ExoSym Patient Spotlight: Saydrah

Today, I’d like you to meet Hanger Clinic ExoSym (IDEO) patient, Saydrah, a hiker, climber and all around outdoor enthusiast from Missoula, Montana.  A little over two years ago, while bouldering in a climbing gym in her hometown, Saydrah fell, severely injuring her left ankle – fracturing both the talar and calcaneal bones. Three painful surgeries later, after learning that the cartilage between the bones was damaged, Saydrah was ready to amputate. However, her doctor wanted her to try to the ExoSym first.

Saydrah has had her ExoSym device for about eight months now and says it not only has allowed her to regain control of her life, but it has saved her from suffering from chronic pain – something she didn’t think would be possible without amputation.  Living for the beauty of each sunrise and sunset, Saydrah is back on the trails – hiking and biking nearly every day and not just your up and back loop – Saydrah bikes 620ft of elevation gain near her home, hikes to the top about 1.5 miles up and then rides back home another 3 miles! #amazing While her ankle still does tend to swell at times, she’s found that Swiftwick compression socks really help to keep the inflammation in check. Saydrah also maintains a solid stretching program inclusive of yoga poses which she says helps to keep her body limber.

Saydrah

#beYOU #beAMAZING.

Saydrah sports New Balance as her favorite shoe brand and Swiftwick for her compression. She recommends other ExoSym patients give yoga a try, saying it’s one of the most important things that has helped her to regain her balance. Having limped around for two years, overcompensating on one side of her body, it’s definitely thrown her alignment out of whack and she credits yoga for helping to restore the equilibrium. #ExoSymYOGI

In the fall, Saydrah plans to return to school to finish her Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resource Conservation Management – something she says just wouldn’t be possible if weren’t for the ExoSym device. Living by the quote, “Like a flower you must allow yourself to grow in places people thought you never would” – Saydrah is learning to let the light in again. While she admits this injury hasn’t been an easy road, finding the device & ExoSym community has certainly changed things for the better – allowing her to make goals for her life and dream again. If there is one thing that Saydrah could say to Ryan Blanck at the Hanger Clinic it would be to thank him – “Because of you, I get to lead a happier life – whereas once I was controlled by pain, I now have control over my life and it means the world to me.”

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An inspiring person who reminds us that through the hardest times in life, when the road hasn’t been easy and the climb continues, always keep your faith and believe for better days. Allow yourself to grow in places you never thought you would.  ♥ #letthelightin

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAMAZING

 

ExoSym Patient Spotlight: Tom

Today, I am honored to share with you a special story about Hanger Clinic ExoSym (IDEO) patient, Tom, an amazing guy who continues to defy the odds.

In November 2014, while mowing the lawn at his home in Massachusetts, Tom’s left foot got caught in the blade… Eleven surgeries later as infection set in, doctors insisted on performing a below the knee amputation, but Tom fought to keep his leg. The day before his scheduled amputation, doctors were able to stop the infection, but multiple skin grafts were required to heal the wound. The traumatic injury left Tom with severe limitations and the inability to lead the active lifestyle he once had – but for Tom, he still had his leg.  A few months later, as he pressed on through rehab, a friend happened to put Tom in touch with ExoSym patient, Phil Stevens, who convinced Tom to take a look at the device. Phil’s daughter Nellie, a prosthetist at the Hanger Clinic, was the first to evaluate Tom and put him in touch with Ryan Blanck at the Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor, WA. In July 2015, five months after Tom’s last surgery, he received his ExoSym device – a day that changed his life forever. ♥

Tom has had his ExoSym for about nine months now and says the device has not only returned him back to his active lifestyle, which includes most everything he did before his injury, but most notably back to snow skiing – one of his greatest passions & something he was told he would never be able to do again after the lawn mowing accident. As a civil engineer, Tom is on his feet during the day and thanks to the ExoSym device, can stand and walk for long periods of time.

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Tom hitting the slopes in his ExoSym!

