August 10, 2014
I have learned three important lessons — how to take care of the electrodes, how to make sure that I put the device in the right place on my leg, and how and when to use the exercise mode.
First: Take care the electrodes.
Before I place the Walk Aide on my leg each morning, I put a small amount of water on the electrodes to ensure a strong electrical connection. When I remove the device at the end of the day, I cover the electrodes with a thick plastic film. To further protect the electrodes, I keep the Walk Aide in a sealed plastic bag. when I am not wearing it. (With proper care, the electrodes can last for a month.)
Second: Put the Walk Aide in the correct spot.
Even though my leg is marked with a permanent marker at the spot where I place the active electrode, that mark can fade or wear off. So I keep a permanent marker with me at all times to re-mark my leg. I am especially careful to re-mark my it after swimming or bathing. For the device to work, the electrode must be placed directly on that mark. (For best results, the mark should be in the exact center of the electrode.)
Third: Use the exercise mode each morning.
The five-minute exercise mode wakes up the peroneal nerve so that the Walk Aide can do its magic. With the device in exercise mode, I sit with my leg fully extended and my ankle supported on a small step-stool, and I watch how the device moves my foot. The Walk Aide is supposed to raise the front of my foot and move it slightly to the outside. When the it lifts my foot during the exercise mode, I try to assist it to strengthen my weak calf muscles. If my foot moves too far up or outward in the exercise mode, I can readjust the dial on the Walk Aide before I start walking.
One more thing while I’m at it: The effects of fatigue
I have worn the Walk Aide an average of eight hours a day. The more I wear it, the less my foot and ankle muscles feel fatigued at the end of the day. Still, I pay close attention to the way my foot and ankle feel. When fatigue begins to set in, the front of my foot doesn’t lift far enough, and I can easily trip and fall. (Past experience has proven that I am a talented and versatile faller. Past falls have caused injuries ranging from small bruises to a large broken bone.)
Have you used a Walk Aide or Bioness device to help with foot drop? Tell me about your experience.
FUTURE WALK AIDE POSTS: Doing exercises to strengthen my foot, ankle, leg and hip. And deciding whether or not to purchase the contraption.
July 27, 2014
If you read my July 18th post, you know that I am on an online dating site. Well, actually, I am on two of them. But before you think out loud,” Bless her heart,” let me point out that the second site is free. Does that make me seem less pitiful in your eyes? I hope so.
And if you know me, you know I’ve done my research about what kind of photos to post and what kind of information to include in a profile. Based on that research as well as almost seven (long) months of experience with online dating, I have composed a short list of some basic DOs and DON’Ts. These tips will come in handy if you ever find yourself on an online dating site. (It could happen.)
- Tell the truth — about everything. But understand that everyone else isn’t necessarily telling the truth.
- Post at least one photo, or, preferably, more than one. I really don’t think it’s necessary to go overboard and post 10 or 12 photos. I would recommend that you post two or three photos that show what you really look like right now. Ladies, no glamour shots, please. Also, I have found that some men who are on these sites want to see a full-length photo, but I declined to post one.
- While we’re talking about photos, please keep in mind that your potential date wants to see what you look like — not what your family members, pets or cars look like. It’s fine to include a photo of you with a family member or with your car or with your pet. And, please don’t don a ball cap to disguise your comb-over or wear sunglasses to hide your crow’s-feet.
- In addition, realize that you may offend your potential date by if you include photos of dead animals whose deaths you have hastened. Examples are a dead deer on the hood of your ATV or a dead fish that you hold up for the camera so we can all see how big it is.
- Further, I do not recommend showing an interest in a someone who states his or her marital status as “separated,” legally separated” or “married.” Come on, people — these folks are still in the throes of matrimony! You never know when a cray-cray spouse is going to hunt you down and kill you and take a photo of your lifeless body sprawled on the hood of an ATV.
And now for three of my pet peeves:
First, always use correct grammar.
Second, always proofread your responses before pressing the ENTER key. Use spell check if possible, even if you have to cut and paste a paragraph or two into a word-processing document and spell check it there.
Third, in response to the question, “What is the last book you have read,” Don’t answer “Sports Illustrated.” I can assure that you’re not fooling very many people with that answer. I would estimate that a fair number of people who actually read books also like sports, and I would wager that most of us know that Sports Illustrated is a magazine.
Tell me — what are your pet peeves about online dating?
