Four years removed from a motorcycle accident that nearly took his life, Hempfield alum Devin Krautsack is still pushing forward with his quest to walk again.
Recently, Krautsack’s days have consisted of exercising and stretching anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours a day. There are the calf stretches and leg extensions while laying on his back. And the lunges and squats while holding onto a parallel bar that’s attached to a wall in his bedroom. On the days when the weather cooperates, he makes his way outside his parents’ Landisville home and, one methodical step at a time, with a cane to his right side and his mother, Tina, behind him providing support, slowly moves around the neighborhood.
There are also twice-weekly trips for physical therapy to MossRehab in Philadelphia. On Mother’s Day last May, Krautsack climbed the steps to his second-story bedroom for the first time since the accident.
A boys lacrosse standout in his prep days, Krautsack has made tremendous progress since a near-fatal accident on Aug. 23, 2016, which resulted in a ruptured spleen, a torn artery in the left side of his neck and several other injuries, including those to his spine, lungs, right and left femurs, left clavicle and four ribs.
“My standing has really improved,” Krautsack said. “My balance. My vision. My brain.”
He still doesn’t remember anything from the accident. But he’s made gains with his memory.
“It’s getting better,” he said. “Not 100% yet.”
Krautsack, 22, still needs help getting out of bed in the morning. And, as a result of the injuries to the left side of his body, his brain isn’t communicating with his left leg as best it should when it comes to taking a step forward.
Before the accident, Krautsack dreamed of joining the Navy and becoming a SEAL. He’s used that same drive to push him forward each day.
“I just don’t give up,” he said.
His new dream is to walk under his own power. Without a cane. Without assistance from his parents or nurses.
Two months ago, Krautsack discovered something that might be the key in putting him over the hump in accomplishing that goal. But he needs help to get there. Last month, his family launched a GoFundMe to raise $15,000.
As of this writing, he’s a little less than $5,000 away from hitting that mark.
The money will go toward paying for six pieces of equipment from Axiobionics, a company that creates wearable pain management pieces for patients with chronic pain resulting from strokes, spinal injuries or neurological disorders.
Axiobioncs’ customized garments are fitted with electrodes that send electrical pulses to stimulate muscles, which in turn reduces pain, increases function, improves posture and facilitates circulation.
The Krautsack family heard about the technology through a spinal cord injury group at Penn State Hershey of which Devin is a member. That group had a Zoom call in September with Joshua Schueller, a neural-prosthetist with Axiobionics.
“Each unit will benefit (Devin) in walking,” Tina Krautsack said. “It’ll strengthen his hips, core, back. All those will help him to walk again.”
One of the more recent success stories of a patient who benefitted from Axiobionics is Michigan resident David St. Amant. He had just turned 16 when he was T-boned by a driver going more than 60 miles an hour in a car accident May 30, 2003. About nine years later, St. Amant still had trouble walking as a result of a brain injury from the accident that essentially resulted in the wiring from his brain to the muscles in his left leg being unable to communicate, leading to his left foot turning severely inward whenever he stepped forward with his left leg.
“Before Axio, we went to the beach as a family and my husband would carry him,” mother Linda St. Amant said. “After my husband died (in 2011), David would sit up in a wheelchair on the boardwalk.”
The St. Amants came across Axiobionics in 2012. Thanks to the company’s electrode WalkingAide, David St. Amant’s left foot mostly lays flat when he steps forward.
“Now, he walks to the water’s edge (at the beach),” Linda St. Amant said. “It’s a total gamechanger. It’s been such a huge improvement to his quality of life.”
David St. Amant, now 33, has also regained about 80% of the function of his left arm. The technology has helped him get out of a wheelchair and land a job as a ticket-taker to games at a minor league baseball stadium.
The Krautsack family took a trip to Axiobionics headquarters in Michigan two weeks ago to have Devin fitted for six wearable pieces. While in Michigan, the Krautsacks had dinner with the St. Amants.
“To watch Devin and his parents watch David walk the other night was really fun, like, ‘Oh, my gosh. This could be our Devin,’” Linda St. Amant said.
The Axiobionics left Neuroprothesis Electrode WalkingAide will allow the muscles in Devin Krautsack’s bottom left leg to properly fire when he takes a step forward. The abdominal BioBelt and right and left BioShorts will help towards that cause in strengthening his hips. The upper trapezius BioVest and left upper extremity BioSleeve will help him regain the feeling to his left arm. And the bilateral extremity BioSleeve and abdominal BioBelt should help straighten his spine, as Krautsack has developed scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine, mostly from sitting in a wheelchair for the better part of the last four years combined with injuries to his spine from the 2016 accident.
“This will help me to get my muscles back,” he said. “It’ll help me get better faster.”
“From what I can see, Devin has a positive attitude,” Linda St. Amant said. “I do see Devin’s desire. That’s what it’s going to take … you have to work with it. And you need a support group.”
Krautsack’s immediate support group is mom Tina, who quit a part-time job a few years ago to tend to her youngest son, and dad Kevin Krautsack, an electrician who has transitioned to a home-based job with his employer.
“Your success rate is going to be that much better with a support group,” St. Amant said.
To make a donation to Devin Krautsack’s GoFundMe page, visit gofundme.com/f/axiobionics-wearable-therapy.