“The carbon-fiber ExoSym brace(s) consist of a plate customized to the shape of the foot and two struts leading up the back of the calf, connecting to a support holster below the knee. As you step down, the brace redirects weight and energy away from the joints and stores it in the carbon fiber, kind of like a spring. When you push off, the energy shoots back up the struts, helping you to walk, run, or jump. Since 2009, the device has allowed hundreds of people to regain the use of their legs while avoiding amputation and chronic pain.” -Chas McCarty
I figure it’s finally time to begin unraveling my journey toward becoming bionic, as I am now. For the next few weeks, I will dedicate a series of posts to the past five months, from the moment I found out about the ExoSym to today: standing tall and feeling #CPstrong.
Becoming Bionic: Phase One
Last fall, my father stumbled upon this beautifully written article “The Story of My Leg” by Chas McCarty in Men’s Journal and upon his visible excitement, I immediately set aside my work to read the hardcopy.
I encourage you, no I implore you to stop reading this post and click on the title link above. CP or not, his story is one of true human triumph. If you don’t have the time right now, please save this blog for later. It changed my life and little did I know, this is what I had been waiting for.
As I read, I was overcome with the strange yet distinct feeling of intuition– I was getting myself an ExoSym no matter what it took, it was as if the decision has already been made up for me. Like Chas, I too have always had the deep desire to lead an active lifestyle but have repeatedly been inhibited by my deteriorating body as a result of cerebral palsy. I was growing tired of feeling defeated and constantly let down by my body. This technology was exactly what I needed–no surgery, no recovery, no pain–done deal. I called the Hanger Clinic up in Gig Harbor, Washington that same hot September day and after 5 minutes on the phone and the proper paperwork sent over, I gathered the required materials, filmed a short video of me walking and sent it back for review the next morning. The clinician, Ryan Blanck and his team treat every case as its own no matter the condition or injury and so one must go through an approval process to see if the device is right for each individual. So after the longest month of my life, I received the go-ahead to fly up for a fitting where I was to be molded for the device and given more information. That next week, I was surprised to find myself sitting in the casting room talking with Ryan, the ExoSym creator about how this could potentially alter my mobility and rid my foot of its dull aches and pain when overexerted. I was so ready for this, so sure of this device for my leg based upon the success of Chas’ and others upon further research via ExoSymplyAmazing & Hanger Clinic.
For sake of wordspace, I will let you delve into your own research if you are truly curious about your own candidacy for an ExoSym. Briefly, I will say that it still feels very new (2013) to the civilian- disability community as the ExoSym originated in 2009 (under the name IDEO) to improve function and performance & ultimately to reduce pain for injured, active members of the U.S. Military. So far, I only know of a handful of people who have an ExoSym to treat their congenital condition like CP. However, these links provide a great start as well as the upcoming page which I’ll develop with more content that you can soon find here.
Ryan’s well educated & unique understanding of the body was more of an “answer” to my lifelong wonderings than any doctor had ever given me. He revealed more about my body’s CP within 10 minutes; concluding that my disability is actually “more involved” than I had come to understand. Go figure! I was confident in his certainty and trusted his honesty. He was positive that the potential for greater mobility was there but mostly contingent upon the work I was willing to put in (physical therapy, strength training…you name it.) I chose to move forward and after another long, gruesome month I was back in the clinic, in that same room waiting anxiously for the big reveal. My ExoSym was ready!!! It was November 14th, 2016….
TO BE CONTINUED…