View Full Version : Surgery

Sam Perry
November 21st, 2004, 11:25 AM
I have wrestled with myself whether or not to post this due to the appearance of self pity, and I hope no one takes it this way.

Many of you don't know me personally as I have not been a very active person on the national scene due to family and work constraints. I have participated in a few national championships and have been our state LMSC chairman for the past 2 years. I have been somewhat vocal on this board when issues discussed have been brought up where I thought I could post an opinion that made sense. With that being said, let me tell you my story, thanks in advance for taking the time to read this.

I have been swimming Masters now for about 5 years after taking a 10 year hiatus from collegiate swimming. I love working out and feeling better in the water more importantly, out of the water. I think all of us can relate to how great it feels to swim and the friendships we have in the pool. I love the sport and I truly feel my swimming background has contributed so much to my success out of the pool with my family and career. Swimming teaches us you get out of it what you put into it, and that there are no shortcuts to success.

I have been bedridden now for the past 5 weeks because of a chronic back problem in which I can't walk due to a pinched nerve in my lower back. I have had 3 prioir operations for the same issues and since I have been swimming have had very few problems. This is the main reason I got back into swimming and am so anal about working out.

After trying all other methods to avoid a 4th operation, it is obvious that surgery is inevitable. At only 36 years old it scares me a lot as to what the next 50 years of my life will be. Will I be dealing with operations or will this be it? Needless to say, being out of the pool has been one of the hardest aspects of this. (Not being able to play with my kids and do things with my wife has been the worst.)

We are probably travelling to Houston next week (we will know more after I speak to the physiatrist here) for the operation and I hope to be in the pool relatively soon after. Every doctor/health professional we have seen have been dumbfounded as to why I have these problems, however all of them agree that swimming is the best therpy for my condition. I am sad in the fact that I might not be able to compete again, but do hope for the best.

Please understand that this message is not one of self pity, but one af asking for your encouragement, thoughts and prayers. Even though I don't know most of you personally, I consider you friends because we all share the same passion for this sport.

This message is so hard for me to post, and asking for help is not easy, especially from people I don't know. However, it is somewhat therapeutic (sp?) to tell my story with these words and on this board.

Again thank you for your time and I will let you know how everything goes in the next weeks/months. I hope to see y'all in the pool very soon!

November 21st, 2004, 12:47 PM

Do what you need to do and get healthy. I want another crack at you!

I'll send my number through a private message and if you want to talk, I'll be there.


November 21st, 2004, 01:18 PM
In December 2000 I had two discs in my back repaired, L3-4 and L4-5, the latter was actually ruptured. I never figured out what I did to cause the injury and there are several theories, but it took about three months trying rest and ice and physical therapy before I had surgery to repair the discs. During that time and right after the surgery I was in such excruciating pain and wondered if this was how the rest of my life would be as there are people who live with severe chronic pain. I am happy to report my surgery was a success and I am now back in the pool training better/smarter than ever. I had a neurosurgeon perform microdiscectomies. As you know the surgery can be successful but its a long road back from there and a person wonders if a complete recovery is possible. For me, not being able to swim again was unacceptable and swimming is still the best activity for me. As soon as I was able I got back in the pool, just walking at first, then swimming with a lot of kicking after I was allowed to lift my arms. I still have one disc that bulges and I do everything I can to keep L5-S1 happy.
Hang in there, I know it seems bleak now but do what you have to and get your life back, it's definitely worth the journey . . .

November 21st, 2004, 05:04 PM
Sam I know every masters swimmer out there is saying a prayer or having only good get well thoughts for you. It is a long haul and alot of stress but in the end hopefully it will all be worth it one way or another. Ann Goodman just swam at our SCM Zone meet and you would never know she had such a bad back problem. She was wonderful. So hang in there and all the postive things in the world be on and with u thru this all. We will be watching for updates from you and when you will be back in the old pool doing your thing. Best of Luck

Leonard Jansen
November 21st, 2004, 06:11 PM
Sam -

In '92 (when I was 37) I fell down the stairs, messing up my back but good as well as breaking a few bones. I had surgery, spent 10 weeks in a hospital bed and 10 months on crutches. I've had on-and-off problems since, so I know where you are coming from. All this occured during a time when my wife was trying to recover from surgery for a tumor in her head and I had to take care of everything - house, animals, working, etc. In addition, we lost almost everything twice due to medical bills and the company I worked for folding while owing me much $$. It took 9 years to get things under reasonable control and get to the point where I wasn't on a first name basis with every collection agency and lawyer on the east coast.

