DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE - CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED MEDICAL RESEARCH PROGRAMS
Edwin 'Ed' Salau

Photos and text used with permission of
Edwin 'Ed' Salau .

Edwin 'Ed' Salau began his service in the United States Marine Corps in 1988 and served until 2000, when he joined the Army National Guard in the infantry battalion. On November 15, 2004, he was caught in an ambush north of Baghdad. Salau lost his left leg above the knee. Another Soldier positioned opposite Salau during the ambush also lost part of his leg above the knee. When the two were sent home and transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for rehabilitation, each man felt pretty much the same - that he'd been struck down in the prime of his life. The two quickly became advocates for each other and learned "to live and be themselves" once again by supporting each other.

These days, Salau's resilience is demonstrated in his ability to find light and humor in his life. He describes learning to ski, before relearning to walk, with his comrade and jokes about sharing a pair of ski boots since they both wore the same size. "When we got off the chairlift at the top of the run, we checked our bindings and our gloves. Just before we tipped our skis over the edge, we were both struck by the same feeling - the one you have before you ask a lady for a date, or just before a job interview - we each felt that rush again." At that moment, each man realized life had not ended with the loss of a limb. Life went on, and they just had to get more creative.

Salau is a natural advocate. Home from Iraq, he had a degree and a job to return to, but all around him at Walter Reed were younger, less established Soldiers and they needed reassurance that they were not less of a person after getting hurt. Having accepted an invitation to join the Peer Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program (PRORP) as a consumer advocate, Salau has been able to help not only these Service members and Veterans, but also civilians who have experienced traumatic musculoskeletal injuries. He recognized his rehab at Walter Reed employed cutting-edge technology and prosthetic specialists, while civilians struggled for weeks to months to get answers.

Salau aims to impact the research that will guide both civilians and Service members to the most effective treatments and rehabilitation for recovery. He got his first taste of the influence his advocacy work could have on medical research while working with the Airlift Research Foundation. The foundation awarded a seed grant for studying traumatic limb injuries from combat to Dr. Yunzhi 'Peter' Yang. Within a year of this initial award, Dr. Yang received additional grant money from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. Because of his success, he now runs his own lab at Stanford University, where he investigates biomaterials and technology platforms to engineer tissues and organs as related to orthopaedic injuries. Such stories of achievement inspire Salau to continue advocating and pushing research forward.

Salau values his time as a consumer advocate and recognizes the commitment and passion of each person on the peer review panel regardless of background or education. In the process of serving PRORP, he has been fortunate to interact with consumer advocates for other diseases, such as breast and prostate cancer. He remarks, "Those folks have lived through very grim prognoses and have beaten serious odds. With research for orthopaedic injuries, we are more likely to pursue improved quality of life rather than extension of life. No matter the cause, there is respect among all of the consumer advocates. We are all in and the same passion goes into it."

Salau reflects on consumer advocacy in the peer review process, "There is appreciation for having a consumer reviewer at the table. What might be great science might not be a worthwhile pursuit from my perspective, and vice versa. The scientists and clinicians on the panel hear my point of view and they believe it. I am able to advocate for individuals with orthopaedic injuries at the user level."

Reminded daily of the need for advocacy, Salau impacts the community by paying attention, connecting the dots, and closing gaps by working to find solutions to real-world problems for the injured. This process is not only rewarding, but also provides Salau with the opportunity to inspire future advocates.

Last updated Wednesday, January 27, 2016