Next week I may end up a partial robot!! Probably not, but it could happen since I am going in for back surgery and stranger things have happened. I know what you’re thinking “Back surgery?!? You? But you’re like a totally super fit jump rope dude!” I realize it may creep you out a bit that I know you talk like a surfer (or a valley girl), but let’s get past that and look at what happened to lead me to this particular juncture in my life. **NOTE: We are booking assembly programs for the 2017-2018 school year.
If you would like to help support the cost of this surgery, we have a couple options. 🙂
The year was 2016…birds were not extinct and cockroaches were still the irritating, painfully impossible to kill creatures that we know and love today. The first 6 months of this year was easily one of the busiest years that I’ve had as a professional jump rope performer. I had a grand total of 10 days at home and tons of airline miles to fondly remember my very short stays at dozens of cities. During this marathon of jump rope shows, my back was acting up more frequently than normal. **Quick recap: I’ve had back problems since I was 14 when I made the mistake of picking up a sound system at the airport by myself since I was quite impatient with others who were supposed to be helping me with that particular task. I won’t name any names since they have no idea who they are at this point in time (and I really have no clue since it’s been like 23 years and I’ve slept since then). I digress.
My very helpful wife helped line up multiple chiropractic visits for me in various cities around the country. I always hate visiting a new chiropractor since they have to do a full assessment with me every time and I get the honor of paying triple for this thorough, hands on experience. All I really wanted was a quick crack and go session, but they needed a chance to get to know me. It’s very touching.
Anyway, in June I was performing in Waco, TX for a 5 day VBS at an awesome church. I was scheduled to do their family night on Friday, but they wanted to get the kids excited so I had a 5 minute teaser every morning. On the very first day I did a short freestyle and when I landed my frog (handstand thingie with a jump rope) I felt something pop in my back. I have had this problem multiple times over the years so my initial thought was let’s hurry to a chiropractor before it gets any worse.
We found a guy in town who could get me in on short notice and we headed over there. He did his assessment and then went to crack my back. Normally when this happens they have me lay on my side and bend a knee. They pop it on one side then you flip over and repeat. His first attempt on side number 1 yielded no results. This must have been discouraging to the man since he put every ounce of his being into popping side number 2. I left feeling like something had been accomplished and I should feel like a more mobile version of myself later that night. Boy was I wrong.
As the day progressed my back proceeded in a downward spiral. Think of a toilet in Australia, it was totally going down backwards. My initial reaction was to do some stretching. I got on the floor and spent the next hour or two trying to get things to loosen up. What this ended up leading to was a situation where I couldn’t get off the floor and I spent quite a few more hours enjoying the sweet smell of a hotel carpet that someone has probably hurled on multiple times. I honestly couldn’t so much as roll over my back was hurting so much.
The following morning I had to go in and do a 5 minute teaser at the church and I could barely get from the hotel room to the car. When we got to the church I couldn’t so much as lean over and put my shoes on. This was one of those unintentionally humorous moments. Alicia was putting my shoes on for me and one of the band members sat there watching the entire process. He was honestly curious if my wife did this for me every day. You know us professional jump ropers…we’re so important that we don’t even put our own shoes on. If my wife’s not there, I have it in my contract that the church must provide someone who will do it for me.
After this fun exchange, I started the very slow walk up to the stage. I figured I would arrive about the time the band had finished 2-3 songs. I have a number of things I do during my jump rope shows and thankfully using volunteers is an acceptable option. Today I was going to do some Double Dutch. No jumping was needed on my part and no one needed to know how much of a cripple I was. After this show I had to go to an urgent care clinic. I was beyond all self-fixing options. They got me in right away and gave me a couple serious muscle relaxants…both of which I proceeded to vomit right back. If you’ve never thrown up while your back is in this state, you haven’t lived. You just can’t give the heave the proper range of motion. We’ll just leave it at that. At this point nurses and the doctor just started handing me stuff to put on my head, in my mouth, etc. It was a confusing time, but in the end they got the drugs to stay down and I was feeling pretty awesome.
