After four serious battles between life and death, Jerry Segal is just happy to have a place to go back to: the golf course.
To say Jerry Segal has beaten the odds is an understatement.
After four serious battles between life and death, he’s just happy to have a place to go back to: the golf course.
About 28 years ago, Segal had spinal surgery in San Francisco that left him a quadriplegic. He received care back in Philadelphia — he was put him in a halo , which attaches to the skull to prevent movement, to stabilize him — where he then received treatment at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital.
To his surprise, it was only a block and a half from his law office, Segal, Berk, Gaines & Liss, where he still works today.
“I must have passed it a thousand times but never knew what it was,” he said. “All I can say is thank God it was there.”
Segal had no movement below his shoulders. He could blink and stick out his tongue, but nothing else.
“And after four and a half months of intensive therapy under the watchful eyes of the therapists, I was able to beat the odds and walk out of Magee and go back to my passion of playing golf,” said Segal, now 75.
After his extraordinary recovery, he felt that he had to repay Magee in some way.
But first, he went to a country club with some of his buddies to play golf for the first time since he left Magee.
“I got up on the first tee, and they had a doctor on either side of me. I swung and I fell down, and I got back up again. And I swung and I fell down again. And the third time I hit the ball about 75 yards.
“Albeit, I wasn’t playing the way I used to play, but I was playing nevertheless,” he added. “But someone once said to me, ‘If you fall three times and get up four, you’re a winner.’ So I think I’m a winner.”
From there, he never quit.
“We were sitting in the bar room having a drink and somebody said, ‘In honor of Segal coming out of Magee, let’s give $100 apiece to Fight for Sight,” an organization he was president of at the time, “and I said, ‘No, let’s give it to Magee,’ and that’s what started the golf tournament.”
The Jerry Segal Classic golf tournament has taken place each year since, this year on Sept. 23 at Green Valley Country Club in Lafayette Hill. It raised about $700,000.
Overall, the organization has raised $15.2 million for Magee, which supports equipment for patients, enables family members who live more than 60 miles away to visit Magee and covers other sundries.
“Just because you’re a patient doesn’t mean you have to be a shut-in,” added Segal, who lives in Blue Bell. “Our main goal is to help the patients get well so that somebody sitting in a wheelchair today will be able to walk out of Magee tomorrow.”
But after 18 years back at his passion, a trip to Aruba left him impaired again.
Segal was bitten by a mosquito, and “I couldn’t form a sentence. I lost my ability to walk again.”
He was diagnosed with encephalitis, a brain inflammation that affects the spinal cord.
So he returned to Magee, where he had to not only learn to walk again but how to speak.
After another recovery, Segal later received triple bypass surgery at Magee, and still goes to therapy three times a week due to an injury just two years ago in which he nearly drowned in his Florida swimming pool.
“I literally drowned,” he said. “I don’t know why or how it happened, but it did.”
Paramedics had to bring Segal back to life, but he spent three days in a coma.
“I woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning, and the nurses say I woke up smiling because I had once again beaten the odds and God wasn’t ready for Segal yet.”
And, of course, each time he recovered, he went straight back to the golf course.
After his own therapy sessions, Segal visits other patients to give them support, too.
“I try to convince them that there isn’t anything in this world you can’t accomplish. It just depends on the sacrifice you make to do it.”
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