And that’s just what she’ll do…
I am positively smitten with my new walker. She is the fourth of her siblings, all from the Stander company (who is not paying me for a product review :)). She has been blessed with all the sturdiness and cleverness of her older brothers, but she’s this sleek blue-grey Prius color with a satin-y finish (not glossy, not flat), which gives her the air of confidence and just a touch of sass. This is clearly a walker for the millennial & 30-something “crowd”…finally. Her name is Blue Sexy.
The terrifying moment of clarity that I could no longer walk on my own came in the spring of 2014 as I lay in the middle of the street, staring up at idling headlights. I had been working from a coffee shop in downtown DC, watching a bank of menacing dark clouds invade the blue sky on one of the first sunny, mild days of the year. When the wind started whipping the bare branches of the street trees in their grates, I packed up to walk the 5 blocks home. Later, I learned there had been a ground stop at DCA for at least an hour when the wind gusts topped 60mph.
My legs felt heavy and stiff, something I’d been noticing when I sat for any length of time. Lift your toes, lift your toes was now my mantra when walking anywhere. The temperature had dropped by a good 20 degrees and I had definitely dressed for the weather earlier in the day. Shivering, I propelled my legs forward, wondering why I’d never before had to think about flexing my toes upward on every step.
As I crossed the first intersection at 13th & H NW, a particularly strong gust of wind funneled up between the office buildings lining the street behind me. I went sprawling, gashing my thumb on the pavement, smashing the iPhone in my hand, tearing a hole in the knee of my jeans. Stunned, I looked up to see the headlights of oncoming cars waiting for the light to turn green. I tried to gather myself and jump up off the pavement, but it was no use. The messenger bag over my shoulder was weighing me down, keeping me off balance. Before I had time to panic, I felt myself being hoisted up from behind.
“Oh miss,” said a male voice I couldn’t see, “let me help you. Let’s go, quickly!”
I nodded dumbly, my mind trying to grasp what had happened. My phone!…I’m bleeding!…Did a gust of wind really just knock me over? (I hate to admit the order in which those thoughts occurred). My stranger/savior loaded me into a cab for the remaining 4 blocks home.
That episode led me to buy a Hurrycane from As-Seen-On-TV fame. Aside from always appreciating a good pun, I loved the ingenuity of its design. It was like one of those tent poles with the stretchy nylon cord inside, allowing me to fold and hide it under my desk or the bar at happy hour. When I was ready to go, I simply lifted its handle and let it unfurl, all 4 segments snapping together smartly.
Alas, the carefree days of the Hurrycane only lasted a couple of months before I was too unstable for its little swiveling base. I fell through the closing doors of a Metro train and had to be dragged up again by strangers. So much for being discreet.
Our front hall closet became a storage locker for the fleet of increasingly industrial-looking devices: trekking poles, a bariatric cane, a 4-footed cane, a bariatric 4-footed cane with a wider base.
After falling and gashing my head in Turks & Caicos in February 2015, I finally had to admit that no cane attached to my arm would keep me from falling forward, to the other side, or backwards.
I sought counsel on walkers from the oracle of Amazon, trying to ignore the white hair in the advertisements and the reviews that all seemed to start out, “We bought this walker for my 92-year-old grandmother…”
I found that Stander made a lightweight, foldable walker with straight wheels (I couldn’t do swivel wheels, like a shopping cart. I shuddered to imagine if my weak core and foot drop encountered a downhill). The best part was that it came in a gunmetal grey color, not hospital silver.
DP named it Walker Texas Ranger. I quickly bought its sidekick, Spawn, so that I could have one for inside with pockets to carry things since my hands were now occupied, and another one without those encumbrances that I could fold up to hide under the bar at happy hour.
Flight attendants loved Walker Texas Ranger. When I rolled up to the gate in an airport wheelchair and pronounced myself ready to walk to my seat on the plane, they’d say, “well, the aisle is pretty narrow…”
“No worries, it folds,” I said, demonstrating Walker’s accordion-like ability to adjust his width.
“Oh wow, I’ve never see one like that before!” a comment that always made me smile. Anticipating the next question, I’d say dramatically, “And it fits in the overhead bin.” When you rely on a walker at age 34, you take pride anywhere you can find it…
Unlike the canes, my walkers have kept me (mostly) upright for two years. They were still a little tippy if I took a turn too fast, but by the time I bought a third one (which somehow escaped being named, a casualty of being a middle child), Stander had redesigned the model to be a bit heavier (7lbs) and therefore even more stable.
So I bought two, which brings us back to Blue Sexy. I’m now proud to show her off, which signals how far I’ve come in 3 years. I’m proud of myself for pushing us both (literally and figuratively) to keep going – despite the curious stares, the pity stares, the rugs that try to trip us, the doorway thresholds, the frustratingly slow pace. I use my scooter for longer distances, but while I still can, I’ll slog it out to feel my muscles tighten and my toes responding to my brain’s command to Lift! and I’ll be grateful.