In 1992, Richard Hanbury just 19 at the time was an Arabic student at Durham University seeking to hone his language skills while enjoying some traveling. Hanbury and a schoolmate were traversing Yemen in a Jeep when a car pulled out from behind a petrol truck and sped toward them on a narrow bridge. The truck blocked Hanbury’s ability to swerve laterally out of harm’s way. He faced a split-second decision: either veer off the bridge or collide head-on with the car.
“I figured we were dead either way,” Hanbury recalled. “Then in that split second I had an image of my dad wandering around the country looking for my remains to find. I was like, if we go off the bridge, we’re dead anyway, but at least if we go off the bridge, he’ll have something to find.”
He veered off the bridge. The pair survived the crash, but barely. He was pronounced clinically dead for 8 minutes and then in a coma for 6 weeks. After waking up, He would spend the next 14 months in a hospital, the first three and a half days of which while still in Yemen. Given the facility’s dilapidated conditions — he said a dead body was left in his room for two days — he adds a caveat: “Calling that a hospital is really a stretch.”
There was no food or water, so his friend, Christian Schneider-Sickert, walked to and from the village to fetch the essentials for Hanbury despite his own injuries: a cracked thigh bone, an arm broken in three places and a broken collarbone. Hanbury’s insurance company wouldn’t send a plane to retrieve him without a faxed doctor’s note. Not only was there no fax machine for 100 miles, but there was no doctor, either. Only Schneider-Sickert’s threats of litigation to the insurance firm and promise to pay for the private plane should it not have been truly necessary prompted action.
“Without him,” Hanbury said, “there’s no way I would have even made it to the U.K.”
Hanbury suffered debilitating injuries including a T10 vertebra fracture, an aortic tear and such excruciating nerve-damage pain that doctors gave him only five years to live and left him a paraplegic.
After a lightbulb moment while watching a film in hospital, he began the journey to save his life. To produce the most lasting pain relief, he experimented with the different neuromodulation patterns and bio-metric sensors which normalized how his brain processed pain signals.
The earliest prototype removed all of his nerve damage pain, and he has been pain-free since 1993. Richard tested his technology with the British Special Air Service, U.S. Air Force, Richard Branson Virgin Challenger flights, and the first Solar Impulse flight around the world – and then in 2016 started Sana Health to graduate that early anecdotal data into large scale clinical trials, as the next step in getting the device into the hands of those who really need it.
Now 45, he uses a wheelchair and has been free from pain for the past 25 years. His journey to that point defies belief.
It is now his life’s mission to help as many people as possible find relief.
What he most loves about leading Sana Health is hearing story after story from Sana users who say that Sana gave them their life back.
Learn more about the Sana Health project here.