Patient Stories

Great Performances: The Next Set - Spinal Fusion Surgery and Recovery

As the son of renowned jazz musicians, it seemed inevitable that George Coleman, Jr., would join the family business. But life as a drummer took a back seat to executive positions in the corporate world until 2007, when Mr. Coleman decided to embrace his musical destiny.

His next career came together quickly, beginning with production on a documentary, Another Kind of Soul: The Coleman Family Legacy, the establishment of his music enterprise – The Rivington Project – and the creation of a new band, the Organic Chemistry Group. The band’s first engagement was set for early February 2011 at New York City’s Jazz Standard.

George Coleman, Jr.
George Coleman, Jr., jazz musician

Mr. Coleman began to look forward to completing his transition to professional musician, but pain that had begun in his shoulder about two years earlier had worsened and was starting to affect his ability to play. “I was excited about the gig and, like most musicians, I wanted to find the opportune time, a slow time, for me as a musician to get it fixed,” he says.

That time came unexpectedly during a workout at the gym. “My bicep stopped functioning,” says Mr. Coleman. “I couldn’t even curl a 10 pound weight.” Mr. Coleman came to see Lisa Callahan, MD, at HSS. Tests revealed a severe impingement of the spinal cord that could only be addressed with surgery.

With the important concert date approaching, he wanted to have the surgery as soon as possible. “I thought about canceling the gig,” says Mr. Coleman, “but I had great doctors and I had great faith in them.”

On December 13, 2010, James C. Farmer, MD, performed the nearly six-hour surgery, which would involve removing four bulging discs between cervical vertabrae and fusion of a portion of the cervical spine. “George told me he would really like to get back to the band,” says Dr. Farmer. “But he didn’t push things. I think he wanted to get the right treatment in the right way.”

“The day after surgery I had strength back in certain muscles in my arm, and the function in my arm gets better every day,” says Mr. Coleman. On February 3, 2011, less than two months after major spine surgery, Organic Chemistry, with George Coleman, Jr., on the drums, performed at the Jazz Standard.

This story first appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Horizon, the HSS news magazine.

George Coleman, Jr.