Tom’s advice to other patients is to remember that the device doesn’t define your limits, you do. Take it wherever it will take you and enjoy it. ☺ For Tom, seeing what other patients have done ahead of him inspires him to keep aiming higher. Learning from their experiences gives him confidence in the ability of the device and the belief that anything is possible. For shoes, Tom likes the Asics brand and sports the Zensah sleeves and Dr. Comfort socks. He enjoys staying active and loves walking – knowing that it is truly a gift many people take for granted.  If there is one thing he would say to Ryan Blanck, it would be to thank him for always being there anytime he has a question. In Tom’s words, “Ryan is an amazing person who really cares about his patients and has made what has been one of the worst times in my life, bearable.” And to his fellow patients, Tom would like to thank them too. Tom is grateful to all the people with the device who share their experiences – for it is in these stories, that Tom finds strength and inspiration.

So what’s next for Mr. Tom? This guy has his eyes set on playing hockey again and getting back on the rink! Living by the motto, “Never say never” Tom is defying the odds of every person who told him he would never walk, run, hike, golf, ski – or play hockey again and there is NO stopping him now!

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Tom back in action!

Thank you, Tom, for sharing your story and reminding us that no matter what happens in life and no matter how many people tell you it can’t be done – always believe in yourself and never give up.  Never say never. ♥

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

ExoSym Patient Spotlight: Kate

Today, I’d like you to meet Hanger Clinic, ExoSym (IDEO) device patient, Kate, an incredible humanitarian whose life has been dedicated to the service of others. I was fortunate enough to have met Kate on a trip to the clinic a few years ago and we’ve stayed friends ever since. An amazing person whose story reminds us that in every challenge, lies perspective and the ability to rise again.

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In January 2013, while working in a remote part of the South Sudan, Kate severely injured her foot and ankle requiring medical evacuation back to the United States. After numerous surgeries, Kate was ultimately sent to the Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor, WA to try the ExoSym device. In September 2014, Kate received the ExoSym, a life changing technology, which has allowed her to pursue her dreams as a PA student at MEDEX Northwest, University of Washington’s School of Medicine where she plans to specialize in emergency medicine.

Thanks to the ExoSym device, just a few weeks ago, Kate was able to stand and scrub in for a six hour open heart surgery. She’s returned to the mountains and training others in outdoor emergency courses and is back living life to the fullest. On any given day, (when Kate’s not busy studying ☺) you’ll find her working out at her local boot camp, hiking, walking, biking, or running! Most recently, Kate climbed Camp Muir (10,080 ft) on Mt. Rainier with a fully loaded pack. #exosymplyamazing But that’s not all. Kate still plans to do the world’s largest horse race across Mongolia as well as bike from Seattle to Portland this summer. Ultimately, Kate hopes to get back to humanitarian work in remote places – a passion that lives within her. For Kate, inspiring others that your biggest hardships don’t have to define you is a mission she lives daily. Obstacles may reroute you in life, but they only stop you if you let them.

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Kate’s advice for other patients is to know that you are more than your injuries and setbacks. Do not let a piece of carbon fiber or perceived or real limitations define you or the way you relate with the world except to be more patient with the struggles of others, more compassionate, and more driven to surpass obstacles and hurdles as they appear. When you receive your device, remember there is an incredible amount of acceptance and hard work that has to happen after a serious injury. Healing takes patience, time, and the support of people around you. Your resilience will be tested. But it is a test. Try to use setbacks or moments of medical discouragement as a springboard for challenging yourself and the prognosis. Most of all, despite pain or setbacks, remember that few get through life unscathed. For Kate, having seen immense suffering in places like the South Sudan and Haiti, she knows how lucky she is (& how lucky we all truly are).

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Kate feels profoundly inspired by the people she has met at the Hanger Clinic and says training alongside patients with such diverse experiences and life stories has certainly changed her for the better. But perhaps one of the most influential outcomes of receiving the ExoSym device is the impact the Hanger Clinic team has had on Kate’s life. In Kate’s words, “If I can be half of the patient care provider Ryan Blanck is, I would consider that great success. Ryan’s commitment to everyone he meets is as inspiring as it gets in medicine. Ryan, Jared, and Koreen change the lives of each and every patient that walks in through those doors in Gig Harbor. They have literally scooped me off of the floor on a bad day. I am where I am today because of these three remarkable people and providers.”

