The journey of splints

The saying goes "before you criticise someone you should walk a mile in their shoes" or "give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world" and from what I gather shoes are kind of important, and often used as a fashion accessory to match outfits! I guess some people's shoes require the help of splints for them to be more functional...

I first started wearing a full-length AFO when I was diagnosed at the age of 7. All I remember is hating the actual casting process! This is done the same way it would be if you had broken your leg, but then is cut off and used as moulds, and looking back I have no idea what was so horrible about it. I clearly remember having my first splint made and the decision over choosing a pattern was one of the hardest decisions ever! When I went to pick it up I honestly had no idea what to expect, the whole thing was all new- but unfortunately, the physio had forgotten to tick the pattern option and the splint came back plain white. After having not the best start to my splint experience I reluctantly let them put it on and just sat there and glared at it. Fortunately, on my way back to school my mum and I stopped off at a shop and bought butterfly stickers to try and mimic the pattern that I had initially chosen. I will never forget the moment when I walked back into the classroom after the appointment, people were unsure what the splint was, and in all honesty I didn't really know either. However, it wasn't long before my teacher picked me up and stood me on a chair (who on earth considered it a good idea to stand Chloe on a chair!?) and I picked 5 friends to decorate my splint with the stickers, they did a great job!

For the vast majority of primary school I continued to wear one AFO splint on my left leg. The next splint I got did have the butterfly pattern on I had wanted from the start and I rarely changed this when new splints were made. Unfortunately, due to how big the splints are it did mean that I was in trainers all year round, as it was the only kind of shoe that would fit at the time. I think this was the thing I disliked the most, being a girly- girl at heart (and there was nothing better on this planet than the colour pink) trainers didn't fit the look I was going for, and certainly don't go well with dresses when everyone else was wearing nice pretty shoes. The amount of shoes thrown in frustration during this time, because they wouldn't fit, is slightly more than I would like to admit! Now I know some people were surprised that I continued to wear skirts all the way through wearing a splint, I was never fussed if people saw it, I wasn't going to choose a pretty pattern for it to be covered up. I also think that my desire to wear skirts and dresses was way greater than the possibility of others seeing my splint. It was part of me, that just happened to be a splint.

Believe it or not I have kept every single splint that has every been cast- I just can't bring myself to get rid of them! I hated them at the time, the pain it caused from forcing my foot into a position it doesn't (but should) naturally go in, the fact it makes it harder to pick up my foot or trapping yourself if it had a hinge doesn't make it the most appealing thing on the planet. However, it wasn't all negative, do you remember having to change your shoes in primary school? I didn't have to do that, and even got to go to the front of the dinner queue to avoid being pushed over! I guess having a splint for so long, and wearing it every day, it becomes part of you. Every splint that I have has certain scratches or certain indents which meant something at the time, even if most of them are the result of falling over! All of my older splints are currently sat in the loft, who would have thought that a piece of plastic could hold such sentimental value.

After not wearing a splint from the age of 10 I went back to wearing one splint on my left side when I was 16 years old. Luckily I no longer hated the casting process, I guess that improved the whole experience and found it slightly easier to find shoes this time with my foot being bigger. It certainly was a big change after not wearing one for a few years it did feel like a step backwards that I didn't want to take. Unfortunately the patterns were still the same and are targetted at a much younger audience, ever since going back to a splint I've gone for the zebra print (love hearts or footballs didn't make the cut). This time around I've actually had more questions about my splint, and even a few queries of whether it was a fake leg.... However, my personal favourite was when a Year 8 boy wanted to know why I wore shin pads backwards- top marks for imagination!!! I've never minded people asking questions, I know I'd much rather have that then them just stare. Not that I can blame them, it's not everyday you see a zebra patterned splint!

However, after a long day it is amazing to take off a splint and finally move your foot (especially when the splint doesn't have a hinge). Unless you've had to wear an AFO splint you probably have no idea what I am on about. You know that feeling of relief of getting into bed after a long day? That's about as close as you can get. I am currently in the process of moving from wearing one splint, to now wearing two fixed ones, one on each leg. I know this will definitely take some getting used to, and makes going upstairs sound even more tricky, but minimising falls and being more sturdy on my feet is the aim. I am hoping it won't take too long to get used to this change, and before long I won't know any different. However, if anyone has any tips that would be greatly appreciated!

"give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world" 

~Chloe x


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