Lumbar herniated disc. I probably—the first symptoms go back to when I was probably 16 or 17 years old.
I used to have, like, a lot of spasms in my back, but then playing football, at that time, the late ‘60s, there was no such thing as conditioning. And the football coaches, all they said is, “OK, when you hit someone, it’s head-to-head tackles.” So I did head-to-head tackles on a regular basis.
I was an aggressive player. I can remember so many times, after head-to-head, getting on the ground, your fingers are totally numb, your feet are numb, and then your coach pats you on the back and says, “Do it again.”
I had 6 concussions playing football, and all those sort of wrapped itself up to the point where I always felt a little pain in my hip—nothing bad, but then, like I said, in the mid ‘70s I started noticing I had more problems walking. I was sort of limping a lot.
I went to several doctors to look at the problem being the hip, because my pain was really in my hip.
Finally, after a long time I went skating with a bunch of friends, with the kids sleigh riding, I put the skate on and two seconds later I felt my whole leg go numb. So the next day I went to the hospital. I did a myelogram, and they identified it as the herniated disc L4-L5, and it was pressing on the sciatic nerve. So I went for surgery a couple days later.
This, again, was the early ‘70s when back surgery was, I think, in the early stages, because I was in the hospital for 3 weeks and I had to wear a back brace for 6 months—which was, like, I don’t know why, because after that I started having lumbar surgeries every 4 years: ‘78, ‘82, ‘86—I could almost count that every 4 years I was going to have another surgery. And it was L4-L5, L4-L3, L5-S1, and it was sort of the domino effect. Don’t know how much was because of my spinal condition or heredity, genetic problems, but I also believe a lot had to do with me, that I wasn’t a really good patient.
I was 28 with my first surgery, and so, yeah, went through all the physical therapy and everything like that, but I figured, “I’m young, I can do anything,” so I continued playing sports, continued doing gardening, continued doing everything, and that I know caused my second surgery.
Did it cause my third? We really don’t know. But at that point I started getting somewhat smarter and paying attention to it, but it just kept on happening.
If I look back it’s—how it first started, could I have stopped it? Probably not. But I’ve learned to live with it like I’ve learned to live with everything else, I guess.