So I felt the time had come to take on something which was a big part of my life for the first 15 years- splints, braces, AFO’s ( no these are not spaceships unfortunately that would have been much more exciting – Ankle Foot Orthoses). Now don’t let the many names confuse you the idea is very simple. The splints are plastic braces which I wore every day on both legs. My splints went from my knee down around the back of my leg and foot. The purpose is to keep my foot fixed at a 90 degree angle so that I am forced to put my heel down when walking. I have worn these ever since I started walking until the age of 17. Although I can now see how beneficial they were, I was certainly not a fan at the time (ah hindsight is a wonderful thing!)
The process of getting new splints fitted was both horrible and exciting at the same time. I had to go to the Orthotics Department in the dreaded yellow building (so you can straight away see the mixed emotions here for me aged 6!) after waiting far too long for my appointment (it felt like they are always over run and understaffed in this place), my time to see Claire would come (she was the lovely Orthotist that I saw regularly). The first stage of getting new splints was to have my feel and legs mounded so that they would (supposedly) fit me perfectly. This involved getting my legs covered in plaster of Paris (the same stuff they use in casts when you break a bone) this felt lovely as it was just a leg massage-my personal spa! The casts then had to be taken off so they could be dried and sent off to create the splints. This part always petrified me. A strip of hard plastic was slid under the front of the cast against my shin. Then Claire would run a super sharp scalpel along the plastic strip to cut open the cast and release my leg. Every time this happened I would pray my leg not get attacked by the scalpel! This never happened as the staff were so professional but my mind liked to play these fun games with me! I always remember being amazed at how quick this whole process was and loved being able to see a full on cast off both my legs. Next up I had to choose a new pattern for my splints (the best bit). I definitely worked my way through every design on offer as I required new splints on a regular basis. I distinctly remember one pair which I decided to get blank white so I could then create my own artwork to put on them using permanent marker. This was great fun as I got my friends to write their own messages (like you do when you had a broken arm at school!) I think I felt this was the best option as I had got through all the other designs which were not football orientated for the boys! The casts of my legs were sent off and I would come back 4 weeks later to collect my new splints. This is where the next problem started. The joy of blisters! I had to test out the new splints to make sure they fitted correctly. They would be blasted all over with a heat gun to make sure nothing was rubbing (but try as they might my feet are still misshapen to this day as a result of my splints!) Going back to school with my new splints was always exiting to show my friends my latest accessory!
Although this may all sound like sunshine and rainbows whilst I am on a mission to find the next big hit for London Fashion Week! I can tell you now this was definitely not the case most of the time. I had many a tantrum whilst at primary school over the fact that I was the only one wearing splints and had to be the odd one out. Also there were many times when my splints were just painful and uncomfortable as I had to wear them all day everyday. I have vivid memories of assembly every morning at primary school. We had to sit cross legged on the sports hall floor. This was just the worst way to sit as the top of my splints would dig into my thighs when I crossed my legs,, so much so that I got bruises on my legs from the splints digging. I then would spend the whole assembly trying to get more comfortable by putting my legs out to the side, then losing my balance and elbowing my friends sitting either side of me! Over time I did just learn to accept them and came to see them as part of my school uniform, my friends at school never batted an eyelid from day one and not one questioned the strange things on my legs.
Although my splints were a massive source of drama and upset, I have now come to realise how important they were for me when my muscles in my legs were growing as they massively improved my walking. I know that as a result of my splints I am able to have my active a full on lifestyle now.