Patient Spotlight: Eddie Holmes

My Journey 

Hello everyone, my name is Eddie Holmes and I am from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I am relatively new to the world of the ExoSym, but certainly not new to the world of ankle pain. I have always been very active and into sports – always playing on some team or running a 5k.  My injury happened in 1985 while playing softball.  On a close play at home plate,  I decided to slide in and my cleat got hooked on the plate. I snapped the deltoid ligament loose in my right ankle. This is the very moment in time when my journey started. This happened at a terrible time, at the time I was a 30 year old physical education teacher and high school soccer coach. I was scheduled to drive 50 students to a big 10k race the following weekend. My personal plan was to try and beat my previous time of 38:40 from the year before.  However, I knew while laying on the ground waiting on the ambulance that neither of those things would happen this year.  After an x-ray at the hospital, I was told that I just had a severe sprained ankle. I was familiar with what a sprained ankle felt like and this was not it. So upon my request another x-ray was taken and it was decided that I would see an orthopedic doctor first thing Monday morning.  That Monday morning it was determined I would need immediate surgery to repair the ligament.  This was a long and painful recovery process but after about a year I was moving around ok. Actually, as the years went by I was able to do pretty much whatever I wanted to do. My ankle had limited mobility, but no pain.  Several years went by and I started running again. Once again I was competing in races all around my area and in neighboring states. While training, I would run 20 to 30 miles a week. I absolutely loved to run but I knew cross-training would be good for me too, so before I knew it, I was doing triathlons.  

Fast forward several years, I had run 100s of races from 5ks to marathons. I had also completed over 40 triathlons including 6 Ironman events: five 70.3 races and one full distance of 140.6. In 2014, my ankle just got worse and I decided to see a specialist in Houston, Texas. In January of 2015, I had my second ankle surgery. This time the deltoid was tightened and two bone spurs were removed. Although the pain level was better, my range of motion was significantly reduced. Running was out of the question. In fact, walking without a limp was also difficult. If I was on my feet for a long time, the pain returned. During my last trip to the doctor, I had an new MRI and was told that my ankle was bone on bone with arthritis. This was devastating news for an active person. It just so happened that a friend of mine, who has a similar ankle issue, had a brace called the ExoSym (IDEO). He has been doing very well with it and suggested I look into it. So I began the process.

I started going through the questions in my mind:

First, is this brace right for my injury?

Second, will insurance help with the cost? 

Third, what will I be able to do after getting the brace? 

From the first time I walked into the Hanger Clinic, it was obvious that EVERYBODY there really cares about people. They go out of their way to help and make you feel at home. I’ll never forget being told by Ryan that now I was part of the ExoSym family!  That’s pretty comforting when you are so far away from home (in my case 2600 miles).

My first trip for the fitting was great and I was very excited about getting the real thing. After a long three week wait, I went back to get my ExoSym and to go through my week of PT.  After putting the brace on for the first time, Ryan had me do a few drills in the clinic. We went outside and within a few minutes, he told me to run up the little hill in front of the clinic! To my surprise, I did it again and again and again! All I could think about was sending a message home to my wife and family. Each day I was there was a valuable learning experience. The clear cut message I got while there was that I hadn’t gotten where I was in 5 days. Meaning, it would take longer than 5 days to completely figure out how much I could do using the ExoSym. In the months that followed, I have come to understand that it is probably going to be a continued learning experience. To my surprise I have had almost a complete change of priorities. I have come to realize that although I love running, I also love being able to walk without pain. My ExoSym has helped me do normal day to day activities with little to no pain. 

#exosymplyamazing

When I came home from the clinic with my brace, after 3 weeks or so, I had some rubbing around my knee. While at the clinic I never had my brace adjusted. As I look back on it, I think I must have been thinking that it was something I would get use to. It was when I saw my leg bleeding I realized that I was wrong. So after talking to Ryan, we decided I needed to ship it back. The first time I put it on after the adjustment was amazing. A small adjustment can make a world of difference in the fit and in turn allow you to do more than you ever thought possible. My device truly fits like a glove. 

I can’t say enough about Ryan! I am amazed by his caring attitude and work ethic. I have sent him videos of me running on the treadmill and outside in my yard. He responds every time. Jared was also awesome and so knowledgeable. These are special people who help others everyday. I wonder if they know the depth of what they do, and the hundreds, if not thousands, of lives they have touched. ❤

While at Hanger you will meet people that will probably be life long friends and you will see amazing things happen. I can’t imagine anything but positive things happening to all those who spend time there. 

This is the condensed version of my journey or at least my journey so far. I still have lots of things I want to do. My wife Angie and I celebrated our 40th anniversary last summer and our plan was to hike 40 miles on the Appalachian Trail, but because of my ankle injury I couldn’t make the distance, so I want to complete that distance with Angie.  Also on my list is Ironman Chattanooga! It’s down the road but it’s on my list.  I would have to say that the number one thing on my list is to be able to be active with my 3 year old grandson, Bentley for many years to come! 

