Spinal Surgery and Physical Therapy Gets Man Back on His Feet   

Spinal Surgery and Physical Therapy Gets Man Back on His Feet

George Verblaauw smiling, while sitting on a stationary bike, working on rehabilitation.

March 28, 2024

George Verblaauw, newly retired, was outside gardening when he suddenly fell without apparent reason. There was no pain, but a few days later, he fell again when cutting the grass. Then, after spontaneously collapsing in the bathroom, he decided to listen to his wife’s pleas to finally see a doctor.

After an initial MRI, George was told he had scoliosis and stenosis, and could go to physical therapy to treat his spontaneous falls—but it was something he’d have to learn to live with.

Worrisome Results from a Full-spine MRI

George began to experience an every-so-often sharp pain between his ribs. The next MRI produced worrisome results, leaving him with two options. He could get back surgery or expect to be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life—in a year’s time or less.

George ended up receiving three separate back surgeries in three weeks’ time. “Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong,” he says. Between numerous transfers, blood pools and clots, and four vertebrae cuts, he didn’t know if he’d ever walk again.

George endured physical therapy for a month at a facility that helped him wiggle his toes and move his feet. It wasn’t great progress, and they sent him home in an electric wheelchair.

Contractors visited his home to install ramps and various apparatuses. George refused to accept this as his reality. He was determined to walk again, enjoy vacations with his wife, go fishing with his buddies and embrace a vibrant retirement.

Keep Pushing Forward With Physical Therapy

After speaking with the psychiatrist at the hospital, George was able to arrange for 

outpatient physical therapy at St. Joseph’s Health Rehabilitation, affiliated with JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.

Initially, the therapist there would lift him out of his chair, and progress was slow. Little by little, George finally began to walk, then farther than the previous sessions and with less assistance.

While he uses his walker for long distances, he can now walk 300 feet with no cane. After impressing the therapists, they suggested wooden stairs. George set his mind to it and walked 48 stairs up and 48 stairs down. Now he uses the treadmill and is working toward riding the bicycle.

Looking back, George endured a time in his life when he thought he may never get the chance to walk again. But his outpatient therapy at St Joseph’s pushed his limits more than he ever had before. Despite the odds, he kept moving forward.

George is still attending his physical therapy classes twice weekly as he continues to raise the bar for recovery. “Don’t give up. Say a little prayer once in a while,” he says.

Next Steps & Resources


The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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