Jeff Ellison, a coach at Henley Rowing Club, had the shock of his life when he had a serious accident. Seven weeks later he had a second shock: he was back rowing!
Life works in mysterious ways
“I had coached Victoria and her friends a few times and she commented on a couple of occasions that I needed to meet her husband, Rupert. We both use the same language in terms of athletic movement (sit up tall, develop strength through a full range of motion, use horizontal movement, etc).
“So I met Rupert, a retired Chiropractor, now treating people using Photobiomodulation Therapy or as it used to be called Low-level Laser Light Therapy. He gave me the opportunity to try his NovoTHOR Whole Body Light Pod and we discussed the use of the treatment for recovering from heavy bouts of exercise (heavy in terms of volume, intensity, or both). We tried to think of valid pre- and post-treatment designs to test his machine on.
“Well as I said, life does sometimes work in mysterious ways – the very next day I inadvertently found the perfect means to document the effectiveness of his treatment.”
“Two guys and I spent the morning clearing gutters and the roof at the rowing club. We were just finishing when I broke through the roof. I remember thinking ‘oh s**t’ and tried to keep my feet under me.
“I was in a lot of pain, my head was spinning, and the wind had been completely knocked out of me. I felt the need to stand up immediately and see whether I could move my arms and legs.
“I remember thinking that I wasn’t ok but nor was I paralysed.
Tony found me first and quickly helped me back on the floor, covered me with towels, and ran to get Mike.
“I was airlifted via helicopter to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital and wheeled into a room where a large team of doctors and nurses were waiting for me. I was told there was no sign of internal bleeding, but that there were at least two vertebrae broken.
“A couple of doctors took turns examining my arms and legs and were amazed to find no evidence of breaks in my feet, legs, or hips.
“The doctor said my extreme bone density, along with muscle and tendon strength, had saved my life. I thought about all the lectures I’ve given people over the years talking about the importance of bone density and muscle and tendon strength.
“How the dead-lift used to be called the ‘health lift’ due to the fact that it made one’s spine and muscles of the posterior chain almost impervious to injury. Hmm… I was right.
“I was out of the hospital the next evening after one more set of X-rays, a chat with the spinal surgeon and a back brace.”
The Road to Recovery
Sunday 5th: “I spend the day resting. We take the first photo: you can see the extreme swelling in my lower back, along with the impact mark where my back first hit the floor. I landed on my heels, my legs bending, and then on that area.
Monday 6th: “More rest and more activity. I talk with Rupert and we set up my first session for Tuesday. I’m resting better each night. Rolling on my side is painful and very slow.
Tuesday 7th: “My first session with Rupert. He treats the hot spots in my back with the handheld THOR LX2 followed up with 15 minutes in the NovoTHOR Whole Body Light Pod. We discuss adding electrolytes to the large volume of water I’m drinking – which makes perfect sense.
Wednesday 8th: “Every day is a bit easier. I notice this morning, upon waking up, that I am sweating while having cold hands and feet. I can only imagine my body is busy filtering out all the waste blood and material I’ve accumulated during the night while recovering.
“I manage to walk to Rupert’s today. We talk about adding light exercise: unilateral movement through a slow range of motion.
Sunday 12th: “I walk to the club for the first time. It’s amazing to see the hole in the roof and be reminded how far I fell. It’s also great to see all the guys and gals at the club.
“In this photo you can see the improvement in my lower back. Still a lot of swelling and you can definitely see the dark blue spot over my T12 vertebra.
“I’m amazed how well I move and feel”
Tuesday 14th: “It is a Happy Valentine’s Day because I’m with the one I love. Both of us are recovering from this ordeal and I realise that it’s important to cherish all the moments you have with people you care about.
Wednesday 15th: “Rupert carries out daily skin conduction tests which provide values for the different areas around the injury. He treats these with the handheld THOR LX2 for 1 minute each, 6-8 different spots around the wound.
Friday 17th: “I can now easily sit up to get out of the NovoTHOR Whole Body Light Pod. There is a spring in my step as I walk and actually jog to avoid speeding traffic in Henley’s narrow streets.
Saturday 18th: “In this picture you can see the swelling going down. During the NovoTHOR Whole Body Light Pod treatment I am finally able to climb on to the bed and lay both my legs down straight due to the decreasing swelling in that area.
“I look forward to my follow-up X-rays on Friday – three short weeks after my accident.
Tuesday 21st: “I walk to the rowing club gym and begin a series of light exercises.
Friday 24th: “I have the follow-up X-ray this morning along with a brief chat with the doctor. My back is healing remarkably well as the photo shows.”
Back to coaching after just over three weeks
Monday 26th: “Today was the first morning I was able to coach.
Wednesday, March 1st: “I feel really good today! My workout is more strength based.
Friday 3rd: “Exactly one month ago I fell through a roof and broke my back in two places. Today, thanks to the NovoTHOR Whole Body Light Pod, Rupert’s expertise and my pre-accident fitness levels, I row 8km in a quad!
Tuesday 7th: “I have my session with Rupert today. Everyday the swelling in my lower back recedes.
Friday 10th: “Strength day today, followed by the NovoTHOR Whole Body Light Pod.
Saturday 11th: “I coach the men’s eight from the bank on the bike this morning.
Monday 13th: “I cycle to Rupert’s for a morning pre-workout session.
Tuesday 14th - Friday 17th: “I continue to gradually increase the length and intensity of my rowing and workouts.
Tuesday 21st: “I row the single today alongside a quad in windy conditions. We go into the gym afterwards and I lead the group through the crawling, lunging, overhead squat and a shoulder series range of motion work I do as part of my workouts.
Friday 24th: “I have my second and final follow-up X-ray this morning. The doctor said my recovery has been amazing.
“I explain about the rehab: the NovoTHOR Whole Body Light Pod treatments with Rupert; the gradual progressive overload with bodyweight exercise; the range of motion work and; endurance work including rowing.
“The doctor asks several questions about Photobiomodulation Therapy and says that it has obviously worked.
Saturday 25th: I broke two vertebrae in my back on February 3rd after falling 25 feet on to concrete through a roof. I was told by the surgeons that I was very fortunate and that my bone density and muscle and tendon strength saved my life, and my ability to move.
“I am unbelievably happy to be racing with a great group of guys a little over seven weeks later.