Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery with Dr. Ritter-Lang of ENANDE

By: Lester Meckler

My name is John Devere. I'm a physical education teacher in Clovis Unified School District, and I also coach water polo and swimming. In 2005, I had gone over to Germany to have a multiple-level Artificial Disc Replacement by Dr. Ritter-Lang. I've been athletic all my life.

When I was younger, I swam, played water polo. In junior high, I got very active in rodeo. I was actually an All American in Water Polo and decided not to play water polo in college and actually went to Fort Lewis in Durango area. That's how I got into riding bikes, and then I moved back to California to train full time as a professional triathlete and raced on the bike, and I did that for about eight years. My original injury, I was playing Ultimate Frisbee with my kids in PE and went up to grab a Frisbee, and it was wet. When I came down, my legs just went out from underneath me, and I landed on my hip. I knew something was wrong right away.

I felt the shock. It's hard to describe; it was like an electrical shock that went out my spine. I went home that day and didn't come back to work for about two weeks actually.

In the middle of the night, I went to go to the bathroom and ended up on the floor, and we stayed on the floor for about four hours till the ambulance came and got me in the morning and took me to the hospital. I can remember getting to a point where the desperation was it was the end. I remember the day specifically that I had made up my mind that something was going to have to change. I remember coming home; I cried the whole way home; I remember getting home.

Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery with Dr. Ritter-Lang of ENANDE

It was uncontrollable that you'd sob, and the reason I used "sob" over the word "cry" is because when you sob, it's an emotional weeping to where you just can't take this anymore. I can remember talking in the house, and my wife's got everything ready. She's got my ice thing all filled up, and I can just remember saying, "Something's got to change. Give me my gun. I'll go in the other room.

Something's got to change, and it's got to change now. I'm not doing this anymore." So I was just on the web constantly, and I literally spent hundreds of hours looking at what was available. At that point, I found a doctor that would do it, and it was Dr. Ritter-Lang. In 2005, I went to Germany to see Dr. Ritter-Lang and have a disc replacement at L4-L5, L5-S1. I was able to get back to working as a PE teacher and swimming coach.

I think I was only off like three or days after my flight, and I was back at work. It was completely my choice to go back to work when I did. I was out for three weeks, and I wanted to get back to doing something. I was getting antsy, and I didn't really see the need to be sitting around and not doing anything; I was plenty capable. I think I was 47 at the time, and so I went back to riding my back. Within a year, a year and a half, I was able to actually get back up to racing at a pro 1-2 level again, and I raced at a pro 1-2 level up until last year. I was 54 when I decided to stop racing. So I'd been racing the last seven years at a pro 1-2 level with my artificial disc.

At that level, that's pretty much your domestic level; that's pretty much your top level that you're going to find in the United States for a domestic rider at the pro 1-2 level. In the last few years that I'd been racing, I'm not coaching the master swimming anymore, but I usually ended up spending about nine or 10 hours a day working. At the same time, I was being able to race the level I was at; I was riding almost 300 miles a week. So I was spending a good 20 hours a week training on top of working nine, 10-hour days coaching. A little over a year and a half ago, I was 54, and that was my last race, and I was over on the coast doing a race in a pro 1-2 race. Two young men had been arguing at the beginning of the race, and one of the young men pushed the other and fell into him actually.

As I was coming up to the right hand side and I was actually out of the saddle and we were going probably 31, 32 at the time, he hit me in such a way that I went down really, really hard. I went down on my head in my right side; I broke my shoulder in three places; I broke the top of my femur off on my right side; I broke nine ribs. The nine ribs ended up puncturing my lung in seven different places, and on the way to the hospital, I actually coded because my lungs had filled up with bloods so quickly.

I was in ICU for a week after that accident and spent another three weeks in the hospital and was in a wheelchair for six months after that. But the one thing that really shocked me, I guess, and surprised me was that it had no effect on my back surgery. The discs weren't affected by it; the location, the placement of the disc weren't affected by it. Other than the other injuries that I sustained, nothing really negative happened to the back and the artificial disc.

It's been a long process, but luckily, I don't have to worry about my spine.

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