Once upon a time, Bill Walton teamed with the Original Big Three to form perhaps the most devastating front line in NBA history and, arguably, the best team in NBA history. A year after the 1986 Boston Celtics won 67 games and an NBA championship, though, Walton’s recurring foot problems returned and he was never the same. Those damn feet derailed a career that, when Walton won the ’77 Finals MVP in his mid-twenties and the league MVP the following year, seemed destined for utter greatness.
Decades later, it is odd that Walton’s back — no longer his feet — causes the majority of his pain. Walton’s bad back, says Walton, nearly drove him to suicide 14 months ago. After successful surgery performed by Dr. Steven Garfin (“Dr. Garfin saved my life — a great man,” Walton says), Walton is starting to enjoy life again. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
“I’m getting back into the game of life,” Walton, throwing both of his long arms in the air, was saying as we sat outside his San Diego home. “I have a new life now. It got to the point where my life wasn’t worth living. I was standing on the edge of the bridge, figuring it was better to jump than to go back to where I was.”
Though Walton now feels better, he will never be pain-free. Still, he had to have the surgery because he couldn’t move.
“There were four incisions, four 4-inch bolts, two titanium rods and a cage that holds it all together and spacers in between the vertebrae,” he said. “It was the hardest thing I’ve had to go through, much more difficult than all my other surgeries combined. It’s come so far, the evolution of back surgery, and doctors constantly are improving.
“I can’t describe the pain. Think of being submerged in a tub of boiling acid with an electrified current running through it. That would be nothing. People who haven’t had that nerve pain can’t know. It’s debilitating, excruciating, unrelenting. I had to eat lying on the floor, flat on my stomach.
“It was not an elective surgery. I couldn’t even crawl. No drug worked. I tried everything — acupuncture, yoga, massage. You name it, I did it. But I got lucky and found Steve Garfin, and now I’m finding a better way back to help people. How can you begin to thank Steve Garfin and NuVasive, getting me back in the saddle one more time? A new life, at 57.”
The pain sounds brutal, but now Walton has a new lease on life.