This has nothing to do with basketball, the Warriors, or the playoffs. This is about bad backs.

Damon Bruce
April 24, 2017 - 12:34 pm

With Steve Kerr sidelined for the foreseeable future, I can’t help but feel terrible for him. I really like Steve Kerr, and chances are you do too. He inhabits a hall-of-fame-life of basketball moments, yet has the soul of a surfer, a real “citizen of the planet” kinda cat. Steve’s joined me for a weekly radio spot all season long, and in each instance he’s been naturally funny, thoughtful, inquisitive, and considerate. He’s talked basketball, how the game is evolving, about relationships with players on his team, and people in his life. What if I told you getting Steve on the phone was always easy? It is! And in radio, that can bump someone up a full letter grade, Steve is already an A-plus.

And on that note … let me tell you about the only time I ever thought about suicide. Wait, stop … I didn’t say “considered it.”  Rather, I thought of suicide, tried to relate to what could possibly put someone is such a depressive state. Could physical pain drive someone to such an extreme? 

Leading up to my first and only back surgery, I lived through way too many moments of excruciating pain. I had discs dehydrating and cracking in my lower back. My spine was pinching nerves, creating a never-ending series of sensation down my leg that ranged from tingling hot or cold, to staggering pain, to “are my bones about to explode?” At a time in my life without medical insurance, working a sequence of part time radio gigs, but none offering me any coverage, I just sat there and ate the pain, for a long, long time. I was “tough guy.”

One night, “tough guy” got his ass kicked by so much pain, I ended up in the emergency room with teeth chattering, and eyes watering as my damaged nerves transmitted so much suffering … I couldn’t take it anymore. When asked by the doctor to describe my pain level, I vividly remember saying “I’m a happy guy, but totally understand why someone would kill themself.” An indelicate way to describe anything, but I meant it. And I still mean it.

I had surgery. It turned off my pain like a light switch. No complications, smashing success. I had almost forgotten what “normal” felt like. My spine was no longer pinching down a bundle of nerves that were sending SOS messages of pain through me. That was in 2004. Since then, back problems have persisted, but nothing nearly as severe. I do relapse into “bad back episodes.” But I’ve turned to acupuncture, chiropractors, and a machine that stretches me spine out from both ends like a breathing accordion. I’ve had great success with these methods, and have successfully prevented “that second surgery.” Any doctor will tell you, that ya never, ever want that second back surgery. 

That second surgery is something that Kerr has gone though, and it was due to complications. It’s the mother of all back surgery double-whammies. What’s he supposed to do next? What will this limit him doing in the future? Can the pain, the nausea, the headaches just all go away? Let’s just start there. How can you turn this pain off? He’s gotta be anxious for answers and frustrated that what was supposed to help, made things worse. I just feel for the guy. 

If you ever want to know how bad life can get with a bad back … just know this, a back as bad as Kerr’s can make one of the most aware and competitive guys I’ve ever met, walk away from a team this good, pledging not to return until he’s right again. With no easy solution in sight, even though Steve has access to the very best-of-the-best of the medical world, if ya told me now he never coached another game, I wouldn’t blink an eye. I hope I’m wrong, but I’d understand more than most. Get well, coach.

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