Local man makes artificial leg that helps veterans, civilians

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on September 9, 2013 at 5:15 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 9 at 6:03 PM

A local man developed new technology to help wounded warriors that could make a big difference in the lives of civilians as well.

The IDEO artificial leg is a cross between the latest in high-tech prosthetic and a basic leg brace.

"Without this it just really, it made a difference. It really made a difference to my life, to my family," said Army Staff Sgt. Athena Knight.

Staff Sgt. Knight lost half her Achilles tendon and heel pad due to a staph infection.

"It hurt because I am very athletic. I've been playing basketball and soccer for my whole life," she said.

Staff Sgt. Knight couldn't run for three years.

"When I went out there the first day after I got fitted and everything, and I went running. And it was, it was a blessing so I know for me it was just amazing," said Staff Sgt. Knight.

Ryan Blanck is the brains behind the IDEO. He was working on prosthetic for soldiers losing limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the advancements for amputees left others behind.

"I was even thinking about removing the leg, because I had seen guys who were doing a lot better than I was without it," said Marine Corps Cpl. Wesley Bigbie.

People like Cpl. Bigbie and Staff Sgt. Knight didn't need amputations but they were tempted after seeing amputees recover faster.

"It's like I had given up. There was no other option for me to go," said Cpl. Bigbie.

Back in 2009, a therapist asked Blanck for something that would get a patient like Cpl. Bigbie running again without having to lose his leg.

"I put down some concepts on paper. A month later I had a trial device we put on him and it kind of worked," said Blanck.

Technically, the IDEO off-loads energy from the upper body and stores it in the device. Then it returns some of that energy back to your upper body all while it cradles and controls motion in the foot and leg.

"I think it's absolutely huge. Being an amputee surgeon ... over the past two years being here at this center, it has probably kept me from doing conservatively 100 late amputations," said Lt. Col. Donald Gajewski, CFI director and surgeon.

The device is so effective it enabled 75 injured service members to return to the battlefield.

"You can't put it into words. It's like something you never wanted to do before was running and then all of a sudden it's taken away and then God gives it back to you," Cpl. Bigbie said.

Blanck has started to work with civilian patients at the Hanger Clinic in Tacoma.

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