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A broken AFO

June 11, 2012
by Kathleen Mears
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I cannot remember when my AFOs (ankle-foot orthoses) were made. But I know they are more than five years old. Since I moved to north central Ohio (almost two years ago) I have gone to the same orthotist twice because I wanted the strapping replaced. Last year the orthotist peeled off the top layer of Velcro, checked the rivets, and gave me two new removable Velcro toe straps. 

I could not believe that was all he did. He gave me no explanation why he could not repair the strapping. Because he was short with me, I was reluctant to ask questions. I had not experienced this kind of treatment with my southeastern Ohio orthotist. So I left without saying anything.

Since then the straps on my AFOs have become loose. My right foot and leg felt unstable, and I thought I needed new strapping. 

At a May appointment the orthotist told me he did not block enough time to repair my braces. I would have left them, but I need them to stand. So I scheduled an early June appointment.

I planned to wait for the braces. But since the weather was chilly and rainy, I asked if I could leave them to be repaired while I ran my errands. They were to be finished by 1 p.m.

We arrived at the brace place at 1:45 p.m. The AFOs were handed to my driver who put them on me. I was shocked that the ankle pads were the old ones. They had been resized, stitched and new Velcro sewn on. I did not know what to think.

Before leaving I told the receptionist the straps were too short and I felt they needed some revisions. I said I would call Monday to schedule another appointment.

The next morning, while the night shift aides were putting on my braces, I asked one of them to straighten the right ankle strap. When she tugged on the strap, it pulled right off the rivets. 

A day shift aide used gauze from the nurse to hold my ankle in the AFO. But I wondered if this makeshift solution would work until I could get the brace repaired.  

Concerned, I faxed a letter to the orthotist and to the company's corporate office. I also called a Medicare representative who suggested I try to work out the repair with the vendor.

The orthotist's office called Monday offering me a late Tuesday afternoon appointment. But neither of my drivers or the facility's transportation aide was available. But I was able to get an appointment for this coming Monday. 

I have no idea what I am going to say to the orthotist. But I will ask if Medicare and Medicaid funding had something to do with the way he repaired my braces. He certainly could have informed me of that.

I want a dependable orthotist who will repair my AFOs or explain if he cannot. 

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Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...