Many people with disabilities find that online dating can be a difficult process at best. Tell me about it. (That last part was sarcasm.)
I spent six months on a popular, highly ranked online dating site without indicating in my profile that I had a disability. While my disability is nearly invisible, I walk with a cane — which is visible when I meet someone.
The first man I met online also had a disability. We dated for a couple of months and parted as friends. During the next four months, I met four other men online and in person. I told all but one of them about my disability before I met them, yet none of them asked me out on a second date.
So, I have decided to do an experiment to see if my walking with a cane has any effect on the responses I get on the online dating site. This morning, I added the following information to my online dating profile: “I walk with the help of a cane, which seems to make some men on online dating sites feel uncomfortable. If you would be uncomfortable dating a woman who uses a cane, please refrain from responding to my profile.”
I’ll let you know what happens.
July 6, 2014
On Friday, I used the WalkAide at two Independence Day celebrations — one was a luncheon and the other involved dinner, a party and a community fireworks display. I did a lot of walking outdoors on uneven ground. I was stepping up and down curbs, and as the evening wore on, I noticed I was walking more slowly.
I think I use different muscles when I walk with the WalkAide than when I walk with a brace, which causes my foot and leg to tire somewhat over time.
Saturday didn’t go well as previous days. I went shopping for clothes at a large consignment shop and followed that with a quick trip to the grocery store. I tried adjusting the location and the intensity of the device, but by the time I got to the grocery store, I felt as if I were having to concentrate on picking up my foot on every step. I was walking slowly and with difficulty.
So while my response to the WalkAide this week has been a positive one overall, I would like to work more with Todd to tweak the settings and recheck the placement of the device on my leg. I plan to ask him if I can keep the device a little longer before I decide whether to buy it. It is expensive and my insurance doesn’t cover it.
I have an appointment with Todd on Tuesday.
July 4, 2014
The WalkAide works well for me when I put it in just the right spot on my leg. But that’s not as easy as it sounds.
When I got the device for this test-drive, Todd was ever so helpful in showing me how it worked and how to wear it. He made some marks on my leg with a “permanent” Sharpie marker so I would know exactly where to put the WalkAide. But the marks on my leg wore off easily, and I have found that it is difficult to remember what its proper placement is.
Bess, a physical therapist, helped me re-mark my leg a few days ago, but between daily showers and lotion applications, twice-weekly aquatic exercise class and “glowing” in the deep South summer heat, the marks on my leg seem to fade away as soon as I look in the other direction. (Well, almost.)
If I don’t put the WalkAide on my leg in just the right place, it will stimulate a nerve other than the peroneal (and move the front part of my foot to the side instead of upward) or it will fail to stimulate any nerve at all. At a result, I have spent a lot of time just getting the device in the right place.
For those of you out there in cyberspace who have MS, you know that this problem can be especially frustrating, especially if your eyesight or your hands aren’t cooperating on a particular day.
BYE BYE BRACE, HELLO SANDALS
One of the best things about the WalkAide is that I don’t have to wear a brace anymore. Wearing a brace has a lot of downsides. In an earlier post, I mentioned that the braces I wore have weakened my ankle and reduced its range of motion.
Then there are the even more important, fashion-related concerns. For one thing, braces look best when camouflaged by clothing, such as pants or jeans. Put another way, a white plastic knee-ankle brace with a visible hinge and wide velcro fasteners is not the most stylin’ accessory with a short skirt or a pair of shorts. That’s why my closet is full of boot leg jeans and pants. If the WalkAide works for me and I purchase it, I will take a lot of those pants and jeans to consignment shops and replace them with skirts and shorts.
A brace limits one’s choice of shoes. Most of the time I wore New Balance shoes with my brace. Other footwear options include fancier shoes you can purchase in places that fit orthotics and braces. But let’s face it, these shoes and boots are not featured in fashion magazines. They are not attractive at all. And they are expensive. I have experienced problems with fit and comfort with these shoes. I found that they were difficult to put on over the brace, were uncomfortable to wear, and made walking even more difficult.
I probably have four or five pair of these kinds of shoes in a variety of colors and styles collecting dust in my closet. I haven’t exactly worn down the heels or scuffed the toes. Yee-haw, I can wear sandals and cowboy boots again!
July 2, 2014
I debuted my WalkAide at Wally World, where I went to buy shorts. I decided that while I was out, I would pick up some cat litter, which I knew Jem, my Maine coon cat, would appreciate.