I swear to God that I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. It made me appreciate every moment that I have, every lap that I swim and every time my wife smiles at me in a way I never knew before.

There is an old zen saying that "When you keep one eye on the goal you only have one eye left to follow the path." So please don't worry about the future - just do what you must to get through today. Get the best direction, put the bit in your mouth, and pull like a draft horse and keep pulling no matter what.

I'm pulling for you too.


November 21st, 2004, 11:50 PM
Thanks for noticing I had a good meet. What Joy doesn't mention is that while we were in the cool down lane and she was congratulating me on my 200 backstroke (my best one of the meet), Karen Andrus-Hughes was swimming her heat, beating me in my age group by 22 seconds and setting a zone record! The important thing for this post is that there was a time when I didn't know if I would walk again without pain, there was that dark time, but the surgery helped me and I did recover enough to get back to this point. I won't do the yard work I used to, or dig ditches, which I have done in my younger days, and I don't flex my back on starts like the pros, however there is life after back surgery. I have had people say to me that they would never consider having back surgery and I reply that they have never been where I was, a person has to do what is right for them and that is a personal decision.
You are a sweet person Joy, thanks again . . .

Paul Smith
November 22nd, 2004, 08:06 AM
Best of luck, I'm looking forward to your quick return! You've got my email address/phone so please don't hesitate to call.

PS: I've had two knee surgeries, a shoulder surgery (another on the way), Laura's had knee & shoulder surgery, so between the two of us we're trying to keep pace with you!

November 22nd, 2004, 12:12 PM
Houston has some of the finest neurosurgeons in the world, so you'll be in great hands.

I'm looking forward to reading about your successful return to competition in USMS Swimmer.

November 22nd, 2004, 04:30 PM
Thanks for sharing that with us Sam.....I appreciate hearing your story and I will pray for you to get well soon......I wish you the very best of luck with this.....Please keep believing....Sometimes things can really look grim (and depressing) ...like having a serious medical setback like you have suffered....but you can still make it! It's inspirational to read about other people's stories and how they were able to overcome similar obstacles....I hope that some of those stories can help provide you with some positive hope for the future....Hang in there b/c we're all going to be pulling for you!!


Sam Perry
November 22nd, 2004, 08:27 PM
Thank you so much all of you! You can't believe how heartwarming it is to read these replies each day.

Many of you who have replied don't know me from Adam, and I am truly thankful for this community and your enxouraging words. I hope I never have to return the gesture, but please know that when I am back on my feet (no pun intended), I will hopefully have a story I can share when someone needs to hear it from me.

Fritz, I will take you up on that challenge someday I promise.

We are heading to Houston sometime in the next week for surgery that is scheduled for Thursday 12/2/04. I will post here after the surgery to let everyone know how it all went.

Again, thanks so much for the replies and stories each day they are lifting my spirits.

November 23rd, 2004, 09:27 PM
Sam, I truly empathize with you and wish you the best when you have your surgery next week. I hope you will be swimming again soon!
Take care:)

November 24th, 2004, 11:32 AM

I'm really sorry that you have had to go through all this. I'll be thinking about you next week and hope all goes well. Also know that your family of masters swimmers around the country will be hoping for a speedy recovery. Although some of your backstroke competitors will be hoping for a slower recovery :) Just kidding - I hope the surgery is successful and your recovery is reasonable. I think we all know recoveries are no cake walk but with patience and determination I'm sure you will be fine.


November 24th, 2004, 02:47 PM

So sorry to hear about how down you are with all this.....I'll be keeping you in my prayers, and looking forward to your return to the pool......my situation was pretty broadly comparable to yours, but there was a time I knew coming back to the pool wasn't an option, and it nearly broke me. Swimming was definitely not good therapy for my knee, and it's pretty much the only thing my surgeon told me I couldn't do. But it really does get better. My grandmother has had back problems all her life, but I'm happy to say that at 80, she is better than she was at 50, because of all the new things they are coming up with every day. There's hope.

You have a lot of support out here, please keep us updated on things.

November 30th, 2004, 09:29 AM
Sam, oddly enough we're in close situations, only I'm 16 years younger. I didn't even see your post and I had basically put up my "sob story" because I'm feeling quite discouraged as well.
Good luck with your surgery, and keep us posted. When I get brave enough to go see a real doctor about my back problems, I can update as well. As it is, I need to go lie down, because my back is killing me...

