Bruce, 49, has worked with the L.A.P.D for 26 years. He is married with three children. He began to feel neck pain roughly 20 years ago while working in the Gang Unit. His job involved intense physical activity as well as having to carry a heavy gun belt. Bruce had occasional pain relief after going physical therapy and taking a lot of anti-inflammatories. Whenever he exacerbated his pinched nerve, he could be bedridden for days. He never knew when and how he might hurt himself again which affected him mentally. Around 2013, after seeing two doctors and having countless uncomfortable diagnostic tests, he elected to have surgery.
My name is Bruce. I’m 49 years of age. I’m married with three kids. And I’m a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. I’ve been a police officer now for 26 years next month. I’ve worked pretty much every assignment one could think of with the police department. I worked gang units, special problem unit, I work for the… I’m now assigned to the detectives working at major crimes.I guess my back pain started really affecting me more so was around 1997, ’98.
I started working in the gang unit, had a lot of, what we call, uses of forceful where we had to apprehend suspects who didn’t want to go to jail. You had to kinda wrestle with them to put the handcuffs on. It started around that time. It-it progressively gotten worse over the next two or three years. And going into 2000, I started physical therapy. That went on for maybe a year, two years or so. You know, they taught me exercises I could do that kinda helped me alleviate the-the pain. And a lot of medication. I’ve been taking anti-inflammatory’s probably now for the last 15, 16 years or so. That was a big issue, because you start having other affects. Kidneys, liver, and so forth. I tried not to use it as much, but lot of times I didn’t… I didn’t have a choice.
Around 2010, again, I started having more problems with my back. One of the issues we have as police officers, you’re wearing a gun belt that weighs anywhere from 20 pounds to 24, 25 pounds. I always carry extra ammo, so my gun belt is a little heavier than most people, because of the job I was working. So, my belt was pretty heavy. And over the years, pretty much 20 of those years I was in uniform, and that starts taking a toll. Getting in and out of the car became another job for me, just to get out the car. And a lot of times, I… if I move a certain way, I mean, my leg will just go out, but as soon as I stood up, I was okay.
And nine times out of 10, as long as I was standing and walking, it was mainly sitting and standing, squatting. There had been times when I was on perimeters, and would hide behind cars, and we’ve got an active shooter, whatever the case may be, and you-you crouch down for a couple hours, or you’re pinned down, and I’ve been there, so it just, over the years, doing this for 26 years now, it’s starting to take a toll. There were incidents where, you know, I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do, because of the back pain. Like I said, I have an eight-year-old and six-year-old. I was already having chronic back pain, and I can remember one incident where my son was on the end of the bed, and I to jump, ‘cause I thought he was gonna fall off the bed. I had to jump to grab him. And I was on my back for, like, three days after that, because whatever I did, that nerve got pinched, and-and I couldn’t walk for almost three days.
What was funny about it, because it’s a pinched nerve, I could be fine for a month, and I could just turn my leg a certain way, and I’m on the ground or I’m falling to my knees. And-And just like, wow. And the pain is unbearable when that nerve gets caught right at that-that little pinch area. It had a profound effect on my personal life. Things I-I would like to do, I wouldn’t do. I like to ski, bike ride, I could do it, but it was minimal.
I’ve always had to be real careful that I don’t aggravate it somehow. It’s one of things that you don’t know when it’s gonna happen. If you’re gonna be at work, at home, chasing after somebody, it’s one of those things where it’s always in the back of your mind. Think I had maybe eight, nine years on the job when I first started having the chronic pain, so we go back to the 90s, actually 17 years or so. I dealt with it. I guess a lot of the issues were that there were so many unknown factors about having back surgery, ‘cause I worked with several guys that had to take a medical pension, because they had back injuries like mine.
You had to take a pension, or they shoved you in the corner somewhere until you retired. And I was having too much fun doing police work that I just wasn’t gonna risk it. So I took my job, doing what I enjoyed doing, over getting the surgery and-and feeling better. But as time went by, uh, the techniques changed, and I start hearing that, doing a little more research, and that led me to where I’m at now. So right around 2013 or so, I started [seeing a?] doctor, and about that time was when it got to a point it was unbearable, and surgery was needed.
I think I had maybe two or three MRIs, I had nerve conductor tests done. The MRIs were, to me… I mean, I’m not a criminal, I’ve never been in jail, but I could just imagine what it’d feel like being inside a cage, ‘cause you’re in this little tube, and you can’t move, and-and you have to sit there for 30, 40 minutes, sometimes longer, sometimes it’s shorter. It was kinda nerve wrecking. The nerve conducting test that I had was so painful, all I could think of was I couldn’t be a spy, because they asked me the questions, it was like, “Okay, we’re gonna pinch you.” [LAUGH] I’ll tell it all. It was painful.
So, after that, when the conclusion came back that it was what it was, I had to have the surgery.