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January 1986 - Mike Von Erich article from Inside Wrestling

January 1986 Inside Wrestling

Routine shoulder surgery to correct a dislocated shoulder was followed by complications that were anything but routine. At one point Mike Von Erich's doctors thought he would die. Now Von Erich is on the road to a full recovery. This is his incredible story.

Everyone, at one point or another in their lives, faces what might be called a "brush with death." in which one mortality is vividly brought into perspective. This brush with death might come in the form of an automobile accident from which one walks away only slightly injured, or perhaps it might be an incident in which a gun-wielding burglar breaks into one's home and the person is faced with looking down the barrel of a gun.

Recently, Mike Von Erich faced a brush with death that brought him as close to dying as anyone still alive has ever experienced.

Mike's story begins on August 3, 1985, in the midst of the World Class area's first tour of Israel. Mike was wrestling a match against Gino Hernandez in Tel Aviv and, as the result of Hernandez' vicious offensive, suffered a dislocated left shoulder.

It was the third dislocation in four months, and it proved to be the worst of them all. Mike was in severe pain, and doctors in Tel Aviv treated him for immediate symptoms, but he knew that his worst fears would soon be realized: he would have to undergo an operation.

Mike was sidelined for the rest of the Israeli tour, and when he returned to Texas, a date was set for surgery.

On August 22, Mike was operated on at Granville C. Morton Cancer and Research Hospital in Dallas. The surgery was considered routine and successful, and on August 26, Mike was released from Granville with no apparent complications. He returned home to Denton, Texas to complete his recovery.

But less than 24 hours later, Mike had developed a 105-degree fever. He was readmitted to Granville and, on August 29, was transferred to Baylor University Medical Center, also in Dallas.

Mike's condition upon admission to Baylor was listed as critical. His temperature had risen to 107 degrees and he was placed in intensive care, where it was determined that he was suffering from toxic shock syndrome.

Toxic shock syndrome is a form of blood poisoning caused by a toxin, or poisonous substance, that is produced by a strain of bacteria in the blood. It is the toxin in the blood that is the problem, not the bacteria itself.

The story hit the national press quickly, and Baylor was flooded with cards, letters, and telephone calls both asking about Mike's condition and offering support for the seriously-ill wrestler.

In one published report, Baylor's Dr. William Sutker described Von Erich's chances of surviving as "poor" and went on to say that Mike nearly died on the evening of August 29.

In a press conference on August 30, Dr. Sutlker said that Von Erich's "training and the fact that he's in such good physical shape are probably the only reasons he's still alive."

At that same press conference, Mike's brother Kevin said that "a miracle took place last night. Just the fact that we have Mike with us today is really a miracle. We're all praying for him."

Mike would remain in intensive care for two weeks. He had been unconscious for much of that time, had suffered from an inflamed pancreas, and was experiencing lung dysfunction. He was placed on a respirator to help him breathe. His kidney function was severely impaired and he was placed on hemodialysis.

Doctors kept a close watch over Von Erich. Gradually, his condition began to improve.

On September 3, Mike's condition was upgraded from critical to serious.

On September 11, Mike was discharged from intensive care and admitted into a private room. His condition was also upgraded: from serious to fair.

Over the next few days, the news that the Von Erich family received from Baylor University Medical Center would prove to be good.

Baylor spokesman Steve Habgood reported that as of our press time (September 17) Mike Von Erich's condition remained fair, though he was still on hemodialysis to support his kidney function. Doctors were hoping to wean him away from the hemodialysis as soon as possible.

In addition, Habgood noted that Mike was conscious, he was no longer on a respirator, his pancreas inflammation was subsiding, his lung function was back to normal and his blood counts were normal.

As Kevin pointed out during the press conference, when Mike's life seemed to be over, "a miracle took place." Indeed it did. Whether or not he would be able to resume his career was unknown. But wrestling, won-loss records, and a revenge-feud with Gino Hernandez, though, were the farthest things from Mike Von Erich's mind. He is happy to be alive, as are his family, fans, and the rest of the wrestling world.

Hopefully, Mike Von Erich has won the toughest match of his life.