Dancing in the Rain: Lessons Learned on my Personal Journey with PD (more at www.PDPlan4Life.com) Copyright 2013-16 Sheryl Jedlinski
By Sheryl Jedlinski
Before I turned to walking sticks to help me get around, I was well on my way to becoming a “frequent faller.” I hit rock bottom the day I fell three times -– once in my house, then in a theatre lobby, and finally in a busy parking lot. I was fortunate to injure only my pride. The next time, I could just as easily break a hip.
I suppose I should have expected my physical therapist to prescribe a walker that would provide the extra stability necessary to reduce my fall risk. Instead, her words hit me like a ton of bricks, signaling what I considered the “beginning of the end.” Bad enough I have what was once considered “an old person’s disease;” I refused to make it worse by dressing and acting the part.
Recognizing that assistive walking devices are only productive if the patient regularly uses them, my orthopedist suggested I start with trendy walking sticks, rather than a walker. These returned me to a more upright posture and normal walking gait, which boosted my self-confidence, made me feel safer, and increased my activity levels and independence. The brightly colored aluminum sticks boldly bear the name of the sporting goods store from which they came, making me feel like an athlete rather than someone’s grandmother. How we see ourselves creates the image we project to others and how they see us.
I put my sticks to the test as soon as I got them, traversing a large, crowded, art fair, and a sizeable outdoor mall on back-to-back summer days. Each day, I walked two hours before my get up and go got up and went, far exceeding the 20 minutes I had been averaging without a walking aid. In no time at all, and with little instruction, I significantly increased my walking speed; lengthened my stride; and improved my posture, stability, and breathing. Pairing a personal activity tracker with my walking sticks, tapped into my competitive nature and pushed my speed and stamina higher yet.
The only downside to relying on walking sticks for daily transportation is that it makes it difficult to carry packages. Fortunately, I have many wonderful friends and family members who step up to be my shopping sherpa or “schleper,” depending on location. I’ve come to realize that choosing options that make my life easier is just common sense, not a sign of surrender.
Strangers who see me clipping along stop me to ask about my sticks and tell me how “athletic” I look. They want to know if I am training for a special event. “Yes,” I tell them, “The rest of my life.”
Should you be out buying a pair of walking sticks: