I am attending an online Blogging 101 course to improve my blogging skills. Today’s assignment is to blog about who I am and why I’m here. It’s been more than three years since I started this blog and explained what I was doing, so here’s a recap for those of you who were tardy getting to this party.

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1998. After I retired from a corporate public-relations job in 2005, I began working part-time as an adjunct instructor at a nearby university (Roll Tide!), and, at about the same time, I started working as a freelance writer. After a couple of years, I gave up the teaching position, but I continue to freelance.

In early 2011, I joined a writers group. When the topic of blogging came up during a meeting, I announced to the group that I planned to start a blog about MS. As the idea took shape, I decided I would educate others about the condition by blogging about my personal experiences — good and bad. And, because MS doesn’t define me, I also blog about other topics. These days, one of those topics is online dating.

Here’s my first post on the blog, dated June 6, 2011. It was titled, It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

Here are three good reasons to have a blog titled “MS with a Southern accent.”

First, a lower percentage of people in the southern U.S. are said to have MS, as compared to those who live in the northern part of the country. In fact, in all parts of the world, MS is more common at latitudes that are farther from the equator. As a result, this blog approaches MS from a slightly more tropical perspective.

Second, Southerners are purported to be natural-born storytellers, so this blog should practically write itself with only a little help from me.

And third, the Deep South is the hottest and most humid place to live in the whole country. Throw MS into the mix, and it’s not pretty. It makes my hair frizzy and my MS symptoms worse. I probably spend at least four months of each year holed up at home so I can minimize the effects of heat and humidity. On the other hand, I have plenty of time to write.

Looks like I found my niche.

(NOTE: The original post has been edited. I corrected typos and made a few changes to tighten it up and improve its accuracy. I guess I’m an editor at heart.)

putting on WalkAideI have purchased a WalkAide System to help minimize foot-drop related to my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. So far, the device is working well.

Next on my Walkaide to-do list is to get a few simple, yet elegant tattoos on my lower right leg to help me place the device correctly so that it will function properly. (If the electrodes are not in the right place, the device won’t work.)

I’m considering two options for the tattoos. Either small dots that look like freckles or small stars placed to look like a constellation, such as the Big Dipper. The first would probably be less painful, while the second seems more creative. It’s a difficult choice, but nonetheless, I plan to be inked by the end of the week.

One of my favorite things about the WalkAide is that I can wear attractive shoes again — not the el-dorko kind that you wear when you use a leg brace, which I did for many years. (If you are interested in a good deal on some slightly used el-dorko shoes, just holler.)

I am also working to resolve a Walkaide-related fashion challenge. I purchased and wore capris with the device this summer, but the legs of most long pants aren’t big enough to wear a Walkaide inside them.  I don’t own any palazzo pants or long skirts. They’re just not my style, but maybe it’s time to get some.

Even in the Deep South, where I live, the clichéd frost is already on the pumpkin, and this Halloween weekend is the coldest I can remember. I need winter clothes — skirts and pants, because I will move my capris from the closet to the cedar chest soon. I don’t consider bare calves with goosebumps in November to be a fashion-forward option.

Might I receive an invitation to a fancy holiday soiree this year? It’s possible. I guess I should put some thought into getting gussied up in a fancy outfit. And maybe, I should go ahead and plan to borrow a mink coat from a friend, just in case.

(NOTE: If this post interests you, you might want see my previous posts about the Walkaide System.)

Just a couple more items to check off my to-do-list, and I expect to be the proud owner of a WalkAide.

FIRST — EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE

I’m exercising even more now that I’m planning to purchase the WalkAide. I do this additional exercise to further strengthen my ankle, leg and hip, and to improve my balance. In some cases, I’m attempting to improve muscle function that’s been impaired for ten or more years. I don’t expect it to be a walk in the park, but it’s doable.

So, in addition to my normal four-day-a-week exercise schedule, I exercise at home as much as I can. Most often, I exercise while watching television in the evenings — especially during commercials.

SECOND — SAVE THOSE PENNIES

After some checking around, I understand that my primary medical insurance provider (Medicare) won’t help pay for the WalkAide in my case. And because it doesn’t pay, neither does my secondary insurance provider (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama).

I researched the situation, and the way I understand it, Medicare would pay a portion of the cost of the device if I had been diagnosed with an incomplete spinal cord injury. But because my diagnosis is multiple sclerosis, medical insurance will not help me. I further understand that diagnoses of cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and stroke also would result in nonpayment by Medicare as well as private insurance providers.

Other funding sources are few and far between. One exception is the Alabama chapter of the National MS Society. I want to thank that organization for helping me with the cost of the WalkAide.

HEALTHCARE IN AMERICA — ONE GAP IN THE SYSTEM

I feel fortunate that I can afford to purchase this device, and I find it unfair that so many others who need it cannot afford it.

This situation is only one example of the many gaps in our country’s healthcare system. This gap keeps many Americans with MS and other conditions from using new technologies, such as the WalkAide, to improve their gait.

NOTE: I want to thank the people who sell the WalkAide system for posting a link on WalkAide’s Facebook page to one of my earlier blog postings about my experience with the device.

FM1I am again testing the Walk Aide. And this time I am taking it seriously and asking a lot of questions.

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.

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.

 

Walkaide another photoOn 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.

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