NORMAN — One of the lasting images that has stayed with Barry Switzer is of him leading the Oklahoma football team onto Owen Field by sprinting in front of his players.
Sporting the white shirt and maroon pants of the ’70s, he was the picture of an athletic and healthy coach.
But for anyone who has seen Switzer up close and personal for the last couple of years, that image would have been hard to imagine. The former coach was barely able to walk 200 yards without doubling over in pain.
“Did you see me a couple of years ago? I was walking like an old man,” said Switzer, who turns 76 in October. “Bent over, humped over like I was the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Everybody kept asking what was wrong with me. I had had three back surgeries and might need a fourth.”
However, after going to three doctors and each telling him there was nothing they could do for him, a fourth suggested he get an MRI done on his hips. It was then that he found out he had osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis.
“He was the first doctor to ever suggest that,” Switzer said. “Never even thought about my hips. Went and got it MRI-ed and the doctor said you should have had it replaced 20 years ago.”
As soon as Switzer was told the problem, he set up surgery as soon as possible by going to Hipreplacement.com. He said a week after the procedure, he felt an immediate difference.
“When I went and had this hip put in, my pain went immediately away,” Switzer said. “I could not walk prior to the operation 200 yards without excruciating pain. I was crying. I’d watch these young kids walk past and say, ‘You’re so lucky, you have no idea.’ One week to the day after I had that operation, I walked a mile. I didn’t have a bit of problem.
“It changed my life,” he said Tuesday.
Switzer said the reason he’s telling this story of being healed is so others do not have to go through the years of pain he went through because they were misdiagnosed.
“If the message is out there that if people have back pain, maybe it’s their hips instead of their spine,” Switzer said. “And that’s a relief to them. I became two inches taller, straightened up. People said I looked better.
“When you feel better, you look better. It changes your whole mental attitude. I was kind of a new man and really had an impact on me.”