The BiOM: Millions of Steps & Counting

BiOM bionic lower leg

Last year, SRT was proudly declared as a provider of the BiOM, the first bionic lower-leg system to replace lost muscle function. Instantaneously, the phones rang off the hook with requests to see this amazing technology up close and personal.  The national media was immediately drawn to this life-changing device, and SRT was honored to demonstrate the BiOM on a national level on programs such as “The Next Step with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, MD”.

The past year has been a whirlwind of success stories of amputees who have experienced how the BiOM allows them to walk with less stress on the rest of their body, powering them from one step to the next, and allowing them to get through their day using less energy.

The BiOM is a bionic lower-leg system that simulates the action of the ankle, Achilles tendon and calf muscles by propelling the amputee upwards and forwards during each walking step. Unlike passive carbon fiber feet that only return 50% of the energy of a natural limb, the reflexive action in the BiOM performs net work on every step and returns 100% of the energy while accommodating for real-time terrain changes.

We don’t have a newsletter large enough to encompass all of the success stories of amputees from across the world who have stated that they not only have they benefited from the BiOM; it has changed their lives completely. Among the countless list of amputees is Shawn Brooks of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

On May 1st, 2002, Shawn had been working at Steel Dynamics, Incorporated for only three months.

“The company was still under construction”, says Shawn. “We had not yet started production, and we were mostly just moving equipment”.

Just fifteen feet away from Shawn was a co-worker who was moving a piece of equipment with an overhead crane. While trying to flip it on its side, he inadvertently dragged it about ten feet, crashing into Shawn’s ankles.

“To be honest”, states Brooks, “The guys I worked with at Steel Dynamics saved my life. The first responders in the company arrived in a matter of minutes and I had ten to fifteen guys helping me until the ambulance got there. I’m very thankful to everyone I worked with for their rapid response to what happened that day”.

“I woke up on the emergency room table”, stated Shawn. The doctor on call told me that he would be able to save my left foot, but I was going to lose my right one. So I knew that whenever I woke up, I was going to be missing one of my feet”.

“During my stay in the hospital, I was lying in a hospital bed with a missing foot, not really knowing what my future held at this point, doing a lot of soul searching”, said Shawn. “Soon after, I was visited by Sam Santa-Rita from SRT Prosthetics. He reassured me that I would walk, golf, and bowl again. I have never been around a group of people that are as kind and friendly as the staff at SRT. I have a lot of trust in SRT”.

The support of Shawn’s co-workers at Steel Dynamics didn’t end at the site of the accident.

“They came over to my house to install a ramp for my wheelchair and they were always calling me and checking on me”, said Shawn. They would also pick me up so that I wouldn’t just sit at home. I was always a big outdoors person. I love to bowl and play golf and do outdoor activities”.

Shawn continues to work 12 hours a day at Steel Dynamics in the steel mill, and, in an effort to get Shawn back to doing exactly what he did before, SRT fit him with the BiOM.

“The BiOM is the best thing since sliced bread”, Brooks stated. “When I took my first couple of steps, I knew right away that I wanted this device. It really helps me out at work because I can walk as much as I want, and not be as fatigued. I feel like I’m walking normal. The BiOM is walking with me, instead of me having to drag it through when I walk”.

“It’s almost as if your leg is there”, says Shawn. “I don’t have to think about walking or going up the stairs because the BiOM is doing all the work for me. I don’t have to think about what kind of terrain I’m on because the BiOM automatically adjusts. Working in a steel mill, I run across all kinds of different terrain, whether it’s rocks, grease or oil. I may be cutting with a cutting torch with a dark shield over my face, so I sometimes can’t see what’s on the ground. I feel a lot more secure when I’m doing tasks of that nature with the BiOM, because  I know if I take a step, it is going to adjust to whatever I’m stepping on”.

“I’m faced with a lot of stairs at work, and the BiOM basically cuts my work in half. I can walk up stairs without using the handrail and just walk up like a normal person does on the balls of their feet”.

Inside the device is a lithium-polymer battery that is just as easy to use as a battery in a cordless drill. The BiOM reacts to its environment, whether it’s stairs, ramps or level ground. Built-in sensors and microprocessors enable the device to mimic the natural way that the foot, ankle, Achilles tendon and calf muscle work together.

“The faster I walk, the more power the BiOM has”, says Shawn. “I’ve had guys tell me that they can hardly keep up with me. Wearing a BiOM, I’ve grown to see that I don’t think about it as much anymore”.

“I love being bionic”, Brooks boldly stated. It makes me feel like I can do things I had written off in my life.

The BiOM is more than just an “upgrade” in prosthetic technology. It will allow an amputee to walk further and faster with less effort over all terrain types, while reducing muscle pain and fatigue. The BiOM makes rapid and real time accommodations as the amputee walks, which greatly improves their balance and reduces their risk of falling. With the BiOM, an amputee can easily walk up a flight of stairs step over step, and walk up a curb without hesitation or fear of stumbling.

“I would absolutely never want to go back to another prosthetic device because it would be taking a step backwards”, stated Shawn. “I’m excited about being part of bringing the BiOM onto the market because I think it’s just going to expand in technology and will make people’s lives easier”.

“I think Worker’s Compensation, Steel Dynamics and SRT all stepped up into this new technology to help get me to where I need to be”, said Shawn. “Once Worker’s Compensation was educated on the BiOM, they were very willing to work with me. I’ve never had any issues with Worker’s Compensation. Steel Dynamics stepped up, chipped in, and helped me along the entire process. I don’t know if there’s five other companies in the United States that’s better than the company I work for as far as they way they take care of their employees”.

Shawn also stated, “If you are an amputee and have the opportunity to experience the BiOM, take advantage of it. With the BiOM, you don’t just have to “get by” anymore. You can take advantage of this new technology and be ready for it to expand more”.

Shawn currently lives in Fort Wayne with his daughter, Haley, and sons, Harrison and Hudson.