Former Morning Exchange host talks about serious injury

How Fred Griffith recovered from crushed vertebra

CLEVELAND - Taking his two dogs out for a walk is never a quick affair.

Everywhere Fred Griffith goes, he is still stopped by viewers who followed his four decades on Cleveland television. During his 27 years hosting WEWS's groundbreaking talk show 'The Morning Exchange,' Griffith handled all kinds of interviews — many of them about health matters and medical innovation.

Now 85, he recently had a health crisis he termed "a wake up call."

A little more than a year ago, Griffith was "pumping iron" in a gym where he and wife Linda live in Shaker Heights. Griffith was holding a set of weights and moved to sit down on a bench. "I moved over and started to sit down, and pow! Right on my back and it was like a dagger in the heart. I never had such pain in my life." 

Alone and unable to stand, Griffith dragged himself across the floor toward the elevators where he hoped someone would hear his cries for help. He had broken his back.

His doctor, neurosurgeon Joel Siegal of the Collis Group, said, "He crushed a vertebra, and it turns out that this is a significant problem in the U.S. It's very common among elderly people, and often goes undiagnosed."

Siegal also said that it doesn't take a serious fall like Griffith's to cause the injury. "It could be something as common as coughing, sneezing, bending over to make a bed, anything like that can cause the bone to crack and crush because it's of such low bone density." People can also experience a range of pain from vertebral damage, from mild to excruciating. 

For Griffith, Siegal used a device that opens up the area of crushed bone with a tiny inflatable balloon. This creates a space that is then filled with surgical cement that flows into all of the space around the crushed bone to create a solid, stable mass. For most people it is an outpatient procedure.

After the agonizing pain that followed his injury, Griffith woke up from this procedure with "no pain whatsoever" and was back in his usual routine within a couple of days. He's back to working out now, and gets out several times a day to walk his dogs.

Siegal said Griffith has been a good example of how well this can work for people who suffer with back pain. "It has been so much fun to see him in public now, and his warm handshake and smile...it's just inspiring." 

There is much more to tell about Fred Griffith's life, and you'll get it straight from him! He's now at work, with some help from his daughter Barbara, penning his memoirs about an extraordinary run in Cleveland television.

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