Vicki Hooks
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The Milwaukee Brace
By Vicki

Chapter 1

The Offer

My name is Kim and I am a normal 25 year old college graduate with a decent job. I began dating Dan a couple of months before it all started. We hit it off immediately. Dan was in a unique profession. He was a certified orthotist and prosthetist. I really didn’t know exactly what that was until he explained. He made artificial limbs for amputees. That included both legs and arms. He also made all kinds of braces such as the kind of braces paralyzed individuals wore to walk. He also made back braces for those with back problems. He didn’t prescribe them, but rather carried out a physician’s request.

I had never visited where Dan worked until one afternoon on a weekend  when he offered to stop by. We had just been out to lunch. The shop was closed. He was a co-owner. He had inherited his share from his father who was retired. He had followed in his father’s footsteps going into the same profession. I was amazed as he showed me around. There were a number of prosthetic legs in various stages of fabrication. Some were for below the knee amputees and some were for above the knee amputees. He showed me a prosthesis for a double above the elbow amputee. I had a sudden shudder as I looked at the two metal hooks at the end of the arms.

“This is a new prosthesis for a woman about your age. She lost her arms in an accident when she was only fifteen,” Dan said.

“Oh God how horrible, I can’t imagine having no arms and trying to do things with those hooks,” I replied.

“She is quite amazing. She can do almost anything she wants with her hooks. She is very well adapted. Of course she needs help for some things.”

“How do they work,” I asked. Dan explained how the hooks were connected to a control cable that was used to open and close the hook as well as raise and lower the arm if the elbow joint was unlocked. The control cable was activated by moving the shoulder. I was quite amazed. Dan showed me a long leg brace he was making. It was for a woman suffering from post-Polio syndrome.

“She will probably be back for one for her other leg at some point. She wore two long leg braces for several years as a young girl when she contracted the disease.”

The final item Dan showed me was a back brace.

“This is for a girl who has scoliosis, or a curvature of the spine. It is called a TLSO for thoracic lumbar sacral orthosis,” Dan explained. “She will have to wear it 23 hours a day for several years.”

“I am actually quite familiar with that,” I replied. “I knew a girl in high school who had scoliosis. Her name was Becky. She wore a brace for three years, all through her junior year. Her brace was different though. It went all the way up to her chin. It had this metal ring around her neck attached to a wide metal bar that ran from her chin down and two narrower bars in back that ran down too. She showed me her brace one day when she was at my house. She took off her skirt and top. The bars attached to some kind of plastic thing like a big panty that was fastened around her with straps,” I explained.

“She had a Milwaukee brace. It sounds like she had a standard neck ring with a plastic throat mold in front and a pair of occipital pads in back. The bars attach to a plastic pelvic girdle that was molded to her body. It no doubt fit very tightly.”

“Yes. She told me the brace was really uncomfortable. She could only bend at the hips and she could hardly mover her head at all. She could never look down. She couldn’t even see her own breasts except in a mirror. She was rigid from the neck to her hips.”

“That’s the idea. Her spine was kept perfectly straight,” Dan explained.

”She told me it took her over a month before she could tolerate it for the required 23 hours a day she had to wear it. She could only take it off to bathe. At first she could only stand it for a few hours a day. When she tried to sleep in it she was up all night. It took her a week before she could sleep in it. She told me she hated the day when she finally agreed to keep the brace on full time. After a few months she kind of accepted the discomfort.”

“Spinal braces are very difficult to wear full time and the Milwaukee, or CTLSO, is the hardest. By the way, the C stands for cervical which is the part of the spine in your neck.”

“I always wondered what it would be like to wear a brace like hers. I can’t imagine what Becky went through,” I said.

“If you want to find out, I can make you a Milwaukee brace and you can try it out,” Dan offered.

“No thanks Dan. I think I will pass on that.”

Dan finished up his tour and dropped me off at home. For some reason that night I searched the web for information on scoliosis and the Milwaukee brace. The more I read the more fascinated I became. There were plenty of pictures and even some videos. I was especially interested in the stories I read of teen girls and their experiences being fitted and learning to wear their braces 23/7. It must have been so difficult because of peer pressure and not being able to do some of the things that were normal. For some reason I became somewhat obsessed over the Milwaukee brace. I went online numerous times over the next couple of weeks. Dan’s offer to make me a brace all of a sudden was not so far out after all. On our next date I expressed my change of heart.

“Hey Dan, does that offer to make me a Milwaukee brace still hold?” I asked.

“Sure Kim. Any time you want,” Dan replied.

“What would I have to do?” I asked.

“Well I have to make a mold of your body from the breasts to below your hips. I use the mold to make the pelvic part of the brace. That’s done with thermoplastic wrapped around the mold. It is then trimmed and the neck ring and uprights attached. They are bent to the contours of your body. I will make many measurements in order to do this. The final step will be to pad the brace and add the straps to tighten it around you.”

“Sounds complicated,” I said.

“Somewhat, but I have done this many times. When do want to come in for the mold?”

“How about tomorrow night after I get out of work?” I suggested.

“Great, we can go out to dinner afterwards,” Dan said eagerly.

In the next chapter Kim gets molded and fitted for her brace.

Chapter 2

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