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 31 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 and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type II, 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 and 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 Hotter Than Hell 100 Mile Bike Ride HH100 (2016) and training for more CrossFit events. I am blessed every day for how the ExoSym has changed my life. As luck would have it, things unfortunately took a turn for the worse when I fell from a rope in early 2016 landing on my ExoSym leg, injuring my heel which ended up altering my gait because of the pain. Then a few months later, I was injured in an automobile accident, sustaining head and back injuries. Despite these challenges, I pressed on determined (and very stubborn) not to let anything slow me down. However, in early 2018, the pain from in my leg became more than I could bear. Imaging showed extensive injury throughout my leg, leading to a worsening of my nerve condition (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome II). From 2018 to 2020, I’ve since had nine additional surgeries, two peripheral nerve stimulators (Bioness) implanted and spent a lot of time on crutches in and out of the hospital getting treatments and many months of intensive physical therapy. My leg injuries and nerve condition form a complex situation that I am continuing to work through and make progress with, but it has been a long journey. I am extremely grateful for my team of doctors, physical therapists, and specialists who have been by my side through the last few years helping me through, and my family and friends who have never stopped supporting me (including #TeamExoSym).

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. With my change in health, I haven’t been able to keep the blog as current as it once was, but my hope is that whether you are looking to get the ExoSym (IDEO), you have the ExoSym, or you just happen to come across the site, you can find inspiration 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.

8 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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    2. Hi I connected with Jude’s comment as I also have a moderate to severe osteoarthritic ankle (from a rollerblading accident 25 years ago). At 55 I am a bit on the younger side for total ankle replacement so my Doctor recommended this amazing brace. I am still in awe that a brace can do what this one does! I am curious if Jude was able to get help? I too love to hike, travel and cook and would love to walk our dog again. I have been so impressed and inspired by Beth’s strength and resilience and also very grateful for this blog.. I am in information gathering stage and would also like to know if I am a candidate for the brace. With gratitude, Lisa – GA.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Beth, please give Lisa Jones my email address, I’d be more than happy to tell her of my experience. I am fully mobile and without pain.
        Thank you and best wishes to you Beth,
        Jude Clarke

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  2. Hi Beth, I just got my mold/ cast made for my new exosym brace. I haven’t walked in a year and a half due to a terrible car accident that mangled my right leg. They were going to amputate my leg, but my son said, “no” to the ER doctor. I’ve always been healthy & active (hiking, Pilates & Bikram yoga). This has been a tough, and challenging road! I get my exosym in about a month and I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I’m taking pics so, I can share my experience being a woman (late in my years) going thru this. Thanks for sharing your story. I watched your story on YouTube several times before arriving to the Hanger Clinic at Gig Harbor.
    One thing that made me sad, was not being able to wear my fashion shoes. Do you know of any site or business that sells shoes specific for exosym patients? I never wore tennis shoes except for playing tennis , every shoe in my closet had a specific job (e.g. hiking boots, fashion shoes, flip flops for beach, Dansko for work), lol! BTW, I have not been able to put a shoe on my right foot since the accident. Ryan had to slice the right tennis shoe to get my foot into it. But I’m not giving up hope. I hope and pray for your recovery & strength.
    Thanks! Please, Keep the blog going!

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    1. Hi Jacqueline, I’m so sorry to just now be seeing your comment! I hope you are doing great in your ExoSym. I’ve always had great luck with Brooks and New Balance brands because they are wider in the toe box – but definitely check with Ryan as he may have some specific suggestions for your set-up. The ExoSym Facebook group is a great resource as well. I hope you make it back to all the things you love – hiking, pilates and yoga. Don’t give up hope! XO – Beth

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