Darshit Thakrar, MD, is a California physician who lost his left leg in an accident five years ago but hasn’t let this tragedy be an obstacle when it comes to accomplishing his dreams. The surgical expertise of McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member J. Peter Rubin, MD, FACS, Chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery, the UPMC Endowed Professor of Plastic Surgery, Director of UPMC Wound Healing Services, and Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, was instrumental in helping Dr. Thakrar with his plans to run in an upcoming race for which he was training prior to the accident.

After Dr. Thakrar’s above-the-keen amputation, he was experiencing phantom pain in the missing limb.  Phantom pain involves the sensation of pain in a part of the body that has been removed.  Symptoms can include: Onset within the first few days of amputation. Comes and goes or is continuous. Often affects the part of the limb farthest from the body, such as the foot of an amputated leg. May be described as shooting, stabbing, boring, squeezing, throbbing, or burning. Sometimes feels as if the phantom part is forced into an uncomfortable position. May be triggered by pressure on the remaining part of the limb or emotional stress.

To alleviate the phantom pain Dr. Thakrar was experiencing, Dr. Rubin first removed the scar tissue from the original amputation site and then placed fat, excised from another part of Dr. Thakrar’s body, to this same site.  The fat provided additional soft tissue padding around the injured nerve endings of Dr. Thakrar’s leg.  Most importantly, the fat tissue includes a population of naturally occurring stem cells which help with healing. Dr. Rubin initially developed and conducted this tissue reconstruction process for injured military personnel.

“I was so delighted,” Dr. Rubin told PEOPLE (The TV Show!). “I mean, what a wonderful, wonderful outcome, to be able to go from essentially barely getting through your day and barely getting around to running a 5K… That was just wonderful. How amazing to see him reach that goal of actually completing a 5K. It’s just terrific.”

Watch Drs. Thakrar and Rubin’s story here.