On a recent episode of Charlie Rose, James Levine, Musical Director of the Metropolitan Opera, spoke about his return to conducting after a two-year absence. Following multiple health issues, most recently a fall that damaged a vertebra which left him with no feeling in his legs, he now conducts from a motorized wheelchair. It was back in March that he made his debut – and received a standing ovation due to his remarkable recovery.
Levine, 70, has worked with the Met since 1971, and during that time he has unfortunately experienced multiple health issues, including surgery in 2009 and again in 2010 to repair a herniated disk in his back.
Following his recent fall, he went through intensive therapy that helped him to develop feeling and eventually to walk again. According to the Huffington Post, his doctors are ‘hopeful for a complete recovery.’
What Mr. Levine has accomplished in his recovery is remarkable. While I’m not his doctor, I can confirm that paralysis is often experienced due to an injury in the spinal cord, often from a crushed vertebra or disc. The spinal cord normally carries nerve impulses, but in people who are paralyzed, the nerve cells do not function or regenerate.
In May 2012, investigators at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology announced a breakthrough in which lab rats with spinal cord injuries were able to regain 70 percent of their normal walking function. Through innovations in scientific study, experts are working to reduce the severity and frequency of the kinds of problems that kept Mr. Levine from his beloved work.
I certainly wish Mr. Levine all the best in his future endeavors and applaud his medical team for getting him in shape to do what he does best!
James Levine’s recovery