Orthotics – and the impact they have had on my life

Date: 07/09/2021

A patient story – Anne O’Brien

Arthritic for much of my life with osteoporosis and stenosis of the spine, my mobility has decreased in recent years despite daily physiotherapy exercises. I have worn a left Ankle and Foot Orthoses (AFO) and used crutches for many years as there is little sensation or control in my left leg. The AFO enabled me to walk, albeit with a strange windmill gait. As sciatic pain and loss of sensation in both legs increased, I became more dependant on using a wheelchair. Physiotherapist Aiden Payne suggested that if an orthotic providing greater support to the left leg could be found, it would take the pressure off, providing more stability to the left leg and may improve the function of the right leg.

A referral back to Orthotics and Stewart Alvin led to the creation of Olive the Orthotic. Supported around the pelvis, thigh, knee, ankle and foot, I could put some weight through the left leg for the first time in many years without it collapsing and me ending up on the floor. The right leg no longer had to bare the brunt of carrying all the weight and it stopped giving way as much. It was a challenge learning to use Olive, as she is heavy and cumbersome but slowly, with lot of exercise and practice I got there. I can stand more securely and walk sort distances with the help of crutches. Stewart immediately wanted to create a lighter version once he knew Olive worked. This proved to be a challenge too with COVID restrictions and communication with the workshop. However, Olive Mark II, who I christened as Olivia as she is more refined, is now functioning and I am learning to adapt to the changes and improvements following on from Olive I.

I am incredibly grateful to Stewart and Aiden for their skill and hard work in creating the orthotics and teaching me to use them. It has made a great deal of difference to my life in a number of ways, including:

  • I can stand with my weight more central, which improves my posture and stability
  • My right leg has retained some function as it is no longer taking all the weight
  • I can walk short distances with crutches without the fear of falling over
  • I can walk outside on level paving, which means I can go into my garden sometimes
  • Spending time out of the wheelchair and upright has helped with both my breathing and digestion.
  • It has improved my confidence, as I am less fearful of falling and ending up back in hospital.
  • It has improved my health mentally and physically

The wheelchair is a great tool and it gives me the freedom to go out and about to places that are accessible BUT the ability to stand and walk short distances means much more of the world is accessible. Without Olivia, I would not have been able to join friends for a celebratory meal in a beautiful seafood restaurant in Cornwall recently.

I feel confident that I can continue to live independently for longer whilst being fitter and healthier because of Olive and Olivia the orthotics, for which I am extremely grateful.

Thank you Stewart and Aiden for improving my life so significantly.