James DeJesus lost the use of his legs in an industrial accident. But thanks to a state program for employing the handicapped, he was hired more than 20 years ago to work on Morgan Lane, and he has worked at the same location, for different owners, ever since.
“I had a lot of nerve damage,” says DeJesus, “and I was in the hospital for a year. I found an article in the doctors’ library article about regenerating nerves. When I asked the doctor if I could work with this project, he was glad to accept me.”
“We brought him along to feel he was part of the company; we’re happy that things have worked out for him,” says Joe Nichols, who made the original hire along with Ernie Rich, co-founder of Helitrex.
DeJesus was born in New York, the son of a hotel manager, and he finished two years of college. One of his brothers is a school principal in Trenton.
Through all the company changes, “I kept on doing my work,” says DeJesus. He devised some of the samples that persuaded Boston Scientific to be Integra’s first large investor.
DeJesus was responsible for preparing nerve conduits and has become an expert on that. He built a testing machine that records data on how quickly the nerve conduits are absorbed, while the new nerves are being formed. He would have liked to see his name on a patent for this, but because of the sensitive technology, it had it had to be considered, instead, a trade secret.
His disability, DeJesus believes, helped him to concentrate on the work, and he holds out the hope that the technology he is working on will give him back his legs.
“People with disabilities have the ability to do something important,” says Richard Caruso, founder of Integra Life Sciences. “Jimmy is a diligent employee and, when you think about it, a major inspiration to us all.”