ArmCast's First Adventure
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This is a running narrative of my bracing adventure.
Tuesday, September 30, 1997
Late at night I was re-reading Nic's thoughts (Nic runs The Wannabe Page). He kept saying that he felt so much better now that he was living his dreams and not being ashamed of the feelings that we all have. This got me to thinking that, hey, I'm in college -- the perfect place to go on an adventure without my parents knowing (I'm not ready to tell them yet).
For hours I read and thought about what I should do. Should I cast? should I brace? should I do a leg, arm, or neck? After thinking for a while I came to the conclusion that I didn't want a cast yet. I decided to do a brace since they're easy to do.
I didn't bring any of the braces I have at home because I thought I was going to have a roommate. As it turns out my roommate hasn't showed up yet even though we're a week into classes. I hear that there's a waiting list for rooms though so I may get a roommate sometime soon. So that meant that I didn't have any orthopedic stuff to play with. I thought for a bit about where to get a brace. The costs on the internet are too much ($150 for a leg brace) so I needed to find a cheaper source.
After thinking about it for a while I figured that thrift stores would have lots of old orthopedic stuff that people didn't need anymore. Heck, even if they didn't then nothing would be lost and if I got lucky than I would be set!
Wednesday, October 1, 1997
After classes I went back to my dorm room and grabbed the yellow pages. I thumbed to "Thrift Store" and hoped that there were a bunch listed. There were five of them, three local ones, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army. I pulled up the MapQuest road map and punched in the addresses listed. I've only been in this town for two weeks and have no idea where anything is.. I printed out a couple maps and put them and the yellow pages in my backpack. The first place I went to was the Goodwill. All they had was a ton of clothing -- not even crutches! Next I headed to the Salvation Army hoping that they would have a better selection.
The place was drab, peeling paint, cracked cement, industrial neighborhood. I walked in and saw clothes, racks and racks of clothes. I didn't just take a peek and leave though, ortho stuff is commonly stuck in the back corner or up on a shelf. I wandered around for a little bit until I came to an open doorway that led to what used to be a mechanic's garage before the Salvation Army took over the building. Looking around some more I found a shopping cart next to a barrel filled with crutches. Bingo.
Looking around to see if there was anyone else in the room, which there wasn't, I started looking through the bin. sitting right there on top was a white spinal brace. It looked too small for me so I placed it aside and kept looking. I spent probably twenty minutes digging though the bin and hoping for a cool brace. There were a lot of back supports -- you know, the boring thin elastic ones. After finding nothing but cloth stuff and crutches in the bin I moved on to the shopping cart.
There were about four camwalkers and other miscellaneous parts in there. This was exactly what I was looking for! I looked through them and chose the newest one, a EX-LG from what the label said. It had the standard black plastic supports, white padding where the foot sits, and a bright blue liner. Unfortunately it was missing two of the straps that go around the calf so I covertly removed two straps from the other braces and attached them to my new one :) Now I had a complete camwalker. I took the brace up to the counter, hoping that the cashier wouldn't press me about why I was buying a used brace. I set the brace on the counter and said "Just this." with a smile. She looked at it and said "Is there a price tag on it?" I said I didn't see one so she said "Okay, we're just giving these away then." My mind was racing, it was a totally unexpected response (who gives things away?). I kept my cool though and said thanks and walked out the door to my car.
Of course the first thing you have to do when you get a new toy is to try it out. I drove to a place that I knew was secluded and where the chance of seeing someone I knew would be very low. It took about 15 minutes to drive there because I got lost a couple times, but I found it once I realized where I was. I pulled into the parking lot that had only an empty minivan in it. I pulled the brace out from under the blanket on the back seat and strapped it on. It felt great, I had always wanted to get one of these but they retail for over $150 US. And I had gotten it for free! I opened my door and took my first step in it, the sole of it was slightly curved which allowed a more natural gait. I walked around in circles for a couple minutes just getting the feel for it and to see if I would like to go on an adventure with it. I did.
