Like a lot of people who live in the Roaring Fork Valley, George Sharer has spent years as a very active outdoor enthusiast. He loved to run miles at a time, ski all winter and ride his bike when the weather was just right, or even when it wasn’t. As a result, he was in excellent shape, but knows his body wasn’t meant to take the pounding and stress he was putting on it regularly.
In 2006 when he was riding his bike down from Vail Pass and around Lake Dillon, George had a bicycle crash that left him unconscious for around six minutes. He woke up with a cracked helmet, and plenty sore from bruises, “toe to ear,” but shook off the injuries and tried not to let the accident slow him down. “I skied all winter like I always do, but by that spring I couldn’t walk for about a week.”
George got both of his hips replaced, and a spinal fusion six months later, trying to repair the damage from years of enjoyable recreation. But pain and immobility from slipped discs and pinched nerves were persistent, and so George visited David W. Miller, MD, at Brain Surgery & Comprehensive Spine Center for a laminectomy. In a follow-up surgery to address a pinched nerve that was incapacitating him from the lower torso down, Neurosurgeon Dr. Wade Ceola spent two days rebuilding George’s spine from sacral to mid-thoracic vertebrae. His left lung was collapse so they could remove a lower rib, and use it to improve the strength of his spine.
“My hat goes off to Dr. Ceola for the dedication of spending two days with me; it must have been just grueling,” George now says. He woke up with the ability to just move his toes a little at a time, and has been working hard at rehabilitation ever since. “Everybody at Valley View helped me through every little hurdle I’ve accomplished, and encouraged me to move forward.”
George now uses a wheelchair regularly, but has been able to walk thanks to his dedication to physical and occupational therapy. He says he is continuously impressed at the body’s ability to reeducate itself, developing new neural pathways to help him move around. The key has been to follow directions of his doctors and physical therapists, who are insistent that he take movement slow and with safety in mind.
“Everybody in the hospital worked as a team,” George says. “It was a pleasure to be at Valley View simply because the people are caring, and you’ve got that camaraderie around you. I’d love to come back, but this time as a volunteer.”