ExoSym Patient Spotlight: Lane

Today, I’d like you to meet Hanger Clinic ExoSym (IDEO) device patient, Lane, an incredibly inspirational guy whose story reveals what it truly means to survive and thrive in the face of extreme adversity.

In the years leading up to his injury, Lane worked as a McCall Smokejumper and a Marine – two paths that channeled his inner passion to make a difference in the world. Growing up in Tucson, Arizona, Lane was very active and always loved a challenge. Often pinned as the underdog in many circumstances, Lane always took pride in overcoming the odds stacked against him – a strength he didn’t yet fully understand would prove to be the key to his recovery. ♥

Lane firejumper

On January 27, 2013, Lane headed to San Jacinto, California for a paragliding trip with his friends – something he did on a regular basis, many times before. However, little did he know, today would be much different. About an hour after taking off, turbulent wind conditions (reaching speeds of over 45 mph) pushed Lane behind a ridge, where his glider collapsed, as he fell 80 feet straight into the ground below. Within the first two hours of impact, Lane bled out and flat lined, leaving little possibility for him to survive. Suffering over 32 major injuries, it would take Lane more than five months to learn to walk again. As Lane fought for his life in the ICU, he was surrounded by friends and family who never left his side. Ventilators, blood clots, life support, and many surgeries – it was a near miracle when Lane came out of his coma on his birthday. Lane was eventually transferred to a rehabilitation hospital in Arizona where he would stay for months as he pushed through intense physical therapy. As hard as these days were, he credits the incredible medical staff for what they did to keep him going. He’ll never forget the day his nurse said to him, “Lane, you’re at a point where you need to decide if you’re going into the rehab ward or to a nursing home.” It was all Lane needed to hear to keep pressing on. ♥

Lane hospital

On April 23, 2013, three months after the accident, Lane was released to go home – a day many, including Lane’s doctors and nurses, were not sure would ever be possible. While at home, Lane continued his daily physical therapy and with the help of a walker, Lane stood up & took his first steps for the first time in five months. #simplyamazing From there, Lane was fitted with an AFO brace so that he wouldn’t drag his paralyzed right foot that had lost function from the fall. Three months later, Lane went back in for another surgery to remove the ossification that had formed in his right arm, locking it in place. Now able to walk with the help of a cane and his AFO, Lane decided it was time to reach for more – hiking Tempe Arizona’s “A” Mountain. Surrounded and supported by friends and family, Lane did what would have appeared impossible just months ago, he made it to the top. In September, having reached insurmountable milestones in his therapy, Lane and his cane headed back to work in McCall, Idaho to rejoin his fire jumping buddies. Hand controls in his car made it possible for him to drive again and Lane felt lucky to not only be back at work, but to be alive. Though not able to return to jumping on the front lines, Lane was happy to be back with familiar faces again and helping to create fire educational training videos and resilience workshops. Lane continued with physical therapy, but struggled with his weak and damaged right leg. Driven by an innate sense of resilience and determination, Lane then set two goals for himself, (1) to walk without a cane and (2) to walk three miles with a pack. Lofty goals by some people’s standards, but not for Lane. Unfortunately, as the nerve regeneration began to slow in his right leg, Lane ultimately considered amputation as the only means to regain full use of his leg again& walk without a cane. Thankfully, his orthopedic surgeon recommended Lane exhaust all possible solutions before moving forward with the amputation and on October 6th 2014, Lane headed to the Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor, WA to be fitted with the ExoSym (IDEO) device. A day his dreams of increased mobility were realized – a day Lane let go of the cane. ★

For Lane, the ExoSym has not only enabled him to put his walker and cane in the closet, but has returned him to a life where he can use two hands again. Use of his hands not only allows Lane to get more done, but he can do the simple things in life like carry groceries and pursue his passion of photography again. Since receiving the ExoSym, Lane has returned to backpacking and most notably –to flying again. In February 2015, with the aid of the ExoSym, Lane went on his first independently launched paragliding flight and to date Lane has now had over 70 flights since his accident! Incredible. ☺ While returning to flying has been more than amazing, Lane has his sights set on running again – something that just simply wouldn’t be in the cards without the ExoSym device. His goals for 2016 are to build up enough strength and endurance to complete a 5K – and I have no doubt Lane will keep working towards this goal with everything he has. No matter how great these accomplishments have been for Lane, he says the best moment in his device was picking up, holding, and walking with his 2 year old niece for the first time. The ExoSym freed up both hands and provided the support and balance needed to carry and walk with his best buddy.