An amazing testament to the dedication of the Hanger Clinic team – a remarkable group of people who truly change lives every single day. To enter the doors of the Hanger Clinic is to become like family and to know this team is to know compassion, care, and commitment. Empowering human potential isn’t just a company motto, it’s who they are. ♥

Thank you, Kate, for what you do to inspire others and for helping us all to remember that we are more than our injuries and setbacks. You can’t change what happens to you in life, but you can decide how you will get back up again – the choice is yours. Obstacles only stop you if you let them.

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#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

ExoSym Patient Spotlight: Dave

Today, I’d like to share with you a special story about Hanger Clinic ExoSym (IDEO) device patient, Dave, a positive guy who never gave up on making the impossible possible. ♥

After severely shattering his ankle in a mountain biking accident twelve years ago at the age of 17, Dave managed to push through the recovery, ignoring the pain – determined to live life with no regrets. However, as the years went by, the lingering pain became increasingly difficult and Dave found himself wondering how he would manage to keep his film company running when the standing and carrying of heavy camera gear left him bedridden days after his events. Eight years post-accident, Dave eventually had to give up his film passion and pursue a desk job where he could rest his ankle.  Searching day and night for solutions to his pain, Dave agreed to an ankle fusion that ultimately left him in the same, if not worse, pain as before the surgery. Now, eight months post surgery back on disability, Dave & his fiancée Lee were more determined than ever to figure out the best solution for his ankle, even if it meant amputation. Lee began emailing every prosthetist and doctor she could and time and time again she was told that a below the knee amputation would be an advisable solution for Dave’s situation. Knowing amputation was in his future, Dave and Lee searched for the best below the knee amputation option they could. This search led them to local prosthetist, Tabor Melwood, who insisted on a meeting to discuss Dave’s future. Having had clients in the past who elected to have an amputation, Tabor ensured the couple that they were not alone, but first suggested a meeting with Dr. Jacquie Hebert and her team up in Edmonton, AB. Dr. Hebert suggested as an alternate option before amputation that Dave try a limb salvage device called the ExoSym at the Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor, WA. She told them about a recently referred patient who had achieved great success with her pain levels in the device and was leading an active lifestyle once again. It was in this meeting with Dr. Hebert that Dave first learned about the serious effects and potential of phantom pain post amputation. A decision not to take lightly. There started Dave’s journey to get the ExoSym.

Lee & Dave (pre-ExoSym)

Dave & his fiancée Lee (pre-ExoSym)

After looking at the expenses required to combat the exchange rate (Canadian to US), the device itself, their travel costs and footwear, Lee decided to start a GoFundMe campaign and to Dave’s astonishment, they reached their fundraising goal within three days! Dave says he’s never felt more inspired than he did in those 96 hours – an amazing feeling to see how much his friends and family pulled together to help change his life. And on September 8, 2015, Dave received his ExoSym device, a day the once seemingly impossible life he desired to live became possible once again.

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Dave & his ExoSym

To Dave, putting the ExoSym on makes him feel awesome. ☆ If he hasn’t put it on in the morning and he starts feeling sore, he tosses it on and the pain goes away. #simplyamazing He’s able to go to the grocery store now, walk the dogs with his fiancée – all the simple things in life that once seemed so difficult are now a reality. For the first time, Dave realizes he doesn’t have to lie down on the couch as soon as he gets home. The couch is no longer a place to rest, but a place to put his ExoSym on and get moving. ☺

grocery shopping = no problem!

Grocery shopping = no problem!

Dave is still searching for the perfect shoe to work with his high arches and wide feet. He has had success with the Nike Vomero’s and while the carbon fiber nature of the device does take its toll on them, he likes them the best. Dave recommends the CEP brand of compression socks because you can purchase them based on your calf size and also because they have a lot of fun colors.

