9/11 hero and chronic pain sufferer shares story

By Jennifer Smith Metro News Voice of WV

Justin Minyard Courtesy photo

Justin Minyard, Courtesy photo

CHARLESTON, W.Va.A hero of 9/11 and a U.S. soldier for 13 years suffered through more than a decade of chronic pain. He visited Charleston Thursday to talk to people who are going through what he did and encouraged them to look for treatments that don’t involve drugs.

More than 50 million Americans suffer from some form of chronic pain. Justin Minyard stressed there’s a big difference between pain and chronic pain.

“Chronic pain dominates your life. It dictates whether or not you get up and get your mail that day, whether you’re going to take a shower, whether you’re going to interact with your spouse and child. It dominates your life!”

He was just 20 and stationed in Washington, D.C., when the 9/11 terror attacks happened.“I was a first responder at the Pentagon and I injured my back while trying to rescue a woman who was trapped in the debris,” Minyard explained.

He had to undergo surgery to repair the damage. While deployed to Afghanistan he fell two stories out of a helicopter during a nighttime combat mission and underwent his second back surgery. But it was 12 months later while stationed in Iraq that he got up one day and couldn’t walk. He was transferred back to the states and underwent multiple surgeries. However, nothing could stop the chronic pain. His doctor prescribed medicine to deal with it.

“Within six months of my initial prescription I went from zero pain medication to 200 mg a day of oxycontin, 60 mg a day of oxycodone and 40 mg a day of Valium. I don’t remember two whole years of my life,” explained Minyard.

He finally decided the pain medication wasn’t working and he looked for alternative solutions. He found it in a treatment called Spinal Cord Stimulation. A small device placed in his hip sends messages up his spinal cord to his brain that blocks the pain.

“It gave me my life back!”

Minyard started a foundation called Operation Shifting Gears. It’s aimed at helping service members learn to manage their pain without getting bogged down in a drugged haze. He now tours the country, speaking to military and non-military chronic pain sufferers about dealing with their injuries and demanding doctors look for alternative treatments for a pain-free life.

“Just ask your doctor, ‘What else is available to treat this chronic pain? I want a better quality of life. I want to feel better. What can you do?’”

Thomas Health Care Systems sponsored Minyard’s visit Thursday evening. He’s speaking at the Embassy Suites in Charleston at 6:30. It’s a free event open to the public.

You can find out more about Minyard’s story and how to find resources to deal with your own chronic pain by logging on to www.shiftgears.org.

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