Body mangled by folly but lived in full spirit

Fifteen years ago I underwent what my esteemed doctors - my GP, neurologist and a crowing orthopaedic specialist - opined would be a life-saving operation.

I had a pinched nerve in my spine, they said.

Like a good black man I left my life, trust and hope in the hands of these experts.

So petrified was I by the impending doom and gloom, that I willingly went to a Johannesburg private hospital on a Friday afternoon. I had just had drinks with a group of colleagues and friends as we were wont to do on Fridays. I would return soon, I told them.

To be graphic, I know what the bone surgeon did to me. He told me.

On the operating table, he sliced me open, removed my lower mandible and merrily went to town on semi-dead me, fusing four of my vertebrae into one.

Admittedly, to say I am angry a decade-and-half later sounds belated. But, I am livid. I even want to commit murder though it is too late for the intended victim.

I am not insane. I am a very normal fellow who was born without any life-threatening defects, or none which modern medicine can fathom.

I walked into one of Johannesburg's best private hospitals for what would be a routine, simple operation to prevent some imminent paraplegia, quadriplegia, at worst.

I did not know that I would undergo a five-hour operation. Neither did I anticipate being put in a steel halo and confined to a hospital bed for the next six months, unable to walk.

It took me another six months to learn how to shuffle, to walk again, albeit freakishly.

My long-suffering family - my wife and two adult sons - jokingly call me Robocop but I know they are at the end of their tether. They are not aware that I know; that I can see through their muted concern. I cannot run, or drive my car. That hurts.

I work and am productive even though two of my previous managers - they have since left Sowetan - suggested I take early retirement. I am only turning 50 this month.

My comrades, friends and colleagues are just super. Some also call me Robocop and other names that would hurt if they did not come from them. But that is thanks to the abounding spirit of ubuntu in this office.

I have hinted on my murderous streak. Well, it won't happen. I have two reasons.

Though the fastest fly-killer-with-a-bare-left-hand alive, I am the gentlest person. Ask my sons and my bosses, past and present.

I have never asked them for a raise in my 25 years here.

The second reason inspired today's column.

When I breezed into that private Johannesburg hospital that fateful day, an orthopaedic specialist and supposed renowned expert was waiting, just like Frankenstein, ready to extract blood.

"What did they do to you?" My current neurologist was bewildered when he saw my MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan results.

"What kind of spine is this?"

I am still trying to get my central nervous system to function as well as it did before the damn operation.

That professor - a disgrace to his profession if ever there was one - is dead. I heard a few days ago that the exotic sports-car enthusiast and avowed bachelor died about two weeks ago after a long illness. Damn!

And I am still battling to get well.