It is a long hard road as each of us knows to regain lower mobility. As a person who suffered with foot drop and instability I know how difficult this can be. I became very defensive when my neurologist insisted I use a walking cane or “stick” as it is called in the UK. Independence and self assurance vanished in front of my eyes. After several falls and a fair number of bruises, my options were fading and the stick became my best friend during relapses. It hid in a closet during those wonderful months I was in remission. As disability worsened, again options had to be weighed: AFO’s or a wheelchair. The thought of not being able to stand and walk crippled me emotionally long before it became a physical reality.
When left sided weakness made it too painful and unwieldy to rely on my cane, I was fitted with AFO’s. My inner rebellious nature rose to the surface when I opted for a sleek set of AFO’s with a purple butterfly pattern. More thought about designer AFO’s could have prevented embarrassment as the realization that purple butterflies might not always be the best choice with much of my wardrobe set in. I had to choose between full length sticks with arm braces or a walker. I chose a rollater walker due to the increasing weakness in my left arm. The shoes I had to wear over these monstrous pieces of plastic looked like oversized clown costume affair. I was standing on my own, so to speak, in short order. One day I took a few steps toward my youngest daughter and we both had tears in our eyes over the accomplishment.
Soon I realized that the muscles in my legs were becoming weaker rather than gaining the strength my doctor promised. I was upright, but the constant support prevented any real improvement. At that time I was unaware that IV Solumedral therapy and the use of Baclofen for spasticity had caused muscle wasting and atrophy. These side effects are rarely explained to someone whose symptoms begin to disappear like magic during a relapse.
The AFO’s were relegated to the closet next to the walking stick. Pain, clumsiness and physical therapy replaced the romantic butterflies. Foolishly steroids remained my drug of choice to overcome many of my MS symptoms. Unaware that I had developed osteoporosis, I forged ahead with my walker. Drop foot caused me to kiss the dirt on many occasions. It’s nearly impossible to prevent a face plant once a full trip has taken place.
Battered and bruised, I remained stubborn and resolute. The local emergency room staff all knew me by sight. On one occasion I arrived with two black eyes, a swollen mouth, bloody nose and blood soaked shirt and designer jeans. I turned around in my carport, missed the only step in sight and landed face down on the cement floor. My jaw and nose were broken. I had deep cuts on my mouth, arms and legs. That’s a lot of damage to sustain while traveling zero miles per hour.
Though most of my adaptive and assistive equipment is long gone, I keep the AFO’s, walking stick and power chair to remind me of a time many people might choose to forget.