By now it was getting on to about 3 o'clock and I hadn't eaten anything for lunch. I remembered seeing a Taco Bell around here somewhere and I thought that going inside there in my new brace would be a good, simple thing to do in my brace before going full out at college. I parked my car in the parking lot and walked in. Fortuantely there wasn't anyone in there (except employees of course) which made it easier for my first time in public. I ordered my meal and ate it without incident. When I left I started thinking that I might want some crutches for the first couple days (to make it more realistic) so I took off the brace and drove back to the Salvation Army whom I knew had a great pair.
I walked straight to the back of the store this time, again there wasn't anyone there so I could browse without fear of being questioned. I looked around a little more since I was alone and my eyes fell upon the back brace. This time I tried it on, at first it didn't fit well at all, it wouldn't get over my hips. I tried again, this time sucking in my gut a little. It worked! The brace slid on smoothly. It was a little tight but I figured I should buy it and play with it at home instead of there in the store. I brought the brace and crutches up to the counter. Thankfully there was someone else working there or I might have been remembered and questioned. Again there weren't any price tags on the crutches or brace, so we looked at each other and mutually decided on $2 each. I pulled $4 out of my pocket and paid her, then took my new toys to my car. When I got to the parking lot I put the leg brace in a carboard box still in the car from when I moved all my computer stuff into my room, the crutches were placed on the floor of the back seat. I planned on going out on Saturday and coming back with the leg brace on so I could leave it there for now. The back brace I wrapped up in a blanket I keep in my car for emergencies and took it to my room. Once there I locked the door and slid a doorstop under it so it couldn't be opened even by someone with a key. I unwrapped my brace (I can't get over thinking of it as "my brace") and laid it out. I looked it over carefully trying to figure out how the straps connected, how it was supposed to be worn, and if it needed adjusting. The brace is what is called a TLSO (Thoratic Lumbar Sacral Orthosis) which means that it should immobilize the entire spine except for the cervical section, or the neck. One thing that I noticed was that the front T-bar needed to be raised, it was too low to provide support for me. I pulled out my screwdriver and moved the bar up as high as it would go.
I lay the brace down upon the floor so that it could be put on without getting caught on the chair or anything else. I lay down into it and wiggle around until it's curves fit with the curves in my back. Once settled I pulled the front half over my stomach and wiggled it into position. That done I attached the straps and pulled them all tight. Just lying there I found it a little hard to breathe because my ribcage was totally constricted. I tried to sit up but found that I couldn't do it as I normally would. I put my elbows under me and pushed myself up, getting the feel for the brace. The back portion went all the way down over my hips to just above my tailbone, everything above that point was immobilized. With one elbow still under me I reached up to the bed and pulled myself up. It was a really interesting experience sitting up with my back completely straight. Once I was to a sitting position I tried to push myself up some more but found that I couldn't lean far forward enough to get my center of gravity vertical. Again I used my arms to pull myself (no idea what people would do with 2lac's!) up till I was standing.
Once standing the weight of the brace shifted slightly. When lying down the weight seemed distributed over the spine and the rib cage, but once I stood up all that weight went with gravity and so most of the weight went to my hips. When I tried to totally relax my back I found that my posture didn't change at all, the brace kept me in a perfect posture. I tried moving around through all the noraml motions of the back. When leaning forward I found that I could only bend about 90 degrees. When leaning back I couldn't lean past vertical at all, it was quite amazing. To the sides I could move a little, but that was moving relative to my hips, the entire trunk moved as one.
I wore that brace for about 12 hours, from 7pm till the next morning when I had to take it off to go to class.
Monday, October 6, 1997
Today I went out in public to all my classes in my leg brace. My first class was at 7:30 all the way across campus. I got up early after having a fitful night. I got dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and decided to put a sock on my braced foot because it was quite cold outside. I left my room and walked the several hundred yards to the class.
Note: Sorry I didn't write more, now I don't remember the details :( Let this be a lesson to you all, write down your adventures as you experience them or you'll forget them later.
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