Injured Pentagon first-responder: Spinal cord stimulator ‘got my life back’

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — A veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq credits a medical procedure for restoring him to health following years of chronic back pain. He shares his story about how a spinal cord stimulator has changed his life.

Justin Minyard was serving in the U.S. Army, stationed in Washington DC, when terrorists attacked the Pentagon on 9-11. Minyard was one of the first responders who went through the rubble searching for victims.

“And during the course of that, during the day and days, part of the building collapsed on me while I was trying to reach a woman that was trapped and I fractured my spine,” Minyard said.

Minyard would suffer more back injuries during deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. He underwent a half-dozen surgeries and became addicted to prescription painkillers.

“So I went from the pain controlling every second-minute-thought every day to then the pain meds, also, it’s like have two monkeys on your back,” Minyard said.

But in 2009 Minyard underwent a spinal cord stimulation, a procedure where doctors insert a wire through the spinal cord and a battery in the lower back. A remote controller allows the patient to send an electrical signal through their spine that blocks the pain.

“It doesn’t remove the pain, it just tricks my brain into thinking I’m feeling like a tingling sensation,” Minyard said.

Doctors in Sioux Falls say the technology behind the procedure is rapidly advancing and shows great promise for certain patients in treating their chronic pain.

“A lot of these patients have had prior back surgery, but then sometimes we have patients that aren’t a good candidate for surgery, maybe due to age or other medical co-morbidities, and we can use this therapy as an alternative to surgery,” Dr. James Brunz of the Orthopedic Institute said.

Minyard had to retire early from the army because of his back pain. But he credits the procedure for relieving the pain and breaking his addiction.

“I don’t take anything stronger than Advil, and I’ve got my life back,” Minyard said.

Minyard talks about his spinal cord stimulator therapy during a luncheon next week in Sioux Falls hosted by the Orthopedic Institute.

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