Former NFL Star, Doug English, Discusses The Lone Star Paralysis Foundation
Speaker 1: 0:09
Welcome back to the Armor Men’s Health Hour with Dr. Mistry and Donna Lee.
Dr. Mistry: 0:16
Welcome back to the Armor Men’s Health Hour. I’m Dr. Mistry, your host here with my cohost Donna Lee.
Donna Lee: 0:22
Happy Sunday, everyone.
Dr. Mistry: 0:24
You know, one of the cool things about being a physician in Austin is being able to come across some amazingly gifted, talented and dedicated people, even if the medical condition doesn’t directly affect them, are really committed to helping patients and making a real difference in our community. And I’m really lucky to have somebody who represents that here today. I’ve got Mr. Doug English. Welcome Doug.
Doug English: 0:48
Hello Dr. Mistry. It’s, I’ve been looking forward to this. So thanks for having me on.
Dr. Mistry: 0:53
Well, I appreciate it. Doug, you’re a former member of the NFL club, is that right?
Doug English: 0:57
I guess you could call it that. Some people just call us “has-been’s.”
Dr. Mistry: 0:58
That’s fine. Well, you walked in here under your own power, so I feel pretty good about that.
Doug English: 1:06
Yeah, I’m pretty lucky that way. I was just in Detroit a week ago with a bunch of my old teammates and a few guys older, and a few guys younger. And it’s really scary, the physical condition that most NFL players are in, it’s a damaging game. And I’m so healthy, I dunno. It’s ridiculous.
Dr. Mistry: 1:24
And you really kept yourself quite fit. I’m really impressed. I think maybe one day you’ll have to come back and tell us how you look great at 42.
Donna Lee: 1:32
Doug English: 1:35
That’s why I love you, Dr. Mistry.
Donna Lee: 1:38
He is a legend though. He was with the Detroit lions for 10 years. That’s a long time to be with one team. You don’t hear that anymore.
Doug English: 1:43
Those days were before free agency.
Dr. Mistry: 1:46
That’s right. So you have a health topic or a patient population or a real mission, that is real near and dear to your heart. It’s the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation. A lot of people may not immediately recognize how close spinal cord injury, neurologic injury of that type and urology are together up until just a generation ago. The number one cause of death and morbidity in spinal cord injury patients where urolologic issues, recurrent urinary tract infection, kidney swelling, kidney stones, a number of things and some amazing developments in urology really help propel patients to live longer and better lives. There’s also a huge overlap between infertility and fertility patients because as you know, so many patients have a spinal cord injury right in their prime, you know, fertility years. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got involved in the foundation, what propelled you to start it and some of the motivations.
Doug English: 2:43
You know, my career ended on a spinal cord injury and it wasn’t just a, you know, peripheral injury. It was a cord injury because I was having symptoms in my legs from my neck and that’s a big deal. I didn’t realize it at the time. I was trying to go back in the game. They stole my helmet, ran off with it. Apparently they have a signal for that. There’s players that get a little emotional and excited…
Dr. Mistry: 3:05
You can’t go out there without your helmet.
Doug English: 3:08
That was a fast ball boy. I couldn’t catch him, either. Anyway, so, you know, it wasn’t so much because I got hurt that I got involved in SCI–spinal cord injury–it’s an acronym I’ll be using, I’m sure. It was the surgery that I had in 1985 that was even, it was unheard of then. I had a doctor years later, years later, four or five years later argue with me that “Oh, there’s no way they went in the front of your neck with a scope.” He insisted he look at the back of it. I said, “I think I would know!” And he wanted see the back of my neck. He walked around and looked at the back of my neck because he didn’t believe that I’d had the surgery. And then the type of surgery it was, I mean I have a great neck to this day and back then, gosh, everyone I know that had a laminectomy, had a bad neck for the rest, has a bad neck for the rest of their life. And then they started seeing discs go above and below the fusion. So without going into a lot of detail about the surgery, it was just very impressive, which I learned what a cool surgery I had and how much trouble the Ford family went through it and make sure I had the very best surgeon in the world. And so…
Dr. Mistry: 4:24
It really says a lot about what you went through because you know, there is nothing more harrowing than going to a football game and seeing a young kid get hurt and just sitting there on the turf…
Doug English: 4:34
…motionless. Oh yeah.
Dr. Mistry: 4:36
And you’re just, your heart drops. And all thoughts about winning and losing go away. And all you really care about is the wellbeing of that kid out there. And then you also hear about teams that, especially more so in the past, that would let people who are injured go back into that into the game. And so you were really lucky on so many different fronts.
