Guest post: Laura Guzman shares her experience with the Mary Free Bed Orthotics Program. This is her story.
Four years ago, I found out that after being diabetic for 45 years, the bones in my feet had softened and broken. I had a condition known as Charcot foot. There is no cure, but there are adjustments that need to be made in your life. I was sent to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital to have a crow walker boot made for my bad foot. Crow walkers are basically plastic boots that provide an exoskeleton of sorts for your legs. They look sort of “Darth Vaderish”.
Being sent to Mary Free Bed was the best thing that has happened to me in these past four years! There are true superheroes who work there. Once I met Ethan Leavitt, life started to look up. He and his team have worked on my boots (I now wear them on both feet), and refined them to fit my lifestyle and keep me going full speed ahead.
I started out with big black boots that got stuck under my kitchen counters. I broke and cracked my first sets of boots regularly, and every time I came back, Ethan and Jeff redesigned and reworked them into something better. I am not a great handicapped person, as I refuse to be stopped by anything! It just isn’t an option for me. At the time, I was teaching school full time, and taking my fifth graders to an outdoor education camp for a week. Ethan and Jeff made that possible.
It takes awhile to get used to wearing big black boots, especially in the summer with shorts. Being a teacher, I noticed that when I was shopping, children would look nervously at my boots, so I went back to Ethan. It’s also tough to give up wearing shoes after you’ve had the best collection of shoes on the planet! I asked Ethan if there were any design choices for me. Of course he found something.
I now have a double set of lids for my boots. One set is a leopard design (for summer), and the other is black. I look fabulous in my leopard boots! They are also cooler in the summer months. They were expensive, and not covered by insurance. (I know they don’t care whether or not I look fabulous!) Ethan said, “Remember all that money you used to spend on shoes? It’s just being spent all at once!” It was true! I even have leopard earrings that match my boot lids!
I recently was told that I needed foot surgery to rebuild my foot that is rolling over. My podiatrist told me there was no other option. Surgery is not any kind of option for someone who has been diabetic for almost 50 years. I refused to consider it, and went back to my superheroes.
We started from scratch, and redid both boots at the same time, remixed the type of plastic to toughen them up, and redesigned the boots to work for my latest problem. Ethan told me he would make it work, and that I would not have to have surgery. He and Jeff made a new version of my crow walkers that gave me perfect balance and, when I went back to the podiatrist, he was astounded. He said I no longer needed any surgery. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing!
I used to walk, people said, like I had been in a car accident, but now, because of my Mary Free Bed team, I walk faster and surer than ever! When I was in Meijer a few months ago, I heard my name being called, and a former school parent came up to me and said, “You never used to walk that fast, so I didn’t think it was you!”
I don’t use a cane anymore, either. Walking quickly is something people take for granted. We just do it, but when it’s been taken away from you, it is almost like being set free when you gain your mobility back.
I will never be able to thank Ethan, Jeff, and everyone in the Mary Free Bed Orthotics Department for giving me back my life, and making me truly unstoppable! The past four years have had a lot of tears and struggles, but my life is amazing today! I have a new job. I travel. I love life – thanks to Ethan and Jeff!