Offshore powerboat driver Rusty Rahm of the Wake Effects team reports that he is doing well after undergoing neck surgery—which he received by Michael “Doc” Janssen, a longtime friend and fellow offshore racing celebrity.
Rahm, who won the Super Boat International Triple Crown in Superboat Unlimited class in 2016 (including the National, Florida and World Championship in his rookie year) says he began experiencing neck pain during last year’s race season. The pain was so severe that Rahm couldn’t sleep for more than 15 minutes a night at his Kansas City home. Rahm turned to Janssen, a spine surgeon at the Center for Spine and Orthopedics, and an MRI was ordered. Janssen—who owned the record-setting 30′ Outerlimits Snowy Mountain Brewery raceboat with driver Brian Forehand—told Rahm that the pain was caused by severe pressure on his spinal cord, and recommended a procedure to receive an artificial disc replacement in Rahm’s cervical spine. This state–of–the–art technology has been performed by Janssen more than 1,000 times since being approved by the FDA in 2006. Rahm and his wife Natalie flew to Denver on March 27 and underwent surgery the following day. Within hours, Rahm was up and walking around. By May 21, he was back on the water with a newly wrapped boat for the Super Boat International’s season opener in Cocoa Beach, FL. “After surgery, I had a tremendous sense of gratitude to Doc,” Rahm says. “He saved my life. If I had shown up in Cocoa Beach and hit a wave, I could have been paralyzed, or it could have been a life-ending event for me.” Rahm says he doesn’t know what caused his injury or when exactly it began. He says it could may have been the result of lifting weights at his gym, or during an offshore race last September when an earpiece in his helmet became unplugged. “I turned my head sharply to plug my ear piece back in, and then we hit a big wave,” he recalls. Whatever the cause, he has this advice for others. “If you’re experiencing neck and back pain, don’t procrastinate like I did. It can be more severe than you think,” he says. About his experience with Janssen, he says, “You won’t find anyone more caring, professional or talented. My wife and I appreciate what he did from the bottom of our hearts. And I’m sure glad to be getting 6 or 7 hours of sleep a night now.”