On the Road with George Visger

Sep 9, 2011

EDITOR’S NOTE: George Visger caught up with me on the phone this morning just before arriving at a job site. George is back at work trying hard to help his family recover from losing their home after suffering another near-fatal brain shunt failure last October. George is one of the most remarkably intelligent and resilient guys I’ve ever met and his tenacity comes through in everything he does. I often talk to him about what might have happened with his life had he never played professional football and sustained his life-altering brain damage. He starts off with an answer to John Hogan’s earlier post (click HERE to read John Hogan’s comment).
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From TheUnion.com: George Visger, a Grass Valley resident, shows his 1981 San Francisco 49ers team photo and Super Bowl ring. Visger has undergone nine brain surgeries since he stepped off the football field for the final time.

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John,
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To answer your question, “But how do you perform sustained, competitive work if you have a significant neuro-cognitive impairment?”
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I developed hydrocephalus (water on the brain) while playing DT with the 1981 San Francisco 49ers and underwent emergency VP shunt brain surgery. Four months after we won Super Bowl XVI, my shunt failed and I had two more brain surgeries 10 hours apart and was given last rites. Virtually no memory for nearly a year after. My first recollection was of receiving bills for the brain surgeries from the 49ers front office with the total circled, YOU OWE THIS AMOUNT. (I was hoping for at least some flowers and a cheesy card!)
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After fighting off creditors for four years, the 49ers counsel forced me to take the stand while he grilled me at my Workers Comp hearing on what I did my last day of practice (we’re not talking malpractice or liability claim, just a simple Workers Comp claim like ANY injured employee is entitled to). I won my case in 1986 and they offered me $35K to disappear. It sounded appealing as I was living in a dirtbag apartment, swinging a hammer for $12/hr and bouncing at nights for $10k to survive. I told them to keep their money and I kept my medical claim open AND asked to finish my Biology degree through Vocational Rehab. All injured employees are entitled to Vocational Rehab. I had 4 years of Biology at Colorado before being drafted in 1980 and wanted to complete my degree. Thank God I kept the medical open and didn’t take their damn cash!
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I eventually completed my degree in Biological Conservation in 1990 while surviving 4 more brain surgeries (in 87) and multiple gran mal seizures. During the 4 1/2 years it took to complete my degree, the 49ers Worersk Comp was responsible for every bill associated with my being retrained (books, tuition, mileage to school each day, mileage to Doctors appointments, Doctors, meds, counseling), and I received disability while I was in school full time or recovering from my surgeries. I had 2 additional knee surgeries during this time, including a GoreTex ACL transplant, repairing the sloppy job the 49ers had done to me back in 1981. Everything was covered but still not worth the price my family continues to pay for my having played 2 years in the NFL.
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Twenty-nine years later I have now survived 9 emergency VP shunt brain surgeries, multiple gran mal seizures, suffer from major short-term memory deficits and have been diagnosed by Dr. Amen and Dr. Claydon as suffering from early onset dementia. I was on 4 different dementia medicines at once last year, to help me continue functioning as a self employed environmental consultant. The side effects were worse than the treatment so I upped my hyperbarics and Omega 3′s and only take 2 Arricept/day to increase my neurotransmitters. I am functioning better than I have in years.
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HOW TO SURVIVE WITH AN NFL-CAUSED TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

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1. I literally write down everything in my Rite-In-The Rain notebooks. Waterproof, fit in your back pocket. I have 30 years of these, 12 -15 pages/day. Each phone call, conversation etc goes in with time, who, what we spoke about, what I did at each project, when I left the office, mileage when left, and time and date.
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Here’s an example from today – I’m currently on a CalTrans project I have been working on 14-19 hrs/day out of town the last 2 months.
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9/9/11

  • Spent nite at Copelands. 267,092 (mileage) left @ 5:42
  • 6:21 Site T-7A. 267,111. Traffic crew setting out signs, data
  • 7:09 7A bell hole dug, contact ETIC for BMPs (DI protection)
  • 7:21 7D 267,112 Done, no paint
  • 7:29 7E 267,113 by Chevron, almost complete.
  • 7:31 Called ARB – Clay sched
  • 7:33 called Reynoldo vm
  • 7:34 – 7:42 Called Phil Woltze – Arch. Survey L & M during const, spot check A & D, pre con survey F&I before exca.
  • CALL PHIL BEFORE BREAK GROUND F 09/10
  • 7:52 Site 7 F 267,118- started box, PGE onsite
  • 8:08 Site 7 G 267,220- saw cut, exca. Dump, front load.
  • 8:14 called Jeff E, Snelson Con Cord. T 44 not theirs. Thinks ARB
  • 8:16 called Clay con cord Snel. rec’d Carlile.
  • 8:17 Carlile, onsite in pm with backhoe, ex if USA’d.
  • 8:20 – 8:47 Called Chris P – ARB super. Moving tanks in am T44 to 7/9. Need arborist at 44, cultural at 7/9. Discharge @ 100 gpm 9-5, 50 gpm 5 – 9. Coord Lauren/Clay – ARB. Brkdwn tanks now. Need RTC, Encroach permit, discharge permit. Have ETIC install DI protect prior to mobe. Traffic control?? CONDUCT ENVIRO TRAINING FOR CREWS AT 7A TOMORROW 7:00. GET MIKE P FOR CULTURAL, REYNALDO H&S, KEITH FOR SWPPP TRAINING.

