Baby Steps toward Better by Dean Gloster

            A good thing happened this year (really.) Thanks to surgery, I can walk again.

            Pain free. (Which is much better than much of 2020, which has been more like, “free pain.”)


Sure, there were complaints. But it was exciting, and we arrived ahead of schedule.

            I’m an enthusiastic weekend athlete (downhill ski racing and Aikido), so I was used to a level of periodic soreness and discomfort.

Especially because I operate at a consistently high enthusiasm-to-skill ratio

It turns out, though, that what I had for the last couple of decades wasn’t muscle soreness—I really had a bulging disc pushing the spinal nerve into the bones where there was a narrowing of my spine. The result was sciatic pain in my legs. This year, it got so bad that by the end of February, I could no longer walk more than a block.


My surgery initially got cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but I was in so much pain that as soon as Alameda County, California was allowed to do elective surgeries, they got me in as the first patient the first morning.

It was exciting, because there was a kind of ragged energy to re-starting a whole surgery department, with new Covid protocols, after over a month off. (“The vendor says the equipment will be here in 20 minutes!”) They initially got me to sign a consent for the wrong spinal surgery (which, I was assured later, except for this one time, “never” happens.) But we sorted that out, and it went great. I’m not a Republican Senator, so when they cut me open, they actually found fragments of a spine. They trimmed the disc, took out the bone knobs, and now I can go back to all the activities I was doing before—except without pain.

(Except for the minor, “there probably won’t be a Covid-safe ski season” thing)

            The repaired back has been great for my writing, because I like to pace or take a walk and think, when I’m a little stuck. And now—voila—I can walk. I’m making great progress (finally) on my revising my current novel and I’ve started the early fun stages of writing the next.


The beginning of a book is magical

            Of course, the only reason they could get me in for surgery in late April was that we’d done a collective good job in my county of wearing masks and social distancing—staying home, saving lives, and letting our hospitals reopen for non-Covid patients and procedures.

            Things would be grimmer if I needed that surgery next month, or lived somewhere else in the U.S.

Now over one-fifth of U.S. hospitals have staffing shortages, and we just broke the record—again—for the number of Covid-19 patients currently hospitalized. If the number and rate of new Covid-19 infections keeps going up, we’ll soon be facing a caseload way beyond the capacity of our current medical system—already ICU beds are full in some cities, leading to triage where patients who could be saved are turned away.

            I know it’s been a long year. But do your part. Wear a mask. Stay home. Don’t mingle.

            It saves lives. It helps some of us become pain free.

            Good luck to us all and best wishes for a better 2021. 

Dean Gloster has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” His current novel is about two funny brothers who have to team up with their friend Claire to save the world. It has all the usual Dean Gloster novel ingredients: Death, humor, the question of whether it’s possible to save someone, a love interest to root for, dysfunctional parenting, and a slightly off-kilter sensibility. Also a mergers and acquisitions lawyer dad who is missing 57 percent of his soul.


When Dean is not studying Aikido or downhill ski racing—and, let’s face it, there’s less of that now—he’s on Twitter: @deangloster


  1. Wonderful news. As a chronic low back pain sufferer, I can relate and I love this line: I’m not a Republican Senator, so when they cut me open, they actually found fragments of a spine. Sadly here in Maine we re-elected one of the more prominent spineless wonders.

  2. Yes! Wear a mask. (And I'm so, so glad you're doing better.)


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