Namine got her new braces — AFOs (ankle-foot orthotics), to be exact, although “brace” is just easier to say — last week. Her old braces were too small for her ever-growing feet, and she needed more support than her shoes could give.
The crucial difference between these new braces and the old ones is that these do not stretch her feet. The old braces had Namine’s entire foot, heel to toe, touching the ground. The new ones, however, have a wedge, allowing Namine’s feet to rest at a more comfortable angle.
When Namine walked in her old braces, her feet were being constantly stretched. Her feet do not naturally rest at a 90-degree angle to her leg, so this was a source of constant pain while walking. The point of the new braces, Namine’s physical therapist has told us, is not to stretch her feet. The point is to enable her to walk as comfortably as possible, and to that end, the wedges allow Namine to walk without being stricken with constant pain while doing so.
Braces are never right the first time around.
Having said all that, the braces aren’t yet ideal. While wearing the new braces, Namine’s left foot rests firmly on the ground, but her right foot does not. That is at least partially the fault of her knee, and possibly even from her tibia starting to turn in — something predicted by her orthopedic doctor, but not something that needs to be addressed quite yet — but the wedge on the brace can be adjusted to account for it. “Braces are never right the first time around,” Namine’s therapist told us. She’s confident that with further modification, the right brace can make it easier for Namine to stand, walk, and climb a little more comfortably.
Despite her feet hurting almost constantly, Namine continues to love walking and climbing. She has little trouble climbing into chairs at home, even her dining room chair — no different than the rest of the dining room chairs — which used to give her trouble. Until recently, the only thing that continued to baffle her was her wheelchair. Until recently, Namine remained convinced that she could not do it without help. Realizing after the fact that she had no help, when she thought that she had, helped her conclude that it could be done on her own.
What used to take minutes — if she would get past her bellyaching and do it at all — now takes seconds. Namine has the strength in her arms and legs, but I think the real hurdle was having the confidence. Now that she has that, she climbs in and out of her wheelchair with ease.