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You get the picture. Some days I have 22+ pages of notes to read through before doing my data reports.
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Every couple nights I read through the prior weeks work/life. After reading what I did last week 3-4 times I know what I did even If I don’t really remember doing it. I will high lite important items w/ various colored pens I need to come back to (red = work, yellow = home, blue = other). This eliminates wasted time reading impertinent information.
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2. For appointments I use Post-Its on my dash, my bathroom mirror, desk and screen of computer. When done crumple up and toss on floor (very cathartic). Computer alarms go off at 14, 7, 4, 3, 2 and 1-day intervals prior to appointments. The day of the appt at 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1-hr intervals, then at 15, 10, 5-minute intervals prior. Despite all this, I will get busy on a report and even with 5-minute reminders, still miss some meetings.
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3. Tell people you work with (or for) to remind you of things. Everyone who works with me (clients included) knows to ask “Do you have your notebook handy?” when they call.
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I’m not shy about letting people know what I’m dealing with (as you all can tell by now). Clients who are hesitant to use my services will quickly learn I plain and simply outwork others and cover their tails with my detailed notes. I have been subpoenaed for lawsuits years later, brought out minute by minute detailed information that even the regulatory agencies don’t have. No one remembers like they think they do. My notebooks are my memory banks.
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4. Investigate anti-seizure/psychotic or other meds you may be on. My experience has been the side effects are usually worse than the symptoms. Many Drs will prescribe drugs as a “cover your ass” rather than what is best for the patient. If the drug is “standard of care” and you have problems, it relieves them of liability. Be proactive, don’t rely totally on professionals, Doctors and attorneys (sorry, John) are humans (at least some are). They’re not God and make mistakes just like the rest of us. Look out for yourself or your loved ones.
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5. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). No drugs involved, just oxygen. I’m into my 90+ treatments at 1+ hrs treatments, and began remembering things on my daily schedule after 7-9 treatments. I am a firm believer in HBOT – best thing to happen to me in 30 years regarding my TBI!
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6. Megadoses of Omega 3 fish oils and anti-oxidant fruit juices. I use Dr. Barry Sears Omega 3s as they are industrial grade purified and his SeaHealth Plus anti oxidant. Two capsules of the anti oxidant/day reduces inflammation in all your tissues, especially neurons in your brain. Inflammation of neurons due to repeated head trauma (not just concussions but the 1,000s of sub concussive hits) causes early death of the neurons = dementia.
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With your Omega fish oils, make sure they’re purified. Fatty fish store heavy metals and toxins in their oil. Make sure it’s been cleaned.
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7. Work your brain. We worked our bodies to keep in shape and you need to do the same for your brain. New buzz word: “NEURO-PLASTICITY.” Old school was once brain damaged that’s it. Recent research has proven by working your brain you can literally grow new neurons into areas of your brain we don’t use and are not damaged. Humans only use 5 % of our brains. Exercises such as using your left hand if right handed, changing your routines, playing kids memory games causes you to concentrate more which stress your brain which causes it to grow new neurons or activate existing neurons which aren’t being used.
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There are ways to function with TBI. The NFL certainly doesn’t want to take responsibility for putting their ex employees in these situations as it’s not only bad PR but costly.
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Think what we could do if we all functioned at the capacity we are capable of. I hate to say it, but the last thing the NFL wants to see is a bunch of highly motivated players and families operating at optimum levels, calling them on their criminal handling of their injured employees.
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Those of you in my situation and those family members dealing with a TBI survivor try these techniques. It’s the only way I have learned how to function.
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We need to take control of our lives again.
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FYI: I have cc’d De Smith on this and will request he send his response to me via Dave Pear’ s blog. The man works for the players (though we’re no longer considered players even though we continue to pay our dues). There’s no reason he didn’t address questions at the Symposium. I am looking forward to your comments, De!
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George Visger
San Francisco 49ers 1980 & 1981
Survivor of 9 NFL-Caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries
Benefactor of ZERO NFL Benefits
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And here’s an interview George did (along with Kevin Brown) back in June with NCTV public access network:
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9 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. John Hogan
    September 9th, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    John Hogan

    George,

    You are one incredible human being!