They gave me a prescription for the muscle relaxants and told me to use them as needed. I’m not a fan of using any sort of drugs, but they were sure needed that week. There were multiple occasions where I collapsed on the floor and couldn’t so much as roll over. However I landed, that’s what Alicia had to work with. The pain killers killed the pain enough so I could go lay down somewhere else and think about my choices in life. To say this was hard on me would be an understatement. To say it was hard on Alicia would be laughably funny. I’m a very independent person and she pretty much never has to do anything for me, she was really at a loss for what to do with me. I think the hardest part for me was that I had been in the best shape of my life for the past few years. With all the Guinness World Records I had broken, I had constantly stayed in top level shape. To go from that to being a gimp…that was tough.
It was obvious that I needed help so I got on a regular chiropractic routine. I started feeling a little better until one day I started having pain shooting down my leg. That was the sign that this was a much worse problem than I have dealt with in the past. I got an MRI done soon after this and found out that I had a bulging disc in my back. I switched over to physical therapy to see if they could help me where previous efforts had failed. This sadly didn’t fix things and I was advised to go visit a neurosurgeon. Apparently I had chosen the correct series of options to fix things since he asked if I had gone to a chiropractor yet. Why yes I have. The next question was if I had gone to physical therapy. Yes I have. Ok, the next step is we are going to do an epidural injection into your spine. My initial thought was, “that sounds like a big needle”. And it was.
Here’s the thing, if you ever go to get a spinal injection, they give you the option of staying awake (numb from the waist down) or being knocked out. I’m sure that many people enjoy the experience of listening to doctors and nurses discuss the process of putting a needle into your back. “Just missed it, let’s try again! Whoops!” Etc. I’m not so into that. When I had my wisdom teeth pulled there wasn’t even a decision that needed to be made. Knock me out. My wife on the other hand…she had it done in Thailand while being wide awake. So not my style. The cost difference at the injection place was like $50 so I was very quick to decide that I really didn’t need to know what was going on.
I never used to have a problem with needles, but when they put the tube deal in my hand I turned green and almost threw up. This leads me to a pet peeve of mine, the babying nurse. As soon as you turn green they assume that you’re scared and need reassurance that everything is going to be ok. I really felt like telling the lady to shove off when she started into this diatribe, but my queasiness got the better of me. If I had any reservations about this, I would not be sitting in the chair.
I had been told by multiple people that the epidural would instantly solve my pain problems and life would be rosy for a couple months. Not the case with me. I didn’t feel any different after the shot. The neurosurgeon wanted for me to get a second shot so I went back about 6 weeks later and this time they did a nerve blocker. This sounded a lot more manly to me since the only time I had ever heard of the word “epidural” was in the context of birthing a child. I was in a lot of pain, but I don’t have any first hand experience on whether it’s the same or not. My money is on no. This shot did nothing for me either.
It was at this point that we decided I needed to get a microdiscectomy. I use the term “we” here loosely since all I did was sit there and answer a bunch of yes and no questions. Mainly with the word “no”. Did the shot help? No. Did the second shot help? No. Do you want to wait and see if things get better on their own? No. You should probably have surgery. Ok. We scheduled a follow up visit a couple days after Thanksgiving since I was leaving town to do some shows over in Egypt, Turkey and Jordan. During the tail end of that trip, Alicia and I were bobbing up and down in the dead sea when I realized that the pain in my leg had stopped. Awesome! No surgery!
Fast forward a number of months and I had been performing with no problems since that point. Then came the month of May. I was doing a show up in beautiful Wisconsin near the jump rope capital of the world (they apparently have a road sign and everything stating this fact). I will point out that I did not make it up to visit. One day this will happen. Anyway, I was in the middle of my 3rd show of the weekend when I bent over to grab my rope…the leg pain was back. Awww man!?!
I fought with it for a couple weeks after that trip and it kept up it’s body binding branch of misery. Eventually Alicia and I came to the conclusion that I needed to get the surgery done. Of course I had a number of shows scheduled during June and July so I would have to put it off until after my last scheduled show. That happens to be on Sunday.
So that’s the exciting journey of how I have gotten into this pre-robotic state of existence. If you’re curious what it feels like, imagine you shove an ice pick into your spine. Oh, and it’s electrified and all that lovely shocking electricity goes down the outside of your leg all the way to your foot. It’s something like that.