As a kid, Mike Roman raced go-karts and dreamed of being a race car driver. But all of his dreams and hopes seemed to disappear in 1994 when minor knee surgery led to a life-threatening staph infection. After thirty-three surgeries to save his leg, it was eventually amputated. But his difficulties didn’t end there.
“The minute they amputated the leg, the infection was gone, but I woke up with phantom limb pains. So for me, it felt like pliers on my toenails of the foot that’s gone,” said Mike Roman. “The only way my pain was controlled or managed even remotely was through intensely high doses of narcotics. There wasn’t one aspect that pain or medicine didn’t affect in my life. It slowly sucked the life out of not only me, but my wife and my kids.”
Doctors tried various procedures and medical devices to relieve the chronic pain Mike was suffering, but to no avail. Fortunately for Mike, medical device innovation was ongoing, and eventually the spinal cord stimulator – which had been tried before – progressed to where it could help him.
“It wasn’t until that technology had time to be developed and tweaked that it worked for me in 2005. On paper it’s genius, but it took time to develop that and it took a company.”
Freed from chronic pain, Mike was free to pursue his dream of racing in national events. On August 13th, 2009, on his third attempt at the Bonneville Flats Speed Weeks, Mike Roman broke the landspeed record in the J/GL Class Lakester Division at 165.127 mph.
Mike is worried that lawsuits may hamper the medical innovation that allowed him to race again. “Our fear as a family is that lawsuits will choke down the pipeline of innovation,” he says.
Mike says the goal of the legal system should be balance. “When lawsuits dictate what companies can do and what products they develop, then we are out of balance.”
“We don’t know what the future holds in medical technology. Please don’t slam the door on a patient’s hope, because there was a time when that’s all I had. But the technology caught up, and second chances can be made into miracles.”