Rebuilding Broken Lives

Zachary Gerhards made the mistake of his young life in November 2016 when he rode his motorcycle around a curve, tried to pass a car and ended up hitting and breaking a tree the width of a telephone pole.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Zachary’s custom brace has helped him get back on his feet.

“I was in a coma for eight days,” reports Zachary, who thankfully was wearing a helmet, “and I had five herniated discs in my back. I’ve got a rod in my left leg, some nerve damage in my right leg. I’ve got a metal plate in my head and fractured ribs, a fractured pelvis, quite a few things.”
After Zachary regained consciousness and was discharged to a rehabilitation center, the 22-year-old was ready to begin physical therapy. Three weeks after the accident, he was evaluated by Bill Woslum, CO, of Sonlife Prosthetics and Orthotics.
As a licensed, certified orthotist, Bill has dealt with “everything from cervical fractures, where I put the pins into the skull with the neurosurgeon, to scoliosis bracing, custom knee ankle foot orthoses, custom ankle foot orthoses, knee bracing and other custom fit and custom made bracing.”
Bill studied Zachary’s medical charts and, during their first appointment, asked Zachary about his goals and how far he would go to achieve them.
“Zachary was still extremely busted up, but he had a positive attitude that wouldn’t quit,” Bill recalls. “A lot of folks aren’t willing to participate as much in their rehabilitation as would be optimal. But this young gentleman said, You tell me what I have to do and I’ll do it so I can be up and walking and functioning again.
“It was inspirational to have somebody with such a can-do attitude,” Bill adds. “That made the difference with his recovery.”

Customized Care

Bill worked with Zachary over the following year to tailor his orthotic devices to the various stages of his rehabilitation.
“When a person is newly injured severely, there is a lot of swelling that has to be accommodated,” Bill explains. “In some cases, we work around staples, sutures and bulky dressings. If it’s a severe enough injury or multiple injuries, we have to give them the most support and control feasible while avoiding areas that have been traumatized and have plates, grafts and things like that.”
Zachary started with custom ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) that went nearly to his knees and down past his toes. From the casts Bill made of Zachary’s legs, Sonlife staff fashioned his devices in-house from adjustable copolymer plastic.
“The AFOs provided him with support and stability around traumatized areas, allowing him to stand and bear weight once his tissues had healed enough,” Bill explains. “As his physical needs changed, we worked with him almost monthly to modify the devices.”
Eventually, Zachary shed the brace on his left foot. He continues to wear one on his right.
“Whenever I walked, my right foot would not pick up to take a step, causing me to limp extra hard,” he shares. “This brace helps me walk normally.”
Zachary can even run short distances, as he demonstrated recently for his father and Bill, leaving them “kind of emotional,” the orthotist remembers.
Bill remains awed by the mobility his patient has regained so far.
“His determination has brought him past where ninety percent of the people would have quit long ago,” Bill marvels.
Zachary couldn’t perform physical labor for a while because “tripping and falling was a common thing.” He has recovered enough to do pretty much anything, like mow grass, cut trees and move hay bales from one place to another.
“I’m just throwing hay right now, trying to get my life back on track,” he remarks.
Zachary remains thankful for Bill’s expertise, calling him knowledgeable, informative and helpful, and gladly endorses Sonlife Prosthetics and Orthotics’ services and products.
“I recommend Sonlife to anybody with orthotic or leg problems,” he concludes.

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