Surgery empowers Air Force physical trainer
Master Sgt. Michael MacDonald smiles when he gets out of bed now. But not long ago, the nagging back pain he endured was just a part of his morning routine. MacDonald, 41, a physical trainer for a chemical, biological and nuclear response team in the Air Force, said it was difficult to put on the heavy plastic suits and breathing apparatus necessary to perform his duties. In February, Dr. Alfred O. Bonati, founder of The Bonati Spine Institute, an orthopedic ambulatory surgical center in Hudson, performed surgery. “This is something that has been bothering me since 1991 when I was in the Airborne School,” MacDonald said. “That’s the first time I noticed my back was giving me problems. Since then, I’ve done everything from chiropractic and acupuncture to yoga — lots of ice and Motrin.”About a year ago, MacDonald said he decided enough was enough. He went to the Bonati Spine Institute and learned he had what he describes as a twisted nerve with built-up scar tissue. “You build up a tolerance for pain,” he said. “Once it is gone, you realize how bad it did hurt.” MacDonald is part of Florida National Guard’s 48th Civil Support Team, based at the Clearwater airport. He has been serving in the Air Force for more than a decade, and served as an Army Ranger for nine years. Grace MacDonald said she noticed her husband’s health start to deteriorate after they married two years ago. “It was from years of being in the military and jumping out of airplanes,” she said. “For him to start losing his strength was a huge strike to the ego.” Grace MacDonald said, since the surgery, her husband has had a better outlook on life. “We are both physically active,” said Grace MacDonald, who trains at the Amir Academy of Martial Arts in St. Petersburg. “We met at the gym working out together. He turned into the guy who came home and sat on the coach. Now he is back in the gym and back running again.” She said the couple recently went ziplining at the Canyons in Ocala. Michael MacDonald said he found the Bonati Spine Institute through the charity work it does for the “Wounded Warriors” program. “I think I’m pretty much 95 percent now — that’s pretty good,” he said. “Now I can see how chronic pain can affect people mentally. It was starting to affect me. Now, it’s gone and I feel so much better. I have a better outlook on everything.”
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