Wednesday, September 22, 2010

wow. bad injury. surgery. God's MIRACLES!

I've never taken this blog to my faith side of life. I didn't plan on ever doing that, as this thing is supposed to focus on work outs, gear reviews, and outdoor sport tips and tricks. I can't comfortably ignore the miracles of healing that God has been doing the past several weeks, specifically during surgery yesterday.

Let's get up to speed. For 6 months I've had back problems. I ignored them (ski season), I put ice on it (running season), and lied to myself (climbing season) that the pain wasn't that bad. Things finally went crashing down (wakeboarding) and I knew that the injury went from ignorable to horrible. Running became miserable, sitting sucked, and all I could do was swim.

Over Labor Day weekend, Mrs. J and I went to visit my parents. Sunday evening I woke up to pee and knew instantly that the insane pain down my left leg was sciatica (I'll write up a post about the symptoms later). I woke up Monday morning to the most pain perhaps in my life... not a small feet (haha, podiatry joke), as I've broken something like 25 bones. Mrs. J took me to the ER that night, we got the shots in the butt, and then got an apt with Dr. Brad Hillard of University Hospitals (amazing doc!). Mrs J boss, Dr. Noel Aboud of Solon Spine and Wellness, sent us out to get an MRI, just to expedite things. Dr. Aboud called us Wednesday morning, telling us that'd I'd be needing back surgery. This was echoed to us by Dr. Hillard, who made sure we would be seen by one of North East Ohio's best spinal surgeons.

I went to see Dr. Hart of University Hospitals, one of the Cleve's best neurosurgeons, who was able to squeeze us in super early. At this point I knew I had a large fragment of my disc material that had squeezed out of the disc space to sit on my nerve. I'll explain all the science later. I heard that this was a pretty big fragment, which was reaffirmed by Dr. Hart when he said, "yah, so I hear that the Grand Canyon is a large hole in the ground".

To put things bluntly, I did this back injury big! The fragment measured 12mm on the MRI and was one of the biggest Dr. Hart has seen in 15 years. AWESOME! Bad news though. Dr. Hart was fairly certain that the fragment had popped into the thecal sack, part of the dura, and if it had, I was looking at about a week in the hospital with other surgeries to come. Oh yah, and if I got a bacterial or viral infection in the thecal sack, most likely it would go to my brain. That kills people.

I'm no stranger to almost dieing. I've looked down chutes while skiing that terrified me to no end. I've taken falls climbing where I probably should have died (also, didn't get injured... sooo... cool). This is the first time I've legitimately been scared while looking at the valley of the shadow of death. I have a wife. I have a little boy growing in the belly oven. That's responsibility! That's dependence! That's need! That's terrifying!

We set surgery for Tuesday, Sept 21st. Friends, family, pastors began to pray for us. We began to pray so intensively that sometimes I would wind up laying on the floor in tears, with pain and yearning. I can't quite share all the ways that God showed his face, but I will share my most obvious pre-surgery confirmation that all will be ok.

In my special prayer spot, the same one where God told me that all would be fine for med school boards, I took my shoes off out of reference for what had become a special place to me. After prayer, reading, and just talking to the Lord, I was clearly told to not turn around, to only focus forward. I was also told to expect something special. Pomegranate. That seems so trivial, but they're out of season, they're my favorite food, they're symbols of health, and God often demonstrates His glory by food. The most obvious example that comes to mind is manna delivered to the Isrealites during the exodus. I left and went to the grocery store to grab eggs and onions for my wife, and went to another grocery store than normal (the normal one was crazy busy). As I walked in and headed towards the onions... there they were. First of the year, not even fully ripe. Sitting off to the side, not in front, and only about 10 of them or so... were pomegranates. I knew right away that God was in control, that all was fine, and that'd I'd be holding my newborn son this December! I started to tear up in the middle of the grocery store, holding a pair of pomegranates. I bet that was hilarious to someone.

The next day was surgery day. Actually, that was yesterday, so you can probably guess right now that things went so well. They did. They went miraculously!
I was told that I'd be in surgery for at least 2 hours, probably more to prepare the thecal sack and keep me from you know... kicking the bucket. I was wheeled into surgery at 10:04.

At 11:05 Dr. Hart came out to the waiting room to talk to Mrs. J and my mom. You can imagine how terrified Mrs. J was. This was far too fast... something wrong had to happen... what horrible medical problem would we be facing.

Dr. Hart simply smiled. He said that the fragment was even bigger than they thought. He cut a little bit of it out and removed a very small bit of it. He went back in to continue removing piece by piece, but the 2 inch fragment decided to just come out in one piece, which is amazing. Dr. Hart spent a good bit of time searching for a thecal tear, tried several techniques to force cerebral spinal fluid to leak and show where the tear was... but none could be found.

A surgery that should have taken hours to finish took about 30 minutes of actual surgery, without prep and closure. That is a miracle. God is so good. I can't tell you how lucky I am. I should be at the hospital laying horizontal for several days but I'm at home, in minimal pain, able to walk, and I ate pizza last night! PIZZA!!!

I can't tell you how good God has been in the last several weeks without sitting down and really explaining the gravity of the situation. All I can say is that God gave me a miracle. I can't contain my joy and am more than wiling to talk to anyone about Jesus, about how He worked in my life, and how he can work in yours.

I'll be writing my journey back to ultra-marathon shape, back to xterra shape, and back to climbing Rainier (planned for next year, God wiling). I can't wait to share with you my journey as a father, also.

I'm just happy to be at home, happy to be alive, and happy that I serve a God who does answer prayer.


  1. What a great story, Jetter. Thanks for sharing! Will say a prayer for you today as your healing/retraining process begins!

  2. Thanks for sharing brother. Love to hear the faith growth you get to journey on as well! Praise HIM for his healing and how much he was smiling and laughing FOR YOU as the surgery came close and how it went. I can see Him laughing and you laughing and crying alongside and how now you get to proclaim HIM in your (most often crazy, go big or go home) circumstances
    Love ya bro


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