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What's Happening? When I communicated with you last Thelma, her brother George, and I were in southern Missouri at an RV park and we were headed for Freedom Shores in Mexico. 

As most of you already know, I am a C5, C6 quadriplegic (diving accident with the Marine Corps in 1961) and that I fell down the stairs when my stairway elevator failed at our home in Michigan in 2003. In that accident, I dislocated C3 and C4. I have been in excruciating pain for the past four years.
When I was injured in the Marine Corps in Hawaii in 1961, my superior officer's name was Lt. Don Spann. We lost contact with each other after I left Tripler Army Hospital in Hawaii and was sent to Crile V A Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. I thought I would never see him again on this earth. 

When the Internet began I recognized it as a wonderful tool in trying to locate my Marine Corps brothers. I was sure that they thought that I had died. In 2004 I typed in the name of one of my Marine Corps friends and to my astonishment, I found him! That was Neil Jansen who lives near Cincinnati, Ohio. We then decided to try to find some of our other brothers and have a reunion. We were very lucky and in the summer of 2005 about 14 of us met on the banks of the Blackfoot River near Missoula, Montana. It was such a strange sensation seeing men drive up, get out of their car, and walk towards us. Those of us who arrived early, tried to see who could be the first one to identify them. Remember, the last time we had seen them they were young men between 20 to 23 years old! Now they were in their middle 60s! 

One of the Marines we located was Lt. Don Spann. During our conversations he told me that his son was an orthopedic surgeon in Austin, Texas. Like any father, he bragged about how good his son was. Later he said, "Bill, I sure would like my son to take a look at you and see if he can't relieve some of that pain!"
We went through Austin in 2005 and we stopped and talked to Don Spann and he introduced us to his son Scott. He told me that he thought he probably could help me but I needed to give him a full MRI of my spine. I had already been through two cervical operations and, even though I was in excruciating pain, I dreaded even thinking about having to go through it again! 

During the summer of 2007, I found an open MRI machine in Muskegon, Michigan and I underwent the procedure. Later that summer we had our second MACS-2 Marines reunion at our house in Arcadia, Michigan. Don Spann attended and I gave him the MRI results. He told me that he would see his son later in Austin and he would give him the films. I thought to myself, "I will go through Austin, see Dr. Scott Spann and make an appointment with him for sometime in April of 2008 for the operation." 

We (Thelma, George, and Ralph Mitchell) saw Scott on October 8th and he showed us the MRI films and it was extremely grim. He told me that my situation was so serious that if he didn't already have two surgeries scheduled for that afternoon, he would do the operation immediately! He told me, "Bill, if you don't have this operation right away, you could lose your ability to move your arms, feel your arms, breathe on your own, and you could never regain that!" 

I checked into the hospital the next morning at 7 a.m. and they did all the necessary things to prepare me for surgery. They took me into the operating room about 10:30 a.m. and the next thing I knew, I was in the recovery room and it was all over! 
One of the first things I did when I opened my eyes was move my arms! When they moved, I silently gave thanks to God! My throat was very sore and it was extremely difficult to swallow anything. 

That night I could not fall asleep because it was very hard for me to breathe! All night long, I would begin to fall asleep and then I would wake up suddenly gasping for air. It was a very miserable time! In the morning, Scott came and and told me that I had a hematoma (large accumulation of bloody matter) that was compressing on my throat making it difficult for me to breathe. He said that unfortunately I would have to go back into the operating room, they would have to remove the sutures and drain it. I can tell you truthfully that I was in no mood to go back into the operating room and to be intubated again! Scott told me, "This will only take about 15 minutes and when you wake up you'll be able to breathe without any problems. It has to be done Bill!" The next thing I knew, I was being wheeled into the operating room again. 

When I woke up, I was amazed at how easy it was to breathe. My throat was extremely sore and it was very hard to swallow anything, but I could breathe! That's all that was important for me at the time. After that, recovery was very fast and I was very surprised when Don Spann walked in with another Marine buddy, Clark McCormick who lives up in northern Texas. He had driven all the way down to Austin to see me! Marines are truly a Band of Brothers! We would go anywhere and do anything to help a fellow Marine! 

I was soon taken off of the ICU unit and moved to a regular hospital room. I was astounded at how luxurious this hospital is! the rooms look like you're in the Marriott Hilton Hotel and all of the meals are prepared by a chef! The food was absolutely delicious! I jokingly told Thelma, "I don't know if I want to leave here, the food is so great!"
On Sunday, the 14th of October, I was discharged and George and Thelma took me to the motor home to recuperate. 
It is now October 21st, and we would have left three or four days ago, but the Digit Pad control in my van has malfunctioned. We cannot turn the heater off and it is on high! The only repair facility who can fix this thing can not see us until Monday at noon. We are praying that they, in conference with the installer at Clock Conversions in Grand Rapids, Michigan, can fix this thing! 

When we get the heater turned off, we will be leaving for Laredo, Texas tomorrow afternoon. We have to stop in Monterrey, Mexico and conference with an electrical engineer and purchase an electrical transformer for Freedom Shores. We should arrive in Isla Aguada somewhere around the 29th of October. We have so much to do! 

I did not expect this serious speed bump but I am so happy to report to you that I am totally pain-free! I want to tell all of my friends out there who have SCI about this doctor. He is absolutely amazing! He does a C5, C6 fusion as an outpatient procedure! Granted, if you're in a wheelchair, he will let you hang around for a few days to savor some of that delicious cuisine! I can honestly tell you, if you are suffering from any kind of SCI pain, this is the doctor you should see! You want to know an amazing thing? In 2005 he crashed into the back of a vehicle that had parked on the bike lane and he fractured C5 and C6! He never lost consciousness and he directed the paramedics where to take him and his fellow doctors operated on him! Today, you can barely tell that he had a spinal cord injury! It certainly didn't affect his ability to function in the operating room! He is on the Web. Just type in: Dr. Scott Spann, Austin, Texas. You'll be glad you did!
William L. Bussear