Back in Braces
Chapter 1
HKAFOs

By Vicki

Note - This story is a sequel to my story "My Year in Braces."

It was midway through my senior year in high school when my condition returned. Slightly over a year ago I had spent a year wearing two long leg braces. After the year I was able to walk normally without the braces or using my forearm crutches.

The pain in my knees started again and I was having trouble walking. I pretty much knew what was coming. I would be back in braces. However, nothing prepared me for what was to come.

My mother took me back to Dr. Woods to evaluate my situation. I was not looking forward to what I expected him to say.

"Karen's condition has returned," he said. "As you probably know there is nothing we can do except restrict the use of her knees. She can't put weight on them if they are bent. So you still have the braces she used previously?"

"I still have them," I replied.

"Hopefully they will still fit and you can just start using them again. If you have your wheelchair you can use that as well. Just never put weight on your knees if they are bent. You know how this works Karen," Dr. Woods said.

"How long do think I will have to use the braces this time?" I asked.

"I just don't know. Hopefully not long. We will just have to give it a try," he explained.

We left the office and I was very depressed. I hated the idea of wearing the braces. When I got home we got out my two braces, my wheelchair, and my two forearm crutches. As I sat on the bed and put my braces on I remembered how it felt to be confined to them. I really was quite depressed as I fastened the straps. I was even more depressed when I stood up and started walking with my forearm crutches. I was handicapped again and everyone would know.

The next day I had school. When I arrived all my friends saw me in braces again.

"God Karen, I am so sorry," my friend Ann said.

"Hopefully it won't be for long." I replied.

Over the next couple of months I started to live my life in braces again. Of course I was once again a handicapped girl hobbling around with her crutches and braces. I remembered the way people looked at me. It all came back. I was a cripple again.

I started wearing support pantyhose again under my braces to prevent chaffing. I usually wore skirts since they were easier. I settled down to my life in braces once again. I hoped that I would be out of them by the time I started college the coming fall. I was terribly wrong.

It was after three months that I noticed I was having trouble walking in my braces. My hips hurt all the time. On my monthly visit to Dr. Woods I told him about this. He ran more tests.

"I have bad news Karen," he said. "Your condition has spread to your hips. I am afraid we will need to immobilize them as well as your knees."

"You mean I will have to be in a wheelchair full time?"

"That is an option, but I think you can walk with a new pair of braces that lock your hips," he said.

"My hips?"

"We have braces called HKAFOs, hip, knee, ankle and foot orthosis."

"You mean my hips will be locked like my knees?"

"Exactly," Dr. Woods said. "I will write up a prescription for your orthotist.

We left and I was totally depressed. This would be much worse. I just knew it.

The next day we went to the orthotist. This time he measured my legs and all the way up to above my hips. I felt so depressed.

A week later my braces were ready. By then I was using my wheelchair full time as walking was just too painful. After removing all my clothing except for my bra, panties, and the pantyhose I had worn in anticipation of being fitted with my new braces.

"Will, the orthotist, brought over my new braces. Instead of two separate braces there were two long leg braces attached to a wide and heavy pelvic band. I immediately saw that the outer metal uprights attached to the pelvic band. There were two drop locks, one at each side at hip level. I cringed when I saw them.

He helped me get into them I sat up as he helped slip my feet into the orthopedic shoes. After buckling the calf cuff and two thigh cuffs he placed the all too familiar knee pads over me knees and buckled them. The final step was to raise the pelvic band that fit just below my natural waist line. He buckled the two straps. The band fit tightly and was so wide.

After lowering my legs over the side Will helped me get into a standing position. I heard all the locks drop into place including the two new ones at my hips. I tried to move my right leg forward. It wouldn't move since it was locked at my hip. My two legs would remain side by side.

"How can I walk if I can't move my leg forward?" I asked with alarm.

"Karen, you will have to move both your braced legs forward at the same time. All movement will need to come from your abdomen. Your hips can no longer be used," he explained.

After I was handed my crutches I tried to walk forward. Of course I could only do it by swinging both of my legs in unison.

"You will always have to use a swing through gait," Will said.

This was very difficult and strenuous. Even turning a little from side to side was really hard. I had to kind of hop moving both of my braces legs at the same time. Walking in the HKAFOs was going to be much more difficult. I felt so devastatingly handicapped. I wondered if using my wheelchair would be better. I really didn't want to be confined to a wheelchair all day though.

At that point I remembered that Dr. Woods had said that I probably would need the braces for at least a year and there was the possibility that I would need them on a permanent basis. Just the thought that I would be like this for years was really depressing.

I got some training in getting into and up from a sitting position. This was incredibly difficult compared to the way it was with the KAFOs. Eventually I crutched out to the car. I knew I would never be able to climb stairs or even get up over a curb. I was so rigid and confined in my braces.

I returned to school and things were much harder in general. I could barely walk and using the swing through gait was very tiring. I knew that eventually I would build up my muscles in my shoulders an abdomen. In the meantime I would only be able to walk for short periods of time. I was pretty miserable.

