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Ep 8: Stopping Amputee Pain

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This episode reflects the kind of serendipity that can play a role in breakthrough innovation. In this case, it is innovation that could end the chronic pain experienced by amputees.

My business partner and I spent nearly 12 years advising senior managers at an organization that used to be named the Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Command or NSRDEC. It now is called the CCDC Soldier Center.

During our time there, we learned a great deal about soldier survivability and how an unintended first order effect of the body armor worn and the MRAP vehicles used was a soldier survival paradox: there were far fewer fatalities but a far greater number of injuries to soldier extremities, injuries that often resulted in amputations and a lifetime of pain.

Living with this pain can be extremely difficult and often leads to immobility or an addiction to narcotic pain killers such as opioids. Tragically, some vets take their own lives when the pain becomes unbearable.

Now, here’s where the story takes an interesting turn. I produce several podcasts, one of them with two friends who come from very different backgrounds than me. And that diversity is part of the appeal of our show. One of my cohorts, a gentleman named Khalid Beard, is good friends with the manager of a local Dallas watering hole known as Milo’s. The manager’s name is Tommy Donahue and besides the fact that he has been managing this bar for thirty years, he is also the survivor of a hit and run accident in which his right leg was amputated.

Tommy survived the amputation and recovered. But in yet another odd turn of events, the woman who rescued him from dying at the scene of that accident remained unknown to him for 25 years, that is, until a local paper ran Tommy’s story and the two were reunited.

Tommy’s resilience as an amputee motivated him to start an annual charity event named Legapalooza. The proceeds from this event — generated from the sale every year of Tommy’s prosthetic limb and as well as copious amounts of alcohol — are given to the Dallas Amputee Survivors Society.
My friend Khalid booked us to record multiple episodes of our podcast at this charity event and while there we were introduced to a company that, get this, is on the leading of edge of doing research and development of an electronic pain blocking system designed to enable amputees in pain to avoid the use of any pain medication at all. This venture’s founders includes MDs and PhDs from institutions such as Case Western Reserve in Ohio and Baylor White Medical Center in Dallas. They are in the midst of formal FDA trials and came to Legapalooza looking for volunteers to participate in a trial and study.

As we interviewed the business development executive, Brie Jackson, I couldn’t help but ask about the wounded warriors who might be perfect candidates for this device. She said that she had approached the VA about the device and the trials but couldn’t get past the gatekeepers. I told her that we had a way to get the word out to people who could potentially queue up the right introduction to the right people at the VA or elsewhere in the Army.

You can susbcribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. You can reach Brie Jackson at
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