Kendrick Tate picks up a basketball, slowly dribbles his way to the far side of the court just beyond the three-point circle. In one smooth, arching flick of the wrist, the ball strips the net. Whoosh!
They have the court all to themselves this afternoon as Tate, a 41-year-old single father of three, teaches his son the fundamentals of a game he so loved not that many years ago at Austin East High School. Tate’s youthful appearance and broad smile belies the agony he was in just months earlier before he had both hips replaced at Parkwest Medical Center by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Hal Cates.
“Oh, I love Dr. Cates,” Tate says without hesitation. “I’ll be forever grateful. He’s just a good man, and I’m not just saying that to build him up. But when you are going to have a serious procedure done, you want somebody you can trust and somebody who is going to be honest with you. And he was that from Day One. He just had that comforting effect, so I was not nervous about the surgery. I felt like I was in good hands. So I prayed about and prayed about, and I was just at peace with him. I mean, if you can convince me to have both of my hips replaced at the same time, you have done something. So I have to give him his kudos. I’ll be forever grateful for that man.”
But his life took another turn about six years ago when he began experiencing numbness in his hands and arms. “I knew something was going on, but I shrugged it off for a long time,” he said. “But I knew ultimately I had to go see what it was.”
The neurologist’s diagnosis – multiple sclerosis (MS), an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body – left Tate stunned.
“It was a shock because I had been relatively healthy, and this meant I couldn’t play basketball so that was a killer,” he said. “So hearing that news and not knowing what exactly MS was all about – I was thinking, ‘Is it like cancer?’ – I didn’t know.”
Fortunately, his MS had been caught early, perhaps as soon as three months after its onset. “They did some tests and found lesions on my brain and spinal cord,” he said. “They put me on steroids for about a month and said that would deteriorate the lesions.”
The steroids did just that, but not without cost. A couple months later, while playing a game of pickup basketball, he felt some “slippage” in his hips and noticed he couldn’t slide his feet laterally, as in doing defensive drills. “At first, I thought it was the MS, that it was moving rapidly and it was taking its course,” said Tate. “I couldn’t figure it out. Then, I thought maybe I had just played too long that day. But I knew something wasn’t right so I went back to my doctor.”
Finally, Tate sought out Dr. Cates. “I just trusted him from Day One,” he said. “We just had that rapport. He was like, ‘You want to stop hurting? You need to have the surgery. It’s that plain and simple.’ After talking with him, I got that reassurance. I was tired of hurting. I had gone from being in good shape to being like a 75-year-old man. That just wasn’t working. I got tired. I wanted to stop hurting.”
On April 8, 2015, Kendrick Tate was rolled into an operating room at Parkwest Medical Center. When he emerged, he had two new hips and a new outlook on life.
As for his MS, Tate says it’s under control with medication. “To be honest, I can’t tell I have it anymore,” he said. “Since they put me on medication, it doesn’t hinder me and I still work out and I can still play basketball – maybe not as well as I want to, but I can still play. And that’s enough for me.”
“If you are thinking about hip replacement surgery, and know you need to have it and you’re having a lot of pain that’s affecting your daily living, go have it done,” he said. “Things you would normally do you won’t do. I wouldn’t go to basketball games, I wouldn’t go to football games, because it was hard for me to climb the bleachers. It’s life-changing. Get your life back because nobody should be forced to live in pain.”