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High school grad travels Europe wearing ‘pirate leg’

A teenager who couldn’t walk after sustaining a severe injury still managed to go on her once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe, by wearing a hi-tech peg-leg.

Lauren Schimandle, from Atlanta, GA, strolled completely unaided around some of the continent’s most famous sites without putting weight on her injured foot once. The high school graduate says: “Despite all the odds, I was able to have the time of my life thanks to ‘Peggy’, who came with me everywhere.”   

Peggy is actually an award-winning hands-free crutch called an iWALK2.0, which gives people with lower leg injuries or illnesses their mobility back. For Lauren, 18, it was the key to her dream summer vacation. She had been counting down the days until what would be the last trip with her family before she started college in the fall.

But while playing soccer her foot landed in a hole and she sustained a Lisfranc injury, snapping ligament and displacing a bone in her foot. She was told she’d need surgery and a long period of non-weight bearing if she ever wanted to walk and run normally again.

Lauren says: “My doctor said surgery was imperative. I told him about the two-week trip to Europe we had planned the following week and to my relief he said that the surgery could wait until I got back but that I’d have to be non-weightbearing until then. My heart sank, I would be on crutches and a wheelchair for my final big trip with my family before college.”

When Lauren’s doctor suggested she buy an iWALK2.0 and showed her a picture of it she laughed at first, thinking he was kidding. But pretty soon she wasn’t laughing.

She explains: “For the next few days at home I was absolutely miserable. I couldn’t do anything on my own and the use of my arms was completely restricted with crutches. I couldn’t get myself a cup of water or go out anywhere because using crutches was so physically taxing. My independence was completely taken away in an instant, and I lived on the couch in my living room. I was terrified for surgery. I’d never had an injury this severe and I had been a competitive cheerleader and tumbler for the last six years. After wallowing around for a few days, I swallowed my pride and ordered the peg-leg contraption.”

As soon as the iWALK2.0 – or Peggy as Lauren and her family nicknamed it – arrived, she got her freedom back. She explains: “I walked on Peggy EVERYWHERE. I was back to my normal energy levels and I felt like I could actually enjoy my trip to Europe now! So, with a newfound sense of hope and excitement I boarded my flight and jetted off to Rome.”

Lauren navigated the Colosseum, climbed the Spanish Steps, walked through Vatican City, went on a boat trip and strolled through the cobbled streets of Italy, France and Spain. Wearing the peg-leg, she hardly missed out on anything. She was constantly approached by curious onlookers, who all wanted to know what the device was and how it worked.

She says: “While I did have to take lots of sitting breaks, I wouldn’t have been able to have the amazing experiences I did without the iWALK2.0. In Cinque Terre we did a boat tour and I was able to walk down the steep mile-long stretch to get to the docks with an arm of my brother or dad and a few breaks here and there. It was exhausting, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it any other way.”

As soon as she returned home, Lauren had surgery and is now getting back to normal life again. She has started studying Finance at SMU in Dallas, TX and says she can look back at her summer with fond memories, despite her injury.

She adds: “Peggy helped me in so many more ways than just walking. It gave me back my sense of independence. I’m now three months post-op and walking around normally with a screw in my foot. All of my atrophied calf muscle has come back and I’m doing better than ever. I really did have an amazing summer with the iWALK2.0!”