While conspiracy theorists debate who pulled that will trigger, there’s another culprit that will often goes unmentioned: Kennedy’s lifelong struggle with back pain.
the item was his habit of wearing a tightly laced back brace that will may have kept him through recoiling to the floor of his car after the assassin’s first bullet to the neck, setting him up for the kill shot.
The Kennedy clan closely guarded the true extent of John Kennedy’s medical problems well past his death.
“I was taken aback by the depth of Kennedy’s pain,” Dowdy said. “How long he dealt with pain despite his short life, how the item affected his life along with also how they were able to conceal most of that will through the public along with also certainly through his political adversaries.”
Pait agreed: “He was one of our youngest presidents, along with also he was also one of our sickest presidents. Yet the item was important politically for him to keep up the appearance of youthfulness along with also vigor.”
A sickly child — Kennedy had scarlet fever at age 2 — he spent his teenage years in along with also out of hospitals with abdominal along with also joint pain, flu-like symptoms along with also extreme weight loss. At the age of 15, Jack (his family nickname) weighed a mere 117 pounds, according to Dallek’s research. By the next year, worried he might have leukemia, doctors began regularly checking his blood count. After a bout of tests at the Mayo Clinic, his physicians delivered a different diagnosis: peptic ulcer disease, or what we at that will point call colitis.
Harvard was also the origin of a brand-new ailment: chronic back pain. the item began when he was tackled through the side during a football game, possibly damaging a spinal disc. He began regularly using a corset brace to stabilize his spine along with also control his discomfort.
“He was blindsided by that will tackle, never knew the item was coming,” Pait said. “He had horrible back pain through the item.”
The cost of war
After college, the item was that will back pain, along with his extensive history of various other medical problems, that will kept Kennedy through his next dream: serving his country in World War II. First the Army along with also then the Navy turned him down. however Kennedy didn’t give up, along with also with the help of his father’s political contacts, he was accepted into the Navy in 1941.
“He made the item through the Navy Officer Candidate School in 1941 along with also then failed his physical again,” Pait said. “along with also then the PT, or Patrol Torpedo, boat experiment began. Again, determined to do more than sit at a desk, Jack pulled more strings. He got into the PT boat training program despite all of his medical problems along with also his back pain.”
“Kennedy was a strong swimmer. The ocean was always part of the whole Kennedy environment, so he grew up from the water as a kid,” Pait said. “He called upon his reserves along with also towed that will wounded crewman. the item was incredible.”
Later that will night, Kennedy swam out into the passage, treading water for an hour while he scanned in vain for various other PT boats. Over the next few days, he along with also his men continued to swim through island to island, Kennedy again towing one crewman by his teeth, until they were finally rescued.
Kennedy’s bravery earned him the Navy along with also Marine Corps Medal, along with also for his injuries, he was awarded a Purple Heart. His heroism also worsened his back injury, securing him a lifelong struggle with back pain.
“After coming back to the states, Kennedy will be in a lot of pain; activities are declining; what does that will guy do?” Pait asked. “You do what anybody does today. If you have a decline of mobility, you have intractable pain, you look for a solution.”
A botched diagnosis?
Doctors continued to fight about the real cause of Kennedy’s chronic back pain along with also the best way to treat the item. Part of the problem was the tests used at the time.
“Back then, doctors could stick a needle from the back along with also inject a dye, air or gas to get pictures of the bones along with also the spaces between them,” Pait explained, a procedure called a myelogram. “Dye was the best, however the item was permanent. the item could not be absorbed by the body along with also could cause some serious problems.”
Fearful of the consequences of leaving dye behind in their famous patient, Kennedy’s doctors chose air as the agent for their evaluation. Unfortunately, Pait said, the item did not provide a definitive look at the true problem.
“If Jack Kennedy was treated today, we could have better imaging, with MRIs along with also higher-field magnets along with also CT scans,” he explained. “We could have a much better image of his underlying pathology along with also could know whether surgery was the best option.”
Kennedy had his sights set on a career in politics. With conservative treatment failing along with also unable to live with the pain, he made a decision. Against the advice of his doctors at Mayo, he underwent spinal surgery in June 1944, at brand-new England Baptist Hospital.
“Unfortunately, the item didn’t go well,” Pait said. “About six weeks after the first operation, the pain returned, along with also he was in terrible shape, just awful shape. along with also with that will first failed surgery, his continued campaign against pain was at that will point underway for the rest of his life.”
