For the past many years since my stroke, I have worn an AFO (ankle foot orthotic) to help me walk. It is big, plastic, and custom fit to my foot and calf. It has required wearing shoes big enough to accommodate its width and means that all of my shoes have been too big and wide. Men's shoes have often been the best fit. Needless to say, I have hated shoe shopping for the past five years, and the only pair of shoes I've even liked a bit has been a pair of gray men's Converse One Stars. After a year, they are beat up, falling apart, and have been what I jokingly called Sunday school shoes.
Until a few weeks ago.
My neurologist suggested that I look into device called the Bioness L300--an electrical stimulation cuff that is worn around the calf and under the knee on the affected leg (my left). It uses electric shock to trigger the muscles that lift the foot and toes at the right moment in gait to facilitate walking. It is an alternative to wearing an AFO and allows the user to wear regular shoes as long as they have a back to hold the heel in place. No flip flops. The electrical stimulation helps establish neural pathways from the brain to, and some users are able to walk independently in time with no gait device at all.
I visited the company's website and requested their informationalDVD for the Ness L300 foot drop system. It is very cool. If you visit the website or look up the Bioness L300 on You Tube, you can see clearly what it is and how it works. When Bioness contacted me directly to follow up, we scheduled an evaluation and trial, tried one, and saw immediate results. We received purchasing information, decided it was a big decision because of thee price tag, and spent a few weeks thinking about it.
On Christmas morning, I opened an envelope from Dad, and discovered that Bioness was offering us a deal that made it more affordable if I wanted it. It didn't take me long to decide that wearing normal shoes without a clunky brace sounded like a really great idea! After the package arrived, the Bioness rep came back to Denver and calibrated my device to work just right for me and how I walk.
I wore a pair of Mom's shoes the first day since all of the shoes I had are far too big without my brace. She and I went to DSW and had more fun than we have ever had in a shoe store. We came home with five new pairs of shoes for me!
I wear a control unit around my neck that communicates with the cuff and the weight sensor in my left shoe, as well as the gait sensor attached to the shoe itself. It looks normal and can be worn under all of my clothes without being too noticeable. Then off I go!No cane, no brace, just me (in new shoes!).
I am still working on having a normal gait with more even, smooth steps and less of a jerky limp thing going on. Friends joke that I should make the bionic sounds like the TV character, but I am hoping to blend into the world around me more subtly than that for now.I would include photos and video here for you, but I haven't done that in so long that I'm not sure I remember how...
In other news, we leave onMonday to spend some time in Arizona like we did last year. We are so over winter! The mid-80s are sounding really good!