I received my new full leg braces a few weeks ago. They have taught me how to get up and down in them at the parallel bars and how to take steps and walk with them. Braces do not help you walk – they keep your legs from buckling and from falling down. Once you are up, you can just stand there (while hanging on because I have zero balance) or you can learn to try and get those legs to go forward. Here is how that works. You lean all your weight to one leg which allows you to raise your hip and kind of throw it forward. Your hip muscles are connected to your ab muscles so a lot of the hip throwing comes from my abs. I know because my stomach is always SO sore after I do this. I do have a little bit of hip strength but the majority comes from my abs.
After having used these braces at home for a couple weeks now with my own parallel bars, it has become VERY clear to me that my thoughts about them are not quite accurate. I really thought that once I got them, I could use them at my kitchen sink to stand or maybe go around the house some but maybe not in public or whatever. My parallel bars are about 8 feet long and by the time I go down them twice, I am done. Well, not me – I feel like I want to keep going and going, but my legs will just not go anymore. I tell them to go and lean and do everything I am supposed to do, but they just won’t move.
Also, the parallel bars are very steady. A walker is NOT! It is tipsy and makes me feel like I am falling over all the time. I can’t even breathe the wrong way or over I go! Also, the braces are very heavy and bulky. I cannot transfer out of my chair onto anything because they are too heavy and bulky. They pull me into the floor!
So…..I got my nerve up to ask them on Monday how realistic these braces are and will I be walking with them or not. I really already knew in my heart what I felt but thought I may be wrong.
They told me that, realistically, no, I would not be walking in them. They said that there are a few people who have mastered walking with them but they had more hip movement then I do. They also said that you have muscles for strength and muscles for endurance. They explained this by saying that they could go out and try to run a marathon without being trained for it, and within a few minutes their muscles would be saying “we are done, we cannot run any more!” However, they can walk around all day and be fine because their muscles have the endurance to walk because they are trained for that. Their goal with me is to push me past my endurance level at every session (which is why I come home so tired!). They hope that over time, my endurance level will come up even if the strength doesn’t come up. If that were the case, then braces would be more effective for walking with them. They said I have come a long way in one year (when I first started therapy, I could do absolutely nothing in any muscle) and that a lot can still happen but it is a very long and slow process. They said when the spinal cord is damaged, it takes a very long time to heal and you really never know if it stops healing or not. You can only try to keep retraining those nerves and muscles and hope for results.
The reason I am sharing all of this with you? First of all, because every one of you has been so sweet and encouraging along the way and have shared that you want updated so I have tried to be faithful to do that for you. Secondly, because when the general population hears the words “I took steps at the parallel bars with my braces” or “I can move my toes” or “I feel pain deep in my legs”, then they automatically assume that you will be up and about just like the old days in no time and it just isn’t so. There is much involved and it is extremely complicated and part of how I want to use all this in my life, is to help explain in as simple terms as I can, the actual process and how it all works.
For the record, I am not upset about what I was told on Monday. I am at peace with living my life from this chair and long to reflect Christ in my life. I want to do my part in recovery, but whatever God does with the rest is up to Him. God is good!
Thank you for your faithfulness and interest in my life. Let’s all keep serving Him!