The IDEO: Warrior legs restored with breakthrough device - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

The IDEO: Warrior legs restored with breakthrough device

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

In a decade of war, countless hostile detonations have separated American warriors from their limbs.

Thousands of them.

For every arm or leg lost, five others have been torn and broken, but salvaged.  For these wounded, what remains is still attached, but often useless.

Muscle, cartilage and nerves so severely damaged, the simplest movement produces agony.  Some, as a route to pain-free mobility, actually request amputation.

"I was having to take oxycodone, two tablets every four hours," said one veteran of naval special operations who considered the option.

It is this degree of life-altering, career-killing injury that's drawing hundreds of once discouraged veterans to Brooke Army Medical Center's Center for the Intrepid.

Ryan Blanck is the man they come to see.  He's a highly skilled builder of prosthetics who has created the IDEO, short for Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis, a cutting-edge tool that takes on much of the work once performed by undamaged sinew and bone.

"We are focusing on the injury, we offload that injury, take the pain out of the equation," explains Blanck.

Each IDEO comes with a custom molded fiber glass foot plate and ankle stabilizer, a sturdy but flexible carbon fiber strut that runs up the calf and a cuff that attaches just below the knee.

Together they create an exoskeleton that absorbs pain inducing pressure while generating a substantial measure of artificial thrust.

"We provide power by way of that dynamic response strut mechanism giving them ability to support themselves, to push off in a sense," said Blanck.

The result has been nothing short of astonishing.  Warriors once barely able to limp are now sprinting.  Veterans resigned to extreme disability now leaping at pre-injury levels.

"I thought pretty much all hope was lost," said Ian, a special ops veteran who pretty much destroyed one leg in a forty foot fall.

Crippled and desperate, Ian first strapped on an IDEO seven months ago and is now 100 percent sold.

"It brings back independence.  It brings back mobility.  It does allow you to get back to a really high level of performance," said Ian.

Jared, whose identity we also agreed to shield, is another special op's vet who faced perpetual pain.

When his leg was all but severed surgeons had no choice but to reconstruct Jared's knee with cadaver parts.

Since rehabbing with the IDEO he's returned to duty and out runs warriors ten years younger who've never suffered an injury.

"Full mission capable too. It's definitely been a game changer for me," said Jared.

And he's got company. So far more than 50 wounded veterans with limb damage believed to be career ending have instead re-deployed with the IDEO.

"Combat deployments are upwards of 35 plus and a lot of special forces operators who've gone back to their team and doing are their job," reports Blanck.

That's preserving untold millions of dollars worth of training and priceless experience.

"They are a type of personality that pushes the envelope, that doesn't take no for an answer," says Blanck of the wounded warriors committed to returning to action.

Clearly transferable to the civilian world, the IDEO is a break through innovation inspired by extraordinary suffering and driven by an unceasing desire to serve.

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