Here's an excerpt from my upcoming book to tantalize you and convince you to buy it!
It's Not Walking. Walking is a whole other thing.
I've probably said this before (and most likely will say it again) but if one more person says, "Look at you! You're walking!" I'm gonna scream! This, this thing that I do to ambulate from one place to another, this is not walking! Not in any sense of the word. This is getting around. (as my friend/Operations Manager is fond of saying, "it's a workaround; we're really good at workarounds!"). Walking is a whole other thing.
Walking, in case you were unaware, is a complex exercise in which brain, muscle, tendon, nerve, bone, cartilage, and blood dance together, perfectly choreographed. Human walking is frequently described as "controlled falling." According to the American Physiology Society"…walking does not involve a simple sequence of alternating contractions in pairs of antagonistic muscles but involves complex and variable patterns of activity."
Still not convinced? Take a few steps and carefully observe. As you move forward you bend your knee slightly, pull up your foot starting with the heel rolling up to your toes and then using your hip propel yourself forward, generally with a great deal of grace and balance. Take any of those myriad muscles, joints, etc. out of the equation and regular walking as we have evolved to do no longer exists. It now becomes "getting around." In truth, I do walk with my left foot but I manage to drag my right foot along for the ride. When I try to gently bend my right foot forward (which it doesn't want to do) the action causes the right lower leg to jerk up marching style and the foot to curl inward resulting in putting the foot back down mostly on its side. If I try to force the natural movements of a step I end up dragging my toes along the floor and if I'm walking on carpet that's a recipe for tripping and/or stumbling.
I have a new appreciation for such a lowly activity as walking. It is really poetry in motion compared to what I do. And walking is only part of it. I also can't kneel, can't squat down very well, have trouble rolling over in bed or on an exam table, crawling, and crouching under, and forget about getting down on the floor—at least on purpose! Not only are these activities nearly impossible but painful as well. So what you say? Try picking something up that has fallen and rolled under a piece of furniture without squatting or kneeling.
Stepping over even a bump in the sidewalk or down from a curb can be treacherous. I do not have good leverage with my right leg so getting into and out of a restaurant booth or theater seat is tough. I lack the finesse to stand and just place my right foot into a shoe or even put on pants. I get tangled up in cords, table and chair legs, and other would-be obstacles. We can't park too close to another car as I can no longer squeeze out through a narrow passage, not being able to bend my knee sufficiently or slide my foot and let out smoothly. There's definitely no scrambling up on a step stool or ladder to reach something above my head. And of course, driving—at least using my feet—is out of the question. As my last PT put it: "You should not be driving; I'm glad you're not driving!"
Perhaps the worst injustice: I am consigned to wearing only very flat, flexible shoes or "sturdy" ones which are large enough to accommodate my charming AFO. No heels, slip-ons, boots or skimpy sandals for me. And I have a pretty respectable collection of those! Every day I walk into my closet and am confronted by the Ferragamo's, Eagles, Clarks, Italian Shoe Companies, and others that reside there. It is as if their collectives eyes are gazing up at me; as if their collective voices are calling "remember"? They are decidedly from before and as time goes on and more than one expert tells me that this is probably the best it is going to get I wonder if it isn't the prudent thing to do to find a new home for them. But then I would walk into my closet and be confronted by sadly empty shoe shelves, looking as pathetic as when they were once filled with unused shoes.
At a friend's birthday party I mentioned this in conversation with another friend. Her advice (because it seems that everyone has some for me these days!) was that I start by giving up just my least favorite shoes and as I buy new ones that work I gradually give up the rest, eliminating the dreaded empty-shelf syndrome. Sound advice except…I'm also "paralyzed" by something similar to what families of coma victims must experience: when do you pull the plug? What if you pull it and then they come up with a cure? What if you pull it and then spend the rest of your life wondering if it was the right thing to do?