Forced into leg-braces as a child

The following account at describes how one young girl was forced to use leg-braces by her mother to correct her gait. Reading about abasiophilia here, one wonders if the mother had some sort of displaced abasiophilia? It looks like she took some pleasure in seeing her young girl as "the little crippled child".

Child in Leg Braces

My mother wanted a perfect child.

When I began primary school, age six, my mother did not like the way I walked, deciding that I toed out too much.

She took me to several pediatricians before she found one who agreed with her.

With a diagnosis of “external tibial torsion” or out-toeing confirmed, she took the resulting prescription and me to an orthotist for measuring and fitting of braces.

Braces then had a calf band attached to two metal bars, with ankle T-straps, and stirrups attached to orthopedic shoes. These were for both legs from the feet to just below the knees.

Mother took me back to the orthotist when the braces were ready.

I had no idea what was happening, when he fitted the finished product to my legs. I had no way of knowing these braces were going to be a permanent part of my life for years to come.

He had me practice walking, and then took the braces off to make some minor adjustments. Then he put the braces back on, and said to my mother: “She is ready to go now.”

Mother took my hand and I stumbled along beside her, effectively crippled.

I certainly cried a lot when I tried to walk in these cumbersome braces.

Not only were they very heavy, there was no flex in the ankle joints and my feet were held firmly in proper alignment.

I remember tripping a lot.

Also going up and down stairs was slow and awkward.

Because the calf band was just below the knee, my lower legs were both held rigidly, I had to use a railing on the stairs.

Going down stairs I edged sideways and went down, one foot then the other. Coming up I was able at first to do one foot on one step and one on the next.

However, as my muscles became weaker, I could only put one foot on the step, and drag the other one up to the same step.                                                                                                                      

In those days, girls wore skirts which only came to the knees, so the braces were very visible underneath.

Children at school had been warned not to stare or comment, but they did anyway.

Coming and going from school, I had to walk out in public and I heard lots of comments of “oh my... that poor little crippled girl!”

I only met one other child, a girl also, with braces during the time I wore mine and I heard that she had polio.

With the braces on, I could hardly walk and running was out of the question, as was playing.

Standing or sitting were the only options with my legs and feet rigidly controlled, with the feet properly aligned.

Needless to say if complained to my mother she would say: “just be thankful your legs are going to be straight and your feet will be too.”

When she discovered that my favorite night time sleeping position was with both feet pointed out, she remedied that very quickly.

I found myself having to wear a bar at night with high top shoes attached, and over-corrected to an in-toeing position.

This hurt worse than the day braces.

I was not allowed to untie the shoes, so I had to call for help if I needed to go to the bathroom in the night.

I could stand up painfully in this position with my feet severely pointed in but could not walk.

So, I had to slide out of the bed and put my feet carefully on the floor and hold onto the dresser while mother positioned a wheelchair beside me. Very carefully I turned, and sat down.

In the bathroom, mother had a metal standing frame, so I could stand up holding onto it and sit on the toilet.

Mother had realized very quickly that this bar and shoes keeping my feet in the over-corrected toe-in position was also a means of treatment of my condition.

So, to achieve maximum results, I was kept in the shoes with the bar all the time I was at home.

I used to look forward to going to school, and to church because I got to wear the leg braces and walk about.

For years the only change in the braces was bigger, heavier shoes, and longer metal bars.

Six years later, when I was twelve, it was decided that I had reached full skeletal growth and should be able to be released from the braces.

However, my mother did not think that was a very good idea as she was afraid that I would begin toeing-out again.

She decided to keep me in the braces after school and full time on weekends. Since we had two months of summer holidays right away, I spent that entire time restricted by the full time use of the braces. Mother still insisted on the night bar to prevent any deviation, and the shoes were still kept in the over corrected toe-in angle.

Eventually I advanced to orthopedic shoes with lifts on the soles to prevent any attempt at out-toeing. These were awkward and cumbersome.

Later on I had orthopedic shoes with gait plate orthotics inside. These were designed to prevent any toeing out also.

Mother took me swimming so that my leg muscles would not atrophy completely.

However, after years in braces and corrective shoes, my muscles were weak from inactivity.

I had to learn how to walk again without braces, so I stumbled a lot.

Mother got a lot of attention and sympathy all this time as the “mother of a crippled child”