Eddie & Bentley

It has been my honor to share my journey with you. 

One thing I didn’t mention is that I will be 62 in a few weeks. If I can have success at my age, imagine what you can do!

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

From My View (By: Jo Paluzzi)

Patients Stories & Advice

Written By: Hanger Clinic ExoSym Patient Jo Paluzzi (dual device user since October 2016)

After six months in my bilateral ExoSyms, I have the “dealing with the stares” routine down. I love it when people engage with me with genuine curiosity. But often, as strangers walk towards me, their eyes catch sight of my legwear and they immediately look away. We are programmed in our society to not stare at something that may make us (or the ‘staree’) uncomfortable. We pass each other silently but I know that if I turn around quickly, I’ll see them staring at my legs. On a long, hard day (those are getting less frequent, thank you, Ryan) I can almost feel their eyes; with the passage of time, I often no longer even register the stares. On some days, what I want to do is stop them and say, “Let me tell you about these amazing devices so you know what you are looking at.”

I am a medical anthropologist and I work in a medical school. I regularly give mini-lectures in halls and classrooms (fortunately medical students have no problem asking questions when they think they can learn something). My favorite exchange is with kids between 3-5 years old who, at least until their mothers intercede (“don’t stare!”), are openly and happily curious. I once had a 4 year old race across a clinic lobby, stop in front of me to stare in wonder, and then gently reach out to touch my ExoSym. It felt like a benediction. Of course, it helps that I have really cool Wonder Woman stickers on the back of both of my ExoSyms. Hey! No judgement, guys. Wonder Woman has been around since 1941, like, I could be the first Wonder Woman’s daughter who took over when her mother retired which would make the current Wonder Woman my granddaughter…just sayin’ it COULD be true.

But my all-time favorite exchange went something like this after a woman came up to me while I was shopping:

Oh my, you poor thing! What happened to you?”

I was in an automobile accident.

Oh, how really…”

Wonderful, right? Aren’t these the most amazing braces you’ve ever seen!?”

But it must be so…”

You’re right, I am SO lucky that my doctor knew about these and connected me to the man who invented them.

But you must feel…”

Oh absolutely! I just feel so fortunate.”

She gave it a couple of more tries and finally realized I was not going to let her find a landing place for her pity. I know her primary motivation was vaguely kind (and indirectly curious) but I no longer feel obligated to let a stranger control the discussion when the discussion is about my life. ♥

– ExoSym Patient Jo Paluzzi

Wonder Woman (aka Jo Paluzzi)

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

ExoSymplyYoga

By: ExoSym Patient Dominique

Hello everyone!

I am honored to be a guest contributor today on the ExoSymplyAmazing blog. Beth is a great friend of mine and this blog has been a huge blessing. You can read more about my story as an ExoSymer here.

As a military spouse, I move to new places regularly. Recently, I had a six month stretch of living out of a suitcase without access to my usual workout equipment. My go-to cycling, hiking & swimming gear were all in storage. I had to get creative on what my new workouts would entail during this period of suitcase-living. This is where my ExoSymplyYoga journey begins.

Many people who receive the ExoSym immediately return to (or start!) an active lifestyle including intense cardio and CrossFit type activities. Those things are wonderful and I know firsthand it is such a joy to be able to do those things. However, today I’d love to share my newfound passion for yoga! The gear is minimal so I was able to try it out while living out of a suitcase. More importantly, the relaxation techniques in yoga can lower blood pressure, increase strength, flexibility, blood flow, and self esteem as well as protect your spine – and the list goes on! During my time between moves and living out of a suitcase, an old high school instructor (a retired Lt. Commander fighter pilot) told me about an organization – Connected Warriors, a non-profit organization that offers free yoga classes to veterans and their family members. Commander was so passionate about how yoga changed his life that he became an instructor himself. If a retired fighter pilot can get into yoga, anybody can! As I mentioned before, I am a military spouse and was able to attend these classes for free. This opportunity fueled a passion for my newest workout obsession. I certainly wasn’t the best in the class, but I did see improvement with each session. To be honest, I’m not sure I would have been as willing to try yoga if I had to pay $20 each session so I’m very grateful for this organization. (Civilians don’t be alarmed – you can find a plethora of cost effective options on Groupon.)

yoga-with-commander

Yoga class with LCDR Kenneth A. Bingham, USN (Ret.)

Connected Warriors FREE classes are located in 20 states plus 6 other countries. “The Connected Warriors, Inc. mission is to provide evidence based Trauma-Conscious yoga therapy programs for Service members, Veterans and their Families while establishing a new and progressive safe haven community for all military members, their families and volunteers worldwide.”

