Imagine being told that you will likely never run again. Then, imagine being given that gift back. This is my story and this is my mission, to inspire people that no matter what happens in life, you must never give up.

My name is Beth Shaver and I am 29 years old. In 2011, at the age of 23, I severely injured my ankle in a soccer game requiring four surgeries over the course of two years. Due to complications from the surgeries, I was left with severe pain limiting my ability to be functional – even walking at all. Faced with the possibility of never running again, let alone living without pain, I traveled the country in search of possible solutions – even to the point of considering elective amputation. In 2013, I was extremely fortunate to find the ExoSym (IDEO) limb salvage device through the Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor, WA – a new technology allowing those with severe lower leg injuries & conditions to stand and walk/run again without pain. (The ExoSym is a hybrid prosthetic/orthotic design that uses a dynamic energy storing strut system to provide injury specific deflection and power, all while maintaining control and minimizing pain.) In November 2013, I became the second civilian and first female civilian, to receive the ExoSym (IDEO) device and it changed my life. ♥

After receiving the ExoSym, I felt like I had been given a second chance and I decided I wanted to pay it forward. So at the beginning of 2015, I began a fashion & inspirational blog for women who wear the device so that I could help them see that fashion is still possible and to remind them of the beauty in their strength and all that they’ve overcome. After a devastating injury / illness, it can be easy to shut yourself away and not want to talk about it. When I was injured, I felt like this initially but when I received the ExoSym, I gradually became more open with my family and my friends and I feel this support was extremely important. Acceptance is an important step in helping you move forward. It is my hope that this blog will help people with their “acceptance journey” and inspire them to find the beauty in their strength and dare to be ExoSymplyAmazing.

I want people to know that anything is possible with a #nevergiveup mentality! To date, my ExoSym highlights include: completing a 120 mile adventure race (2014), running several half marathons (2015, 2017), placing second in the Working Wounded CrossFit Games in North Carolina (2016), running countless races (running is my favorite!), completing a 24hr adventure race (2016), riding the HH100 (2016) and training for more CrossFit events. I am blessed every day for how the ExoSym has changed my life. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse when I was hit by a car in an automobile accident in Dec. 2016, sustaining serious head and back injuries. Because of this, I had to take some time away from the blog to focus on my recovery. Thankfully, after seven and half months of therapy, I was back on course doing what I love – living ExoSymplyAmazing, once again! In early 2018, some pain in my leg started catching up with me and through months of testing and research, doctors discovered that several nerve and musculoskeletal issues were likely missed from my original injury in 2011 and other injuries from the past few years [like falling from a rope] combined to rapidly accelerate my nerve condition (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome II) – something no one could predict. From April to July of 2018, I had three more intensive surgeries and spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital through the fall getting treatments and trying to recover. My leg injury and nerve condition form a unique situation that I am continuing to work through, but I am grateful for my team of doctors who are dedicated to getting me back up on my feet [and off my crutches!] so that I can get back to living life without pain, and return to the ExoSym, or even better, need a device only for activity.

When I received the ExoSym device in 2013, as well as when I started this blog, the ExoSym was called the IDEO and the name of this blog was IDEOnista | be YOU. be FABULOUS. When name of the device for civilians changed from IDEO to ExoSym in late 2015, I decided to roll with the times and update the blog so that all would be able to locate as a resource. (ExoSym is the civilian term for the device and IDEO is the military term). So as you skim through this site, you may still see ‘IDEO’ and ‘IDEOnista’ referenced from time to time. This is why. I left many of the original posts with “IDEO” as a tribute to the name that started it all. With the transition and new name of the blog, I decided to focus more on writing stories about patients (men & women alike!) who have received the device. While I still offer style advice & inspiration, it is my mission to showcase more of these special features on patients & their accomplishments because each one of them has a special story to share. So, whether you are looking to get the ExoSym (IDEO), you have the ExoSym, or you just happen to come across the site, I hope you are inspired by these stories to never, ever give up. In life, we have two choices: we can give up, or we can go on. I hope that no matter what challenges you face, you always choose to go on. ♥ 

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAMAZING

Click here to watch my story on the Hanger Clinic ExoSym page. XO

March 2014 O&P Almanac article

Project Athena Foundation | What will you do in 2015?

Note: ExoSymplyAmazing is personal blog/Insta, run by me as a patient, and is in no way affiliated, or influenced by the Hanger Clinic, and is not something I am paid to do; simply a blog/Insta I run, in my own free time, out of the pure love from my heart to help my fellow ExoSym buddies (and future ExoSym patients) find hope, inspiration, and motivation.

3 Comments

  1. You are a warrior with great empathy, Beth. Thank you for continuing this blog. I am a possible future exosym patient. Do you have a patient story re ankle/foot end stage osteoarthritis? I have had systemic lupus for 42 years, since I was 21. I need a total ankle replacement plus a fusion but am a high risk patient for surgery due to my kidney transplant 3 years ago. For 5 years, I have been unable to hike, travel, cook, shop, etc due to severe pain and stiffness while standing and walking. Ryan has been too busy to get back to me re my questions re my condition. If you have any information re the exosym compatibility with foot/ankle osteoarthritis, and could send it through my email address, I would be so grateful. I am desperate to regain my life activities and have basically tried every avenue except surgery because of the risks of infection and nonunion, and the possible need for additional surgeries. With admiration, Jude, Canada

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    1. Hi Jude, thanks so much for reaching out & for your kind words. I’m so sorry to hear about your ankle troubles, though I know how hard ankle issues can be. I do have someone in mind for you to speak with – I will reach out to you on your email. Stay strong. ♥️ Your friend, Beth

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