Having never been a “gym rat” type of guy, Dave’s newfound mobility has spurred him onto the world of fitness and he now works out with a trainer twice a week. Dave and Lee even enrolled in a 90 day fitness challenge at their local gym! Dave also meets with a physical therapist on a monthly basis to ensure his body isn’t overcompensating and shifting problems and says this has been really helpful in staying on track with his progress. Dave feels great and wants to thank Jared (the Hanger Clinic PT) for encouraging him to get active! In addition to the gym, Dave also does home exercises like single leg squats and stretches and feels this is an important start to an #exosymplyamazing day! His advice for other patients is to keep both your ExoSym compression socks and your non-ExoSym device foot socks in singles in your dresser – makes life easier when you need to grab them!

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Dave getting after it at the gym!

If there is one thing Dave wished people knew about him, it would be how hard it is to live with chronic pain and how it affects everyone and everything around you, no matter how positive you are. Dave says he used to have a preconceived notion that he should bottle up his emotions and just try to put on a front, but now that he has shared his feelings, he’s found that he enjoys life so much more. He credits his positive mindset for getting him through the last twelve years, and the amazing companionship of his two dogs Winston and Melissa. Winston fought through cancer to stay by Dave’s side and Dave feels thankful he was able to spend the last six months of Winston’s life with him at their home. In Dave’s words, “I guess Winston knew the ExoSym would work before we did, and he had done all he could to help me get through the tough times.” ♥

Dave and his buddies :)

Dave and his buddies 🙂

Dave also feels incredibly blessed to have had his fiancée Lee by his side every step of the way – through the good times and the bad. More than anything, Dave would like to give a big bear hug to Ryan Blanck who made it possible for him to finally live a life without chronic pain. A gift with no price tag. Dave has heard Ryan joke about how he saves relationships with the ExoSym, some may laugh but Dave says this is a real thing! The brace immediately eliminated the daily struggles and strains on their relationship due to Dave’s chronic pain.

Thank you, Dave, for inspiring us with your positive attitude and will to keep fighting. Your story is a reminder that just when you don’t think you can go on another day, you have to keep going. You must hang in there and keep trying. Keep your hope up. Stay positive. Believe in the impossible and one day it just might come true. ♥

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

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

ExoSym Patient Spotlight: Sam

Today, I’d like to you to meet Hanger Clinic ExoSym (IDEO) device patient, Sam, an avid outdoorsman from Washington State.

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On June 18, 2013, a day like any other, Sam was out cutting timber in Northwest Washington when he was struck by a 99 foot tall hemlock that came crashing down on him. The impact of the tree angulated his left forearm as he lay on the ground in excruciating pain dazed from the blow. Assessing his injuries, Sam noticed he couldn’t put weight down on his ankle so he began to crawl while holding his extremely painful and unstable left arm. Reaching a downed log and realizing he would be unable to crawl over it, Sam used everything he had to get up. Managing to limp on the toes of his left foot, he crawled onto the road to call for help. Sam was flown by helicopter to Harborview Medical where it was later discovered he had broken his left elbow along with his radius, ulna and extensive nerve damage to his ulnar nerve. From all the pain, Sam hadn’t even realized his right arm was broken as well. A chunk of wood had to be removed from his spine and lacerations covered his face and ear requiring multiple stiches. Thankfully, his ankle wasn’t broken, but only time would tell the injury.

Over the next year, Sam’s ankle began hurting more and more. In October 2014, he had a bone spur removed from the subtabular joint, which greatly helped with the pain but it continued to bother him quite a bit. The once active skier, hiker, mountaineer, snow mobiler, and outdoorsman, felt sidelined. Limited by pain to 20 mins of walking, Sam headed back to the doctor determined to find a solution to get him back on the path to a better quality of life. Doctors prescribed anti-inflammatories to help with the arthritis and bone inflammation that had formed in his ankle, but despite the efforts, the pain continued. After several months of unsuccessful alternative therapies, Sam was sent to see Ryan Blanck at the Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor, WA to try the ExoSym (IDEO) device. It was everyone’s hope that the device could help to provide him some relief. In October 2015, Sam received his ExoSym – a day that changed his direction in life, giving him the ability to return to his active lifestyle without pain. Thanks to the device, you can now find Sam out hiking, climbing, running, surfing, shoveling snow, walking his dogs – he barely sits down! He is back on his snow mobile and says the device even helps him to break up ice on the machine with a swift kick using the ExoSym leg! There’s no stopping this guy! Sam’s goal is to climb Mount Rainer in the next year or so… and I have no doubt he will achieve this! ★

