Most of us remember Lex Luger from his days as a professional wrestling superstar from the 1980s and ’90s.
The former wrestler, whose real name is Lawrence Pfohl, is down to 185 pounds and now counts showering and shaving on his own as great victories of the day, thanks to an accident last October that left him paralyzed.
A severe spinal injury from 30 years of football and wrestling struck down Luger while on a cross-country flight last fall. He spent two weeks in intensive care at Stanford University Hospital in California before transferring to Shepherd in November. He’s also still hobbled by double hip replacement surgery in February.
Luger, 50, was on a flight to San Francisco in late October when he began having difficulty moving his neck. Thinking it was simply a case of having sat in an awkward position for too much of the cross-country flight, he tried to jar his neck back into place, only to make his predicament worse.
“I was one of the strongest guys on the planet,” Luger said recently. “I was freaky strong before. I was bench-pressing 450 pounds my senior year of high school. I was a freak. Now I can’t lift a one-pound dumbbell.
During his recovery, Pfohl, like many other athletes before him, turned to a higher power:
The new and humbled Lex Luger is a man of strong religious conviction whose faith has helped him remain mostly upbeat.
Luger has taken it upon himself to minister to young patients at the Shepherd Center, often telling them his story of widespread abuse of drugs, steroids and alcohol at the expense of his family and health.
Luger believes he was meant to lift their spirits and give personal testimony to the importance of doing things the right way.
The story of Pfohl’s paralysis is pretty gruesome:
Luger arrived in San Francisco in considerable pain, but was still able to function. He awoke the next morning, however, paralyzed from the neck down and unable to even call for help. A desperate Luger maneuvered onto the hotel room floor, where he remained for more than four hours.
Doctors at Stanford University Hospital noted massive swelling of his spine from the C6 to T5 vertebrae, attributing the damage to the many disc injuries and bone spurs he’d collected during three decades of football and professional wrestling.
While doctors wait for the swelling in his spine to decrease, the man they still call “Lex” has been spending time with other patients at the Shepard Center, offering himself up as a cautionary tale.
It goes to show that no matter what you can lift or how high you can jump, leaders are leaders. He may not be throwing people down for a three-count or delivering choreographed blows to his enemies anymore, but Pfohl has found an audience to perform a new purpose in life, and may be lifting more now than he ever did in the ring.