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January 09, 2018 10:23 PM

A Hero's Sober Quest

Sioux Falls, SD

He's a man who has seen and been through a lot. Justin Minyard was a first responder at the Pentagon on 9/11.  One rescue forever changed his life.  

"She was on the first floor, three floors caved in, trapped her at her desk, and while I was trying to dig through the ruble to reach her, the building collapsed, and I fractured my spine," Minyard said.

He's received two Purple Hearts, and served in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he survived falling from a helicopter while zeroing in on a target he describes as "responsible for killing multiple American soldiers." 

"Fell 20 meters, about two stories, onto the roof of the target's house," Minyard said. "I broke my back." 

He served 13 years and was honorably discharged in 2013. He turned to opioids as he fought pain from the injuries he suffered in the service, and was addicted to the drugs for two years. He describes the addiction as "a nightmare."

"From my personal experience, I had a very difficult time while on opiates for pain treatment for a long duration of time, and that caused a lot of negative fallout on my personal and professional life," Minyard said. 

He spoke in Sioux Falls at the Orthopedic Institute about his experiences. He knows exactly how long he's been sober.

"Seven years, one month, nine days," Minyard said. 

Minyard battles his pain with what's called spinal cord stimulation, a treatment that doesn't involve drugs, but instead uses electrical impulses.

"It allows me to manage my pain effectively while not being under that fog or opioid cloud that kind of covers you when you're using those medications," Minyard said.

This example that Dr. James Brunz has here would be something similar to what Minyard has.

"It's a big part of our practice here at Orthopedic Institute, and we've been able to deliver this therapy to quite a few people over the last five years," Dr. Brunz said.

"I was introduced to spinal cord stimulation...that was probably the biggest pivot point in my ability to get off the meds," Minyard said.

Dr. Brunz says the therapy fills a need. 

"The United States consumes over 98 percent of the world's supply of hydrocodone," Dr. Brunz said.

"I think there's a growing awareness on a national level," Dr. Brunz said of the opioid epidemic.

Minyard travels the country talking about pain management. He says it feels "incredible" to be sober.

"I'm very fortunate," Minyard said. "I get to be, I get a second chance to be a dad. I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to spend 300 days a year traveling around the country speaking with patients and providers." 

He says "it's a privilege" to be on the road.

"There are veterans that are dealing with chronic pain in Sioux Falls, and there are multiple resources available to them," Minyard said. "Through the VA, through the VA Choice program, with Dr. Brunz." 

Both men want you to know that there is hope. 

"As hopeless as your situation may seem, there are people here in this community that want to help you find a way forward," Minyard said.

Still a hero, again responding to those who need him. 

Minyard mentioned controlyourpain.com and raceagainstpain.com when asked about places people can go for more information. 

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