Lane beach

Lane’s favorite athletic shoe to wear with the ExoSym is a pair of Pearl Izumi’s. The shoe has a loop in the back, making it much easier to slide the device into the shoe. When working in the forest or backpacking, Lane sports a pair of Meindl’s. He recommends purchasing a shoe horn and also says trekking poles have helped with handling uneven terrain by providing balance and confidence when taking on mountainous lands. Great advice for those who are looking for extra support in the backcountry! Lane’s a big fan of the Zensah compression socks and sometimes pairs thicker knee compression sleeves when doing a lot of walking in the device.

If there is one thing Lane wishes people knew about him, it would be how much effort the little things require – from the half hour it takes to get his shoes and ExoSym on, to climbing a few flights of stairs – these things take time. While he certainly doesn’t want or expect to be treated differently, he wishes people expressed a little more patience. Through his recovery, Lane has learned a lot about speaking to others facing setbacks and advises that when talking to someone who is struggling, it’s best if you acknowledge the reality of the circumstance. If something is bad, it’s okay to say that. In some ways, you legitimize the statement with sincere honesty. He says it’s also helpful to hear “I have no idea what that’s like.” While society encourages supporters to say things like “I understand”, Lane advises tough experiences should be acknowledged independently. Most importantly, it’s imperative to express hope and recognize past accomplishments. Ask someone how they are doing and be sure to follow-up. All good advice from someone who knows firsthand what it’s like to be on the other side of these conversations.

It’s important to note that Lane’s 80ft. paragliding fall and learning to walk again are by no means the end of his story. Through his ongoing recovery, Lane broke his right femur on a hike {pre-ExoSym}, – a pretty serious injury that many wondered would set him back long-term again. But Lane pushed through. Four months after receiving the ExoSym, Lane fractured his spine (again) in a car accident and seven months post Exo-Sym, Lane endured multiple staph infections in his right leg forcing him to be without the device as it healed. If that wasn’t enough, one month later, Lane suffered multiple grand-mal seizures resulting in the diagnosis of epilepsy. No longer able to drive, Lane completely revised his plans and in true spirit, revised his path yet again.

Lane award

Lane would like to express his sincere gratitude to the paraglider pilots and medical staff for their efforts in helping him to survive and thrive. He simply wouldn’t be here today without their dedicated care and support. He would also like to thank his physical therapists and nurses who never let him give up and always pushed him to keep fighting. Notably, Lane would like to thank Ryan Blanck for truly changing his life with the ExoSym. For Lane, the device opens the door to greater options in life and the ability to be independent and Lane is forever thankful to Ryan for making his dreams of walking unassisted a reality. ♥

So what’s next for Mr. Lane? If he’s not up in the sky, he’s busy working on writing a book about his journey to recovery and hopes to inspire those going through hard times to find a way to keep going. In line with his passion to help people, Lane also works as an independent contractor creating fire training videos and was most recently awarded a contract by the National Interagency Fire Center for his work on Stress & Resilience and his upcoming videos on tree hazards and medevacs. {And without a doubt, you can always find Lane in the great outdoors with his camera ☺}

To read more about Lane’s work & the cool things he is working on, check out the links below:

More than an incredible story of survival, Lane’s journey to lose the cane is a lesson in resilience and the power of the human spirit. You have to fight for what you want in life because no one is going to do that for you. You have to want it for yourself. When challenges come your way, remember Lane and remember that you have a choice. Challenge everything. Do anything. Don’t just survive. THRIVE.

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

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