Doug English: 4:57
Well, I’ll tell you how lucky I was. It happened in the first quarter and I didn’t tell anybody until the end of the third quarter, mainly because I could tell I wasn’t playing as well as I could. And then when I mentioned it to the trainer, that’s when he went nuts and we had a large argument and then they sold my helmet and that was the last I ever played.
Dr. Mistry: 5:18
So a lot of people that are going to have a spinal cord injury are going to be pretty young.
Doug English: 5:23
Yeah. It happens to young active people. I mean swimming, diving, motorcycles, ATVs, horses, car accidents are probably the only thing that are not necessarily restricted to young people, but, it’s young, active people. So to finish answering your question, I had just started hosting a golf tournament about my fourth or fifth year in the league back here in Austin. And it was basically just free beer, you know? Yeah. Okay, sure. I’ll be the host. And then after my surgery, a guy named Kent Waldrep came along and you may have heard of him. I know Donna has. He got hurt in ’74, I think, playing for TCU against Alabama, in Alabama. And, he went to Cold War Russia to get a treatment he couldn’t get in the US. And he, I mean, he got very aggressive with it, ended up forming his own foundation. He actually started 3, started one that spun off and became the what the Buoniconti Group in Miami, they call it the Miami project. He started, I think he may have started what ultimately became the Christopher Reeve deal, you know, that I’m not sure about. And then he started the National Paralysis Foundation. That’s when he showed up and said, Hey, why don’t you guys change your beneficiary to my group. I was like, “In. Done.” And then once that started, we donated his foundation for a few years and it became kind of a pain to operate a golf tournament in Austin, out of a checkbook with a checkbook in Dallas. And so we started our own foundation. I mean it wasn’t anything real glamorous, it was just, we’re just trying to make it easy on ourselves. And then once we did that, a number of opportunities just came out of nowhere and suddenly we had to put on long pants, you know? And so we really, and just began, our mission began to just crystallize, which is now research, recovery, and recreation.
Dr. Mistry: 7:31
Your 3 R’s.
Doug English: 7:31
Dr. Mistry: 7:33
And so your know when somebody suffers a spinal cord injury, let’s just speak, although your, your foundation deals with many different causes of paralysis. When somebody suffers a spinal cord injury, they go through, you know, an emotional trauma along with their physical trauma and then this realization of how their life is gonna change. And so kind of addressing that timeline of what that injury is going to mean for them is so important. And having a group of people to be able to kind of draw upon to give them some guidance I think is really critical.
Doug English: 8:07
We’ll, I’m glad you brought that up. And I’ll tell you why, because you are so connected to this. And it’s also a fairly interesting story about our foundation. You know, we were all about finding a cure and then we started this program to try to allow people with spinal cord injury paralysis to recover. It was unheard of when we started 20 years ago. Most hospitals wouldn’t even use the word recovery regarding a spinal cord injury.
Dr. Mistry: 8:34
Right, not wanting to give false hope.
Doug English: 8:37
Exactly. Or get sued or whatever else. So, at the time Brackenridge Hospital, back when it was run by the nuns and they were really aggressively trying to do things for the community, even whether they made money on it or not, helped us start and agreed to call it the Recovery Center. And we began to buy some really expensive equipment and put it in there. I don’t know that I’m going to have time to get, get all this in this segment…
Dr. Mistry: 9:02
We’ll be back.
Doug English: 9:03
But let me, I want to pick up where we leave off because I’m getting to the good stuff in the next segment. How’s that?
Donna Lee: 9:10
Hey, you’ve done this before!
Doug English: 9:14
But, we started this recovery program and everybody recovers something. Doctors used to say, “Oh yeah, we see you’ve been through your acute rehabilitation, and so this is all true you’re going to get. And so keep in touch and good luck in life.” And we picked him up then and there, and said, okay, let’s see what we can bring back. And we had a lot of roll-in, walk-outs. We’ve had a lot of people that couldn’t raise their arms above their shoulders and now they’re doing military presses and they’re hugging their kids and they’re working daily. They’re operating their wheelchair. But I mean, a lot of them, like I said, a lot and learn to walk again. It’s really an exciting phase. And then at that point we had a surprise and that’s what I’ll tell you about.
Donna Lee: 9:54
Dr. Mistry: 9:54
We’ll be right back. So, Donna Lee, you want to tell people how to get ahold of us?
Donna Lee: 9:58
Yes. If you have any questions for Doug English or Dr. Mistry, call us at (512) 238-0762 or send us an email to email@example.com and our website is armormenshealth.com. We will be right back.
