Freedom Through AFOs

by ROD FULMER, McDonough, Georgia

Who wants to wear ankle braces? I wish I didn’t have to wear any, but because I need them, I’m glad I found carbon fiber braces that have worked very well for me. Mine are made by Allard USA, and I discovered them somewhat by accident.

My sister and I were sitting in a hospital waiting room one day when she leaned over and said, “Look at my new braces.” I looked down to see these sleek and very light ankle braces. I convinced her to let me try them on, and to my amazement, with these braces on, I was able to walk easily up and down the hospital hall.

You see, just before this I had fallen badly in the parking lot of the grocery store. To this day, I cannot tell you why I had gone to the grocery store that day. All I recall was that I needed to get home because I had fallen, and I could feel the blood running down my legs. At the time, I wasn’t using AFOs (ankle-foot orthosis).

That day in the hospital with my sister was not my first encounter with an AFO. I had previously been custom fitted with hard-plastic, hinged monster braces, but they ended up in my closet. They were horrible—heavy, and rigid. The reason I needed AFOs is because I have FSH muscular dystrophy, which gave me foot drop and made me prone to falling. Falls are very dangerous. You never know what you will break or hit; plus there’s the embarrassment of it all.

Having tried my sister’s carbon fiber braces, I couldn’t wait to get a new prescription for myself. Now, eight years later, I am still wearing them. Thanks to how lightweight the brace is and how it helps to lift my foot, I am able to walk much farther without getting tired than I ever could with my old, plastic AFOs. This is a key point, because when you have FSHD, it is important to remain as active as possible to keep muscles from deteriorating.

A few weeks ago, we took a trip to Los Angeles, and thanks to my Allard AFOs, I was able to walk the Hollywood Walk of Fame and see the many stars, one of which honored a man who is a hero to many of us with muscular dystrophy—the late Jerry Lewis.

I can’t tell you what AFO is right for you because there are many different brace manufacturers and types. I can only tell you what has worked for me.

Please, if you are considering braces, do some research, compare and ask about warranty, and consult a good orthotist. Here are a couple of websites that are good places to start: https://www.cmtausa.org/resource-center/treatment-management/bracing/ and www.getbackuptoday.com.

Editor’s note: Rod Fulmer is a senior purchasing agent for Dodson Global, Inc., and since 2013 has been a brand ambassador for Allard USA.

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