Can you tell us about your experience with bracing for CMT?
When I was diagnosed with CMT in the 1980s, there were very limited options in bracing, and I was less than enthusiastic about any of them. There was a buzz about a new spiral brace, and I had huge expectations! Here was a brace that looked cool and was going to give me balance and stability while still being slick enough to give me shoe options…after all, I was a teenager being braced for the first time. Unfortunately, manufacturing was discontinued, and I was heartbroken.
As a matter of fact, I was so disappointed, it was years before I attempted any bracing at all. Eventually, I progressed and began the LONG, BUMPY, UNEVEN journey from AFO styles made of different materials to the Helios brace. I worked with everyone from Duke University Hospital in North Carolina to the Mayo Clinic in San Diego; somehow I was blessed to find Ortho Rehab Designs here in Las Vegas.
I’ve worked with many orthotists, but Mitchell Warner is the only one who has not only met my expectations, but also exceeded them with each new design. Until now, every brace had to step up to me—With the Helios GX, I have increased my overall activity level! I have yet to find a limitation for this brace.
What are the benefits of the Helios GX?
Within minutes of putting on this brace, I was HOPPING. Now, this wasn’t the first time that I was hopped up with enthusiasm after putting on one of Mitchell’s new designs; however, this is the first time in 30 years that I was actually literally hopping! The energy return from this brace is far beyond anything I expected. The Helios E/I has energy return, and it helped me so much with walking stability.
The Helios GX literally had me walking faster, with stability, comfort, and that extra spring to support me. I found myself walking so well around Mitchell’s office, and I was so excited and inspired by the Helios GX, that I began hopping for everyone: friends, neighbors, patrons at my local pub, and, finally, for my physical therapist. I walked into Comprehensive Physical Therapy with a hop in my step! I was greeted by Traci Cassidy, and I eagerly performed my bunny interpretation. Within days I was jumping! I know that may sound like nothing; however, when you’ve been told “YOU WILL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN”—this was unexpected to say the least!
Can you describe what balance means to you when wearing an AFO? Do different designs affect your balance?
The issue of balance and stability, in my opinion, is addressed in all of the different Helios designs. Ortho Rehab Designs’ continuous diligence in addressing foot deformities and proper alignment give them a superior foundation to build on. Mitchell’s casting technique and custom fit literally builds from the ground up. You just don’t get that from an off-the-shelf brace. I truly believe that if it was not for the triplanar correction and alignment, I would be in a wheelchair today. At 14, doctors predicted I wouldn’t walk past the age of thirty. If I had continued the wear on my joints, ligaments, and tendons, I think I would have proved them right. I can’t stress enough the importance of early bracing. It’s because of proper bracing for twenty years that I am surgery-free at forty-five, and I can’t imagine what I would have done with this brace if I had it when I was younger. Hop… Hop… JUMP!
Can you tell the difference with the new and improved design?
I feel like the Helios E/I and the GX both have their place and their respective patients. Bracing is so individual and unique to each person. This is where the designer is imperative. What Mitchell is doing is totally custom designed. Each foot, each leg, each patient: there is not one that is better than another, only what is best for you! The E/I is great for uneven surfaces or if you’re in a situation where you do need to crouch or get up and down off of your knees. However, for us maximum performance/high-impact patients, it’s the GX. There’s no questioning the balance of the E/I and no comparison to the performance of the GX.
How are you doing with different types of shoes?
As far as shoes go, I am wearing EVERYTHING in the Helios GX. I only went up a half size. I found that with a little creativity, there is a plethora of shoes out there. I have found both of the Helios designs to be compatible with a cobbler (not the cherry pie kind), and there are lots of possibilities. Through the years, I have accumulated several shoe tips and will be sharing them on Ortho Rehab Designs’ YouTube channel, along with feedback on my continued efforts to find the limitations of this new Helios GX. Stay Tuned!