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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Hal's Back!
by Hal Vickery

It was longer than I expected, but the hiatus from this column is over, and I have nothing but good news to report.

As you may recall from our last visit with you, our recent hiatus was due to my son Jeffís hospitalization for scoliosis surgery. I can report that he came through the surgery just fine, although things were a little bit tougher than expected.

His surgery was performed in two phases. On November 8, he had a rib and eight discs removed. We only expected the surgeon to remove five or six discs, so that was one surprise. That surgery took about seven-and-a-half hours.

The next surprise came exactly one week later when he was scheduled to have the bone fusion and attachment of rods to straighten out his spine. The doctor estimated eight hours for the procedure. Instead it took over twelve hours. The curve in Jeffís spine was so rigid that he had to take the extra time just to be safe.

I drove Jeff to his apartment from the hospital on November 22, and spent most of Thanksgiving weekend with him. Iíve visited him just about every day since then. Needless to say, Iíve gotten behind on grading papers and just about everything else.

For the first several days home Jeffís appetite was below par, and he lost weight that he really couldnít afford to lose. However, over the past three or four days his appetite has picked up, and heís spending more and more time out of bed. A big accomplishment came this past Wednesday when he took a shower for the first time since November 7.

Jeff continues to walk with a cane, the result of the removal of bone from his hip to use for the spinal fusion, but he is walking and seems to be having no ill effects from the surgery.

Jeff and I have received many good wishes from people we know here at WSI, at the AOL Sox message board, and on Brian Crawfordís White Sox Mailing List. To all of you: thanks for your good wishes and prayers. They have been much appreciated. We canít send everyone our personal thanks, but please know that weíve read all of your emails, and there is no way we can express the depth of our gratitude.

To Nancy Faust who visited Jeff at the hospital and who has called him at home to cheer him up: youíre not just a terrific asset to the Sox, youíre a terrific human being. We owe you a debt of gratitude that words canít convey.

To all the doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel at the University of Chicago Hospitals: You made what had to be a most unpleasant time more than bearable for Jeff. You canít know how many words of praise heís had for you all.

To Mary Kay Weir and the board members of the Windy City Sox Fans: Thanks for understanding my lack of attendance at board meetings and my neglect of the fall newsletter. I promise things will be back to normal soon.

Jeff will be wearing his brace for twelve weeks. That means he should be back in action in time for the baseball season. It also means that heíll spending twenty-five or thirty more summers at the ball park than he would have without the surgery. Thatís how big a deal this was.


On another medical front, I feel obligated to say something about the recent revelations by Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds.

There seems to be a school of thought that since Giambi and Bonds, and anyone else who used steroids and/or human growth hormone, were doing it to their own bodies, that there was no reason for the outrage that has been expressed. Still others have talked about how their records were tainted by their cheating.

I can only say this. I canít tell them what to do with their own bodies. If they want to reduce their lifespan, I guess thatís their prerogative. If shortening your life is worth a few extra million dollars, I guess that says something about oneís priorities. They are certainly not what my priorities would be.

As for cheating, professionals have been doing that since the game began. If itís not John McGraw grabbing opposing runners by the belt, it has been Sammy Sosa or Albert Belle corking bats, or who knows how many teams stealing signs by stationing people with binoculars in the scoreboards of their home stadiums. Steroids are just the latest form of cheating.

I tend to side with those who have other concerns. In real life I teach high school, and I see high school athletes every day. The message these guys are sending kids is truly scary. Weíve sent he effects of adults taking steroids on Lyle Alzedo, Ken Caminiti, and numerous professional wrestlers who have all found their way to an early grave.

If steroids do that to people who start taking them as adults, imagine what they can do to teenagers who think that they are a shortcut to success on the athletic fields. No matter what Charles Barkley things, professional athletes, because of their prominence, are role models for kids. This is especially true for kids in athletic programs.

The damage the Giambi, Bonds, and others have already done to kids is unforgivable. As far as Iím concerned, they and those who provided them with the drugs can rot.

Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at

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