November 30th, 2004, 03:48 PM

I read your story over a week ago, but it has taken me this long to respond only because of the chills I got when originally reading your post. The similarities of our circumstances are numerous. But know that I am 10 years your senior, and things will get better! The frustration and anguish you now feel will pass. In my case it was a combination of learing to cope with some lifestyle changes along with some relief due to the various medical procedures I went through. But swimming is somthing I can do and was in fact recommended by my Docs.
Regardless of the path you take to recovery, it will in fact be a recovery - so don't lose hope and try as best you can to stay positive. I know how difficult staying positive can be when you are in pain and truly worried about your current and future health. But hopefully you will find some solace in knowing so many others that have gone through similar circumstances and have come through it. You will too, and being as positive as possible will help you get there quicker. You don't know me from Adam, but know that you are in my thoughts . . .


Sam Perry
December 14th, 2004, 10:59 AM
I have gotten so many great responses and messages, I want to thank you so much. Some people have been asking for an update, so here goes:

We are in Houston now and I am having surgery hopefully in the next couple of days for sure by the 21st. The surgeon here is one of the top rated neurosurgeons in the US so I know I am in great hands. He is somewhat concerned that I may have permanant nerve damage because of the paralysis for 8 weeks but we are hoping for the best. Good news is he told me I could be back to swimming in 6 weeks. I can't wait to get back in, try being out for so long, I am losing my sanity!

I know if I have permanant damage I could have some weakness in the left leg, so I guess I'll have to just work harder to pull. Long course may be the only time anyone sees me so I won't embarrass myself even more than I already do with turns!

This is such a great supportive group here and I thank y'all so much for the well wishes and concern.

December 14th, 2004, 12:23 PM
Good luck to you!! Today's top doctors are miracle workers and your seems to be optimistic; that's a good thing. Houston seems to be a hub for cutting edge medicine. A friend of mine is currently undergoing cancer treatment at Anderson Hospital in Houston.

December 15th, 2004, 10:03 AM
Good luck Sam! I'm so sorry you are having pain and hope that your surgery and recovery go smoothly. Chronic pain definitely challenges your resolve. Hang in there buddy! You are in our thoughts and prayers.

You definitely are in the medical capital of the USA! Houston is the place to be if you want the best surgeons and doctors. I found a doctor there that helped me after many other doctors here (Atlanta) had failed! Hopefully you will too! TAKE CARE! ;)

December 15th, 2004, 04:28 PM
Originally posted by swimr4life
Houston is the place to be if you want the best surgeons and doctors.

Of course the next best thing is finding a doctor who trained in Houston.

December 16th, 2004, 12:41 PM
Sam, good luck to you on your upcoming surgery! I wish you the best outcome possible!:)

Sam Perry
December 17th, 2004, 09:27 AM

Had the operation Thursday and was home at 6:00 pm that evening. The surgeon does open back surgery on an outpatient basis if you can believe it.

He said the detachment of my disc "was huge" (whatever that means) and there was no wonder I couldn't walk from the pain. He is certain that the leg pain should go away very quickly and the neurological damage will heal in good time.

The important thing is he said I can start swimming in 6 weeks and skiing in 4 months. I can't wait to strap on the old cap and goggles and get back in!

Again thank you so much for all of your positive responses, thoughts and prayers. My goal is to be at Mission Viejo this summer, it's great to have something to shoot for.

Tracie Moll
December 17th, 2004, 11:06 AM
Hey Sam, I just finally got back on line and just read your post. I would love to hear what other surgeries you have done and what steps you have taken up to this date. I'am sure you don't know me and for the last year I am going thru the worst back injury in my life. I was put in the hospital last year for a week due to L-3 L-4 L-5 S-1 and lost the whole use of my left leg. Needless to say I was scared since my good friend died a year before from a brian tumor at 40 (love ya Deb Riker) I'am sure you didn't get the privledge of meeting her. So I'am now 41 and am an Ocean Lifeguard in Fort Lauderdale but as of now no longer can do my job and am waiting to see a nuro surgeon on Monday a.m. to see my next steps. I wish you nothing but the best and look forward to seeing you at a meet. (That's if I'am ever back) best of luck. If you'd like to email me you can at


good luck


December 17th, 2004, 11:07 AM
You sound great and with no regrets. What a wonderful Holiday present for you and your family. Take it easy and let it heal properly so there won't be any problems. Happy Holidays and a great NEW Year. See ya at the Mission meet.

