Severe lower limb injuries require complex care, including orthopaedic surgery, and can result in limb loss. Injuries sustained by Service Members can be further complicated by limited access to acute care and substantial rehabilitation. Tyler Burdick experienced these injuries and works every day to maintain an active lifestyle where he volunteers and mentors other injured Veterans to overcome self-perceived limitations. In addition, he serves as a consumer peer reviewer for the Peer Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program (PRORP).
Petty Officer Second Class Tyler Burdick (U.S. Navy, Retired) enlisted in 2006 and received training as a field medic before deployments to Fallujah, Iraq, and the Helmand province of Afghanistan. He had intended to complete Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training and eventually become a Navy SEAL. Instead, on July 22, 2010, an improvised explosive device pulverized his lower legs. He underwent 4 years of limb salvage procedures, during which time he was fitted with an Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis (IDEO) on both legs. Ultimately, he opted for bilateral transtibial amputations and now describes putting on prosthetics as, “not much different to me than putting on shoes used to be. It is my new normal.” Normal for Tyler includes lots of outdoor activities like hiking and swimming, and even extreme sports like snowboarding and downhill mountain biking. When hiking, Tyler is accompanied by his service dog, Chief, whose harness offers stability for crossing uneven terrain.
Tyler spends quite a bit of his time giving back to others. He volunteers with the Semper Fi Fund, Navy Safe Harbor Foundation, and Wounded Warrior Project. When not competing himself, he mentors other Veterans and athletes at the U.S. Paralympics and Wounded Warrior Games. Then he shares these experiences as a PRORP consumer reviewer. In his own words, “Helping others, just as others helped me, is incredibly rewarding.”
Tyler first encountered the PRORP when participating on the Navy team at the Wounded Warrior Games with a fellow Veteran and Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs peer review recruiter. As a consumer reviewer, Tyler has found another way to give back to other Veterans and an opportunity to tap into his training as a combat medic. His experiences are not lost on the scientists and clinicians of those peer review panels, and he finds himself regularly humbled by their regard for his contributions. In the same vein, Tyler expresses admiration for those researchers dedicated to contributing knowledge and improving the quality of life for others. “They don’t directly benefit from their work as they typically do not have the injuries or conditions that they intend to treat, yet they throw themselves at their work,” he notes. “It’s truly selfless, and I thank them.”
In both his advocacy work and participation in the PRORP peer review, Tyler is constantly reminded that he is not alone as either an injured Veteran or a passionate advocate. Recreational therapy introduced him to the Semper Fi Fund and Navy Safe Harbor Foundation, and he continues to volunteer there to share that message and support other injured Veterans. Much like the Veterans and advocates supporting each other in these organizations, Tyler shares how scientists and researchers from various backgrounds work together to solve challenges and turn new ideas into treatments for orthopaedic injuries. He truly appreciates being included in the review process and helping bring those ideas to life. In his words, “I believe that input from the consumer advocate plays an invaluable role in the process of researching and developing new treatments and technologies that ultimately benefit us.”
Last updated Tuesday, April 20, 2021