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Our Life with Braces

Rating:; Genre=Non-fiction; Pages=12; Characters=24,734;
From the Author: After discovering the Leg Brace Web page my husband and I have decided to share a little story about ourselves and how our lives have been changed by being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

On a Thursday evening before the labor day weekend in 1995 I was going through the newspaper, looking at the end of the summer sales at Dillards Dept. stores. I came across the page with all the shoe clearance sales and discovered that Keds sneakers in summer colors were being closed-out for 40% 60% off. My husband had been wanting me to get a pair of red Keds for the last few years, he thinks they look really sexy. So I mentioned that Dillards had the Keds he wanted me to wear but that I didn't have an outfit to match and that Dillards had 30% 50% off summer clothes. This really got his attention and he said "Well lets go tomorrow night after we get home form work. I'll buy ya one outfit for every pair of Keds you buy." I couldn't pass that deal up!

The next evening we at dinner and rushed out to the mall. We entered the mall at the Dillards store entrance and made our way to the shoe department and over to the sneakers, there on a table were a dozen or more different colors of Keds. One of the sales girls came over and assisted us, or should I say my husband. He said "She wants a pair of red Keds." I agreed. She asked my size and went off to get the shoes. The girl returned and laced up the sneakers and handed them to me to try on, my husband offered to help I said "I'll do it" but the sales girl suggested "let him fit you, it looks like he would enjoy it." So I agreed, I put my foot up on the shoe stool and he undid my Nike's and slid on the red Keds and found that they were to big, I always wore a size 7 Nike and 6 1/2 heels, the sales gale checked my foot and mentioned Nikes run small. She and went to get some 6's and 6 1/2's, Both the sales gal and my husband laced them up and with my husband doing the honor we found 6's were just right. They felt good, we all had fun. I must have bought 4 pairs, Red, White, Navy, Black. That way he'll have to buy me four summer outfits to go with each. So off we headed to the juniors department in my new red Keds. I was kinda pleased with knowing these sneakers were size 6 and my being only 5'1" they looked much smaller and sexier than my size 7 Nikes.

I picked out and modeled different outfits with each pair we had. After that we went for a walk down the mall, showing off my new outfit along the way, to the food court for drink and a snack before heading home. We left the mall around 9:00pm and headed on out of town and onto the interstate for the 7 mile drive home. We never made it. Two exits up the road we were in the right hand lane and coming down the exit was tractor trailer coming pretty fast we turned to get into the left lane to get out of the way just about the same time the truck was coming around the exit turn, you cold here the tire screaming and the truck coming across the lane right aside of us, there was a loud bang and the truck rolled over on top of us. We were crushed in our Toyota.

Somehow we were not killed, but both semi in and out of conscious. I remember being in the ER and they were telling me they were taking me into surgery to fix up my legs and hip. And that my husband was okay and going into surgery also to get fixed up. I really don't remember much else about that except for the pain.

The next thing I remember is being almost awake and hurting with someone asking me dumb questions. I was in casts from my chest to my toes. An ER nurse said to me "you almost lost that leg honey." I ask "Is my husband okay?" she said he was alright and that I'd see him later when we were move upstairs. A day or two passed we were both in the same room and in pain for what seemed like forever. We couldn't touch each other, only talk a little in between pain meds.. A few days passed and the police and insurance people were in questioning us, that's when we learned what kind of hell we were in.

The truck blew a tire and rolled over us, the front wheel rolled over the passenger side just in front of the door. The dash was crushed onto my legs and hips. My right leg thigh and hip were shattered, severing some nerve for my right leg. My left leg's ankle and foot were broken, and the knee was crushed and the kneecap had been removed. My pelvis was split on the right side in the back somewhere. It was, of all things, that I learned of my injuries from our insurance guy and the floor nurse. My husband asked if the nerve was repaired, the nurse responded "I believe she had a lot of damage to the nerve, Dr. Meangle will talk to you about your recovery."

Now on to Dan. Dan was in a cast from under his neck to his waist, his left leg hips to toe and right leg to his knee, and right arm to his shoulder. He and I then learned some more about our injuries, Dan had had three vertebrae shattered and three ribs removed, a left leg fracture, right knee, both ankles, and right arm fractures. And repaired a torn lung. I was scared, I and Dan knew his back was broken but he still could feel and move his right leg, we didn't know they removed three vertebrae and the ribs. I asked "Can he walk ever?" We got the same response that our doctors will discuss with us our rehab options. I began to cry and cry shouting "Rehab? I don't want rehab! I want my life back!" Dan tried to calm me..

Next day my doctor came in early at around 7:00am. And told us what we may expect in my recovery and rehab. I was told that at this time they believed that I lost most the motor functions and had reduced feeling in my right leg. My left ankle should heal up well with good movement, they had to remove my left knee cap but should not have any nerve problems in my left leg after the fractures and the wounds heal, and they put a plate and screws in the back of my pelvis. "Now as far as rehab goes, I'm having you transferred over to our rehab center in a few days to start some therapy. Any questions?" I had questions like What is this motor nerve thing mean? and No knee cap, how do bend my knee and walk?" Donna, your going to be requiring walking aids; I'm afraid for the rest of your life" I cried at that time and didn't ask him another question.. Dan was frantic, yelling "You brash asshole" at the Dr.

Round two came late in the afternoon now Dan's doctors were coming in to discuss his recovery. A hospital social worker would be attending. Dan's Dr.'s and all arrived before dinner that day and asked how we were getting along. I was now ready for them to beat around the bush so I ask "Is Dan paralyzed?" "We do not believe he will suffer any permanent paralysis but does have some trauma induced paralysis. It's a little early to tell to what extent but his surgery went well and he is healing fine.." He went on to show Dan some of the X-ray of his ankles and the pins and plates that were used to fix them, he went on say that the fracture in his leg was a common fracture and would heal without a notice, and your arm had three fractures. "Now about the more serious business about your spine! Dan, Donna I had to remove these vertebrae (showing us on Dan's X-rays) and the about half of the rib with them, You are very fortunate in the way they were broken, your spinal cord has some bruising but didn't not suffer any punctures, cut, pinches that would cause permanent damage." I went on to ask how will he be able to stand don't you need all the bones in your spine? The Dr. responded "Dan will be requiring a special body brace to be worn 24 hours a day. to support and protect his spinal cord from damage from pinching and twisting and provide protection to his lung and organs from the removal of the ribs. Down the road we can talk about some options you may want to consider with repairing your spinal column. But for now we need you both fully recovered. Any questions.." What do we say to that, questions? How about answers! How about lawyers! How about our lives...

Round three: the rehab program came a few days later for me. I would be moved across the street to the rehab ward, Only to learn that I would be staying there until my rehab was complete. I was assigned there for 3 months, I wanted to go home, I wanted get up and walk out. Anyway I started rehab that afternoon pulling myself up and doing some exercises for my upper body. I didn't realize that I was going to be needing all that upper strength, I thought after the casts came off I'd go home in a day or two.. A week passed and now Dan was going to be moved over to the ward to start rehab also I felt better and was being able to push myself around in a wheelchair. After they removed some of the cast around my waist I was able sit on a toilet with some help instead of a bed pan... thank god..

A month passed and I learned at first from our social worker that I would probably be released in 3 or 4 weeks after I get my casts off and my braces made! "What are you talking about?" "Donna, you're scheduled to be moved from the orthopedic ward here to the therapy and daily living center for walking therapy and brace care and use centers. See here it's the orders from your doctor." I got on the phone and raised all kinda of hell, I hate my doctor he never talks to me, he just pops up and wants me bend my knee and pokes and pricks me all over my legs. "Braces I don't need nor want" I said.. I didn't realize or was never really told my right leg was paralyzed, they said "lost motor functions". Two days later the casts were removed. My right leg didn't move I cried and cried... I didn't even remember them measuring and putting on the braces on my legs until later that afternoon when I woke up from the sedative they must have given me. there I was leaning back in my bed both my legs encased in these braces and shoes and socks on. I started to cry again... I wasn't allowed out of bed with the braces on until after tomorrow's therapy classes.

Dan was moved over here to the same ward with me. His cast on his back would be changed this week, he was told. And that the brace maker would be in to start making his brace. I was in therapy for 3 weeks and really not liking having to strap on the braces in the morning to get up and go to the bathroom and therapy. But there was no choice. I'm a cripple now and that's that. Dan was now being moved to the daily living center and would be with me in a joint room. he was getting along with the brace thing better than I was. That week or maybe the next I met with Dan's brace maker and they measured my right leg and I was getting a new custom made plastic leg brace and they measured my left leg also for a motion control or some thing or other brace. I was kinda glad these braces the therapy center had given to me must have been 20 years old, big chunky, metal and leather straps all over them.

Dan's doctors and the brace people were really informative and nice. My doctor was a ass. A few days later the brace people were back and tried on my new braces. They showed me how this brace worked it had knee joint to bend and you slide some locks over to lock my leg straight. I stood up for them and showed them my crutch work I learned. They measured and tightened and bent the braces around a little and said you may release the left leg locks when your ready or comfortable with the strength in your left leg. later you may want us to eliminate the locks on the side we don't' believe you'll need them after you recover fully. You maybe able to do with just a knee brace. They mentioned that tomorrow one of their associates would come by and answer any questions I may have about wearing races and skin care, clothing what ever I may be needing help with. She would be coming in the morning.

Now it was Dan's turn. The brace Doctor left to go get Dan's brace. Dan was ready, the plaster cast and bandages holding it on get kinda smelly he and I were ready to get moving on to get out of here. The Dr. came back with the brace in plastic bag and two short plastic leg brace things like on the end of my braces. I ask the Dr. who those leg braces are for. "They're Dan's, his therapist prescribed them for his ankles." We were both shocked why Dan would need leg braces, they said they would only be used for a time until his ankles are stronger.

Onto Dan's fitting. They rolled Dan over on the bed frame thing that Dan needs to keep his back from bending and strapped his head and butt fast for he can't roll over and cut the plaster up the middle of the back of his cast, then rolled him over and removed the rest of cast. Then they wiped him off with alcohol and rolled him back over on his stomach to apply the brace. They asked that I watch to learn how to help put the brace on. They removed the brace from the plastic covering and laid it on his back. With a little bending and a little heating with a blow dryer thing and then they were finally done with the back part of it. It had to be at least an hour. Dan was rolled over onto his back the other half was laid on his chest it wasn't what I expected.

The back was one piece plastic and metal formed around his butt to up to and under his arm pits and across the top of his shoulders, the front is like a woman's old fashioned corset, they laced it into the sides of the back part and added straps to go around Dan's shoulders and fastened around his back and buckled to the front corset. The corset front was 10 straps that go straight across every other side and buckle in the front. Then they helped Dan lean back and called down to the nurses station and said they were ready with Dan. Some nurses and an aid came in and asked Dan "Are you ready to get the leg casts off?" "Of coarse, let's do it!" They cut off his leg cast and cleaned up his leg then removed the other short cast cleaned it up and started with the plastic leg braces. A little heating and bending with the blow dryer thing and they were ready. They said he would have therapy tomorrow.. The dinner cart was coming around, what a day, it went by fast. After dinner we talked about how our lives will be changed.. Hours of getting dressed in the morning and evening..

The next morning Sherry, from the brace doctors office, came in, much to my surprised she was wearing leg braces. About 30 or so, 5'5", a little chubby with black shorts on and white leather leg braces on both legs but no knee locks. I ask "What happened to you?" she said "Am I late?" I said "No, the braces." she replied "I'm an orthotist, a brace maker in training, I made these and have to wear them to help understand how they work, fit, and make you feel in order to better help you Donna." We got along great, She was wearing black hightop converse sneakers and asked me what my choice of shoes was. Dan commented on them and said that is kinda how we ended up in here, that lead us into our sneaker story of how we got here, Sherry said that there was no reason I couldn't wear Keds with my braces. "What shoes are you wearing?" I pointed to the old brown leather lace ups the rehab center gave me. "I thought I'd have to wear shoes like that if I had braces." "No way" Sherry commented, she grabbed the braces standing up against the wall at my bed and pointed to the plastic foot ends. "You don't have to wear hightops but you will have to have a shoe with a flat sole or just a small flat heel. You need to get one shoe size larger than you used to wear, the AFO takes up a little more space and usually a wide width shoe also is better." Sherry mentioned that she has a wide foot and wears Keds and gets them at Dillards, they carry wide sizes. Sherry talked to us about what to except and asked if we would like to speak with a counselor about our sex life. She knows a good counselor that works with people with physical handicaps. Our life is really changed.

Getting out of the rehab center was just about here for me. Six days after getting the news, or should I say braces, I was sent home in a cab. I'd have to learn to drive a special equipped car and get handicapped plates. My therapist suggested I/we get a mini van it would be easier for use to get around in and would be easier to load wheel chairs in. These people never stop, one bad thought after another, braces, wheelchairs, handicapped plates, I was 27 years old married 2 years, active, and good looking now I'm a cripple by a no-insurance truck driver and have to get a lawyer to try and get some damages and money. Our auto insurance is paying the bill so far, but the cost is probably way up there I'm sure. We haven't talked about replacing our car with them yet.

My day came, I was discharged and leaving Dan at the center with him to follow in a few days. He had to complete his training and still needed his other braces finished and fitted, he would be leaving here with 3 complete back braces, one two piece all plastic no padding for showering, and one night brace mostly a corset with less plastic and metal just to wear at night. You could tell he needed the support of the back brace as he stood you could see his chest and flesh around his arm pits pushed up around the brace padding. He was only using one cane but should be doing without that in a few months after he regains his balance and strength, funny thing is he looks taller. I kid him that now he has the posture he never had.. I said good-bye and he walked me out I rolled out, you know that hospital, thing you must use a wheelchair to exit. I wasn't prepared to get into a car I found out that you can't just turn around and unlock your braces and fall down. I had to think about what to do unlock my left leg lean on my right hold on to the canes, I did it but I was sweating up a storm it wasn't like in therapy classes.

I got home and Sherry meet me there and helped me get a few things done in our house. Later she drove me to the store to get some groceries. That evening I found the newspaper ad from labor day.. I cried and cried.. Next day I took a cab over to the rehab and stayed with Dan all day , and the same thing for the next two days. Sherry called me one night and ask if I would like to go out to Dillards and get some new shoes, maybe some Keds for Dan's treat, I agreed She came over wearing her leg braces, shorts and white Keds, She tried to get me to wear shorts but I wouldn't. She got one of my old Nike's on me instead of the old brown oxfords I has wearing from the rehab center and off we went. We got to Dillards, I was glad she was with me. You would not believe how people look at you.

Sherry just looks them in the eye and smiles and says hello how are you.. I lumbered along over to the shoes, Sherry walked up to the counter and stated my friend and I would like some new Keds. I will not forget the look on the sales clerks face, We both got fitted with some red Keds and one white pair. I needed 7 wides, so much for that girl thing of buying the smallest size you can get your foot into, this all started out with 6's. I also got a pair of Doc Martins. Next Day Sherry planned that we visit Dan with our new Keds on to surprise and cheer him up.

Dan's homecoming and release from the rehab finally came after a week delay. They kept him an extra week to finish up therapy on his ankle, he was coming home with no canes and only one AFO. I called a cab and went to go get him at the rehab center, we signed all kinds of forms and stuff this time, we finally got a look at our bill total, $102,000. That's enough to make your heart stop. We left and had the cab take us home. We were excited to be home together with no one around, we ordered a pizza, watched a movie and had a drink or two, we both were drunk, after not having any alcohol for 4 months we were out of practice. We slept on the couch for a while then ended up across the bed. Next few days were spent getting our lives together, call and check on our jobs trying to set a date to get back to work, I was a receptionist at a dentists office but was concerned about my handicap. They assured me it was no problem, Dan's job was waiting for him at the auto parts store. It seemed our only problem at that time was transportation. That was a battle, we would only be paid for the totaled value for or car, something like $3000 dollars we couldn't buy much for that, and not have been working our house payments were behind these are the things you never think about when you hear people getting hurt in car accidents.

We were not able to buy a car because of our house payments being behind, so we had some of our co-workers help us out taking us to or from home to work but on the weekends we were cab people. The social worker from the rehab stopped by every week to see how we were coming along. They were helping with a deal so that we could get a car with some state program they use for people like us now. She ask how or personal life is. We weren't having any sex, we play around a little then just wouldn't do it, we were really uncomfortable with or handicaps and going about a sex life. She said that it will take time it will come saying I'll check up on you guys next week. That went on for a few weeks finally we got a car or should I say a van a Chevy Astro van it was a 92 or 93 but we got it with the help of the state aid program for $4500 it was great to have our own car again, and it is much easier for me to get in and out, and more head room for Dan, he sits up so tall, no slumping with that man. My only problem is driving left footed its hard to get used to.

The night I had sex for the first time after the accident was great and new for me at the same time. Dan and I would play around but I was afraid of Dan hurting his back and I didn't know what do with my legs and braces, we would fool around on the couch watching movies and a few drinks helped overcome our fears with each other handicaps. I didn't know how to have sex in bed. I need my leg brace on my right leg I can get along without my left brace with a cane. And Dan was to wear a brace all the time. I didn't know who to talk to or what to do but I need to have my sex life back. I go up the nerve to call our social worker and somehow was able to talk about it, or she dragged it out of me. She asked how I believed Dan felt about my braces, I told her that he wants to have sex with me but that I'm the problem. We are always on the couch he's sitting up or leaning sideways a little and I sit aside of him or lay on his lap sideways. Its hard to find a place for my leg, it has to be bent laying on my side or lock the knee and sit there with it sticking straight out. I ask what I should do.

We talked over the next few evenings and sometimes at lunch. We had sex that a few days later. At last I was over coming my fears with wearing leg braces, they provide great leverage Dan says. Next morning we discovered we tore up the bed, I mean really tore the bed like put holes in it and ripped the sheets from the knee joint that stick out when you have your knees bent there's that little point that comes out, being I was on my knees we drove them into the mattress and ripped the sheets and the mattress. We learned to lay two towels down where I put my knees now.

Dan and I had been recovering and getting around a lot and went on a 4 day weekend vacation the next summer, I learned to be foreword about my appearance with my braces and I don't wear short shorts but I do wear walking shorts and above the knee skirts to work. I've torn more pants and long skirts and dresses I couldn't afford to keep replacing them. That is how I believe I just decided to go braces out everywhere, I try to dress sporty I really got to like Keds they are affordable and they come in lots of colors and most in wide to extra wide sizes. If not I would have to wear men's Nikes or something. I have not regained enough strength in my left leg and knee to move to a knee brace only but I hardly use the drop locks on that braces unless I get lazy I have learned how to use my braces as a seat when standing a long time. Dan is still wearing back braces we never recovered any money from the accident, that pretty much eliminates the reconstructive fusion that they could do for Dan. We both kinda are used to our handicaps and believe we have a healthier and more interesting sex life with a great openness towards each other. I understand the attraction to braces now and would not ever understood before having wear them everyday and for us many nights.

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