Friday, 16 April 2010

The week I became a proper cripple


Some time ago I bought a folding walking stick to keep in my bag, because I knew my balance was so crap that I needed it.

Nevertheless, having some vain tendencies still (OK, plenty), I've resisted using it - that is until I went to the hardware store last weekend.

With the pain in my hip still worsening every time I walk, my other thought had been to hopefully take some of the weight off that hip. That probably isn't feasible, because, I found that if I repeatedly put my weight on the stick, it rebounds up my arm and causes massive pain in my shoulder instead.

The third and final reason, which is why I did get the stick out eventually last week was because there's no way that I can manage to walk the long way round, by road, to the hardware store, but I felt I could manage if I took the short cut down the scary, narrow, overgrown track over the railway bridge ...

OK, I'm sure it wouldn't have been much use, but I felt a little safer there with the stick in one hand and a 130 decibel personal attack alarm in the other!

(All this because the kitchen had been invaded by ants, BTW.)

imageHaving the stick helped me going up hill, which would normally be exhausting and make me breathless, but the major benefit of it I felt when walking down hill, which, because of my balance problems, means I usually dare not look beyond my feet in front of me and need to take little baby steps, gingerly, because I feel that the ground is going away from me and that I will overbalance.

With the stick, on that slope, I was able to walk normally.

That's the first time in my life that I've negotiated a slope without feeling like I'm going to fall arse over tit. I'm just as bad on stairs and I avoid escalators completely, because they scare the living shit out of me - which can be bleeding awkward in shopping malls and means I just don't do the London underground.

My balance has never been good. At infant / junior school, I could never manage simple things like forward rolls in the gym like all the others could do. I'd try it, fall sideways and go giddy. It was probably never seen as a potential medical problem - just that I was shit at gym - and, consequently, wasn't checked out and, at that age, I failed to put two and two together.

In fact, I've pretty much just accepted my "abnormality" as normal, until now.

Well, I just felt my balance wasn't great, but I had no benchmark to measure it against, until, by chance, I came across mention of Romberg's test today:

Romberg's test or the Romberg manoeuvre is a test used by doctors in a neurological examination, and also as a test for drunken driving. The patient stands with feet together, and maintains balance with eyes open. The eyes are then closed. A loss of balance with the eyes closed is a positive, abnormal response.

Pretty simple to try at home, so I did. I couldn't even count a second between closing my eyes and swaying backward so severely that I had to "save" myself.

So, me thinks that my balance disorder is actually quite severe and, once more (in conjunction with pain, cognitive and eyesight problems, et al), I'm certain I made the right decision to voluntarily stop driving some years ago.

The subject has been brought into focus in recent years, because of the known association between poor balance and fibromyalgia. The fact that this has been getting worse since I got back to the UK, I'm speculating here, but I associate with the worsening of my symptoms overall, but as this is most certainly neurological in origin, I'd wonder if increased pollution is driving it.

I'm now also frequently teetering on the brink of falling over, or actually doing so, as a result of the symptoms of orthostatic intolerance or dysautonomia. My GP agrees with my theories on this and blood flow, but says it is something that often just goes away by itself. Of course, with my foggy head, it didn't occur to me to mention to her then that I've had the problem since my teens.

Whilst I guess there's still a chance it might improve once I get the other side of the menopause, I think realistically, the chance of the orthostatic intolerance or dysautonomia problem completely going away is slim.

Anyway, I made it to the hardware store, got ant killer and 3 kilos of sand and cement to stuff up the massive entrance they were using in the brickwork.

Carrying that home, even in a backpack, was a HUGE mistake!

Truthfully, if I hadn't had the stick to lean on, I think I would have had to give up and call a taxi. As it was, I only got home by walking very, very slowly indeed, but I was so exhausted, wobbly, dizzy, nauseous, etc., that I just threw my bag down and myself on the kitchen floor in the recovery position until the nausea abated and my head stopped spinning with the blood restored.

On Tuesday, I had to go out again for a medical appointment, which also meant another long walk there and back. I took the stick again and, once more, found it immensely helpful with balance, especially when I got tired and started started swaying and stumbling all over the place, as I tend to do.

Another advantage is that walking with the stick encourages me to walk more slowly. This is not in my nature and my normal pace is far too fast for my state of health and, of course, adds to the exhaustion, exercise intolerance and probably to the length and severity of the resultant flare-ups.

That's still a bit of a double-edged sword, because if I was to walk slowly enough to stay within my energy envelope in winter, I'd be going so slow I'd freeze to death - well at least my muscles would spasm and cease.

The other problem, moving slowly, is that one becomes an easier target.

But at least now I'll have my stick to hit people with! Winking


mitch1066 said...

I have the same walking stick and i too have found it excellent for balance .I agree it also forces me to slow down and concentrate while walking :)
At first i thought it was "giving in" to use it but now even my husband reminds me to take it everywhere i go!

Pamela said...

Yes, it can never be an easy decision, can it? And I am so used to being told that there's nothing wrong with me that my false belief was that I "could not" use it without a Doctor telling me to do so. Of course, I now know it doesn't work that way and realize what a benefit it is going to be to me.

mitch1066 said...

I also have a mobilility parking permit because of it too,it helps a little when grocery shopping !
We also put grab bars and a shower stool in our showers when we renovated.Yes im an old lady at 43 i guess but without these aids my days would be even harder:)Wishing you a pain free ,stress free day:)
I follow you on twitter..mitch1066

ronsrants said...

Being an improper cripple is far more fun . . .


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Chaos to Cosmos is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

^ Top