Today, I am honored to share with you a special story about my friend, ExoSym (IDEO) device & Hanger Clinic patient, Matt, an Army Veteran and 13+ year Seattle Firefighter who is an incredible person, husband, father, and athlete.

Matt Firefighter

One afternoon, while leaving the fire station, Matt was headed to a charity bike event on his motorcycle, when not six blocks away from the station he was t-boned by a car running a red light. The impact crushed his left forefoot, leaving his big toe hanging out of his exploded boot. Thankfully, Matt’s firefighter buddies were in proximity and were able to get to him right away, a support he was very thankful to have. Matt spent several weeks in the hospital for orthopedic and tissue surgeries, then four months non-weight bearing for healing. The words used in his medical records were “mangled foot”. The accident left Matt without a big toe, half a pinky toe, and a non-functioning forefoot – and ultimately the likelihood of never running again, or even returning to his active lifestyle as a firefighter. While the ExoSym (IDEO) is a limb salvage device for most, for Matt it became prosthetic forefoot.

In March 2016, Matt will have had his device for two years, which looking back it’s pretty amazing to see how far he has come. He’s not only returned to work as a firefighter, but he’s running 25 miles a week and counting! ★ #simplyamazing Possibly one of the greatest gifts of the device is that it’s allowed Matt to do normal things like go to the tree farm with his family, play soccer with his daughter – be the husband and father he wants to be. For Matt, the device has returned him to a life nearly taken from him and he couldn’t be more thankful. ♥

Matt and Family
Matt & family

For running shoes, Matt started in the Brooks Glycerin, but now prefers the New Balance 780 v5. Because of Matt’s love of running, he tends to crush through his kicks pretty quickly, so he has a few pairs. ☺ For work, Matt rotates between two types of boots. His station boots are Magnum 6″ side zip boots, but he’s getting ready to switch to a slip on duty boot made by Redbacks. His firefighting boot is a Pro Warrington with soft uppers and a zipper with a lanyard down the inside. For compression socks, Matt wears the Swiftwick brand offered at the Hanger Clinic. When he goes to work, he often has to wear the sock for a full 24 hour shift and says it works great for him. 

Matt’s best advice to new users is not to limit yourself, but also don’t get discouraged. Returning to the level of physical activity he once had, has been a slow, methodical process. He feels like this may be in part to his age, however, Matt’s advice is to realize you’re not just returning to running, you are learning a new way to run. Pay close attention to the subtle nuances of how to use the device. By listening closely to the instructions given by Ryan, Jared, and David, you can learn how to maximize the use of the ExoSym (IDEO). Most importantly, after your training is done, Matt says you must go out and USE your device. Use it a lot! If you like running, run! If you enjoy biking, hiking, climbing… whatever it is, you must do it so much that it becomes second nature. Remember, this is how you learned to do the simple things you do every day and it’s how you’ll re-learn it again. Matt is a proud device wearer and says you should be too! When it’s summer, he doesn’t hesitate to wear shorts and show off his struts. Wonderful advice that all can use. Work hard, don’t get discouraged, and be proud. You haven’t come all this way for nothing! ★

Ragnar Relay – Northwest Passage

One of the greatest accomplishments in his device so far, was completing the Race for a Soldier Half Marathon this past Sept in Gig Harbor, WA – Matt’s first distance race since his injury. (& he was awesome, I saw him!) Matt admits he got a little emotional with his wife and Ryan when he crossed the finish line – it was a big moment, proof to himself that he could return to distance running again. Probably his second greatest moment, was the first time he was able to kick in a door with his device – he really blew that thing up! Blew the jam out. Matt’s stuffed a few since then and says it’s a true blast – these doors are no match for carbon fiber! ☺ But the absolute BEST moment was the first day he came home with the device on. Matt’s daughter met him at the front steps and asked if they could go for a run around the block – something Matt says just simply wouldn’t have been possible without the device. It was a day that he will always remember. ♥

Matt and Daughter
Matt & daughter

So what’s next for Mr. Matt? Looks like a marathon may be in the works. Now that he’s conquered a few Ragnar Relay’s and a half marathon, he’s ready to reach for the full. There’s no stopping this guy! He’s a truly amazing athlete and I can tell you he always has the biggest smile. Pure happiness. ☺

Most of all, Matt would like to thank Ryan Blanck for all he has done to change his life. He’s not sure if he can ever truly relate to Ryan how thankful he is for him, for what he does for us, for how much he cares. When Matt finished the Race for a Soldier Half Marathon, Ryan was there waiting at the finish as they both embraced in a big, sweaty hug, which Matt says probably lingered a bit too long for two grown men… ☺ but hopefully conveyed his true appreciation for the impact Ryan has had on his life. Retired US Navy Seal ExoSym (IDEO) device user Jimmy Hatch said it best at the Race for a Soldier opening ceremony, “Ryan Blanck has a heart as big as this room, probably bigger.” {We were in an auditorium}. A truly amazing man whom which many of us would not be where we are today without him. ♥

Matt and Ryan
Matt & Ryan – Race for a Soldier

Thank you, Matt for your indomitable spirit and for what you do every day to continue protecting the lives of others. You are an inspiration to all and we thank you for your service. #nevergiveup

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

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