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Sam has experienced great success with the device and says one of his greatest moments was running into Ryan Blanck on the ski slopes at Crystal Mountain. Sam is very grateful to Ryan & the entire Hanger Clinic staff for all they’ve done to help him and he is glad he was able to show Ryan that he is out LIVING life to the fullest again. ♥  This past Christmas, Sam received a Fitbit from his mom as a gift to inspire him to keep pressing on.  He had a good first day with that, nearly 30K steps (aka 13.71 miles!). #simplyamazing

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Sam’s advice for other device users is to wear it as much as possible and not to buy shoes too big because they won’t last long. (That’s a good point, if you buy them too big, you’ll start tripping & ripping through them. Not that I’ve done that before or anything…☺) While Sam admits shoe shopping can be bit of a challenge, his favorite brands for the device are New Balance, Merrell & Meindl. Check out his cool hiking boots below!

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Living by his favorite Bruce Lee quote, “Choose the positive. You have a choice. You are the master of your attitude.” ― Sam is definitely someone who chose to live with an optimistic faith. Through the hard times and disappointments with his injury, Sam made a decision to keep a positive mindset. Even as a tree fell on him, he managed to get back up. Even as the surgeries and treatments failed, he kept his hope. Even when it didn’t look like many options remained, he never stopped trying. A reminder that though certain circumstances may be out of your hands, your attitude is in your control. When you face difficulties, choose to stay positive. Keep the faith. Stay hopeful. And most importantly, no matter what happens, never give up. ♥

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing  

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ExoSym Patient Spotlight: Matt

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! ★

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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

ExoSym Patient Spotlight: Liz E.

Today, I am honored to share with you a very special story about ExoSym (IDEO) device user & Hanger Clinic patient, Liz E.

While training for a triathlon in April of 2014, Liz was hit by a driver – the impact dragging her over 30 feet along the pavement as her bike seat impaled her left side shattering her pelvis & detaching it from the spine, breaking her left leg & foot, fracturing her neck, breaking her back, as well as her right wrist. Liz was given less than a 5% chance of making it through the night and if she did, the likelihood of her racing again, let alone walking, was close to none. The damage from the injury also caused massive bleeding to her internal organs, requiring multiple surgeries to fix. Because of the extensive damage, one third of Liz’s glute had to be removed and her foot had to be put back together. All odds were against Liz, but Liz held on. ♥

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In June, Liz was transferred to a hospital closer to home where she could begin the recovery process. Confined to a wheelchair and required to wear a back brace, neck brace and two boots, the once active Liz found it hard to sit still. As time went by, triathlete Liz slowly began racing her wheelchair up and down the halls, putting in two miles in the morning and two miles in the afternoon – something she said gave her the hope she needed to keep fighting. In July, Liz was released to start walking, but her left leg was paralyzed and the damage to her hamstring, hip and glute made it difficult to achieve the progress she wanted. Liz dedicated herself to physical therapy sessions as if they were training sessions for a race and this hunger to ‘keep pushing’ helped to get her through the difficult days of recovery.  At the end of July, Liz was released to go home. A truly amazing day for not only Liz and her family, but for the staff at the hospital who were inspired by Liz’s remarkable recovery.

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Once back at home, Liz continued to make more progress. She felt liberated to be walking again and astonished that she really didn’t have any lingering pain from the horrific accident. However, what frustrated Liz the most was the weakness in her paralyzed leg and her inability to be able to run and ride her bike. With one third of her glute missing, Liz lacked the strength to move with power. To aid in her walking, Liz was fitted with an AFO brace, where she met a man by the name of Jason who unbeknownst to her at the time, would help to change her life. ♥ Jason told Liz about a friend of his named Ryan who had developed the ExoSym (IDEO) device, something he felt may be just what Liz needed to get back to the active lifestyle she once had. At the time, the device was still only available to the military, so while she waited for it to become available to civilians, Liz began swimming and riding a stationary bike – determined not to let anything stop her from getting back to racing again. In January, Liz went back to see Jason for a follow-up and he showed her a few civilian videos of the ExoSym (IDEO) in action– Liz was overwhelmed to tears. Within a week, Liz placed a call to the Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor, WA to speak to Ryan and by the end of February, Liz and her husband were on their way to the clinic.

