Survivor carries on animal surgery and research

Courage comes in many forms, but it boils down to battling the odds. And Dr. L.A. King has seen his ups and downs quite literally.

“I was very involved in rock climbing, but in 1989, as I was rock climbing in El Dorado Canyon outside of Boulder, Colo. I fell 90 feet ending up in a coma for three weeks,” Dr. King said.

“The strange thing about it is that the area is famous for rock climbing and if it wasn’t for the help I received from nearby rock climbers who happened to be a doctor and a paramedic, I would have died. They saved my life,” he said

A Pasadena veterinarian, King performs surgery for the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program (S.N.A.P.) on a referral basis, primarily spaying and neutering dogs and cats for a nonprofit program.

After the fall, King left the hospital feeling bitter and angry, but right after his hospital stay, he was able to conduct surgery and continued with his internship at Colorado State University.

“The emotional part of it was hard to get over. You go through grief and anger,” he said. “It eventually made me appreciate things a lot better and makes me not give up.”

Never a quitter, King said his brain injury did not impair his mind, still retaining his genius I.Q.

While not performing animal surgery in Pasadena, King is performing translational research at Texas A & M looking at ways that animal research can have a direct correlation to human medical breakthroughs, including finding a cure for Melanoma and stem cell research.

“It is beyond words,” King said about his research. “Changing mankind is an amazing feeling. Pets are family members, but to be able to change mankind, it is hard to put into words.”

Prior to vet school, King was a surgical technician at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bryant working on people.

“Animal surgery has the same surgical techniques as human surgery. Having the experience performing surgery on people helped me a lot in my veterinary practice,” he said.

King can be seen in the animal clinic with surgical instruments in one hand, strumming his guitar in the other hand right after surgery.

An accomplished guitarist for over 35 years, King is a natural having never had a lesson in his life, and once recording music in Nashville at the tender age of 16.

While not playing professionally at the moment, King said he has the chance to be the lead guitarist in a house band for the Mickey Gilley Club in Houston when it gets built.

“The thing I am most proud of is my guitar playing,” he said.


Dr. Leonard L.A. King passed away during the pandemic in 2020. This story is a reprint Greg Hitchcock wrote for the Houston Chronicle in 2016.

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