Friday, June 22, 2012

A good ending

This past week I got my first pair of "real" running shoes in years.  It's not that I'm ready to run in them, but, well it's complicated...

Instead of braces on my legs (called AFOs - sounds like an alien invention!), I now have what's called a Bioness on each.  The Bioness has 2 parts.  There's an upper "cuff" that goes right below the knee, and there's a heel sensor that goes between the insole and shoe (where the heel strikes when walking).  When I push on my heel, that activates the heel sensor.  Somehow that then talks to the cuff, which has 2 electrodes (don't quote me on terminology here!).  The cuff is placed in just the right place so the electrodes "zap," or send a signal, to some part of the outer calf.  That part is actually the part that sends a message to the foot, or actually toes, to lift up and then kick forward.  It's really cool because I can plant my heel and then really kick my whole foot and leg out.  Anyway, back to shoes.

Because I have heel sensors rather than huge braces for shoes, I can wear more than just the big clunky shoes.  I'm still limited, but I don't have to worry about shoving a brace into my shoe.  I have to make sure there is heel stability.  I broke out a pair of sturdy sandals and have been wearing them, but they are not good for when I really want to walk further.  And I am sick of the big, clunky black shoes I wear everywhere.

So I went to the running store.  The guy there was really nice and didn't ask why in the world the lady with the walker wanted running shoes with solid ankle support.  He showed me a pair and remarked they are good for pronation (that's when the foot turns in naturally).  I have the opposite problem - my feet tend to turn out so my ankle bends out.  I think I've always tended this way.  In high school some people came to analyze our running technique and said I had a very strange knee alignment and something strange with my foot.  My physical therapist says my foot tends to stick out to the side instead of straight.  I have flat feet too!  Maybe these things made me fast, yes? 

I found a pair of shoes.  My mom and I went home and that night I set them up with the heel sensors, ready to go for an early morning walk.  The heat has been getting to me lately, so I didn't know how the walk would go.

The next morning everything was set.  I got out of the van, got the walker, and started.  And then I stopped.  What?!!  Don't heel sensors work with running shoes?  I could feel a zing being sent to my right leg, but it wasn't responding at all.  Nor was the left.  So, discouraged, I went home in a pout.  I put the heel sensors back in my other shoes.  The same thing happened.  I "made up" that it was the heat, that nothing was going to work that day.

That night we went to Starbucks with the old shoes.  Same thing.  Impulses clearly being sent but nothing was happening.  Pout.

When we got home I did a bunch of exercises to see how bad this MS and heat was getting to me.  But the exercises went fine.  Terrific.  I "made up" the Bioness was broken and I would have to wear clunky shoes and AFOs made by aliens (see paragraph near beginning) for life.  Pout.

This morning I got up and figured I would call the physical therapist.  We have a prayer group in the building where I work.  So I went to that and yes, we did actually pray that these things start working again!

Back at my desk, I made an appointment and talked with someone who told me to check the heel sensors.  And so I took the right heel sensor out.  I squeezed on it.  And it activated the left cuff.  So, if you haven't figured it out, the right heel sensor was trying to get the left leg to move while the left heel sensor was trying to get the right leg to move!  Thus, there were a bunch of signals all mixed up.

That just goes to show that when doing something as easy as moving heel sensors between shoes, it's important that they go in the correct side.

I guess those prayers worked.  No, there was a scream to switch the sensors that wasn't being heard - to think more than one way.  Perhaps there was a scream to stop doubting ability and instead figure out why.  A plea to move forward and believe in myself without doing a bunch of exercises to convince myself I'm ok.

And in the end, though frustrating, I have to laugh.  Zing, zing, zing.  Now to switch the sensors to the running shoes...  the correct way.


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