Liz’s first day in the clinic was truly eye opening. She was amazed by all the patients running around, pulling weighted sleds, kicking punching bags – she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. After putting on the test device, Liz felt ready to go. She started walking in it and eventually had to be told to take a break because she never sat down. ☺ For the first time since her injury, Liz felt like she was going to be able to get back to being a triathlete again. When Liz received her final device, there was no stopping her! Throughout her week at the clinic training with David & Jared, the physical therapists, Liz gave it everything she had. From rowing, to weights, to balance, everyday felt like a gift and Liz was happy to finally have someone pushing her again. She admits it was hard seeing other patients excelling faster than her, but then she remembered that everyone’s injuries are different and each person’s training and recovery is unique. This realization helped Liz to stay focused and push herself to “run her own race.” A great reminder that even though we all have the ExoSym (IDEO) device, we all come from different situations and afflictions. As Liz approached her final day of training, she was excited to learn that she would get to ride a real bike for the first time since her accident. At first, it was a little hard to get going, but once she got the hang of it, she didn’t want to get off. She just kept pedaling around the parking lot, time and time again! Ryan and team also helped her with learning how to dismount and fall down in a way that would mitigate the least damage. Though many feared Liz might not want to try this, Liz went after it like a champ.

After returning home, Liz continued to work on exercises that she learned at the clinic. She began by walking up and down her driveway and then progressed to running down it and walking up it. In one month, she was jogging up it and was able to run two miles around her neighborhood! May 29th, Liz did her first 5K race since the accident. She finished in 45 minutes. #simplyamazing. In the past year, Liz has completed five 5K’s and she is hoping to do a 10K race here soon. A local bike store donated her a new Trek bike to get her back into racing again and she has now been able to ride 10-60 miles holding an average of 16 – 17mph on the road. Her swimming is improving and she is finding a strength within her that she didn’t know she had.  Without the device, Liz wouldn’t be able to run, bike or walk without a limp and it still amazes her how much she can now do. She’s able to go to rock concerts again and jump up and down like everyone else. Liz is back to being herself again.

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Since her accident, Liz has been dedicated to increasing bike safety in her community. It’s something she is very passionate about and hopes her story will inspire others to be watchful when they are driving near a cyclist. She is also helping to train people for races as well as encouraging her hometown to become more active.  Liz will soon begin her training for the Salty Dog Triathlon in Wichita this upcoming summer – the same triathlon that she had been training for in 2014 when she was hit by the car. The Project Athena Foundation will be sponsoring Liz to help her train for and get to the event, an emotional and financial support she is very thankful to have.

Most of all, Liz would like to thank the staff at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis in Wichita for saving her life as well as the Medicine Lodge Memorial Hospital for their care in her recovery.  She would also like to thank Jason, for without his help in putting her in contact with Ryan, she may never have discovered the ExoSym (IDEO) device. But more than anyone, Liz would like to thank Ryan Blanck for giving her back the gift of mobility. She is so appreciative of his support and faith in her and it’s because of the ExoSym (IDEO) device, Liz will race again. ♥

Liz & Ryan

Liz & Ryan

A truly incredible story of recovery and the passion to pursue life. You are an amazing person, Liz and your story is a reminder that no matter how difficult the road to recovery may be, you simply cannot give up. In the hard times, when you feel like you want to quit, always remember why you started.