I finally graduated. Walking up to get my diploma struggling with every step was not the way I had envisioned my graduation. There was some applause as I made it. I knew a lot of my friends and teachers were rooting for me.

The summer was not all that much fun. I was so damn handicapped. Even going to the mall was not as much fun since walking was so difficult. There were so many challenges. I used my wheelchair more than I probably should have, but the braces were so hard to use. At one point I almost decided to spend all my time in my wheelchair and give up walking.

At the end of the summer I had another checkup by Dr. Woods.

"I am sorry to say Karen that you have not improved. I am afraid you will need to continue to use your braces," he said sadly.

"How long?" I asked.

"It's hard to say. I think we are looking at at least a year or two. It is possible that you will need to wear braces on a permanent basis."

I was devastated. The thought of even a year in braces was hard to take, but a lifetime being so handicapped was not someth8ing I could deal with. I returned home very depressed. The only thing that cheered me was looking forward to starting college.

The day finally arrived and I left for college. I was assigned a handicapped equipped room and would have a roommate. My stuff had been brought to my room before I arrived. This included my wheelchair. The school officials were very accommodating and assured me that facilities were provided for handicapped students. I didn't regard myself as handicapped, but I now knew I was. I was very much handicapped.

I was shown to my room. I knocked on the door.

"Are you male or female?" a girl said as she opened the door slightly.

"I hope I am a female," I said.

"Okay. I am not dressed," the voice replied.

The door opened and I crutched in.

"Hi, I am Stephanie,"  a girl sitting in a wheelchair said. I guess you are my new roommate."

Stephanie was dressed just in her bra and panties. She was a very pretty brunette with a nice figure. What I immediately noticed was that she had no legs. She had extremely short stumps. Of course I could see pretty much all of her body since she had nothing on except her bra and panties.

"I hope you will excuse me, but I just got undressed. I feel more comfortable in just my bra and panties when I am alone. I guess you can see I am a double amputee. Your stuff arrived a little while ago. I kind of wondered why your wheelchair arrived without you in it. Now I know. You can walk with braces. God they look uncomfortable."

"Yeah, they are kind of uncomfortable, but I need them if I want to walk at all. I am Karen, by the way," I said.

I crutched over to a chair and went through the steps I needed to get into a sitting position.

"So how long have you been handicapped?" Stephanie asked.

"Well I spent a year in braces and then almost another year without them. My condition recurred and I am now in these HKAFOs. My other braces didn't have a pelvic band," I said as I raised my skirt so she could see the wide band around my waist. "how about you?"

"I lost my legs in an accident a couple of years ago. My stumps are too short for a prosthesis that is much good. I tried and decided that my wheelchair was more comfortable. I use it full time now," Stephanie explained.

I decided to get out of my braces. After I stripped down to my bra and panties I removed my braces and pantyhose. I slid into my wheelchair. Except for the fact that I had legs, I was no like Stephanie, two girls in their bras and panties just sitting around in their wheelchairs.

For the next hour we chatted about each other and the school. I liked Stephanie immediately. She was so upbeat.

"Hey, do you want to go get a snack? The snack shop is open until 11 PM," Stephanie asked.

"Sure, but I think we better not go in just our bras and panties."

"The guys would love that," she said laughing.

We both slipped into some casual clothing. I put on a skirt and a tank top. Stephanie put on a pair of jeans that had the legs cut off and sewn up so they just fit her two stumps. Of course she didn't need  shoes. I just put on a pair of white athletic socks. I didn't need shoes since I was in my wheelchair and I would not be walking.

Stephanie led the way and we wheeled to a nice little snack shop in the dorm. I didn't feel uncomfortable in my wheelchair since I was with another girl who was also in a wheelchair.

We got a couple of cokes and some chips. We wheeled to a table. There were a few other students there but they didn't pay us much attention. I wondered how things would be now that I would be regarded as a handicapped girl. I wondered if any guys would even consider going out with me.

When we got back to the room I unpacked my things. It was a little hard to hang things up sitting in my wheelchair but I managed. We talked until it was pretty late and finally decided to go to bed. The room had a nice handicapped equipped bathroom with lots of bars around the toilet and tub. This would make it easy to do things from our wheelchairs.

The next morning we took turns in the bathroom. I finally put my braces on for the day. We both headed out to get some breakfast. I followed Stephanie to the cafeteria. She was so much faster than I was. I had to keep telling her to slow down. She was expert in using her chair. I guess I would too if I spent every waking hour sitting in a wheelchair.

Managing things like a tray with braces is pretty much impossible. Someone always needed to help me. Stephanie just set her tray down on her lap. A cafeteria worker carried my tray over to the table for me. Once again I struggled to sit down, unlocking my hip locks and knee locks. I placed my crutches on the floor next to me.

"I don't know how you can stand those things. I would think it would be easier using a chair," Stephanie said.

"I know, but I like the fact that I can still walk even if it with my braces," I explained.

"I guess so. I don't think about walking any more. I know I never will, but I guess there is a chance you will be able to some day."

"I hope so," I replied.

To Be Continued