Shirley Pincus took the stage to thank her heroes on Tuesday (March 8) – the people who created a treatment that ended her battle with pain.
Pincus spoke on a panel on AxoGen, the Alachua-based company that developed a nerve graft that is changing lives as part of the University of Florida’s A Celebration of Innovation, held at the Hilton UF Conference Center.
Pincus got polio in 1954, right before the polio vaccine came to her community. Although she had some weakness on her left side and had undergone corrective surgery when she was young, she had lived a relatively normal life until a few years ago.
At that point, her pain began. “It was stabbing and jolting, the most horrendous feeling I’ve experienced in my life,” she said.
She tried several treatments to no avail, including having the tips of two of her toes amputated and receiving nerve blocks.
At last, she discovered Edgardo Rodriguez and Roberto Segura, Chicago physicians who had begun to use AxoGen’s nerve graphs.
They then performed surgery that removed damaged nerve tissue from three places in Pincus’ leg and repaired it with AxoGen’s nerve graph, which is processed from donated human nerve tissue.
“The pain I had endured for five to six years was gone in a day,” Pincus said.
The members of the team working with AxoGen are her heroes, and Drs. Rodriguez and Segura are her angels, Pincus said.
The heroes include members of a research team headed by David Muir, a UF professor of pediatrics and neuroscience.
A member of that team is Christine E. Schmidt, Pruitt Family Professor and chair of UF’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.
Schmidt began working with Muir while she was on the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin and then moved to UF.
“Gainesville has a very entrepreneurial community,” she said. “That was a huge draw. I feel like a kid in a candy shop.”