The Armor Men’s Health Hour. We’ll be right back. If you have questions for dr mystery, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome back to the Armor Men’s Health Hour with Dr. Mistry and Donna Lee.
Dr. Mistry: 10:55
Welcome back to the Armor Men’s Health Hour. I’m Dr. Mistry, your host here with my cohost Donna Lee.
Donna Lee: 11:00
Welcome back everybody.
Dr. Mistry: 11:01
We are again joined by a former NFL’er, Doug English who is also a major proponent of the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation. You know, one of my special connections to paralysis is that my younger niece was born with a condition called SMA or Spinal Muscular Atrophy, forever going to be, you know, at least in today’s science in a wheelchair, but there are advancements made every day in helping her kind of achieve even small benefits to her recovery. In the previous segment you mentioned how inspiring it is to have somebody who couldn’t even raise their arms above their shoulders after a spinal cord injury. You know, her with work and medicines and all the rehab, she’s been able to regain a lot of her or maintain a lot of her functional activity, which has been amazing for us as her family to see. So I’d love to some of kind of your insight into recovery and hear about that special surprise that you guys experience.
Doug English: 11:58
Well, yes, definitely. Dr. Mistry, the little victories are huge, when you’re confined to a wheelchair or a bed and suddenly you’re able to feed yourself or you’re able to control your bowel and bladder or, you know, get around, maybe join a sports team and play wheelchair basketball. These things are real important and everybody of course has their eye on the prize, which is walking. And that carries over to the research component that we’re working that and we’ve got some exciting stuff going there. But in the process of operating most of our recovery center, we noticed something…this social piece came out of nowhere where people would come over there and hang out and we set aside, I think from two o’clock on as a community gym: anybody with a spinal cord injury can come in and work out on our specially adapted and high tech equipment. And we even pay for a tech to be there to help them on and off. Some of the stuff that you have to get out of your wheelchair for. And they would, people would just come and they’d work out and they’d hang out. It’s like those people, if you go to the gym, you know, all they want to do is talk and you’re trying to work out, and they want to talk. These are those guys! But we want them to talk and we want them to get to know each other, and they form groups and they keep in touch with eachother. And so this big social piece came out of nowhere. We weren’t looking for a social piece, but here was the incredible thing that after a few years of this I observed and it just blew me away. We used to get about a suicide a quarter with this community because you know, people just, they lost all hope. Doctors weren’t encouraging them, nobody was encouraging them. And once we started this recovery program and once this social piece began to come together and everybody, they were hanging out with people that had the same, you know, issue that they do, you just don’t hear about suicides anymore. It’s just the most wonderful thing. And this is the part that I know you’re going to like because they are young active people. And a lot of the young men, you know, they, they end up getting married. Maybe the, the gal they’re dating at the time sticks with them. Sometimes they leave them. And sometimes a lot of these guys marry their physical therapists. You know, it’s, it’s really a beautiful thing. I mean the wives of the men and certainly the husbands of the women, but the wives of the men are just, they inspire me as much as anybody. Anyway, I could go on and on about that, but I can tell you, as they call me an able bodied person, when I had my first child, it gave me something to live for. And for these guys, when they, in their situation, come to you and you have equipment and knowledge, how to allow them to have their own child, “Holy cow, I got something to live for!” And I watch them and they change. They even, you know, they’re still strong, and so competitive. And they, you know, they fought through this injury, but there’s something missing. And then when they have that baby, they turn to mush like I did. You know, “Ahhhh!”…It just gives them something to live for and, and it saves lives.
Dr. Mistry: 15:10
It’s an incredible insight. You know, a lot of men when they talk about what are their biggest concerns after a spinal cord injury? Walking again and being functional in that manner is certainly a big part of it. But being sexually functional, being able to perform as a “man” in their life, being able to have children, these are in some ways unspoken concerns that they have, because in some ways, a lot of times they feel ungrateful to be able to ask, you know, something that maybe a little less than immediately life threatening to them. Through your foundation, through our work with spinal cord injury patients, our offering of electroejaculation for patients as you mentioned, so that they can have a child of their own. I think that has been incredibly rewarding for us and incredible for you guys to be able to address.
Doug English: 15:52
Well, that’s, it just, it brings us all together. Brings me out here on a Sunday afternoon and, you know, it’s just one of the really feel good parts of this whole deal. You know, it’s just Research, Recovery, and Recreation. You know, and I guess you could have been some ways be considered recreation.
Dr. Mistry: 16:15
That’s right. That’s right.