What a great concept. If yoga is proven to be beneficial for veterans, then surely it could help many of us proud ExoSymers. I recognize that yoga can be daunting at first. When I was first introduced to yoga, my first thought was – Can I do yoga with my ExoSym? YOU BET! The ExoSym provides stability during many poses and our whole bodies really love the movements – I promise. I have found many yoga studios to be non judgmental and actually quite encouraging during each session. I’ve had multiple instructors inspired by my ExoSym devices and want to work with me one on one to achieve my goals. (How cool is that?)

Instructors can be hands on to ensure you are safe with your practice

Instructors can be hands on to ensure you are safe with your practice. (Pictured here with Judy, Founder of Connected Warriors)

Have I convinced you yet to give it a try? If so, here are my tips:

1. The only equipment you need is a yoga mat. There are a lot of options on the market and I’m not set on a particular brand. However, I do recommend a thick one since being on your knees with the device can be awkward. You can find them for as low as $7.50 on Amazon. #iLoveAmazonPrime. Studios will generally have other equipment to borrow such as blocks & straps.

Straps help create even deeper stretches. This one feels great!

Straps help create even deeper stretches. This one feels great!

    1. Some studios discourage the use of shoes in the actual yoga room. If able, consider walking in barefoot and putting your device/shoe on once you are seated on your mat (or depending on your situation, try the class without your device). If your injury or condition prevents you from walking/weight-bearing without the assistance of the device, just let the instructor know upfront and you should be fine. (Note, shoes are welcome at all Connected Warrior classes)
    2. If you’re a veteran, look for free classes here. If you’re a civilian, consider checking out Groupon for great deals. Some studios even offer your first class for free!
    3. Most importantly – know that YOU ARE ENOUGH. If you show up to a class and struggle with some poses, it is okay. Yoga provides a culture that encourages focusing just on your practice and your mat – not comparing yourself to others. So long as you are breathing, you are doing yoga. Yoga has provided me opportunities to stretch and strengthen muscles I wouldn’t normally be able to activate through regular exercise due to my nerve condition. It has given me practical benefits in day-to-day life through increased balance and stability as well as all the health benefits I listed earlier. I see so many ExoSymers conquering amazing physical challenges and I know yoga would benefit those tight muscles. A great part about yoga is there are modifications for everything. You will often find me putting my knee on the ground for stabilization. Sometimes this even means a deeper stretch! If you’re nervous about standing for an hour, give chair yoga a try. It has many of the same benefits but allows you to sit while practicing.

I hope you consider giving yoga a try. I know you won’t regret it! Until next time my friends… Namaste!
 

Traveling to Gig Harbor | Make it a Family Affair

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.

The Gum Wall in Seattle

The Gum Wall in Seattle

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.

Chihuly Garden Sculpture in Seattle

Chihuly Garden Sculpture in Seattle

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.

About Lisa

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.

lisa

Lisa and her main squeeze Frank at Mt. Rainier (July 2015)

 

Call for ExoSym Contributors (aka ExoSymplyAmazing Patients)

Hi guys,

Hope everyone is off to a great 2017! I know it’s been a few months since my last post, and many of you have been reaching out (which I appreciate, thank you!) but I wanted to let those of you, who are unaware, know that I was in a car accident this past December and that I will be continuing to take a break from writing on the blog.  With that being said, I don’t want ExoSymplyAmazing and all the people who benefit from it to lose inspiration & motivation, so I’d like to open up the blog to any ExoSym (IDEO) patient who is interested in contributing. I believe there is a wealth of knowledge we all have living with our devices and I know there are of many of you out there who could make an impact with your stories, advice and wisdom for those looking into getting the ExoSym device or those who wear it themselves. Maybe you want to share your story or maybe you have style advice or you’ve found a pair of shoes that work for you and you want to pass it on, or maybe you want to share a recent accomplishment you’ve had in your device or offer a piece of wisdom or share how the Hanger Clinic Gig Harbor team has changed your life – that’s great and I would love to hear it as I’m sure others would as well. Let’s continue to pay it forward and help make a difference. ❤

If you’re interested in contributing, please send an email with your draft to: shaver.beth@gmail.com. In addition to what you’d like to say, please make sure to share with me some personal information about yourself, such as your name and how long you’ve had the device, etc. Please also indicate how you would like your name listed as well as a title for your post and pictures, if applicable. As a note, please refrain from discussing personal fundraisers, personal insurance situations, etc as these are not in line with what ExoSymplyAmazing is about. Lastly, please allow time for me to respond to your email – know that your email will be read and I will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Wishing everyone a year of health, hope, and ExoSymplyAmazing adventures. Count every day as a blessing because you never know what tomorrow will bring. Every day is truly a gift from God. Live grateful and most importantly, keep the faith and never give up.

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

XO – Beth