As some of you may know, I live in the deep South,where almost everyone lives in shorts all summer. I hadn’t worn shorts in public for years, because I was self-conscious about my brace. So I was excited about wearing shorts again.
Leaving the house, I wore the WalkAide under a pair of jeans, where it bulged as if I had cauliflower knee. Using my cane for balance, I ambled inside the store and grabbed a shopping cart (or buggy, as we say in the South).
With six pairs of shorts in my buggy, I entered a fitting room. But trying them on wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be. My right ankle and leg muscles felt weak after I removed the device. My foot and leg didn’t want to cooperate as tried on the shorts, but I select three denim pairs — dark blue, faded blue and white — to meet my summer wardrobe needs. On the way to the check-out counter, I grabbed a jumbo jug of cat litter and left the store feeling tired, but happy, that I hadn’t fallen or otherwise embarrassed myself.
EXERCISE CLASS AND THE GROCERY STORE
I drove across town and attended an aquatics exercise class for people who have been diagnosed with MS. I removed the WalkAide and got in the cool indoor swimming pool for the 60-minute class. I appreciated the positive feedback about my gait and walking speed that I received from classmates and the instructor. After class, when I put the device back on and walked to the locker room to change clothes, my leg felt fatigued, and changing back into my street clothes took a little longer than usual.
Getting my second wind, I drove to the grocery store and snagged the second shopping cart (buggy) of the day. I walked comfortably up and down the aisles and picked out the groceries I needed for the week.
As I loaded the car, I finally felt like I was getting the hang of wearing the WalkAide in public. The visit to the store didn’t take any longer than usual, and I didn’t notice any additional fatigue. Victory was mine! I had made it through my first full day using the WalkAide.
When I got home, I noticed some stiffness in my right ankle, and I realized I wasn’t used to walking so much without the brace, which had affected my ankle’s flexibility and range of motion. I put away the groceries, and Jem practically jumped for joy when he saw the cat liter.
PLEASE SEND ME YOUR COMMENTS
Please send me your comments about this post. Have you tried a WalkAide or other similar device? What kind of results did you have? Are you still using it? Do you have any advice or suggestions?
July 1, 2014
I have had foot drop since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis more than 15 years ago. This week, I’m trying something new in an attempt to improve my foot drop and gait — a medical device called a WalkAide. I will blog about my experience daily and let y’all know how it goes.
Foot drop is an interruption of the natural nerve-to-muscle communication between the brain and the leg, which inhibits one’s ability to lift the foot naturally. It can be caused by stroke, incomplete spinal cord or traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, or, as in my case, multiple sclerosis. According to a WalkAide marketing brochure, the device “restores this lost communication by sending electrical signals to your peroneal nerve, which controls movement in your ankle and foot.”
For the past 10 or so years, I have worn a brace on my affected leg (the right one) to improve my gait. I have had four or five braces in that time. I credit the braces for helping with my foot drop, keeping me from locking out my knee when I walk and generally stabilizing my gait. But the downside to wearing a brace is that my ankle stays in one position all day, and, as a result, I have lost significant range of movement and strength in that joint.
My right knee isn’t anything to write home about, either. I have had it scoped twice –had torn cartilage removed and a torn meniscus repaired, among other things. I am currently seeing a physical therapist in conjunction with using the WalkAide. She is helping me strengthen my ankle and some of leg muscles, including my hamstring, that have been weakened by MS.
I expect the WalkAide to improve my foot-drop and gait problems and, at the same time, to allow me to strengthen my ankle and improve its flexibility.
WHAT I’LL DO THIS WEEK
The Walk Aide is a “cuff” that is worn directly below the knee of the affected leg, which in my case is the right leg. It has two modes of operation — training and walking. I will use both modes daily.
I will sit with my right leg dangling from a seat or table for five minutes three times a day while wearing the WalkAide in the training mode. This mode is designed to “wake up” the peroneal nerve to help it respond as well as possible to the electrical stimulation from the WalkAide. In the walking mode, the device is set to produce an electrical stimulation to the peroneal mode and raise the front part of my foot at a specific point in my gait.
I will wear it daily as much as possible and see how it works in different situations. I will wear it while I am at home. And today, for example, I will wear it on my trip to the grocery store. So that’s the plan. I’ll report back daily to let you know how it goes.
Please send me your comments about foot drop and the WalkAide. Have you tried a WalkAide or other similar device? What kind of results did you have? Are you still using it? Any advice?