Local soldier makes a leap in recovery with the help of new device

| 15 Feb 2012 | 08:57

SPARTA — Specialist Michael J. Krapels, a 2006 graduate of Sparta High School and a member of Our Lady of the Lake Parish, was wounded while deployed for the 173rd Airborne in Afghanistan. Prior to deployment to Afghanistan he was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team at Caserma Ederle in Vincenza, Italy. On Jan. 14, 2010, Michael received friendly machine gun fire to both his legs. He was flown to Landstuhl Army Hospital in Ramstein, Germany. He arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington, DC a few days later, where he is still recovering from his wounds. After over 30 surgeries and numerous hours of physical therapy. A new device created at the Center for the Intrepid is helping wounded warriors run again. It’s a special brace that in some cases saves the injured from amputation. Watching Specialist Michael Krapels sprint at the Center for the Intrepid, it’s hard to believe a friendly fire injury in Afghanistan last year almost cost him his leg. “I was told I was going to lose my leg,” Krapels said. “That was on the table for quite awhile. I was in a wheelchair for a solid eight to ten months.” Krapels is benefiting from a new device called IDEO (Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis). Prosthetist Ryan Blanck designs the custom-fit pieces made of carbon and fiberglass. They support the foot and ankle and help soldiers run again. “These guys basically are elite athletes for all intents and purposes,” Blanck explained. “And what they want to do is achieve the same level of function they did, or close to it, prior to their injury.” It’s not just running. The men and women fitted with the IDEO can jump, move side to side, scale rough terrain and climb up and down. These are skills they need to get back to their lives, at home or in the military. “And we’re going to support them, no matter what it is,” Blanck added, “whether it’s going and playing with their kid in the backyard or redeploying to Afghanistan with their special forces team.” Since the IDEO weights less than a pound-and-a-half, it can easily be hidden beneath boots and clothes. That’s important for soldiers heading back to war. “I’m a soldier,” Krapels said. “That’s what I do now. There’s nothing else for me. I’m a soldier and my job’s not done.” Over the past two years, the Center for the Intrepid has fitted 140 wounded warriors with this device. Many of those people are back on the front lines, redeployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Michael is the son of Martha Spillane and Kevin Krapels and the brother of Kevin Jr. and Jack. Prior to enlisting in the Army, Krapels attended the University of Maine in Orono.