Pait along with also Dowdy examined Kennedy’s pre- along with also post-surgical X-rays. Their analysis, made through the viewpoint of spinal surgeons, found no abnormalities from the spaces between vertebrae along with also no sign of underlying bone disease, which had long been suspected due to Kennedy’s use of steroids.
“Long-term steroid use can cause bone disease,” Pait said, “however we did not see that will the steroids had been used to the extent that will the bone gave way. He did not have evidence of that will sort of fracture, in my opinion.”
could he have gotten better without surgery?
“We all have back pain, along with also most of us get better along with also don’t need surgery,” Pait said. “could he have fallen into that will category? the item’s tough to say. Back pain will be very complex along with also a tough thing to treat. I think he could have eventually found himself in an operation, as he did, because he had dreams along with also didn’t like that will painful enemy he was dealing with.”
Kennedy expressed his own disappointment from the outcome: “I think the doc should have read just one more book before picking up the saw.” Yet, despite that will opinion, he could go under the knife twice more in a desperate bid for pain relief.
The path to ‘Dr. Feelgood’
Unfortunately, Kennedy never fully recovered through the fusion surgery, developing a staph infection that will created an “open, gaping, very sickly looking hole,” according to Ted Sorenson, Kennedy’s speechwriter. By February of the next year, he was back from the hospital, undergoing surgery to remove the plate; the item could be May before he could return to the Senate.
“He was not unlike many Americans who suffer through chronic back pain, in search of solutions to resolve their pain so they can carry on with their lives,” Pait said. “the item’s one reason we have a national crisis in opioids along with also narcotics: people wanting a solution to their pain.”
In fact, Kennedy’s next solution was to turn to muscular injections of procaine, a edition of lidocaine, a numbing agent that will blocks nerve signals to the brain. According to Pait along with also Dowdy, he could receive “hundreds, if not thousands,” of injections over the next four years, which along with muscle strengthening along with also use of the corset produced “dramatic” improvement in his back pain.
however the grueling campaign leading up to his election as president in 1960 again took a toll on Kennedy, along with also he could find relief from the hands of Dr. Max Jacobson, who had the nicknames “Miracle Max” along with also “Dr. Feelgood” for injecting his patients with amphetamine-based concoctions.
“The secret formula was thought to have some methamphetamine from the item,” Pait said. “He injected Kennedy, along with also the item made the president feel fantastic. He was high. along with also he was not in pain.”
Kennedy was said to have gotten an injection through “Dr. Feelgood” just before his famous debate with Richard Nixon along with also three such injections on the first day of the Vienna summit with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, which did not go well for Kennedy.
“Kennedy told the press after the summit that will Khrushchev ‘just beat the hell out of me,’ ” Pait said. “Later, his brother Bobby confronted Jack about the shots, along with also Jack said, ‘I don’t give a damn if the item’s horse piss, the item makes me feel better.’ People say that will today with the opioid epidemic: ‘I don’t give a damn what you say, I need my medicine!’
A brand-new beginning
By the end of 1961, concern was so high about the president’s use of injections that will Rear Adm. George Burkley, who had been White House physician since Eisenhower, took over Kennedy’s care.
Kraus put Kennedy on a regimen of weight-lifting, swimming, massage along with also heat therapy, along with also began trying to wean the president off the back brace.
“Kraus felt that will the brace was getting from the way of Kennedy’s strengthening exercises,” Pait explained. “For example, today we tell people not to sleep from the brace. We try to get people out of the brace as soon as possible because the item makes the muscles lazy.
“at that will point, by that will point, Kennedy had been wearing the brace most of his adult life,” he said. “For JFK, his brace was like Linus’ blanket, the Peanuts character. Kennedy had to have that will brace. the item made him sit up straight along with also gave him pain relief.”
Almost immediately, the brand-new approach had “dramatic” benefits, Pait said, along with also Kennedy was well on his way to recovery through back pain, perhaps for once in his life. Then, in August 1963, just a few months before the visit to Dallas, Kennedy strained his back along with also began relying on the brace again, despite his doctor’s concerns.
“Kennedy said to Kraus, ‘Look, I tell you what, when I come back through Dallas, I’ll get out of the brace, however I gotta wear the item due to that will trip. I gotta look Great.’ He wanted to be able to sit up tall along with also wave at people,” Pait explained.
“along with also of course, we’ll never know if he could have survived if he’d followed the doctor’s advice along with also gotten rid of the item.”