I’m a single parent with a disease called slowly progressing peripheral neuropathy. It means my legs are very weak. My six-year-old daughter has seen me fall a lot. It’s been scary for her.
Leg Braces and Walkers Helped and Hurt
But over the last week, that has all started to change.
When I was three, I didn’t walk as well as I should. I had unsuccessful surgery on my back and my waist. I started to avoid walking, and my legs got weaker and weaker. My parents found a surgeon in America who could help. He performed a second surgery that fixed my legs, but I would need to wear leg braces.
After about six months, we came back to Greece. I wore the braces until I grew up. I decided that relying on them was making my legs weaker. I wanted to be strong, so I decided to throw the braces away.
I walked on my own until I got pregnant in 2014. That’s when I first started using a walker for balance. It helped, but the more I used it, the more pain I noticed in my shoulders and the back of my neck. I was less balanced than I was before, and I didn’t have my hands free.
My legs forgot how to walk on their own. I lost my balance a lot and had frequent falls. I hurt my ankles, my knees. Once I hit my head on the wall.
This was what my daughter was living with. She saw me falling, and she was terrified. I felt awful about that. I didn’t want something bad to happen that would make me end up in the hospital.
To keep from falling, I stopped walking much at all. It was so difficult because I needed to sit down to make the bed, to cook, to use the vacuum cleaner, to clean my house. It was a difficult daily routine, and my legs were getting weaker.
From Falling to “Flying” with the LifeGlider
I found the LifeGlider by accident. I was looking online for medical stuff and found a picture of a man who looked like he was flying. (Inventor Rob Karlovich demonstrating the hands-free “superman pose” in the LifeGlider).
I told myself, “This is for you.” It looked like the LifeGlider would be more steady. I wanted to walk, to be strong. And I didn’t want to fall anymore. I wanted to fly!
It is not yet sold here, so I got a friend to help me. We grew up together on Lesbos, and she has lived in the U.S. for years now. We were talking on Facebook about how I could get it. She said she could order it for me and then send it to me.
That was easy enough to do. The only difficult part was that I couldn’t wait to get it!
Using it was tiring the first time. My boyfriend helped me get up, get in, adjust the height, sit back down, and get up again. I was able to walk around the house a bit, but then I had to take a break. I sat on the couch and said, “I will do this again tomorrow!”
That was a week ago. Since then, I have been practicing. I use it to go in and out of the bathroom. I just used it to sweep the floor for the first time. I go for walks. My neighbor was out and said, “Gianna, you can stand?” That was fun.
My Daughter’s Big Surprise
The best part was surprising my daughter. My boyfriend and I set up the LifeGlider while she was at my friend’s house. I told my friend to text me when she brought our daughters over, because I wanted to make a video. (You can watch it above).
When she came home, she and her friend saw me standing in the window. She was in tears when she came in and said, “Mommy, you can walk!”
She says it’s nice to see me walking around. She wants to go out for walks with me, to go to the supermarket with me. I couldn’t do it with a common walker. It’s so much easier to walk with the LifeGlider. It’s easy to fold it up and put it in the car so we can go out together, too.
I love that I can reach things that are up high now, like books on a shelf or plates in the kitchen cupboard. She sees me do more things independently than I ever could before.
Spreading the Word
When the pandemic is over, I want to get out more to places where people can see me in the LifeGlider. I think most people have someone in the family who doesn’t have balance, and I want them to ask me about it.
I want to tell them that if I would have had the LifeGlider in 2014 instead of a common walker, my legs would be stronger today. Instead, I lost my independence. I was afraid to go out because I would fall, and I still have pain from years of using my old walker.
But I’m getting my independence back. It’s getting easier to get in and out of the LifeGlider on my own. It’s steady, so I’m not afraid to fall. The more I can walk without using my hands, the less pain I will have.
It’s wonderful to wake up in the morning and stand on your own legs without fear of falling. I’m so grateful the LifeGlider exists and that I could get it.
So is my daughter, because she doesn’t have to be afraid anymore either.