I recently got to go out to Washington State and test out the Exo Sym and WOW! There aren't words to acurately describe what it was like! You suddenly feel "unbroken" after years of being limited! It was freeing and inspiring! It was a moment filled with hope and excitement!
In August 2005 at the age of 19 I was involved in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in severe fractures to both of my ankles and compression fractures in my spine. My vehicle struck a concrete drainage culvert and upon impact my engine was forced into the floor and subsequently into my ankles. The car then flipped end over end eventually coming to a rest on the roof with me still inside. I was wearing my seat belt and unconscious as my car caught fire . What was left of my Mercury Cougar...
If it weren't for a stranger that night my story would have ended there....thankfully it didn't though. A gentleman saw my car in the ravine and stopped. He was able to get me from my seat belt and get me out before the flames reached me. I am eternally grateful to this man and for what he did! ( If you are wondering, I did eventually get to meet, thank and hug the man who saved me!)
My first day home from the hospital.
Due to the high pressure mechanism of my fractures I was basically guaranteed to develop post- traumatic arthritis in both ankles and AVN or avascular necrosis (the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply) in the left ankle due to a severe fracture in my talus ( tarsal bone that bears the weight of the body and that together with the tibia and fibula forms the ankle joint).
My initial surgeon was very straight forward with what I could expect and very bluntly told me that I wouldn't be able to live the life I did prior to my accident. I was told running wouldn't happen again and that eventually an ankle replacement or fusion would need to happen later down the road. While I wouldn't be who I was prior to my accident it I was determined to be the best post version I could be!
Graduating with my degree in Radiologic Science! Woot! Woot!
I was alive and could still walk so I tried to get back to my life! My accident led me to pursue a career as a Radiologic Technologist and I love it! I welcomed two beautiful children, that gave my life direction and motivation!
My children were my saving grace and a big reason for wanting these devices. I love the sense of adventure my little tribe has and I want to experience life with them! They love the outdoors just like their Momma!
In March 2015 my right ankle began to rapidly decline. I had several surgeries to clean out dead bone, infected bone, multiple bone spurs, infection from my tendons and a procedure to shorten my ligaments, injections, other orthotics, you name it, we tried it. By that September I had few options left.
Post removal of an infection from my tendon and removal of dead bone.
Eeny, meeny, miny......NOPE!
Option 1 was an ankle fusion, a procedure that locks your ankle into 90 degrees and eliminates movement in the joint. Fusions reduce pain in the affected joint but they cause degeneration in other joints of the foot as well. Given my age and my injuries I would end up with both ankles fused by 50 and that paralyzed me with fear.
Option 2 was a Total Ankle Replacement but given my age it was unlikely I would find anyone to do it. They aren't recommended for people under the age of 55. You're activity can include nothing high impact. Another negative was how long the artifical joint would last. Given my age I was told to expect it to last 10 years.
Option 3 was an elective amputation. It might sound unthinkable but that is the point of desperation I reached. While the risk was great it was one I was willing to take if it meant being able to move without pain. This is what I wanted. It might be hard for some to understand but it felt like my ankle was in a bear trap, like with every step the joint would explode.
I tried to manage the pain in my ankles until I absolutely had to make a choice. I had shoe lifts and walking boots to buy me time. The constant pain and not being able to be active took a heavy toll on my mental health and my personal and family relationships.
The face you make when your kids want to take a trail the ole ankles can't handle!
In 2017 I hit my breaking point. I met with a surgeon in St. Louis who agreed to try a Total Ankle Replacement. He knew I wanted an amputation but suggested we at least try a replacement first. I agreed and in April of 2017 I had my right ankle replaced. While it did allow me to walk without my boot or crutch, the issues with nerve damage and lack of motion remained.
Post Total Ankle Replacement
While this was all going on in my right ankle, my left was taking a beating! I began to notice the pain steadily increasing in my left. I could feel and hear the grinding getting worse everyday! Ankle Replacement isn't an option for it for my left due to the AVN and partial collapse of the talus. While seeking other potential options I was told about the ExoSym.....and a love affair began!!!!
What is an ExoSym?
This device is a brillant hybrid of a prosthetic and orthotic. It's the creation of Ryan Blanck who originally designed it while working with wounded military. His goals were to reduce pain and restore mobility to active-duty and retired service members with limb salvage conditions as a way to avoid amputation.
The upper section incorporates many socket design concepts used in prosthetic limbs. Each patient is evaluated for the right degree of alignment and off‐loading for the specific injury and dysfunction. The ExoSym incorporates a specialized dynamic energy‐storing strut system often used in prosthetic running limbs for amputees. This adaptation provides injury‐specific deflection, energy storage and power, all while maintaining control and minimizing pain.
Because this device is essentially an extremely specialized prosthetic . Each device is $9000 for a total of $18000. Due to the fact that they are so unique insurance will not cover them and thus the reason for this campaign! Asking for help isn't easy for me, but for this I had to at least try. This device is a pray answered for me and family. The ability to walk correctly without pain is priceless to me!!!
Each ExoSym device is custom made on site at the Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor, Washington. A casting is made of the limb/or limbs affected and a test device is then created. My castings for the ExoSym devices!
After the casting are done, they get to work on creatinga test device for you to try in order to get a feel for the device and how it works. Any adjsutements are then made to the castings.
My castings waiting for their test run!
Up and going!
Walking without ExoSyms
Walking with the ExoSyms!!!
How your donation helps...
All donations received will go towards the purchase of the devices. These costs cover the castings, fittings, devices, and the training that goes along with using the ExoSym.
Donations can also be mailed directly to the clinic at the address below.
555 Erickson Street
Gig Harbor , WA 98335
Phone: (253) [phone redacted]
Fax: (253) [phone redacted]
Monday - Friday, 8 A.M. - 5 P.M.
Make sure to share a link on your Facebook page or retweet it to Twitter!
I humbly ask friends, family, and strangers, please PLEASE help me make this miracle my reality! Thank you so much for reading my story! Your donations, prayers, encouragement, and support mean the world to me!
If you know someone who could benefit from the device please check out the link below!
For the full story on the ExoSym-CLICK HERE!
- Mark Tomlinson
- Leslie McIntyre
- Kelli Asher
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