Dr. Michael Wildstein, a spinal surgeon, explained that he would have to make several incisions in my back to remove the bulk of the toxic material. The incisions would form a zipper almost the length of my back.

I didn’t understand, exactly, but I was ready to do whatever was needed.

In most cases the procedure, called a laminectomy, would be a relatively routine operation to treat a herniated disc. In my case it was atypical, I learned later, because its purpose was to remove infected material in my spinal column.

The surgery was scheduled for seven hours, but took only about five.

When I woke up a few hours after that, I told a nurse I felt good enough to walk right out of there.

I was still sedated, yes, but most of the pain in my back was gone for the first time in more than two weeks.

I wasn’t out of the woods, of course, and the pain returned, but in a much milder form. From now on, I would have to rely on antibiotics to kill the rest of the infection.

I remained in bed until Feb. 17 when I was transferred to rehab to learn how to walk again after weeks on my back.

On Feb. 25 I was discharged and returned home, using a walker and carrying a portable device that pumped an antibiotic into my body 24 hours a day.

The walker is gone, but the IV is there still and each day I get a little closer to getting my life back. I cannot wait.