December 18th, 2004, 10:44 AM
WOW! The next 6 weeks will fly by with the holidays and all and you will be back in the pool!
I hope it all turns out well!:D

Nancy Graham
December 18th, 2004, 12:32 PM
This was a great thread to find NOW!! I am so happy to read the beginning to the (near) end of a successful journey. What a wonderful Christmas (or other Holiday) present for you Sam!

I have been very athletically active all of my life and am genetically fortunate to be strong and agile. I started having some unexplained back pain about 2 months ago and was quite devestated to learn that I have degenerative bone and joint disease (arthritis I suppose that means) and worried myself sick until I was able to see a sports med doc. I suppose I can be considered "fortunate" in that surgery is not warrented, and this "condition" is one that come with age (I am 63) and to someone who has been an active athlete and may have had injuries somewhere along the line.

My doc says it is a great thing that I have been active and have been working out just about my whole life, because this has strengthened my spine and joints. He says -- keep on doin' what I'm doin' and I am taking his advice. But I did have a scare at the beginning and can relate a little to the worries you have had.

Bottom line -- I am truly happy for you and for the active life you now know you will be able to continue.


Sonic Swimmer78
December 18th, 2004, 02:15 PM
Originally posted by 330man
Good luck to you!! Today's top doctors are miracle workers and your seems to be optimistic; that's a good thing. Houston seems to be a hub for cutting edge medicine. A friend of mine is currently undergoing cancer treatment at Anderson Hospital in Houston.


I might not know back pain, but I do know how it is like not being able to swim for a long period of time. In 1992, when I was 13 1/2 years old, I was diagnosed with Glaucoma (an eye condition, that if not treated will destroy your optic nerve, leaving you totally blind) which I found out was in it's advanced stages, due to a negligent opthamologist when I was younger.

As the years went by, my Glaucoma progressed, my body got used to the six different types of eye drops and the oral medicine that left me cold and a loss of appetite.

In the summer of 1996, I had my eyes operated in Houston to ease the pressure build up. Times were bleak for me during this period of my life because it would be ten years (1994-2004) until I got back into the pool.

It took me a while til I realized that swimming played a major role in my life. Now at 26, life has improved since my operation, nearly a decade ago.

Best wishes to you on your road to recovery. We (and I speak for all of us in this thread, including myself) hope to see you swimming again soon.

Godspeed, Sam... Godspeed.

Tracie Moll
December 18th, 2004, 02:44 PM
Hey Sam, if you do choose to email me I gave you my wrong address in my other post.

Correct email address Tracie Moll is:


Glad to hear everything went well with the surgery, wishing you and yours happy holidays.

Tracie :cool:

December 18th, 2004, 03:12 PM
Tracie we all look forwards to you getting better. Can't wait to see Sam at our long course nationals in sunny Kalifornia. In fact, everyone is invited to the land of Arnold; Kalifornia. As great as Savannah was, Mission Viejo is trying to be the best nationals ever.

For those of you who do not know Tracie Moll has been one of the greatest Masters swimmers ever. I know a lot of women who will miss racing her. Get well !

The one constant I know of in Masters swimming, is overcoming injuries. My first nationals was Oregon in 1986. I had one day off and volunteered to time that day. I was amazed that in just my lane, hundreds of swimmers had huge scars on their backs, legs, chest etc. So I started asking, they were all swimming after major surgeries, and swimming had helped them back into a wonderfull world of improved health and great new friendships. I fit in just fine, in 1984 I had 2 hours of knee surgery. I have been holding off shoulder surgery for 16 years! As long as I can still swim breaststroke, I can stand some pain.

I really like the response of gull80
Of course the next best thing is finding a doctor who trained in Houston
I am a firm believer in finding Doctors who understand us. I have been lucky, for my knee surgery, my Doc had the same surgery as a football player. For my shattered left arm, I had the head surgeon from the 1984 Olympics. If they turn up the sensitivity, I set off the airport alarms with the titanium screws and plates.

Tracie Moll
December 19th, 2004, 12:47 PM
Thanks for the kind words, I hope my out come is as good as Sam's. Sure do miss seeing you all at Nationals. Hey if your out there Karalyn Pipes-Neilson will ya email me. I try the one you gave me but never works.


Tracie :cool: