Milestone after 7 Months

My spine surgery was 7 months ago today. And yesterday, for the first time in all those months, I put my AFO’s on by myself. It took about 25 minutes and a moderate amount of swearing. I was able to do it again this morning, though it took longer and was more frustrating. However, being able to do this MYSELF has eluded me from the beginning, and it’s a huge milestone.

Occupational Therapy has been here a few times to work with me on it and we decided that the only way I can put these things on is to shove the AFO’s into the shoes before I try to put the foot into the AFO. I have to use the compression socks to pick up the leg and manouver the foot into position, since the right foot in particular is not cooperative. I can’t bend the ankle or raise my toes as the foot goes into the shoe. When we were trying out options on Thursday, I managed to break a rivet, making it impossible to strap the AFO into place. Oops. The orthotist had me come in that afternoon to repair it; they also removed the velcro strap around the ankles at my request and as suggested by Physical Therapy. I think that made a difference.

But being able to do this MYSELF is huge because it means there’s a possibility of walking in my apartment by myself. I’ve been limited to walking when someone can be here with me to put on the shoes and to follow me around with a wheelchair in case I need to rest. Well, if I can put the AFO’s on myself, I can get a neighbor to help me on days when my aide isn’t available, which will give me more walking days. More walking = more confidence & strength = ability to walk shorter distances on my own.

It’s been a long 7 months. I don’t think the right foot is better than it was when I had surgery, though I think the toes can move a little bit. But the ankle is still frozen and lacks normal sensations. And the bottom of the foot feels spongy and the whole foot drops all the time. I can’t walk without the AFO’s to support the foot and keep it from dropping. Period. The left foot feels more like a foot but it also has flexion and sensation problems. The surgeon said to give it 12 months; PT says to give it 12-18 months, so I shouldn’t be discouraged at 7 months to have this lack of function. But it’s still sobering.

Don’t worry, I’ll keep working on what I can do, but it’s hard. So seeing something happen for the first time after seven months is very motivating. Maybe one day I’ll learn to like the AFO’s, maybe when I can put them on more easily without swearing so much. But even if I don’t ever like them, I already like what it means to me when I have them on – especially when I can do it myself. Go me!

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