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A Veteran's Mission — Spreading the Med Tech Message
U.S. Army Sgt. Justin Minyard is no stranger to the battlefield. He's served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He's protected sitting U.S. presidents. He's navigated land mines and interrogated terrorists. But, for Justin, the most difficult battle he's fought has been against chronic pain.
Justin first hurt his back as a first responder at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. He was lifting and moving rubble in search for survivors when part of the building's structure collapsed on top of him. Doctors performed corrective surgery, but his pain persisted. A year later, he fell out of a helicopter while on duty and his pain grew even more intense. He underwent a second surgery - then, more surgeries - but nothing seemed to dull his pain.
Justin figured opioid therapy was his only option. And yet, he struggled with dependence and eventually addiction.
“This treatment plan was detrimental to both my health and my family life – it was a very difficult time,” he says.
Then, Justin learned that there was a medtech alternative. Justin and his wife found an interventional pain specialist at Fort Bragg who happened to be conducting a clinical trial of Spinal Cord Simulation (SCS) therapy, which consists of implanting a device that stops the brain from receiving pain signals.
“This device literally changed my life,” says Justin. “It not only enabled me to manage my pain effectively, but it gave me my life back and has allowed me to do things for and with my family that I stopped doing while on pain medication.”
In addition to SCS, Justin also used cycling as a means of rehabilitation.
“The combination of the device, cycling, and pure willpower helped pull me through,” says Justin. “It helped me so much that I founded an organization called Operation Shifting Gears, which helps other combat-wounded veterans who are looking for ways to rehabilitate themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
Through extensive outreach and education, the organization provides all-encompassing support for veterans and helps them to re-adjust to civilian life, using cycling and other athletic activities. Justin is now educating injured veterans and others, including legislators on Capitol Hill, about the importance of continuing to support innovative new technologies to help people everywhere live healthier, more productive lives.