Former Army surgeon keeps coming to man’s rescue

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DENVER -- Any veteran will say the military is a close-knit group. But for retired 1st Sgt. Paul Murphy, that bond is almost surreal.

An Army surgeon who operated on him 16 years ago keeps coming to his rescue even though both have long since retired from the military.

Murphy still plays the game he loves despite several close calls during his 20 years as a helicopter pilot and he has Dr. Timothy Kuklo, a spine surgeon at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center to thank.

Kuklo operated on Murphy in 2000 after Murphy had to be evacuated out of Bosnia and flown to Walter Reed Medical Center for emergency back surgery. Neither man knew it was just the beginning of what has become a long and very personal relationship.

"It's a relationship that's hard to explain," Murphy said. "It's almost being family."

Murphy started feeling more pain in his back so out of the blue, he Googled his former surgeon's name. To his surprise, Kuklo was retired from the Army and living in Colorado. Murphy sent an email and within weeks, he was in Kuklo's operating room.

"The physical toll on one's body from 20, 25 years of service from multiple deployments just wears one out far greater than professional sports athletes," Kuklo said.

That relationship has only deepened in the years since. Not only have the two men become close friends, Kuklo has also taken away Murphy's pain.

"He did the surgery in the morning and the night of the surgery, I was able to sleep on my left side, which I had not been able to do for four months," Murphy said.

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