Doug English: 16:17
Right. But it’s all part of the recovery program and it’s neat. And you know, when we opened our new recoveries center, once the hospital decided it wasn’t profitable and they didn’t want to…anymore, we worked a deal with, Katie Bouchillon, who owns a group called Spero. I think they’ve got 5 or 6 locations now in Texas. And she took down a lease on a property about 4,200 block or so of Guadalupe, and we moved probably $1 million of, you know, all of our equipment, we moved in there.
Dr. Mistry: 16:54
I’ve seen this equipment, it’s impressive.
Doug English: 16:56
And the community gym is in there. And there was a room in the back that she wasn’t going to do anything with, cause it was pretty rough. And, you know, she’s already spent a lot of money on the place. And our board says, “Oh no, that’s going to be our social room.” And so we put a pretty good chunk of money into that room and we’re still working on it. We’ve got a big screen TV coming in, you know, and a few things to make it really user friendly because of the social piece. And so people can, and you know, some of these guys that you help can come in there and you know, bring their kids in there and have a little place to hang out and watch a football game or something. So it’s, you know, we have embraced that social piece even though we didn’t think of it, it just dropped in our lap.
Dr. Mistry: 17:43
Well, it’s incredibly inspiring and none of this is cheap. And so you guys must have fundraisers throughout the year. What are some of your big opportunities for people to participate or to donate money to your cause?
Doug English: 17:54
Oh gosh, there’s so many. You know, I’ll tell you, AmazonSmile program is a great way because, I don’t know, it’s a fraction, it’s a part of a penny or something out of every sale, every dollar they spend at Amazon. But if you put it into your prime membership, it will go to Lone Star Paralysis Foundation. So that’s limitless how big that could be. Then, we have a lot of programs, you know, we’ve always had the Lone Star Paralysis–Lone Star Classic, that’s the golf tournament. It’s a 2 day event. Used to be 4 or 5 days when we were all younger…
Donna Lee: 18:32
Lots of drinking. That’s how I met Doug English is through that foundation, through the golf tournament and many, many, many years ago.
Doug English: 18:38
She did our show a few times…
Donna Lee: 18:38
I did, I did the comedy show and Bill Engvall’s the superstar.
Doug English: 18:43
Bill’s the new host of the, I quit hosting when we started the foundation and Bill became the host of the golf tournament and I still chair the foundation.
Donna Lee: 18:52
Right. And at the gala there’s always the big comedy show that everybody looks forward to. And before that comedy show though, they do, the person comes on stage who has been working in rehab all that time and that person walks, they get out of their chair and walk and it is just the best, most amazing event you’ve ever seen.
Doug English: 19:07
Every year we have at least one person that we’ll be able to say, let me introduce them. They’ll come up and say, “Oh yeah, by the way, I was in a wheelchair. Here’s a picture a year ago.” And they’re standing there.
Donna Lee: 19:18
Doug English: 19:22
Oh yeah, I cry like a baby.
Donna Lee: 19:22
That’s one of the best things ever.
Doug English: 19:23
It’s, we try to stick with the, you know, we just try to, we try to share at the Lone Star Classic, we try to share our vision. This is what we want to do. This is how we want to do it. We pay hardly no one. We pay a little money to Caitlin for all the work she does organizing the event, helping organize events, a little money to Barbara who pays the bills and takes care of the books, both part time type deals.
Donna Lee: 19:51
It’s a labor of love.
Doug English: 19:51
Everything else is…we don’t do expenses. We don’t do reimbursements, we, it’s, you’re going to go see a researcher, buy your ticket and get your own hotel and tell us about it when you get back. And that’s how we roll, because we want every penny going to the mission that we can.
Dr. Mistry: 20:05
Well, Doug, you are super inspiring. You’re at the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation. Also, you can access their information at lonestarparalysis.org. We’ll put that on our Facebook. A topic that’s really close to my heart, both as a doctor and as an uncle and I couldn’t thank you enough for being here today and sharing your experience.
Doug English: 20:27
Well, let me tell you something. I get more out of it than I give. It’s really been a blessing for me.
Dr. Mistry: 20:31
Well, thank you so much.
Donna Lee: 20:33
Donna Lee: 20:33
And Donna Lee, do we have time for any kind of close out?
Donna Lee: 20:36
We do, now that our hearts are all full. Thank you Doug for coming in. I appreciate it. It’s nice to call you a friend. If you have questions about Lone Star Paralysis Foundation or for Doug English, you can email us at email@example.com. If you have any questions about Dr. Mistry or our clinic Urology Specialists, call us during the week at (512) 238-0762. Our website is armormenshealth.com, and we appreciate everybody for listening. We will be right back.
Dr. Mistry wants to hear from you. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be right back with the Armor Men’s Health Hour.