March 17, 2014 at 3:00 am

After being told he would never walk again, Oakhaven Golf Club superintendent Brad Crissinger was devastated.  A year later, after a determined surgeon, perhaps a miracle, and a whole lot of support from friends and family, Crissinger is looking forward to playing golf this spring.

“It was some time in early August that I began to have back pain.  I thought that I had just pulled a muscle from lifting bags of fertilizer into the Vicon,” says Crissinger.  “I didn’t think much of it.”

Crissinger has been the superintendent at Oakhaven Golf Club in Delaware, Ohio for seven years.  For twelve years prior to that he was the assistant at Mill Creek Golf Course in Boardman, Ohio.

Crissinger recalls a conversation with longtime friend and Advanced Turf Solutions sales representative, Steve Honeycutt.

“Steve had come out to the golf course.  We were riding around the course and I was telling him about it.  He said that he had an ongoing neck pain and had sought out his doctor.  He said to me, ‘Don’t wait around; you should probably go.’  You know how some men are; I waited around and didn’t go.”

As time went by Crissinger’s pain had progressively gotten worse, until it was so excruciating he ended up in the emergency room.  They ran tests, gave him pain medication, and told him to find a good chiropractor.

At the chiropractor an x-ray revealed a bulging disc and a herniated disc, and after two weeks of appointments the chiropractor ordered an MRI.

“By the time I got half way home from the MRI, the technician called my cell phone and told me I better get to the hospital right now,” says Crissinger.

While at the Grady Memorial Hospital in Delaware, OH, doctors told Crissinger he had a bacterial infection in the fourth and fifth thoracic vertebra.  He was administered a drip line with antibiotics and transported by ambulance to Riverside Hospital in Columbus for emergency surgery.

Crissinger explains, “It was literally eating away on those vertebrae.  They were worried that if they didn’t get at that infection right away, that those two vertebrae were going to push into my spinal cord and end up severing it.”

A day after emergency surgery Crissinger was up and walking, but by the fifth day he was back in the ER.  The infection had spread, and even after a second surgery, they couldn’t remove all of the infection.

Crissinger recalls that devastating day, “The surgeon came to the foot of my bed and he told me that I would never walk again.”

The surgeon explained to Crissinger that he would have five weeks of inpatient therapy ahead of him, where he would learn how to live his life while paralyzed from the chest down.

A few days after returning home, Crissinger went to a follow up appointment with Dr. John Ogden, the surgeon who performed his first surgery.  Dr. Ogden was not aware of the second surgery, so when Crissinger showed up in a wheel chair wearing a brace, he was shocked.  After another MRI, an optimistic Dr. Ogden scheduled Crissinger’s third surgery for that Saturday.

“He almost promised me I would walk,” says Crissinger.  “(Now) I’m full of titanium.  I’ve got two rods.  He ended up pulling the T4 and T5 vertebrae out and put a titanium cage in.”

Thankfully, Dr. Ogden was able to remove all of the infection.  This January marked one year since Crissinger went home from his final surgery.  Soon after returning home he was able to get back to work.  It wasn’t easy for him, but Crissinger had the support of his family and friends at Oakhaven Golf Club.

“My mechanic, Thomas Redinbaugh, is the one who got me through everything,” Crissinger remembers.  “He would literally pick me up and bring me to work.  He would take me to therapy every day.  If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be in the shape I’m in.”

Crissinger speaks about his limitations when he first returned to work.  “We (Thomas Redinbaugh and I) worked together all that winter getting the course ready to go.  Together he and I rebuilt cutting heads, me from a wheelchair and he did the rest of it.  He took over the spraying for me in the spring and in the summer.  Finally in December I got to spray PCNB (on my own).”

“I did everything from a cart this past season,” he says.  “It was an interesting summer, but it was amazing how I evolved.  I went from a wheelchair to a walker, and now I’m finally starting to walk.”

“Hopefully by this spring I might be playing some golf,” Crissinger says with a smile on his face.  “I hope to be spraying on my own and doing all of this other stuff on my own.”

Taken aback by his progress, Crissinger says, “I was blowing leaves this fall and I couldn’t believe I was going to do that again. I can’t wait to walk into that second surgeon’s office and show him what walking is all about.”

A thankful Brad Crissinger also credits his wife, Paula, and three daughters for their support and care throughout his recovery.  Other than his family, Crissinger mentions several friends who provided support over the last year.

“My crew stuck it out,” he says proudly.  “Most of my direction was over the phone.  I would call in my daily assignment and they would write it on the board, and the crew would just go out there and get it done.  (They are a) great staff, and they would work their hearts out for me.”

“The owners were great too,” Crissinger says about Jeff Cutler, Steve Spence, and Chris Richards, the owners of Oakhaven Golf Club.  “They continued to pay me all the way through that period until I started back to work again; they were very supportive.”

Crissinger remembers, “I had phone calls from Jeff Cutler at least every other week to make sure I was doing fine, giving me support over the phone.  Steve Spence and Chris Richards were very supportive with phone calls.  Todd Holden, a longtime friend and general manager at Oakhaven Golf Club, made several visits to the hospital.  They are real, good friends.  I had a lot of people that were rooting for me.”

Today Crissinger continues therapy one day each week, and he is now walking without any assistance.

We share Brad Crissinger’s story to recognize him for his determination and ability to persevere against devastating odds.  His story has inspired many of us at Advanced Turf Solutions, especially those close to Brad. 

What also inspires us is the support and loyalty demonstrated by Oakhaven Golf Club.  We are moved by their honorable decision to accommodate Brad as he learned to walk again, and to not only hold his job for him, but to continue to pay him when he was unable to work.  The owners and employees at Oakhaven Golf Club are more than employers and coworkers to Brad; they are his friends. 

This story is special to us because Oakhaven Golf Club is our customer and Brad Crissinger is our friend, but we hope it inspires others because it is a beautiful example of community.  This spring, take your neighbor for a round at Oakhaven Golf Club.  Enjoy their 18-hole championship golf course and be sure stop in to say hello to Brad Crissinger.