By: ExoSym Patient Lisa Cazacu
There are times in your life when you are injured or disabled that you just want to give up. Then you hear about a device that could possibly give you a new direction. For many of us that has been our story when we heard about the IDEO/ExoSym device offered by the Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor, Washington.
Once your doctor writes your prescription; your paperwork to the clinic is submitted and approved; you have a date with Ryan Blanck for the typically week-long process of getting fitted and trained; what’s your next step? Booking your travel.
For many patients this means flying into SeaTac International Airport, renting a car, driving to Gig Harbor and staying at the Best Western in Gig Harbor. The Best Western is down the street from Hanger Clinic. This is a wonderful hotel that offers year round rates of $125 for clinic patients.
When I started to make my travel plans, my family decided to make it a family affair. We combined both my need for medical necessary travel with some family fun. We had never been to the Northwest part of the United States are were thrilled to have the opportunity to explore Seattle and the surrounding area. We chose to stay at a hotel near SeaTac Airport and rented a car. On our first trip we chose Fairfield Inn as they had free breakfast and parking, as we were there for the whole week. On a subsequent trip we stayed at the Marriott at SeaTac as they had an indoor heated pool and were there only a few days.
In the mornings, I would drive myself to Gig Harbor through Tacoma and over the Highway 16 Bridge. This daily drive took about 45 minutes inclusive of a stop at a Starbuck’s in Tacoma right off the highway. When I left for the Hanger Clinic, my family would head to the light Rail station, called Light Link near the hotel. Most SeaTac hotels offer shuttle service to the rail station.
The family would spend the mornings exploring Pikes Place Market, the Seattle Museum’s free Olympic Sculpture Park or the troll in the fun Fremont Area, considered by many to be the center of the universe.
Also, I do not think a trip to Seattle would be complete without a visit to the Gum Wall. Albeit a bit gross, the wall is unique and colorful. It is located near Pikes Place Market. Be sure you are chewing gum so you can add to the collection.
Although each patient if different, on most days, I was done at the clinic around lunch time. I would drive back to the hotel. Know that the drive back was much quicker but did include a $5 bridge toll over the Highway 16 Bridge. I parked the car at the hotel and then took the light rail to meet my family in the city. The first few days, I did not actually have my device yet and walking even short distances at the time was difficult. When I would meet up with my family in the city, we used Uber and Lyft a lot to get around and limit time on my feet.
There are many wonderful sites to see in the Seattle area. The Visit Seattle website offers great information. We thoroughly enjoyed the Space Needle and the adjacent Chihuly Garden and Glass. The Chihuly was actually a highlight of our time in Seattle. Chihuly’s art evokes deep emotions and the arts esthetic beauty is magnificent.
We visited the Space Needle and the Chihuly on the weekend before my week at Hanger. We booked ahead for the first flight up of the day. There were no lines and no crowds. By the time we finished at the Space Needle and the Chihuly the line stretched as far as the eye could see, and that was for those with a reservation already.
We also visited a museum in Tacoma. We even visited the sister Chihuly, the Museum of Glass which includes an outdoor Chihuly bridge. Besides the art, the other reason to visit the Tacoma Museum of Glass is that it is right across the street from South Sound Running. This is one of the stores Hanger directs you to get appropriate footwear. They are very familiar with IDEO/ExoSym patients. Most of us need two different size shoes and they will sell two shoes, two different sizes for the price of one pair. Bonus that you can get art and shoes in one city block.
One morning, my family came with me to the Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor. They explored the city while I was at the clinic. Gig Harbor is on Puget Sound and has wonderful paths to explore, shops to visit and delicious food to experience. After I was done at the clinic, we headed to Mt. Rainier. If you are up to it, there are tons of hiking paths. Or you can drive the incredibly scenic route through and around the park. This is also a not to miss experience and can be done in an afternoon during Daylight Savings time while you have plenty of afternoon and early evening light.
Another unusual activity that we enjoyed was the Seattle Underground tour. I had my device by this day and was still training in it. But this tour offered a good experience for any issues that came up with that device that I could address at the clinic the next day. Know that the Underground tour is as cheesy as it gets. Corny jokes, comedians as tour guides and about 20 people per tour. That said, it is still worth it. You have the opportunity to explore a part of Seattle that used to be street level but is now underground. It is intriguing, a little spooky and historically fascinating.
Know that your work at Hanger is a priority and combining work and play made for some very spectacular days that were exhausting at times, but the effort is totally worth it on both accounts. Being able to use my device outside of the clinic while still in the area was invaluable. Seeing the Seattle area with my family was priceless.
Lisa Cazacu has had her ExoSym for more than 18 months. She had made two trips to Gig Harbor, her initial week and a week in December of 2016 for some adjustments. When Lisa is not at the gym, a new found interest since she got her device, she travels to her office with the State of Texas working on communications projects. She was is also a published author, detailing her time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Romania in, Bread, Salt and Plum Brandy – A true story of Love and Adventure in a Foreign Land.