AFOs Part 4: Managing my expectations.
After some help from my neuro’s office and my mom’s mad “google” skills, I decided on another Orthopedics company in Ottawa.
Closer to work and in a brand spanking new location, I irrationally took this to mean, I should have tried them from the start.
I made an appointment, and this time right on the phone to the receptionist I said. “I’ve been having trouble. This isn’t my first rodeo and I’ve been disappointed by my options before. Also, money is not a limiting factor. Can you please pass both of those tidbits on to the person that I will be meeting for my consult?”
Forward? Yes and kinda crazy, possibly. I figured, maybe I wasn’t direct enough the first go round? Better to have her think a) I’m crazy demanding, and b) I can afford to be shown more than just the base model. My reasoning: I could temper both of those expectations in person, but maybe she’d be motivated to do some recon on the technology before I arrived.
I walked into the office, and it still had that new car smell (+1). It was bright (+1), the receptionist was pleasant and allowed me to email her my script while I sat there and waited (+5).
Turns out, I had been to this place a few years back, in their old location. My stomach flipped as I recalled that the person I saw at that time assured me that my rigid plastic AFO was all that was available (-3).
This time, the Orhtotist watched me walk, looked at my legs and feet, and listened to the Coles notes version of my DWTS story. I told her that I had been to another company recently and hadn’t been happy with what they had offered, and why. We also spoke about the last time I visited a few years ago, and she went on to explain that the technology had come a long way in the last 5 years. Maybe there had been no other option at that time, she reasoned. I was skeptical, but I’ll concede really what else was she going to say, right?
She asked me about my motivation for a new pair and after a few minutes she then went on to suggested the WalkOn AFO by Ottobock. She didn’t really entertain other options, saying that she felt strongly that this was the best option for me. She did not have a pair for me to try on, but showed me a picture, and explained how it differed from my rigid plastic AFO. She told me she would order them (in my size) and I could come in to try them on.
I went away on vacation and they were waiting for me when I returned two weeks later.
Interestingly, I had tried on the WalkOn at the first place I had visited, but it was the wrong size (like I needed a small, and it was a large). It didn’t work.
This was better, much better. As it was not yet fine-tuned to my foot specifically, it would not fit into my shoe. She was however, able to offer a pair of shoes that worked. I had to try on a pair of those awkward, ugly, bright white running shoes I loathed. The WalkOn feels very similar to my plastic AFO and at that I must admit, I felt another pang of disappointed.
Seeing it on my face I reason, she asked me what I was thinking. I explained that it didn’t feel much different, and asked her if it could go into any kind of sandal.
I also brought up (again) other AFOs I had seen in my search. For each one, she knowledgeably and rationally explained why she thought they weren’t the best choice. I wasn’t hearing what I wanted to hear, but I was hearing it in a way that I could process and rationally accept.
She conceded that it isn’t structurally, dramatically different from what I had but went on to explain that the thinner foot bed would fit into my normal shoe size, that the support didn’t come up the back of my heel, so there was no extra length and that this support didn’t directly make contact with my leg other than where it fastened below my knee. They would be less warm, and hopefully by extension more comfortable. She reiterated that carbon fiber is much lighter than the rigid plastic also.
“You shouldn’t try to put them into a sandal” she said. My face dropped. But why? She explained that putting it into a sandal would void the warranty. They are meant to be worn with a closed toe shoe. My stomach lurched again.
She again asked what I was hoping to achieve with a new pair of AFOs. “I want them to be comfortable and pretty, silly” I said. I sat silently. “I think that you want them to help you be less fatigued and sturdier, more energy efficient” she offered. “Yes” I said. Ok, that sounds good, I thought. I added that I really wanted them to be able to go into a sandal. The plastic ones are so warm, and tight, I repeated. We kept talking, and I realized that it wasn’t just the AFOs I loathed. I’m not a huge fan of shoes in general. Nor am I particularly enamoured with bare feet. I would live in slippers if I could. Running shoes and closed toe shoes in general I find tight and constrictive, and uncomfortable. After an hour, I just want to rip them off. After more discussion, she finally pointed out, that my complaints were largely neuropathy related and to a lesser degree then, AFO related.
Whhhhaaaat?! I thought. I needed to lay down. This was NOT something I wanted to hear. Ugh. I took a deep breath. I was suddenly very tired.
We talked a little bit more and she was direct in agreeing when I conceded that maybe I needed to manage my expectations about what I would find, but she was knowledgeable and kind and I didn’t feel rushed. She agreed that I was still able to function without AFOs and that was probably making it harder for me to give in to getting them. But I was starting to flirt with that line, she suspected. It was a tough spot, she agreed.
I felt deflated, but I also felt like I had gotten the answers I was looking for. If not the ones I wanted.
But DWTS! I thought. Turns out, when they just lop off your legs it is in fact easier for an otherwise healthy body to adapt and excel. A body like mine would continue in some form or another to bitch and complain. My quads were already a little bit weak and caused my left knee to pop back when I walked, she pointed out.
I made an appointment for 2 weeks from then, and said I would call if I changed my mind and didn’t want to go ahead with purchasing them. This would give me some time to confer with my “peeps”, to talk to my insurance company and to figure out the $3000.00 price tag.
I needed a drink cupcake.