    Unfortunately, as you are not vested you’re not eligible for this new neuro-cognitive benefit – which actually seems tailor-made for someone like you!

    Best regards,
    John Hogan
    Disability Attorney & Retired Player Advocate

  2. George Visger
    September 10th, 2011 at 1:20 am #

    George Visger

    John,

    Thank you – and thanks for all you do for the guys and their families!

    Question: Does De Smith or Roger Goodell qualify for the neuro-cognitive benefit? Just wondering. Considering they both share similar symptoms to my own, could they possibly be brain-damaged? No way. They’re both knocking down 8-figure salaries and I’m living proof brain-damaged individuals are not capable of making that kind of money.

    Despite my cognitive limitations I still would like to match wits with them in a good physical game of Pictionary.

    George Visger
    Survivor of 9 NFL Caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries
    Unqualified for the NFL Neuro-cognitive Benefits

  3. Dave Pear
    September 10th, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    Dave at Home

    George,

    You are amazing!

    How does the NFLPA get away with this tragedy and then turn their back on you and your family?

    I am outraged by this cold-hearted GREED!

    Then this empty suit (De Smith) parrots some rhetoric about his pretend concern about the health and well being of football players at the recent symposium and then runs out the door without answering any questions. He never even mentioned retired players! Why? Because they’re no longer an asset but now a liability to the Union.

    Parents, please count the costs before allowing your children to play youth football. If – or more likely when – your child becomes injured like George Visger, Washington DC lawyers like Smith will support any legal action to deny benefits to the very people who gave him a job.

    The Groom Law Group continues to flout the disability laws for injured employees who are no longer any value to the NFL and create loop holes to deny benefits to which they would normally have access in Corporate America – but not the NFL.

    We keep asking: When will there be a Department of Labor audit of the NFLPA & the NFL?

    Regards,
    Dave & Heidi Pear

  4. Dr. Raymond J. Petras
    September 10th, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    Dr Raymond Petras

    Concussion and brain injured articles are in the news these days.

    There are some good tools to test for concussions.

    However, while conducting a brief literature search, I noticed that there are still not many treatment options, except rest and Tylenol®.

    Recently, an athlete came to my office, 3 1/2 weeks after his concussion. In five minutes, using some instructional and visualization techniques, his painful headache was gone, his nausea left, as did his dizziness. Seven days later his doctor cleared him to participate in his sport (x-county, non-contact). This is ~4 weeks earlier than expected. I have observed these results before and thought that this might be of interest to the group. This method, called PsychoNeuro Pain Response™ (PNPR™), may become a third option.

    Mental techniques can safely help reduce pain, speed healing and return athletes to the playing field more quickly than with just conventional standard medicine (CSM) or training methods.

    Dr. Raymond J. Petras
    Sports Performance & Non-Invasive Injury/Pain Management Specialist

  5. Joe Steed
    September 10th, 2011 at 11:15 am #

    Joe Steed

    George Visger is amazing! He is a study in determination and perserverance like all retired NFL players who are dealing with injuries.

    For all the retired players who are dealing with CTE and/or TBI – HBOT is great along with krill and/or fish oil! Nooptropics will help as well – Hydergine, Piracetam, and Aniracetam – but HBOT along with HGH therapy will go a long way in cell regeneration! Those interested should contact Charlene Charloner at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, CA.

    There should be a standard rehabilitation program offered by the NFL that synergizes and institutes these practices. This would be a great way to help NFL and US soldiers with TBI – crossover studies!

    Or to gain more attention to TBI/CTE issues, some former groups of NFL players with TBI or CTE could picket at every NFL game on Sunday around the country – but that would be extreme …you decide.

    Joe Steed
    Pittsburgh Steelers
    1992 – 1999

  6. Gordon Wright
    September 10th, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    Glendora and Gordon Wright

    Mr. Hogan,

    My husband Gordon has three vested credit years and the fourth year is intentionally being withheld by Groom Law Group because Gordon was on injured reserve for the ’68 season. Why won’t anyone help my husband?

    Thanks, George, for sharing your TBI management ideas. Gordon finished his last round of Neuro Brain damage tests last week and we are waiting for his final results. The brain MRI shows multiple injuries to his brain. I am advocating for Gordon to get the current medical care available.

