They call it foot drop, I call it foot flop

   Foot drop is when the muscles in your leg are too weak, or paralyzed, and cannot lift the front of your foot; leaving it to just kind of hang there.  I hate it.  I woke up with it after my stroke.  I suppose that is probably one of the more common ways to acquire foot drop.  I really haven’t looked into it much so I have no real facts to pass along.  I’m just writing about how much I hate it and my experience with it.
I feel like if I could strengthen my hip, learn to bend my knee more with each step, maybe I could find a better way to work around my foot drop rather than wearing a leg brace, an AFO.  I don’t do my exercises every day anymore.  I simply have no real motivation.  I’m 3.5 years post stroke and not much has changed for me.  They said the first 6 months post stroke are crucial for recovery.  I spent that time receiving treatment and initial care for the stroke as well as multiple surgeries.  Then I had little JJ and two months later my insurance dropped me.  The following six months, the remainder of the first year are very important for your recovery but I had no real idea of how to progress with what little therapy I knew to do at home, I had a baby I felt I couldn’t bond with and what felt like a lifetime of changes ahead of me.  Needless to say, I felt hopeless and depressed and very angry.  Therapy was the least of my worries, unfortunately.
Now, I do what I can when I don’t feel down or stressed or like my H.E.P (home exercise plan) would be in anybody’s way.  Right now I have the boys eating breakfast and Kasper is asleep.  I would normally be working out about now but it would be in everyones way so I put it on the back burner – Ah, the joys of being a parent and putting others first.  Because I’m always finding excuses I claim are reasons to not help myself, I’m continuing to recover at a very slow rate.  I don’t know why I do this to myself.  I don’t want to be disabled, it would be a super important (and awesome) lesson to teach my kids that hard work and dedication can be the answer but no, instead I chill here at the PC and blog about how much I’m doing the opposite and missing this opportunity on purpose.
I had a grand mal in July and put my H.E.P on hold and I had been doing pretty good with it then too. I started doing it again last month then stopped because I started getting migraines frequently then I got this awful cold that tore right through me.  I could barely even see! My eyes were swollen and every hole in my face was leaking.  Working out, even just stretching, was out of the question.  I started again last week.  The thing about physical therapy is that you notice a difference in your muscles and the way your affected parts respond and react to the environment around you.  I notice anyway, but people always said I was oddly self-aware about my body.  I like to think I am but I’m probably no more aware than the average person.  I notice that my arm is looser when I walk and it doesn’t try to rise up and hook around things like doorways.  I notice that I put more weight on my left leg with each step.  The further away I get from my last workout, the more these things start to disappear.  I gain a heavier limp, my fingers curl into my palm and my elbow juts out sometimes causing my hand to hit my kids as I pass them (I don’t know why they can’t figure out how to avoid it even though I tell them to work with me on that) or causing my hand to clear off whole counter tops.
The last time I was diligent about my H.E.P I was able to rely less on my cane since I was actually putting more and more weight on my left leg and it helped me create a more symmetrically balanced step.  I was basically carrying my cane around for those just-in-case moments.  I still had to wear my AFO because of my stupid foot but there was significant and noticeable improvement with everything else. Yet, even with this progress, I still allowed (and allow) myself to make excuses for not working out.
What’s been driving me crazy these last couple of days is this foot drop, what I have been calling foot flop ever since I left inpatient therapy and learned that life was so much easier when I was barefoot.  The thing with the AFO that I came to dislike the most is that it increases my limp and lack of balance.  The material the AFO is made of is thicker than my right foots skin, obviously.  I try to counter this by removing the insert in my left shoe but it can only help so much. Sometimes I step on my left foot and I feel like I’m stepping up and stepping onto my right foot feels like a step down.  Because of this, I only wear my brace when I’m leaving the house.  I have this bulky, padded thing they call a boot meant to wear at home but it’s only comfortable if I have absolutely no plans of moving and my husband doesn’t mind waiting on me hand and foot.  It has this huge rubber sole that creates the same lift the AFO has and it also causes me to stick to the floor.  It’s just very annoying and dangerous.
With foot drop, your toes have the tendency to drag on the floor no matter how high you learn to bend your knee or lift with your knee.  There’s really not much compensating you can do aside from swinging your hip which is really bad for a hemiparetic so I tend to let my foot drag.  When I stop focusing on strengthening and my H.E.P my foot drags…and flops. I sound like a mummy.  I’m a soul with minimal control of the body I’m stuck in.  Sssscccraape, flop, plop.  Sssscccrape, flop, plop. It just flops and plops and there is no rhythm I can work with to help keep it under any sort of real control.  At least when I can raise my leg a bit higher than what has become my normal, there is no scraping, just this horrible heavy plop after a brief flopping through the air.
My toenails are starting to grow weird; they aren’t gross, just weird.  Because my toes drag on occasion, they have this sort of flattened, squared look to the tops.  I remember painting my nails for work like french tip only with pink or maroon instead of whatever white professionals use.  I used to hate it but I did it for work, “to look nice” and now I’d love to paint them without having the paint rub off from the drag.   We take so much for granted when we are healthy.  We don’t even know what we have until we lose it.  All those stupid love songs become so much more relevant once you lose something important to you like half of your body.
Now that this post has been reread for editing purposes, I feel really crappy about myself so I’m going to go yell at my kids until they lock themselves in their room and I have the livingroom to myself.  My hip has been hurting a lot lately so some stretching and strengthening exercises will probably benefit me today for that reason as well.  I’ve got to stop this and really stick to my H.E.P.  I did the reasearch after all; I even learned the basics of basics for Excel so I can monitor my progress each month.  Last month was really sad, ha!

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