A stroke left him struggling to walk, but the former NFL quarterback has improved after stem cell treatments in Moscow, Kazakhstan and Mexico, plus regular workouts.
Legendary former Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr has overcome a series of serious health problems in the past three years, including two strokes, a heart attack, a broken hip and a bronchial infection that nearly killed him in 2015.
This year, Starr, 83, also has been dogged by more physical troubles — most recently a sinus infection that required surgery and a hospital stay last week near his home in Alabama.
It’s normally a pretty minor procedure. But because of Starr’s age and recent condition, there were concerns about putting him under anesthesia, at least until Starr came out of it afterward and gave his nurses a victory speech of sorts.
“He sat in the bed, and for about 10 minutes gave them this big pep talk like nothing was wrong with him,” Starr’s wife, Cherry, told USA TODAY Sports Tuesday. “It was the funniest thing you’ve ever heard. He was just going on and on and on. He hasn’t talked that way in three years.”
He emphasized teamwork.
“He was just saying, ‘It was so nice to see you all together, and you know we have to work as a team,’ ” she said. “He talked like he was talking to a football team. It was the cutest thing in the world. It really was.”
His recovery marks the latest triumph for Starr, who still has trouble walking and talking but always seems to bounce back up after medical issues sack him to the turf.
In 2014, Starr, the MVP of Super Bowls I and II, survived two strokes, a heart attack and several seizures.
Then he battled a bronchial infection that risked his life when his heart rate hit around 200 beats a minute in 2015.
Yet he fought back both times and even made an emotional return to Green Bay for a Thanksgiving Day game later that year.
Before the surgery on Thursday, Cherry Starr said they weren’t sure if the procedure would happen as scheduled. “They were worried about putting him to sleep in his condition,” she said. “He’s just had a lot of issues to deal with this year.”
To help recover from his previous setbacks, Starr left the country for experimental stem cell treatments in Tijuana, Mexico. Though the medicine is unproven, Cherry Starr believes it helped him, at least until his recent infections knocked him down again and erased his gains.
Starr also has been exercising regularly with a private instructor and was back in exercise class again on Monday after the surgery.
In many ways, his formula for health is like his formula for football. He’s got to get up when he’s tackled. He’s got to work for it. And it takes a team to succeed.
Sometimes a motivational speech helps, too.
“He’s resting real well at night time,” said Cherry Starr, his wife of 63 years. “Right now, things are really good.”