    Thanks to all who gave through Mike Ditka’s Gridiron Greats and Dave Pear’s Charity; we have received the much-needed relief from the Florida Heat. The New Air Conditioning system is working great and we are grateful to everyone who gave. I do not understand why there is not one Lawyer capable or willing to be of help to my husband Gordon Arnold Wright. WHY?

    Mrs. Gordon A. Wright
    Advocate for Gordon Wright
    Philadelphia Eagles & New York Jets
    1967 – 1970

  7. George Visger
    September 11th, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    George Visger

    Mrs. Wright,

    I’m glad to hear you have Gordon on the right path to recovery. The brain is not like other parts of the body and heals much slower. Please keep that in mind when watching Gordon’s progress. There is an old saying in football: “Short, Choppy Steps.”

    It pumps me up to hear so many of our NFL brethren stepped forward to help. It’s a shame the very industry which put the both of you in this situation refuses to help. We have all needed a hand up on occasion and it sounds like you have been doing nothing but helping those around you. Where is the neuro-cognitive rehabilitation benefit they recently promised? I already know I don’t qualify.

    Shame on the NFL and the NFLPA. If they had any conscience or pride they would do what’s right. Quit withholding EARNED benefits from their injured employees. The NFL’s corporate honchos are pulling down 7- and 8-figure salaries (as they also do at the NFLPA). All while the very men and families on whose blood they make their grotesque salaries cannot afford swamp coolers.

    Joe Steed, you are an amazingly intelligent individual (couldn’t be that you’re a Buff Brother). A combination of Hyperbarics and megadoses of Omega 3 fish oils in addition to antioxidants from fruit/seaweed has improved my cognitive functioning exponentially. Dr. Barry Sears now has his Antioxidant SeaHealth Plus juice in a concentrated capsule. Much easier to take two of those a day than lugging jugs of juice with me on the road! I don’t mean to beat a dead horse but I’m pushing as many of you into using hyperbarics (HBOT) and Omega 3′s for recovery of ALL injures. No drugs involved – just oxygen and fish oil. I’m all for picketing with you, Joe. We can hand out literature on the true cost of playing ball and ways to recover your life after playing.

    Dave and Robert have both recently started on HBOT and I will be interested to see how they turn out. I know I’m brain-damaged but they may be beyond help!

    Dr. George Visger
    Neuro/psyco/nutritional/and all-around good guy-ologist.

    San Francisco 49ers 80 & 81
    Survivor of 9 NFL Caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries
    Benefactor of ZERO NFL Benefits
    (but hoping to qualify for neuro-cognitive rehabilitation after the next collective bargaining agreement)

  8. Gordon Wright
    September 14th, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    Gordon Wright - NY Jets

    I read Dave’s article about ERISA and the people on the Retirement Board for the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Pension Board, their lack of qualifications and not using Federal ERISA case law in order to deny benefits. Why are they allowed to not follow the same Laws as other industries like the UAW or AMTRAK or the Steel Worker employees? If we are truly AFL-CIO, then why are we being judged according to fly-by-night-make-it-up-as-you-go denials for NFL Football Employees?

    Maybe the United States Government and Congress need to be sued for allowing such terror tactics to be used against injured NFL Football players by a corrupt industry. Could it be that these same politicians are receiving money under the table to look the other way as they enrich themselves at the expense of parents’ children and wives? Those are the ones left to put together the pieces of the men they break and throw away like a horse after he breaks his head. The United Nations needs to look at this genocide in America of the NFL Football Players whose lives are being destroyed!

    Gordon & Dora Wright
    Philadelphia Eagles & New York Jets
    1967 – 1970

  9. Brian J Nemeth
    January 10th, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    Brian Nemeth

    George,

    I was not vested either but would have played with you if I hadn’t crushed two discs in my lower back on a block! I was just declared disabled by my doctor and attorney because I am trying to work and am getting more and more paralyzed. I am now totally disabled through Social Security and need a fourth back operation just to restore wiring! Everyone knows who we are and loves us telling our stories but that’s where it ends. You have given me the strength to carry on but I promise you, I won’t live in a wheelchair. We just don’t do that.

    What ticks me off most is that we aren’t even considered players at all because we didn’t get vested! I had to walk off the field to find a doctor to help me! I hid from the Niners in Redwood City until I found a good doctor who wasn’t NFL-affiliated. Thank God for him.

    I’d like to talk to you on the phone to compare notes because I also dealt with Joe Thomas a lot at the end. Would love to tell you what went on right before you arrived – it would be interesting. Anyway, keep up the good work and keep the faith – what else is left?

    Brian J. Nemeth
    1976 draft from South Carolina
    to San Francisco 49ers
    (unknown T.E.)

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