Empowered Stories

Phil Stevens

​Condition: Severe Lower Limb Injury

Solution: ExoSym™ Leg Brace

 

Phil Stevens, ExoSym AdvocateIt’s been said that farmers work in acres, not in hours. While that may be a slightly more poetic way to say it, the bottom line is: it’s exhausting, get-your-hands-dirty, sunup-to-sundown work. And to third-generation farmer, Phil Stevens, that’s exactly what’s so great about it.

“We work seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. The cows have to be milked on Christmas morning, Christmas night, New Years, Thanksgiving, snowstorm, ice storm with no power. We don’t take days off.”

There was no way around taking some time off, however, when what was supposed to be a regular day on the farm became the day that everything changed for Phil and his family. “We were putting the last sheet of roofing on the barn, and I was about 13 feet off the ground and slipped. It was like time stopped. I was flying through the air and I can remember the wind blowing by my ears, and I was thinking ‘this is not good.’ So they picked me up and took me to the hospital and I thought I had broken my ankles, but it turns out it was much worse. It was a very bad day.” 

Surgeons at the hospital told Phil’s family that he had two broken calcaneus, or heel bones. Phil lay in the hospital, casts on both legs, with the understanding that surgery was inevitable and walking may not ever again be possible. 

When he finally was able to leave the hospital, he was in a wheelchair and running low on hope. His wife, Erin, now had her husband to care for and an entire farm that was headed straight into harvest season. “Here we were with Phil, who runs the whole show, in a wheelchair. Phil is the chief executive officer of everything on the farm. He is the lifeblood. He makes the decisions, he tells people what to do. He’s the key guy. We need him.” 

“We had a meeting and I said, ‘that’s it,’” explains Phil, “’We’re selling the cows. We’re over because I’m going to be down for the whole summer, and we’ll just have to restart after this.’ And my daughter and son said ‘no, we’re going to go with this.’” 

Phil continued to run the farm, but he traded his place on a tractor for one on the couch, where his spirits continued to sink. “I would lay in bed and think, ‘I do not even want to get up. The longer I could stay in bed, the happier I was going to be.” 

Through 12 years of struggling, pain, and failed attempts to find a solution, Phil eventually reached the point of thinking that amputation would be a better alternative. 

Phil Stevens, Farmer, Dad, HusbandBut in a case of perfect timing or what some might call divine intervention, his daughter, Nellie, a prosthetist with Hanger Clinic, shared some news on a new device  she’d learned about at an educational event called the ExoSym™. Patients who had tried it touted results that were “like a miracle”, which was enough to convince Phil it was worth a try. They boarded a plane for Gig Harbor, WA, where they would meet the creator of the ExoSym™, Ryan Blanck, an LCPO (Licensed Certified Prosthetist/Orthotist), and National Upper Extremity Specialist at Hanger Clinic. 

The ExoSym™ is a device that helps alleviate the pain, instability, and weakness of compromised lower limbs, especially those with neural damage. The user slides a portion of it under the affected foot and the rest of the brace attaches to the supporting limb. Leg function is enabled through struts that provide static feedback and generate artificial force and propulsion to help support the damaged limb. 

When the family arrived, Ryan fit Phil with the device to see how his legs would respond. That was the second day in Phil’s life that everything changed. “The ExoSym™ gave us a rebirth of everything,” explains Erin, “The day after he got it, we went to Mount Rainier and he was climbing and I couldn’t believe it. It was a shock. It was instant. Both of us were crying. It was a miracle for us.”

Call 1-877-4HANGER to learn more about the ExoSymPhil agrees. “As soon as I strapped them on, I knew.” As his physical ability changed, so did his outlook: “I’m a totally new person. My legs were taken away from me and then I got them back and I’m way more ambitious because of that.” 

That ambition is why today, it’s not just a farm that the Stevens family runs. They operate a brewery, an event space, and have even hosted Spartan Races on their land, in which Phil participates. In fact, the family was recently selected to participate in an upcoming reality series entitled Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge

Call him a Spartan, but he’ll always be a farmer at heart: “My favorite thing about the ExoSym™ is that I can work a twelve-hour day again and love it.”

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