Basketball HOF Bill Walton comes to CT for treatment, to share painful story

FARMINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton was in Connecticut on Thursday, but not to talk about his glory days on the hardwood.

Walton was here to share his painful story away from the glare of the spotlight.

The seven-footer said that nerve pain was so excrutiating in recent years, he actually contemplated suicide. He worked through it while playing in the NBA, but five and a half years ago, it was crippling him.

Walton said he got back in the game of life after undergoing his 37th operation.

“I’ve been plagued with back of the leg pain literally my entire life,” Walton told News 8’s Jocelyn Maminta. I was born with structural congenital defects in my feet, which led to a string of stress fractures.”

Years of banging and pounding on his body took a toll. The nerve pain was unbearable.

“It’s like being submerged into a VAT of scalding acid, that has an electrifying current running through it,” Walton said.

Nearly six years ago, an innovative approach called XLIF- Lateral Interbody Fusion was able to ease his excruciating chronic back and leg pain.
Walton was apprehensive heading into the surgery.

“I was terrified. I never talked to anybody who had anything positive to say about spine surgery,” he said.

The procedure was his 37th.

Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Isaac Moss at UConn Health Center has perfected the procedure, which is designed to stabilize the spine without going through the backside.

“The idea is we’re trying to do the same work with less collateral damage,” Moss said. “We go through in your side and we just have a very small incision.”

“We can take out discs that maybe disruptive or herniated. We actually put a spacer that re-establishes your disc height, that disc which is the shock absorber between the bones and the spin and it raises the disc height and gives space for the nerves,” Moss said.

Dr. Moss also relies on the neuro-monitoring technology — to reduce the risk of nerve injury.

“It’s actually a computer system that stimulates the nerve and watches the responses in the legs and we can see how close we are within millimeters to the nerves to make sure that are not being injured,” he said.

Walton is seeing the benefits.

“I’ve never been this healthy since high school so I’m doing fantastic,” Walton said.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

For more on Walton’s story, visit his website.

For more on the procedure, click here.

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