DRAGONFLY - RAYMARINE

THE LONG ROAD BACK

Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 07/28/2014

Story and photos by Matt Pangrac –back photos courtesy of Kevin Ledoux

Moore, OK – When The BASS ZONE last ran a feature story on Kevin Ledoux in November of 2013, the Oklahoma pro, who competed on the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2012 and 2013, was preparing for an upcoming surgery to repair a lingering back injury.   

“I want to fish next year, but I’m not going to do it if the doctors don’t think that I’ll be healthy. I’d say that there’s a little bit better than a 50/50 chance I’ll be back in 2014,” said Ledoux in the November 18, 2013 article (To read the entire story, CLICK HERE).  

Fast forward to March of 2014, and Ledoux was still at home while Brett Hite won the first Elite Series tournament of the season on Lake Seminole on the border between Florida and Georgia.

Over the last eight-and-a-half months, Ledoux has endured three back surgeries and several scary moments that left him wondering if he’d ever be able to stand on a front deck of a boat and fish bass tournaments again in his life.    

“Everything was good to go after the first surgery last November,” said Ledoux, who went under the knife a week after finishing in 5th place at the PAA Tournament Series event on Grand Lake. “I had until early December to make a decision on fishing the Elite Series in 2014, so I was really optimistic that things would go well and I’d  be back on the water soon after.”    

Ledoux’s initial back surgery was to “go in and clean things out,” as he explained it. “I can’t remember exactly what the procedure was called, but they went in and created more room for my nerves and cleaned the disc up a little bit.  It’s really not a bad surgery at all.”   

The surgery went as planned, and he returned home to rest.  Ledoux’s wound never healed and he was constantly dealing with a clear fluid leaking out of the incision for the next several weeks.  “I just figured that it would finally heal up one of these days,” recounted Ledoux. He eventually called his doctor, and an emergency MRI revealed a fluid-filled sac on his spinal cord that was either the result of a staph infection or a spinal cord leak.  

As it turned out, he did have a tear in his spinal cord sac as well as a staph infection.   “I was immediately admitted to the hospital and had surgery to try and repair the tear and get the staph under control,” said Ledoux, who had a PICC line inserted in his right arm that went around his bicep, up his arm, across his shoulder, and down to his chest where it connected to an artery in his heart.  “I had to pump antibiotics through it three times a day for seven straight weeks to get rid of the staph infection,” he explained.  

“I think that my second surgery was done on December 6th, 2013,” Ledoux continued. “I came home on a Wednesday, woke up on Thursday morning, and found that my shirt was completely soaked in spinal fluid again.  They had to go back in a third time on December 13th to try and repair it once again.”   

After another six-day stay in the hospital following his third back surgery in the span of less than a month, Ledoux started to get nervous.  “Yea, I was starting to get a little freaked out,” he admitted.  “I was worried that my back was going to start leaking again.  Anytime that they’re messing with your spine, there’s always the chance for paralysis.  They weren’t sure if the staph infection had eaten away at the spinal cord sac, or what.  I really didn’t know what was happening or what the prognosis was.”

The third surgery was successful, and Ledoux returned home in mid December to begin his recovery.  The PICC line remained in his arm until just before the 2014 Bassmaster Classic in late February.  “Every eight-hours, I had to get up and inject antibiotics into my body.  I pretty much spent seven weeks indoors and couldn’t even go outside and walk around the yard.”  

Even though Ledoux attended the 2014 Classic expo, he didn’t know if he would ever recover to the point where he would be capable of standing and casting for eight consecutive hours on the front deck of a boat.  

“I couldn’t even fish a local club tournament until I got medical clearance from my doctor and sent all the documents to B.A.S.S.,” explained Ledoux, who received a hardship exemption for the 2014 Elite Series, meaning that he will have an invitation to fish in 2015.  “It’s not like I had a minor surgery and used it to basically take a year off from the Elite Series but continued to fish locally. I was legitimately down and out.”

Over the past four-and-a-half months, Ledoux said that he’s seen steady healing progress.  For the first time since his last surgery, he fished a tournament by himself on July 27th.  “I didn’t have anybody with me, and I never once had to sit down and take a break or collect myself.  That was the first time that I’ve been able to do that.  I have fished a few tournaments this year with a partner, but I’ve had to take a break and sit down and stretch for an hour or two during those tournaments.

“Eventually, they’re going to have to do a fusion on my back,” he continued. “The hope was that this surgery would give me some relief.  That relief lasts 10 years for some people and only a couple years for other people.”

He is currently entertaining the possibility of fishing the 2014 PAA Tournament Series once the full schedule is released, which is expected to happen in the very near future.  “I’ve talked with my wife, and we’ve decided that is my goal for this year. Depending on the schedule, I’d love to fish the four PAA tournaments to get back in the groove of practicing for three days and competing.”

When it comes to returning to the Elite Series for the 2015 season, Ledoux is optimistic about his chances, especially considering the fact that his core group of sponsors has remained by his side.  “Brad Johnson from Allen Oliver’s seasoning company based here in Oklahoma has been on-board with me since day one, and that support has been big.  I’ve also been able to continue my relationship with Seaguar, BassCat, and Mercury.”

Ledoux believes that his recovery time and morale has been aided by the fact that he has a goal to work towards.  “There’s no telling where I’d be right now mentally if I didn’t have a ‘set in stone’ date and the goal of returning to the Elite Series in 2015 to work towards.  It makes me drive harder to get healthier and stronger every day,” he concluded.