Today, I am honored to share with you a very special story about ExoSym (IDEO) device user & Hanger Clinic patient, Liz E.
While training for a triathlon in April of 2014, Liz was hit by a driver – the impact dragging her over 30 feet along the pavement as her bike seat impaled her left side shattering her pelvis & detaching it from the spine, breaking her left leg & foot, fracturing her neck, breaking her back, as well as her right wrist. Liz was given less than a 5% chance of making it through the night and if she did, the likelihood of her racing again, let alone walking, was close to none. The damage from the injury also caused massive bleeding to her internal organs, requiring multiple surgeries to fix. Because of the extensive damage, one third of Liz’s glute had to be removed and her foot had to be put back together. All odds were against Liz, but Liz held on. ♥
In June, Liz was transferred to a hospital closer to home where she could begin the recovery process. Confined to a wheelchair and required to wear a back brace, neck brace and two boots, the once active Liz found it hard to sit still. As time went by, triathlete Liz slowly began racing her wheelchair up and down the halls, putting in two miles in the morning and two miles in the afternoon – something she said gave her the hope she needed to keep fighting. In July, Liz was released to start walking, but her left leg was paralyzed and the damage to her hamstring, hip and glute made it difficult to achieve the progress she wanted. Liz dedicated herself to physical therapy sessions as if they were training sessions for a race and this hunger to ‘keep pushing’ helped to get her through the difficult days of recovery. At the end of July, Liz was released to go home. A truly amazing day for not only Liz and her family, but for the staff at the hospital who were inspired by Liz’s remarkable recovery.
Once back at home, Liz continued to make more progress. She felt liberated to be walking again and astonished that she really didn’t have any lingering pain from the horrific accident. However, what frustrated Liz the most was the weakness in her paralyzed leg and her inability to be able to run and ride her bike. With one third of her glute missing, Liz lacked the strength to move with power. To aid in her walking, Liz was fitted with an AFO brace, where she met a man by the name of Jason who unbeknownst to her at the time, would help to change her life. ♥ Jason told Liz about a friend of his named Ryan who had developed the ExoSym (IDEO) device, something he felt may be just what Liz needed to get back to the active lifestyle she once had. At the time, the device was still only available to the military, so while she waited for it to become available to civilians, Liz began swimming and riding a stationary bike – determined not to let anything stop her from getting back to racing again. In January, Liz went back to see Jason for a follow-up and he showed her a few civilian videos of the ExoSym (IDEO) in action– Liz was overwhelmed to tears. Within a week, Liz placed a call to the Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor, WA to speak to Ryan and by the end of February, Liz and her husband were on their way to the clinic.
Liz’s first day in the clinic was truly eye opening. She was amazed by all the patients running around, pulling weighted sleds, kicking punching bags – she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. After putting on the test device, Liz felt ready to go. She started walking in it and eventually had to be told to take a break because she never sat down. ☺ For the first time since her injury, Liz felt like she was going to be able to get back to being a triathlete again. When Liz received her final device, there was no stopping her! Throughout her week at the clinic training with David & Jared, the physical therapists, Liz gave it everything she had. From rowing, to weights, to balance, everyday felt like a gift and Liz was happy to finally have someone pushing her again. She admits it was hard seeing other patients excelling faster than her, but then she remembered that everyone’s injuries are different and each person’s training and recovery is unique. This realization helped Liz to stay focused and push herself to “run her own race.” A great reminder that even though we all have the ExoSym (IDEO) device, we all come from different situations and afflictions. As Liz approached her final day of training, she was excited to learn that she would get to ride a real bike for the first time since her accident. At first, it was a little hard to get going, but once she got the hang of it, she didn’t want to get off. She just kept pedaling around the parking lot, time and time again! Ryan and team also helped her with learning how to dismount and fall down in a way that would mitigate the least damage. Though many feared Liz might not want to try this, Liz went after it like a champ.
After returning home, Liz continued to work on exercises that she learned at the clinic. She began by walking up and down her driveway and then progressed to running down it and walking up it. In one month, she was jogging up it and was able to run two miles around her neighborhood! May 29th, Liz did her first 5K race since the accident. She finished in 45 minutes. #simplyamazing. In the past year, Liz has completed five 5K’s and she is hoping to do a 10K race here soon. A local bike store donated her a new Trek bike to get her back into racing again and she has now been able to ride 10-60 miles holding an average of 16 – 17mph on the road. Her swimming is improving and she is finding a strength within her that she didn’t know she had. Without the device, Liz wouldn’t be able to run, bike or walk without a limp and it still amazes her how much she can now do. She’s able to go to rock concerts again and jump up and down like everyone else. Liz is back to being herself again.
Since her accident, Liz has been dedicated to increasing bike safety in her community. It’s something she is very passionate about and hopes her story will inspire others to be watchful when they are driving near a cyclist. She is also helping to train people for races as well as encouraging her hometown to become more active. Liz will soon begin her training for the Salty Dog Triathlon in Wichita this upcoming summer – the same triathlon that she had been training for in 2014 when she was hit by the car. The Project Athena Foundation will be sponsoring Liz to help her train for and get to the event, an emotional and financial support she is very thankful to have.
Most of all, Liz would like to thank the staff at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis in Wichita for saving her life as well as the Medicine Lodge Memorial Hospital for their care in her recovery. She would also like to thank Jason, for without his help in putting her in contact with Ryan, she may never have discovered the ExoSym (IDEO) device. But more than anyone, Liz would like to thank Ryan Blanck for giving her back the gift of mobility. She is so appreciative of his support and faith in her and it’s because of the ExoSym (IDEO) device, Liz will race again. ♥
A truly incredible story of recovery and the passion to pursue life. You are an amazing person, Liz and your story is a reminder that no matter how difficult the road to recovery may be, you simply cannot give up. In the hard times, when you feel like you want to quit, always remember why you started.
#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAMAZING
An incredible story of courage, determination and faith. Liz, hope to see you at a Project Athena event in the future!