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John's Story

John's Story

A college football injury had laid John Golden low for many years, but physicians at Rush enabled him to reach new heights. In Spring 2009, John Golden set out to climb Mt. Everest—and raise funds for orthopedic research and training at Rush in the process.


By the time he was 38 years old, Golden had more than 15 surgeries on his knees (he'd actually lost count), had spent nearly two years on crutches and was in constant, severe pain. Doctors told him he should buy a ranch house because his knees were too damaged for him even to climb stairs.

"I decided I've got to fix this," says Golden, 43, the chief information officer for Chicago-based CNA Insurance. "I have two young kids. I want to be able to play with them in the backyard."

After conducting a national search, Golden came to Rush and met with Brian Cole, MD, MBA, professor of orthopedics and head of the Rush Cartilage Restoration Center, where physician-researchers have pioneered safer, faster and less expensive ways to help patients reclaim lost mobility and to eliminate their pain. In May of 2005, Cole performed a double transplant to replace cartilage in Golden's left knee and lower leg. Thanks to this procedure, Golden was able to resume normal life activities like walking, climbing stairs and bicycling without pain.

"I thought, if he can do this, I should be able to do it too," Cole says. "The climb was a life-changing experience. It was a physical and emotional challenge, but whenever I felt like complaining, I would just look at John and how he moved and climbed on that knee. Seeing that, any thought of complaining was not even conceivable."

The appreciation is mutual. "I hope the climb gave Brian a deserved sense of appreciation for the great work that he did and that it will inspire him to even take it further," Golden says.

Now Golden is using his Everest adventure to draw attention to orthopedic programs at Rush and generate financial support for them. Golden and Cole have established the LiveActive Fund for Orthopedic Research and Education at Rush. They helped organize and spoke at "Reaching the Summit for Orthopedic Research," an event held at Rush in March of 2009 that was attended by about 180 people, including patients of Cole's and their families, friends and colleagues of Golden's, and members of mountain climbing organizations. The event, which included a silent auction, netted more than $40,000.

Golden also sought contributions to Rush for each foot of Mt. Everest he would climb. As of mid-April, total pledges and gifts to date from Golden's network and other resources equal nearly $150,000.

In April 2009, Golden embarked on his Everest expedition. On Sunday, May 10, Golden and fellow mountain climber John Sea climbed from camp 2 to camp 3 on Mount Everest during a 10-1/2 hour climb, ascending 4,500 feet to an elevation of 26,000 feet. Climbers usually only advance up the mountain one camp at a time, resting overnight at each one, but Golden and Shea pursued an aggressive schedule to take advantage of a narrow window of good weather for climbing.

Ahead of them lay the final ascent to the peak of Everest, but by the time they reached the camp, strong winds were too great to make the final push to the summit. On the way down the climbers were caught in a storm, and Golden fell, cracking three ribs. Overcoming his injuries and the whiteout conditions on the mountain, he and Shea made it safely back to base camp, but his injuries brought an end to his Everest expedition.

Despite the harrowing and disappointing conclusion, Golden found his expedition thrilling, and he hopes it will inspire others. "I was given the greatest gift," he says of his extraordinary recovery effort. "I wanted to do something to create awareness about what can happen when the great doctors at Rush connect with people; to make funds available so that Rush can do more research; and to watch people like Dr. Cole and others work miracles like they did with me.

Copyright © 2009-2015 LiveActive
The physicians featured in this Web site are on the faculty of Rush University Medical Center.
They are also in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not employees or agents of Rush University Medical Center.

LiveActive Fund for Orthopedic Research and Education
1700 West Van Buren, Suite 250
Chicago, Illinois 60612
Phone: 312-942-6567