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In 2006, a fourth scan showed his adrenals glowing brightly. Coghlan called Lindsay and said, “We found it!”
Bilateral adrenal medullary hyperplasia was the diagnosis. The medulla is the interior region of the adrenal gland, and it had grown enlarged acting like a tumor, proving Lindsay’s hunch.
As experts in the field were still doubtful, Dr. Coghlan realized they were in uncharted territory—only 32 cases of the diagnosis were ever recorded, and there was no record of any surgeries done on humans to correct it.
But, there were studies done on dogs, cats and mice. These described the process as similar to slicing the end of the adrenal gland and squeezing until the medulla popped out like a pimple. With only this animal evidence and vague descriptions of the surgery, Lindsay created a 363-page PDF, detailing what the first human adrenal medullectomy would look like.
Shopping for a surgeon proved difficult. It took 18 months, but Doug eventually found a surgeon—from the same university in Birmingham—who was willing to put their medical license on the line for an untested procedure, and in September 2010, the doctor extracted one of Lindsay’s medullas.
The surgery was a success. Three weeks later, Lindsay could sit up for three hours—and by the end of three months, on Christmas eve, he walked a mile to attend church. He remained standing at the back for midnight Mass with so much to be thankful for.
The second medulla was excised in 2012 at Washington University in St. Louis, completing the procedure that Lindsay had invented at home on his computer.
By 2014 Doug was coming off some of his medications and traveling in an airplane. Dr. Coghlan passed away the following year, after witnessing the jubilant result of his service to, and radical belief in, Doug Lindsay’s ideas.
Doug discovered his professional calling, too: far from The Simpsons’ set, the innovator is now a medical consultant for rare diseases.
“I can travel and give speeches and go for walks…And, I can try to change the world.”
We think he already has!
(WATCH Lindsay’s TEDx Talk below)
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