Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John is best known for undergoing a groundbreaking operation in 1974 that wound up extending his career. The procedure has been named after the left-hander and has helped hundreds of pitchers get back on the mound in the years since.
John has been retired for more than three decades now, but the past couple of years have especially been challenging. He contracted coronavirus (COVID-19) in November 2020 following a trip to Nashville and didn’t have a smooth recovery.
Upon returning to their Southern California home in December of that year, John’s wife, Cheryl, called an ambulance and had him transported to the Eisenhower Health Center in La Quinta.
John was sent back home the next day before his condition worsened, per Steve Serby of the New York Post:
“I don’t know how I got him in the house, but I did,” Cheryl told The Post. “The morning of the 13th, he tried to stand up and he fell and sliced his entire forehead open. I was trying to get him up, because he was wedged between our bed and a dresser. I went out to the garage to get a baseball bat. I said, ‘Hang on to this, and I’ll pull you up.’ Well, I couldn’t get him up, and 911 said, ‘Leave him, don’t move him.’ But when the ambulance came they went, ‘Are you in a domestic relationship?’ Because they saw the bat.”
They took him to Eisenhower Health Center in La Quinta.
“They sent him home the next day,” Cheryl said.”He couldn’t stand up, he couldn’t go to the bathroom. Five times they sent him home.
“I’m looking at my husband that looked like he was dying. I couldn’t get help. Tommy was like 280 pounds, I couldn’t lift him. He couldn’t go to the bathroom, he had the worst bed sores ever, the hospital never checked him. The last time that he went into the hospital, they dropped him … on the ground.”
John developed two blood clots in his lungs and had emergency surgery at Keck Medical Center of USC, whom he believes saved his life:
“I had two huge blood clots in my upper and lower lobes of my lung,” he said.
Finally, Cheryl texted Dr. Dan Oakes, an orthopedic surgeon friend who would send all the necessary information to Dr. Antreas Hindoyan at Keck Medical Center of USC.
“And at 3:30 in the morning,” Cheryl said, “Dr. Hindoyan said, ‘Get him out of that hospital! I have an ambulance downstairs, he’s going to die.’ So they transported him to Keck Medical. They had him in surgery at 6 and broke up two massive blood clots in his lung.
“They saved his life.”
While John has since made a full recovery from his lengthy bout with COVID-19, he still is feeling the effects of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which he contracted later on.
John spent six of his 26 big league seasons with the Dodgers, accumulating an 87-42 record and posting a 2.97 ERA in 182 games (174 starts). He finished second in National League Cy Young Award voting after winning 20 games and pitching to a 2.78 ERA.
Tommy John didn’t let illness ruin wedding day
Despite having difficulty walking due to Guillain-Barré syndrome, John didn’t let that stop him from marrying Cheryl in a recent ceremony.
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