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Medical Miracle: Doug Lindsay Invented the Surgery that Saved His Life (ep. 322)

John O’Leary welcomes Doug Lindsay, the man who developed the treatment to a mysterious, debilitating illness that impacted his family, to the Live Inspired Podcast.

How do you respond when something is seemingly impossible? Especially in life or death.

At 21 years old, Doug Lindsay developed a rapid heart rate, dizziness and fainting spells which led him to fear that he was suffering the same mysterious illness that affected his mother and aunt. As symptoms became debilitating, Doug dropped out of college and spent the next 11 years bedbound.

Doctors were baffled, so Doug scoured medical textbooks in a relentless, 14-year pursuit to not only diagnose the mysterious illness, but also develop the treatment and assemble the team that would ultimately perform the innovative surgery.

If you’re seeking a message of hope, perseverance and a reason to believe the best of our days remain in front of us, this episode is for you.

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  • “I talk about the role of hope and character in innovation and life. I came to do that after getting sick at 21, spent 11 years homebound + bedbound and when no one knew what to do, I developed the surgery that fixed me.”
  • While describing an idyllic childhood, Doug recalls his mom was always too sick to work but without understanding the extent, she was unable to find help.
  • “You don’t make fun of people for things they can’t change.”
  • “I didn’t know what I wanted but I was glad there were people looking out for me and sending me to places that were waiting for me.” Doug’s aunt + grandparents helped supplement his merit-based scholarships to attend Rockhurst University to study biochemistry.
  • Just as Doug was starting a summer job doing biochemistry research, he was diagnosed with mono. When he returned for his senior year, he was unable to attend classes and Doug realized he was struck with the same mysterious illness his mom was experiencing.
  • “If I find something for me, I may find something for us.”
  • A watch without a watchmaker: If God created the universe, why wouldn’t he or she be using the tools of nature?
  • “Sometimes I am riding on faith. Sometimes I am riding on science. Sometimes I am riding on medicine.”
  • Around the turn of the millennium, while paging through medical textbooks, Doug discovers something doctors may have missed: the autonomic nervous system. As a 24-year-old disabled college dropout in a reclining wheelchair, Doug shares the treatment for his own disease in front of the world’s top researchers at The American Autonomic Society.
  • Eighteen months later, Doug begins working with his mentor + medical researcher Dr. Cecil Coghlan to apply theories. After two years, they come across a circumstance that could potentially be fixed with surgery that did not exist yet.
  • At this point, Doug spent 22 hours a day in a hospital bed, writing with dictation software and was too weak to hold a book.
  • Specific hope: It blinds you to success greater than you’re aiming for and it blinds you to gratitude for the good things that happen every day.
  • “Hope is the belief that something positive can happen. What can we make happen that’s just enough to remind you there is value and joy in persisting, even in hard times.”
  • Clinical bravery: Because of the team that took the risk to perform the innovative surgery, Doug was able to four miles 130 days post-surgery.
  • Determined to make a life of success if the surgery was successful, Doug also wanted to live authentically.
  • “Joy fades. Sorrow spikes but it doesn’t maintain that same intensity at all times. Winning doesn’t make life not hard.”
  • If you give a best effort and don’t succeed, you know you can count on yourself. If circumstances change, that best effort will lead to success. If you can’t give a best effort, you may win but you’ll still lose.
  • We are united by suffering. Do your best for those who don’t have the chance.
  • Watch Doug Linday’s TEDx Talk here.
  • Learn more about Doug Lindsay, including his medical consulting, here.


About our sponsor: Keeley Companies wholeheartedly believes that if you get the people right -the results will follow. They set themselves apart with a forward-thinking culture that empowers their people and fosters loyal partnerships. Keeley Companies are a proud sponsor, partner, and super fan of the Live Inspired Podcast. Learn more about Keeley Companies.


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  1. Q. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
    A. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.
  2. Q. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today?
    A. The belief in others.
  3. Q. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be?
    A. My computer and my mom’s Bible from high school.
  4. Q. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be?
    A. I’d have to meet with my mom although I admire Thomas Jefferson, Marcus Aurelius and Aristotle. I’d share how proud of her I am for the example she set as someone who lived with suffering yet grace.
  5. Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
    A. In science, you run the experiment.
  6. Q. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
    A. Leaving aside my medical diagnosis, love beyond your small family unit. Love is real.
  7. Q. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read?
    A. My story is complex enough so I feel like it will be: That’s the guy that did that thing.