Here we are at the height of the NBA season (the NBA playoffs underway), and the way it’s been a very distressing season so far for so many of the retired NBA players and the health issues that they have had to deal with. I myself, had to have emergency heart surgery on January 3, 2015 so that the doctors could make some repairs on an aerobic aneurysm that was just about ready to burst on me (typically, when something like this burst, it’s nearly 100% fatal). Just this week, I heard that one of my all-time favorite NBA basketball players and idol, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, underwent a quadruple bypass surgery on his 68th birthday.
As someone who works very closely with the NBA retired players (I’m a board member with the NBA Retired Players Association) I have a great amount of concern and compassion for each and every one of our members. I want all of us to live a long and healthy and prosperous life, but already in 2015, before and after year is over, we have lost over a half a dozen former NBA players.
Attached, you’ll see a letter that I wrote to the retired NBA players to encourage them to release undergo an annual physical each and every year, and also if they feel are sensing the physical symptoms a nose and start right, to make haste to the doctor’s office and take a look at the situation. It could…. as it did in my situation, save their life.
As to the good health of all of our NBA retired players, retired professional athletes, and (men especially!) all around the world, to pay attention to your health, be sure to get your annual physicals, so that you will be around a long time to take care of your families and loved ones.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
A special message from one of your NBRPA members pertaining to your health:
If there’s one thing I can share with all of our members of the NBRPA, it would be to make sure to cherish and take care of your health. Our Association does a good job of offering financial assistance, health insurance plans, retirement saving plans, scholarships and the like, but without your health being intact, all of that can ending up not being much if you don’t have good health to enjoy.
My name is James Donaldson, one of your NBRPA Board of Directors, and also a member of the NBRPA. On January 3, 2015, I realized that something was going awfully wrong with my body and I decided at that point to go to my doctor’s office to see exactly what the problem was. I was actually out playing golf with some friends of mine that morning, and after only one hole of golf, my back was in excruciating pain, and I also was feeling nauseated.
I left the golf course, and got into my car and drove the five or so minutes to the office of my doctor, where upon entering the doctor’s office, I blacked out, and the doctors could see right away that something was seriously wrong with me.
The medical staff on hand, gave me a quick scan and diagnosis that I had the beginnings of an aortic aneurysm. Now this is something very serious, and a 99% of the cases, fatal. Doctors are expecting to see over 200,000 cases of this in the United States alone this year!
What saved me was the fact that I had listened to my bodily symptoms and made my way with haste to the doctor’s office. That, and also being in relatively good shape still as I continue to work out every day and take good care of my health (I’ve never been a drinker, smoker, drug user and am vegetarian for over 30 years), is most likely what saved me and allowed me to survive the 13 ½ hour operation.
The doctors opened me up (yes, now I have one of those zippers from chest to bellybutton), and discovered that yes, it was true, that I had an aneurysm that was about ready to burst, but also they found that the interior lining of my aortic artery leading to my heart had some ripping and tearing inside that was occurring, and most likely would have continued all the way through the aorta. Also, my heart valve was damaged, so the doctors repaired my aortic artery, and also replace my heart valve with an artificial valve.
The doctors tell me that I only had a two hour window of time to work with, and that if they did not proceed immediately with surgery, I would not have made it through any surgical procedure at all.
So, with that being the case, I wanted to put the word out to all of our members of the NBRPA (and their wives, girlfriends, family members and loved ones) to be sure to stay on top of your health issues and (this goes especially for the men) upon sensing the first symptoms that something is not right with your health, go immediately to your family doctor to see what is wrong. I realize that all of us were once highly competitive athletes, and we hate to admit when something is not quite up to par, but, as I’ve learned, playing around with your health, is something not to be played with.
Also, it’s important to get an annual physical checkup so that the doctors on hand can have some basic baseline numbers of your health situation. Those numbers will include things like (blood pressure readings, glucose levels, resting heart rate, oxygen levels, etc.) and even though an annual physical most likely would not detect something like what I went through, it would give the doctors a starting point of where to begin with you should you have a health episode like I did, and not have to waste time trying to track down any medical records that you may or may not have.
I have almost fully recovered now from my surgery on January 3, after spending six weeks in a hospital (four weeks in intensive care, and another two weeks in a rehabilitation hospital where I had to learn how to walk all over again and regain my balance), I am glad to announce that I’ve been home for three weeks now, and I am regaining my strength rapidly and getting back to my regular schedule.
I wanted to share all this with our members, especially in light of the fact that we have lost five former retired NBA players over the last two months (Earl Lloyd, Anthony Mason, Roy Tarpley, Jerome Kersey, Christian Welp and Jack Haley)…. five of those only around 50 years of age!
I don’t know why I was able to make it through and the others were not, other than I realize I have a tremendous faith in God that he will see me through, and the power of prayer from so many of our members, friends and loved ones around me. Thank you so much for all of that, and as I continue to regain my strength back to 100% level, I wanted to say thank you to each and every one of you for thinking of me and helping me to pull through.
Please do all of us a favor and be sure to get your annual checkups, swallow your pride, and be sure to get to your doctor upon the first sign that something may not be quite right with you physically. We all of work so hard to get to where we are in life, and it’s a shame if especially at an early age, we are not around or able to enjoy it. Also, while I’m at it, be sure to have some type of estate planning program (also a durable power of attorney for your health and business affairs) in place just in case something happens to you that the ones you leave behind will be cared for.
Thank you so much for your time and attention to such an important matter, I feel like I’ve been able to get up off of my “potential deathbed” and have a whole new lease on life in which I will be sure to cherish and enjoy each and every moment, and each and every friendship.
All the best to all of you;
NBRPA Board of Director