“The superior man is distressed by the limitations of his ability; he is not distressed by the fact that men do not recognize the ability he has.” ~ Confucious
In September, 2008, I went through a life changing event. I had lost all feeling in my hands and feet and after several weeks of tests, a neurologist discovered massive bone spurs in my neck that were cutting deeply into my spinal cord. One of the best neurosurgeons I could find, Dr. Warren Neely, scheduled the surgery almost immediately once the problem was found due to the severity of the situation. He would be installing titanium rods in my neck and fusing C3, C4, C5, C6 & C7. He assured me he had performed hundreds of these similar surgeries during his 30+ years as a neurosurgeon and I would be under for about 2 hours.
The surgery didn’t quite go as planned. The 2 hour surgery ended up being just over 5 ½ hours. When Dr. Neely emerged from the operating room, my wife said he was “wringing wet” and looked like he had just gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. The plan was to remove the bone spurs with laser, but Dr. Neely said in over 30 years of surgery he had never seen bones as hard as mine, nor had he ever seen bone spurs as large as mine. The only way to remove them was to drill holes in them then break the bone particles off with a small hammer and chisel. He informed me later than in the process, he had cause “massive nerve damage” and was certain some of it would be permanent.
Now, 5 years later, he was right. I developed surgical peripheral neuropathy, predominantly in my right foot and lower leg. I consider my life in two parts, before and after surgery. I often tell people, if I was physically a 10 before surgery, today I am a 4 or 5. I simply cannot do the physical things I did my entire life. I later found that I used my experience to shape my views on others. Enter Peyton Manning.
The future hall of fame quarterback underwent the same surgery I went through. I immediately began telling people, his career was over. Based on my experience, I didn’t believe there was any way he would ever wear a football uniform again, and certainly not effectively. I even tried to take into account that he was 20 years younger than me at the time of his surgery and didn’t experience the complications I went through, I still thought it would be impossible for Peyton Manning to ever be an effective quarterback and he would end up either hurt badly or tremendously embarrassing an otherwise stellar career.
Boy was I ever wrong! I was never a huge Peyton Manning fan, but he has now earned every ounce of respect that I can muster. He is a testament to what a person can accomplish by not listening to the critics (like me and the Indianapolis Colts who released him to free agency) who would impose their own limitations on what he was capable of doing. Although his arm strength is not what it once was, the argument can definitely be made that not only has Peyton Manning made a full come back, but he is even better today than he was before his surgery, if that is possible.
I’m a very positive person and normally do everything in my power to encourage others to strive to reach a higher level, but I allowed my own experience to pre-judge what someone else might be able to accomplish. How often do we place limits on others, like telling children they need to be “more realistic”? How often have others placed limitations on us that we allowed to convince us we were in over our heads and needed to be “more realistic”? The truth is, no one knows for certain what another person is ever capable of. Don’t let the critics put limitations on you, and don’t you put your limitations on others.
- Detailed Account of Peyton Manning’s Neck Surgeries and Rehab (predominantlyorange.com)
- Peyton’s Return (trevthinks.wordpress.com)
- Done? You thought… (plsportsblog.wordpress.com)