It was August of 2003; I had just returned from a family vacation to Hershey Park, I was working in my Preschool classroom. I did not know that my life was about to change with an injury. I was the lead teacher in a preschool classroom with children ranging in age from 3-5 years old. It was a typical sunny summer afternoon; I was tending to a child who displayed dangerous behaviors on my left side and a child on my right side that was apprehensive about leaving my classroom to enter Kindergarten soon. The child on my left was beginning to escalate in anger and from prior experiences; I knew this child needed my attention to protect the other children in my classroom from injury.
An Unusual Injury
As I continued to tend to the child with behavior challenges on my left, the child on my right began to increase the tightness of a hug around my right thigh. I quickly turned to ask the child to stop as it was hurting my leg. It was at this time the child jumped on my right leg wrapping her legs around my calf. The force of this caused my knee to bend sideways inward. I was in immediate pain and quickly sat in a preschool sized chair. I remained composed and gently asked the child to please hug my body next time and to go get my assistant teacher. I remained composed because as the lead teacher in the classroom, I did not want to cause my students to become upset.
My Assistant teacher came over to me and quietly asked if I was ok. I smiled and whispered no. She asked if I could get up. I tried and found I could not. She quickly got me ice for my leg and called for the Director. The Director called my spouse who quickly came to pick me up. As he physically carried me in his arms out of the classroom, several children remarked that Ms Sharon’s Daddy was taking her home. Through preschoolers eyes who else picks you up but your Father.
The Extent of the Injury
I visited the local emergency care center, where x-rays were taken. I was in pain and unable to straighten my right leg. They thought I had torn my meniscus. I was given crutches and was soon scheduled for arthroscopic surgery in September of 2003 to be followed by physical therapy (which quickly began to be known as pain and torture). It never dawned on me that this first surgery would not work.
After the first surgery, physical therapy and the use of a Dynasplint system (which I slept in, well tried to sleep in and wear an additional three times throughout the day turning up the tension each day in an attempt to straighten my locked knee) failed to correct my inability to straighten my leg, I was scheduled for a second arthroscopic surgery with a new surgeon. The second surgery and subsequent physical therapy and electrotherapy (E-Stim and a Tens Unit) again did not fix my ability to straighten my leg or alleviate my pain.
I went to another surgeon who said he could fix the problem by performing a lateral release and a tibia tubercle transfer. The surgeon gave me the odds that he was 80% certain the TTT followed by more physical therapy would correct my issue. You guessed it, this did not work as expected either. I still had much difficulty ambulating, circulation problems and swelling in my affected leg along with continuing severe pain in the affected leg which failed to be alleviated by a variety of pain medications.
Finding A Brace To Help
I was told to see an orthotist to be fitted for a brace after an EMG showed I had severe femoral neuropathy. My first brace was a low profile swing lock knee brace accompanied with a platform crutch. I also was provided with a scooter, wheelchair and a left foot accelerator was installed in my vehicle.
The knee brace I wore seldom did what it was designed to do. It didn’t lock and unlock smoothly and I could never trust it to work properly. Because of this I walked with my right leg straight and hiked my hip. This style of walking caused many secondary issues and increased pain. I was determined to continue to work with children, but I had limited steps, and limited time I could be up walking each day.
Each weekend became time for me to rest up to be ready for another work week. I stopped attending events, and favorite activities due to my pain level and difficulty walking. Gone were the days of hiking with my family, enjoying amusement parks and fairs, taking photos, walking during my lunch hour every day, running with the children, cooking dinner, shopping and dancing. I no longer was enjoying the same quality of life I had experienced pre-injury. I worked hard every day to be the positive person I once was.
Coping Day to Day
This was further challenged by my inability to continue to work full time. I had to cut my hours at work due to my continuing pain level, circulation issues and limited time I could be active daily. The Insurance company at this time decided this was a personal decision (not a medical one) and stopped paying a portion of the salary I was missing due to cutting my hours. This action provided yet another blow to my ability to stay positive. Now, I alone had certainly put my family in financial jeopardy (which unfortunately gets worse) further challenging my resolve. One works so hard to provide a home for their family, it is horrifying to be the single cause for its possible and eventual loss.
It is 2013 and I am ten years out from my injury date. In December of 2012 my CPO from Hanger told me about a new brace he had found. This new brace was made by Ottobock and it appeared to be one that may help with my medical issue. I was excited to see this new brace as each time I visited my physician prior to this visit to Hanger, I was told there was nothing out there to help me; he continued that he was looking and I would be the first to know if there he found something that could help me.
The Ottobock C-Brace
In January of 2013, my talented Hanger CPO and I started the process to see if I was a good candidate to receive a C-brace. Little did I know I was about to embark on a life changing process.