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAMAZING

ExoSym Patient Spotlight: Bub

Today, I’d like you to meet Bub, an inspiring ExoSym (IDEO) patient from Vermont. Twenty five years ago, Bub fell from a second story apartment window ledge, landing feet first on the sidewalk below. The impact fractured both of Bub’s tibia bones from the ankle joint up, requiring twelve screws and four inch plates to put his ankles back together. After the fall, it took Bub close to a year to learn to walk again and even at that he still struggled with daily pain, limiting his ability to be mobile. Years of prescription use and enduring pain drained Bub and it ultimately became hard to stay positive and motivated through the agony and limitations. However, Bub never gave up. Despite the hard times that came with the injury, Bub remained hopeful that one day he would walk again without pain. ♥

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One morning, while surfing the web, Bub came across an article about a wounded warrior with the ExoSym (IDEO) device. At the time, the device was only available to service members, so Bub set-up a Google Alert to keep looking for more information to come. A few months passed as more articles surfaced and Bub eventually ended up contacting the Hanger Clinic once he learned the device was available to civilians. Bub admits he felt pretty sure the device would be a good fit for him and he decided to make the cross country trip to Gig Harbor, WA to check it out. (& thank goodness he did!). With a great experience in the test device, Bub had the confidence to move forward in pursuing the ExoSym, a decision that changed his life.

Within hours of receiving the device, Bub was able to take off on a jog – something he hadn’t been able to do in 25 years. Bub has had his bilateral ExoSym’s for about a year now and the results have been outstanding. Not only does Bub feel so much more free and light about life, but he is finally able to do the things he wants to do. On a daily basis, you can find Bub trekking a 5K loop around his neighborhood or hiking in the mountains near his hometown. While it’s taken about six months to get where he wants to be, Bub feels his overall strength at a level it hasn’t been in as long as he can remember. Not only does he feel more confident in doing work or activities that require endurance, but he says it’s really nice to feel like his physical limits are not a deciding factor anymore. 25 years of limitations have been lifted and there is no stopping this guy! Over the last year, Bub’s had some great moments in the device, but says one of the best days was the first time he walked five miles. #simplyamazing  Another great moment was being able to take his son on a Boy Scout Trip to the Florida Keys – trekking trails around the islands, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling – all things Bub simply wouldn’t have been able to achieve without the ExoSym device.

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Bub’s advice for other patients is to listen to your body, just as you would before regarding your injury or affliction, you have to be conscious about how you push yourself. Of course you will want to push and excel when you have a newfound ability, but Bub’s recommendation is to be smart about how you push yourself once you have the opportunity to do so. Wise advice for all, Bub! In terms of men’s fashion, Bub has found that with casual pants, the most important thing to watch out for is making sure the pant leg is big enough around the knee. If it’s too tight around the knee, the pants can ride up and you’ll end up looking like you’re expecting a flood. ☺ Bub’s athletic shoe of choice is the New Balance 860 and for hiking he prefers the Merrill Moab Rover Mid. He likes the brass eyelet lacing system and the leather construction and says they have worked out great for him. Bub sports the 2XU brand for compression socks, something he says has really helped a lot with swelling and nerve pain. When he’s going to spend a lot of time on his feet, he also adds a low profile sock over the compression sock to add a little more padding.

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Most importantly, Bub would like to express how grateful he is to the service members who went before him and helped to make the ExoSym (IDEO) device possible and a special thanks to Ryan Blanck for the development of this device and the implementation of the training and recovery process. A truly amazing man who has made a difference in so many people’s lives. Bub would also like to give his thanks to the IDEO / ExoSym online community. This group has been a great help to Bub in the early days and he sincerely appreciates the ongoing encouragement all have provided. ♥

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So what’s next for Bub? The sky is the limit for this guy. In addition to keeping up with regular walking and hiking, Bub hopes to get into CrossFit or a more formalized strength training program. Whatever he’s doing, you can be sure Bub will be continuing to encourage others who are new to the community. It’s who he is and it’s his mission to keep ‘paying it forward’. A truly incredible guy whose story reminds us that even through the darkest of times in your life, when you don’t feel like you can go on another day, you must keep your head up and press on. Hold onto hope. Fight for your life. Never give up.

Thank you, Bub. You are an inspiration and the definition of what it means to persevere.

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

ExoSym Patient Spotlight: Nancy Belle

Today, I’d like you to meet Nancy Belle, a 16yr old ExoSym (IDEO) patient from Georgia, who I had the pleasure of meeting (along with her amazing mom ☺) when we were all at the clinic this past September. Nancy Belle was born with clubfoot, a condition that has restricted her from being able to run or even stand for long periods of time because of the pain in her feet. However, clubfoot hasn’t stopped Nancy Belle from trying. Despite the pain, this girl has remained an active volleyball player and pole vaulter for her high school. #yougogirl But, Nancy Belle admits there have been plenty of times when she has come home from practice and her feet hurt so bad, she could barely get out of bed or walk downstairs to the car. Nancy’s mom, who is an avid runner, has seen the difficulties her daughter has faced firsthand and has been determined to help her live a better quality of life. When her mom found out about the ExoSym devices through the Hanger Clinic, Nancy Belle didn’t want to get her hopes up but she agreed to give it a try – and thank goodness she did! (Way to go mom!) ☺

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Getting casted for the ExoSym devices

Through the process, Nancy Belle says she’s met some amazing people and feels very thankful there is a community of ExoSym patients with whom she can relate. #neveralone One morning during her stay, NB and her mom had gone downstairs for breakfast in their hotel and saw a few people with the ExoSym device on. She says as soon as they saw hers, they welcomed her to the table to eat with them. Nancy says it was so nice that they would ask her to sit with them, without even knowing her, and open up about their story. She remembers noticing how everyone, even though they were from different states or countries and walks of life, talked as if they were friends. That’s when she first knew how special these devices were and how wonderful the people are. ♡ #exosymplyamazing

NB’s most memorable moment in the device was the end of therapy hike with Jared, the physical therapist. It was very steep, sandy, and seemingly impossible – something she would never think of attempting before, but she says Jared was calm and guided her through the cliff-like hike! When they went down to the water, there was a tree that she wanted to get on, so she climbed up it and crawled out on the limb. Her mom instinctively put her arms out to help her down and Nancy almost grabbed them, but then she remembered she had her ExoSym devices on and jumped down all by herself! Before the ExoSym, NB couldn’t think about jumping down because her feet would hurt too much, but with the devices, she jumped down and continued the hike with no pain! #simplyamazing ☺ Both NB & her mom couldn’t be happier and they are so thankful to Mr. Ryan Blanck for his kindness and compassion. The ExoSym device and stay in Gig Harbor is truly a unique and special program and NB says she left knowing that anything is possible.

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Hiking with Jared the PT

Though Nancy Belle has only had her devices since September, she says it’s amazing what a transformation she has already made. Before the devices, she would have to think about over walking or compensating when her feet hurt and now with the ExoSym, she can do anything! NB says a 5K race is definitely in her future! Because of her condition, NB has never run farther than a mile in her entire life, but now with the ExoSym, she says this dream will be possible. How cool for NB to finally be able to run in a race with her mom? (I may need to travel to Georgia to be there for this! ☺)

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NB & her mom

NB’s shoe brand of choice is New Balance but she also likes her Nike Air Force One’s which she pairs with jeans, skirts and dresses! She loves wearing tall, high knee socks with the device and says she is looking forward to trying more socks and shoes.

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ExoSymnista

NB wants other clubfoot patients to know that these devices can truly help you to do things you never thought possible. She once ran up and down her driveway (which is not long) about three times, and her foot hurt so bad, she was in a boot for about a week. Now, she can go for a walk or a run in her neighborhood without being in pain. #socool NB says no one is born without some sort of issue to deal with and she is appreciative that hers can be fixed with the ExoSym device. Sometimes, she admits she can get down about her condition, but then she reminds herself, “Why be sad? Nothing can change it.” #positivemindset NB’s advice is to make the best of your situation and work with whatever you have. She’s had so much fun shopping for clothes to wear with her device and although finding shoes is a little difficult, when she found the right ones, she was very excited! NB is so happy to be able to do things she’s never been able to do before, like run and walk around for a long time with her friends! #thelittlethingsinlife

An amazing girl with such a positive attitude. A reminder that though the world is full of difficulties, it is also full of people who have overcome them. ♡

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing