March 11, 2018
An AFO came to live in my house several summers ago and decided that my closet was its forever home. I allowed this to happen and even picked it up from the Hanger to politely and safely bring it here. I would sneak in and peak at it sometimes but usually walk away and close the door tight. It has lived happily inside the closet and I have lived contentedly outside the closet. Both of us aware of each others existence but happy with the pattern of our current situation. Lately I am being forced to realize that I need the assistance of this AFO. So, here I sit and wonder what am I going to do???
I was fitted for a AFO (Ankle-Foot-Orthodic) several summers ago in a place called Hanger. It turns out my gait alignment was out of balance because I lock the knees on my strong leg (right side) to compensate for the weaknesses in my weak leg (left). That means my left knee collapses and so to feel safe I lock my right knee by hyperextending it to ensure I don’t fall. The end result is my lower back hurts, my tendons on my dominant side ache terribly and my walk time has doubled on certain days. Long term — I am doing damage to my core body structure without using the support of a Ankle-Foot-Orthodic. Enthusiastically I requested my Orthodist, Joe, build me a beautiful baby blue AFO. True to Joe’s perfectionism he gifted with exactly that– so smooth, shiny and wonderfully happy. I HATE IT!!!, I HATE IT!!!, I HATE IT!!!
As time goes on I accidently allow myself to forget to wear my AFO. Why do I do that?? In my opinion it makes me walk like a alien because I can’t go up stairs well, my ankle has to function differently (uncomfortably), I walk slower and my clothes stick to the Velcro holding the AFO in place. Yet when I wear the beautiful blue thing I am limiting damage to my core body structure, I am safely ambulatory and I can drive myself to normal routine places within a 2-3 hour distance (thanks to the lady in the telephone that tells me where to go). As usual how lucky am I ????
Like MS Treatment, that you can’t see on a daily basis the good things the medicine is accomplishing for your body, a AFO is quite similar. Due to this fact I often think I’m not going to need it today — so I chose yet again not to wear the beautiful blue thing, after all I can’t see any damage being done. My orthodist, Joe, and my physical therapist, Jonathan, told me and my husband under no uncertain terms that I would cause damage in as little as 2 years if I did not wear the brace. So — why do I struggle so with wearing this beautiful blue creature (AFO)???
I think I have become more and more aware of the way that people often avoid or treat disabled people differently. Why?, Do they stink?, Are they unable to communicate making it to difficult to understand them?, Have they done something that takes away credibility for their accomplishments in life?, Have they done something that is unacceptable by society standards? (Answers: NO, NO, NO, NO)
I also think that I struggle with the idea of being seen as incapable. I have always been very able bodied and my AFO, while quite a lovely color, is pure evidence that I have weaknesses. It was hard enough to deal with being in peoples way, because I walked to slowly, during Christmas in the mall. Now, I can see people glance from my face and them immediately look down-down-down to my brace, where their eyes stop and gaze. From that moment on — I am not a whole person to them. Somehow I am not capable of accomplishing fabulous things or worthy of a real conversation. Except that is to the people that already know me as a real, living being with capabilities, hopes and struggles.
So, while wearing this beautiful blue AFO, brace, thing, alien, whatever its called, is going to be a growing process with a steep learning curve (finding bigger shoes for example, without looking like BOZO the Clown) I want to someday chase grandkids and take walks with my legs with my dear husband. I want to walk next to my children as they push baby strollers and someday feed my ducks, even if they are near a muddy pond.
I am going to learn to love my beautiful blue AFO!!!! And I am going to know, especially if I get a look of anything other than acceptance, that I make my corner of the world a better place!!!