a foot on a scaffold, two small workers brandish very large tools to fix the ankle

Try Walking in My Brace

Life with a bleeding disorder makes getting around a whole lot harder as I age. I have moderate hemophilia and consider myself lucky that I only have one recurring problem spot: my left ankle.

For the most part, I get around fine. Just the other week, I surprised myself when I mistakenly left my laptop in a coffee shop. I didn't think I could actually run anymore. The fact that it was raining inspired the pace of my jog. The laptop was still there, and when I got home, my ankle wasn't screaming at me for testing it so abruptly.

Taking care of my body for the long haul

I'm closing in on age 50 – two short years away! Taking care of this joint for the long haul is one of my primary health objectives.

Going on short walks and doing light yoga has helped so much in recent years that I joined a bowling league with my big brother last year. I really thought my days of bowling more than 2 games a couple of times a year were behind me.

Taking care of my hemophilia at home versus away

In my normal routine at home, I know the warning signs when my ankle starts to act up and can adjust accordingly. There's my prescription ankle brace, which feels like a Rolls Royce compared to the standard over-the-counter fair that the amateur athletes keep in business. I also have the Cryo-Cuff. It's like soaking your foot in an ice bucket.

Tending to my bum ankle isn't rocket science: when it hurts, I know. A benefit of being born with a chronic health condition with such physical implications is learning to listen to your body before you learn effective cursing and cursive (the handwriting style made famous by connecting the letters of each word in a sentence).

Where things get tricky is when I am out of my home element. Of course, I pack my clotting factor for trips, but the ol' Cryo-Cuff stays home. That would be like taking R2-D2 along for the ride, which would totally work if I were traveling by X-Wing fighter.

Preparing for a long-awaited Vegas trip

I'd heard for a long-time that wisdom comes with age, so I figured at age 47, it was time for me to get in on some of that. So, in anticipation of a long-awaited trip to Las Vegas to see Depeche Mode, I made sure my brace was still in good shape and gave it a week of use before the trip. I walk more through an airport than I do most days at home, so I wanted to make sure my ankle held up on our first trip since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Great plan, right? Those never go wrong. I had such a wonderful time on vacation with no hemophilia-related issues whatsoever...if only!

'Walking in My Shoes'

Depeche Mode has been my favorite band since age 13. I actually met them through the Make-A-Wish Foundation 3 years after I was diagnosed with HIV. These days, effective medication keeps me undetectable and healthy, and hemophilia is once again the main medical condition that I have to worry about.

One of Depeche Mode's best songs, "Walking in My Shoes," sums up my experience on this trip: If you tried walking in my shoes, you'd stumble in my footsteps.

Did my ankle give out? No. The brace-first strategy worked perfectly, protecting my ankle. In retrospect, I noticed a huge sense of relief when I took the brace off when I was back in the room — particularly the top of my foot at the bridge of my toes. But I wasn't listening to my foot's warning because I was too busy taking victory laps with regard to my ankle.

My rookie mistake

By the time I noticed the swelling, it wasn't too late, just annoyingly late. It was a rookie mistake. The laces on my shoes were pretty tight and the bridge of the brace was putting just enough slight, consistent pressure on my foot, which took a minor toll. That resulted in me hobbling around on the last day of our vacation.

The gaffe didn't spoil the euphoric fun of traveling for the first time in quite a while. I was still nursing the foot wound as I began to plan our next trip, armed with new knowledge of my foot dynamics and the new wrinkle that walking in my shoes provided.

I won't make the same mistake next time, which opens me up to new and exciting mistakes to master and servant (that one was for my fellow Depeche Mode fans)!

It's all part of aging and learning. And I'm so thankful to still be here for it all.

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