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March 17, 2022 27 mins

James Sulzer has always loved building things. As a rehabilitation engineer, he spent years creating devices that he hoped would help patients recover from serious brain trauma such as strokes. And he believed strongly in the potential of rehab technology—that with the right robot, he could relieve a whole array of brain injuries. 

But then, one spring day in 2020, there was a horrible accident. And suddenly James had to apply everything he knew about science and rehabilitation to help fix his own family. The Atlantic senior editor Daniel Engber spent months talking to James, following him as he used his scientific knowledge to try to find meaning in tragedy. 

Further reading: “A Peer-Reviewed Portrait of Suffering”

A transcript of this episode is available

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This episode was produced by ​Peter Bresnan with help from Julia Longoria and Alyssa Edes. Editing by Emily Botein. Reporting by Daniel Engber.

Fact-check by Yvonne Rolzhausen. Sound design by Joe Plourde. Transcription by Caleb Codding.

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