socks-2There are holes in all of my socks. And I am not going out to buy new ones.

As I have said many times previously, I am affected by spastic cerebral palsy, which means, among other things that there is a significant amount of spasm in my body, and that makes some things difficult. Back spasms sneak up on me on a regular basis, and often I have to stop what I am doing and take a deep breath in order to let the spasm pass. The spasm thing also means that I don’t have much balance, and when I am upright I need to utilize a grab bar in order to be steady.

Probably the most significant thing about the spasticity within me is that it means that I cannot independently bend my knees. Turns out, knees need to be flexed in order to crawl, or get back into a wheelchair from the ground or to get in and out of bed, and lots of other things that most people don’t think about.

So, if I currently want to do any of those activities by myself, in a word, I am screwed.

Several physical therapists and other medical professionals have told me for years that spasm caused by cerebral palsy tends to increase with age, and that my body would age faster than the bodies of those without my particular disability.

Based on all of that feedback, I simply thought that was how things were going to be until the end of time. So, when I want to move my legs on my own, I have learned to grab my socks in order to get some leverage. I can’t bend my knees, but I can grip my socks to get my legs to move how I want to. On a good day, the system sort of works, but because socks were not designed for this particular purpose, there are holes in every pair that I own. Go figure.

Several years ago, in 2007, I had the honor of being crowned Ms. Wheelchair Kansas. One of the highlights of the year was flying to Bethesda MD to participate in the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant. Doing so was an amazing experience. Phenomenal people were there, and we spent a week bonding and being empowered by each other. A lasting benefit was that I became part of the Ms. Wheelchair America family, a sisterhood that full of women who truly understand.

A few years after I participated personally, I found out that there was a new product at the MWA pageant that the contestants were encouraged to try. The Physical Movement Therapy Device by a company called Flexiciser. From the pictures online, I could tell that when a wheelchair user rolled up to this machine  and got their feet strapped in, turning it on allowed both arms and legs of the person to go through a full range of motion simultaneously. According to their website:

“The PMTD™by Flexiciser is a versatile, self-operated therapeutic device for patients who are mobility-challenged. It is specifically designed for the simultaneous movement of all four limbs, no matter how compromised, and allows the mobility-challenged an integrated means of improving their health, both physically and mentally.”

From the moment I watched the video online, I was fascinated. And the more research I did, the more I was convinced that, over time, this was the device that could help me relearn to bend my knees. And my bending my knees means less dependence on caregivers. And that would rock. Beyond measure.

The website quickly let me know that the price was well beyond my means, but one of the things my disability has taught me is how to look outside the box. One day, I went on eBay and learned how to do a continuous search. I typed in the word “flexiciser” and signed up to get an email whenever somebody had one to sell. Then I waited.

A few months went by. Then, on a random Wednesday morning, while I was checking email, I saw it. A message from eBay…I contacted the seller, a very nice guy who was willing to negotiate with me.

I own a Flexiciser.

Using it consistently over the past few years has been somewhat of a challenge because I cannot use it by myself. Whenever my legs are strapped into the machine, the front of my wheelchair raises up slightly, and I need a caregiver to go behind me and hold on to my chair in order to provide counter-balance so I feel safe. As long as a caregiver is with me, the full range of motion feels fantastic. A mirror is in front of my legs as I use it so that my brain can see me bending my knees and my body used to the motion again.  I briefly worked with a neurophysical therapist who liked to say “the brain can’t heal what the brain can’t see.”

It has been about six weeks now that I have been using it on a daily basis. My legs aren’t as tight and moving has become a bit easier. I am prepared for daily sessions over the course of many months before I see significant progress in my ability to bend my knees. But I am hopeful.

Eventually, I am convinced that I will even be able to go out and buy some new socks.