Saturday, November 3, 2007

the shoe

one of the symptoms in the later stages of parkinson's disease is called "freezing." the patient will be walking along and then suddenly just stop.

as in, unable to move.

when this happens, a common trick is for the frozen one to envision a line on the ground in front of the foot. somehow, the synapses fire and, Voila! the leg lifts itself, steps over the "line," and walking resumes. strange, but true.

when the freezing occurs while walking with someone else, the other person can simply place their foot in front of and perpendicular to the frozen foot and the one with PD then steps over it. it works every time and makes for a really fun/funny 4-legged gait: step, step, step, freeze, swing foot across, step, step, step, freeze... etc.

my dad and i got really good at that dance. i guess everyone else in the family and his many friends did, too.

HOTD and The Greatest Invention

yep. i put a shoe on the bottom of his cane. in the picture above you can see the uncut, expanded foam spilled out over the top of one of my daughter's old tennis shoes. i think that one was the 3rd or 4th version of what came to be affectionately called, "the shoe."

here's the prototype.
it's a carved styrofoam and marks-a-lotted "chuck taylor."

it was way too big, really, and it looked silly as all get-out, but it worked!

oh man, did it ever work. in a way, it gave dad a bit of renewed independence and a new lease on life. (enlarge the picture to see a genuine parkinsonian smile.) Joe was never, ever your average joe. as his personality gradually became more difficult to discern, i think he kinda liked what his shoe said for him. in part, it said, "Never give up."

(*never give up* was his personal motto. that deserves a blog entry of its own. one day i will do it.)

here's josephine's shoe again, after the foam was trimmed and after he'd walked with it for at least a year.
it was always one of his favorites, but the one on the left got more use than any of them. it's made of balsa wood. it originally looked like a scaled down version of the one on the right, but it got worn down in time, to the shape you can only kinda see here, from the thousands of times his right foot skimmed over the top of it.

it's plain and honest. soft but sturdy. in a way, its character exemplifies the man.

i had planned on painting it white so it'd be easier for him to see, particularly in the dark, but he wouldn't hear of that. you see, he called it his "dress shoe." it went to church, to parties, and to parades and the like.

...somewhere around here there's a real pretty block of hard mahogany. it's 1/2 way carved into a man's fancy shoe, but he had to quit walking altogether before i finished shaping it.

post script: there was a physical therapist who attended dad's church. she, like everyone else, just loved joe's shoe. i've been told she patented my idea, but i honestly don't know if that's true. it made me so sick to my stomach, i never pursued it. life's way too short for that. besides, if i had any money i'd much rather give it to stem cell research than to a freakin' lawyer.


Annie said...

Ingenious! Does it always happen with the same foot? In other words, only the right or only the left? I don't know anything about PD, is it a right brain/left brain kind of thing?

josephine terese said...

i miss grandaddy.

cornbread hell said...

annie, no. we always walked with him on his left because he held his cane on the right. so we'd "unfreeze" his left foot. when he used the shoe, he unfroze his right foot.

josephine, me too. :-(

librarianne said...

What a great idea. That's so cool, that you found a way to help your dad. Was there other "freezing," too? My Mom has PD, and she went pretty fast from walking, to hesitating over thresholds, to not walking at all. There are days now when she can't or won't turn her head. She'll ask about something that is on one side of the room, rather than simply turn and look. I don't know what that's about.

cornbread hell said...

movement problems of all kinds are among the most profound and debilitating symptoms as PD progresses. the inability to turn over in bed was a big problem for dad early on. i remember the head (not) turning, too.

have you tried walking with your arm around her waist and then applying the "foot in front" technique when she freezes? yes, thresholds are definitely a problem. try placing a strip of tape across them. tell her to step over it. with your help, she may still be able to walk.

oh. sorry. i don't know anything about your mom's condition. i didn't mean to be presumptuous.


librarianne said...

'sokay. She won't be walking, but I might could share your ideas with some friends whose parents are still up and around. Thanks much.