In his Cazadero home, Joe Meisch is packaging and shipping a remarkable medical device. It is one that, at the same time, is both helping patients and healing its creator.
"I went from beating myself up to feeling, I don't know, maybe a little redemption," Meisch said.
Meisch was a soldier for 13 years, working as a combat engineer. He says his years of service left him hurting both physically and emotionally. The deaths of two fellow soldiers, Curtis Young and Michael Ottolini, weighing heavily on his mind.
"It was a pile-driver, man," Meisch said. "Call it (post-traumatic stress), guilt, I don't know. Whatever you want to call it, I started going through it."
Headaches, Meisch said, were one of the main symptoms for him. They were something for which he couldn't find relief until one day, by accident, he rubbed the tips of his sunglasses over his temples.
"I'm driving and I felt relief," Meisch said. "I'm going to be a temple massager tomorrow."
Problem was, there was no such thing as a "temple massager" on the market. So, Meisch invented one. A handheld, y-shaped device, Meisch's Temple Massager allows a user to give themselves a head massage with minimal effort.
For Meisch, the device worked like a charm. He used it not only to alleviate or prevent headaches, but to reduce stress and help him sleep. Meisch was sure there were other veterans out there who struggled with the same issue and could benefit from such a device.
Offers were made to help Meisch market and sell his devices but he was more interested in getting them in the hands of those who needed them. He covered all the production costs and refused to take money in return for the devices. Meisch felt that by giving the massagers away he was also paying back a debt he still owed to Young and Ottolini.
"What is it that you can give short of giving all?" Meisch said. "I was like, 'I'm giving this away' and that's that."
Over the past decade, Meisch has sent more than three thousand temple massagers to soldiers in Afghanistan, veterans hospitals, and to first responders to some of California's biggest wildfires.
Not long after the massagers went out, the positive feedback flowed in. Meisch has folders full of glowing testimonials about the massager's ability to help people de-stress, relax, and sleep.
Whenever Meisch needs a reminder why he continues to put so much of his time and energy into the device, he just reads the letters. "I'm not a big bible thumper, dude, but I get down on my knees and I pray to my creator and I'm like, 'Thank you for giving me the strength to ride this out, to help other people. That's my mission, so I'm grateful.'"
After all his effort, Meisch said big things are looming for his Temple Massager. The Defense and Veteran Brain Injury Center in Palo Alto is in the process of conducting a pilot study about the effectiveness of the device and he recently shipped his first big paid order to the Veterans Administration.