I want to introduce you to Chris, an avid golfer from Swindon with a bit of Welsh blood! His story is pretty special, for all intensive purposes. He is a typical (well slightly better than most) golfer, who back in late 2017 played off of 10. He was one of the lucky ones who managed to fit golf into most of his days.
However Chris suffered from Sciatica that affected his back and both legs, partly to do with his line of work, operating machinery which included heavy lifting and constant twisting and turning.
To try and easy the pain and discomfort Chris had a number of injections which eased the pain, but during one injection treatment things didn’t go to plan, Chris explains “the second course of injections they caught the bone which was painful as hell, then proceeded to move the needle and entered the nerve itself which is a pain like you would never believe”
This led to crippling pain and discomfort, the end result of this was surgery. More specifically, back fusion surgery. Sound familiar? Yep you got it. Tiger Woods went through the same type of surgery.
Chris describes the prognosis of his recovery and where his head was at prior to going on the operating table “I was given a 50/50 success rate. If something goes wrong I would never walk again and have to consider being in a wheel chair”
In comparison Wellington Hsu, a professor of orthopaedic surgery at NorthWestern University stated a “0% success rate” for golfers looking to return to the sport after spinal fusion surgery.
The surgery for Chris was used to file some of the bone, allowing for a cage to be attached with 6 bolts for the vertebrae to be fused together. The end goal is to reduce the pressure on the spine and relieve the pain.
A day after the operation, he was released from hospital. Pretty quick don’t you think? Unfortunately it was. For two weeks Chris continued to bleed and remained in constant pain. He then had emergency surgery to clean the initial fuse from infection. That’s Chris being opened up twice to fix his spine!
To ensure this time that Chris did not suffer the same fate as last, he was kept in for a week and then had a Picc line inserted into his upper arm that leads to the heart to administer required mediation twice a day. After 5 months thoughts turned towards a recovery plan, until one night where he had sever issues with breathing. Chris explains what happened and what could have happened
“I was rushed into hospital by the paramedics due to breathing difficulties, only to be told I had a PE which is a serious Lung Clot. The next stop for the blood clot would have been the heart which leads to death. So I then spent more time in hospital / home being treated for the lung clot as well as recovering from spinal fusion surgery”
So just to recap, Chris had spine fusion surgery then had to be re-opened up due to an infection and then suffered a lung clot!
The recovery was a very gentle re-introduction to golf due to obvious reasons. Chris explains “I had surgery to stop the pain and make my back better but back fusion surgery doesn’t turn you into superman, and I’ll have to be careful not to have my back knocked or pressured because it will hurt. And of course I have to be careful with exercise due to my lung which is now more prone to having another blood clot as it’s damaged inside from the first one. I will always have to look after my back and lung for the rest of my life”
That didn’t stop him; despite the heart break of having to walk off after the first 3 holes due to his back pain and fitness levels following the clot and prolonged recovery period. However Chris’ determination and tenacity saw him put a plan together. Over the space of 4 months, combined with physio golf was re-introduced. Chris started with putting and short range chipping, then assessed whether or not his back was holding up enough to begin ½ and ¾ shots, before progressing onto full shots.
“I’m happy I decided to have the operation as I’m 99 % pain free” Chris explains. Not only is he pain free, but 18 months later Chris is playing regular golf and now plays to a handicap of 5! Not only is that an amazing handicap to play to, it is incredible, considering that 18 months ago Chris was faced with a 50/50 probability he may never walk again!
Some of the comments that were made during Tiger’s come back were
‘A walking miracle’ claimed Lawrence Ostlere from the Independent
‘Tiger Woods’s return from back surgery is a medical marvel’ says The Washington Post
Yes, what Tiger went though and has come back to achieve is amazing, and inspiring. Without wanting to take anything away from Tiger Woods, but the difference between Tiger and Chris is that Tiger is a professional golfer with a full team of physio, doctors, the works and was operated on by the ‘the best’ spinal surgeon. Chris on the other hand was treated by a specialist in the British NHS (I’m not insulting the NHS here, they do an amazing job with the resources they have.) there really is no comparison. Chris also didn’t have a full team behind the scene to support him getting back to work let alone playing golf. Chris had to recover to get back to the day job whilst trying to keep one of his passions alive in golf.
Too often do we look at what professional golfers and/or athletes go through and applaud their comeback which nine times out of 10 is a miraculous recovery and comeback. I wanted to write this article to show that your normal, relatable golfer can go through the same and very little people know. Chris will be the 1st to admit that he didn’t let me write this for him to show off. In fact I had to nag him to let me write this.
This is a true story of an incredible comeback, which shouldn’t go unnoticed. A tale of a typical golfer that should be read by every golfer. It is a great golfing and personal achievement, despite the odds that were faced by Chris.
Until Next Time, Happy and Healthy Golfing