Brace yourself

I last had new leg braces made in 2002 or 2003, sometime after I had surgery to lengthen tendons in my Achilles' heel and ankle. Since then, no orthotist has suggested I could get new ones. Instead, I returned to the orthotist once a year to have the strapping and Velcro replaced. When I moved to this facility, I had to go to a different orthoptist, who did not make the braces, to continue that process.

Over the years, when I gained or lost weight the orthotist had to heat the plastic braces to make them larger and then smaller, respectively. A decade later, I wondered if my braces were even effective anymore. My right ankle was able to roll quite easily with the braces on yet I needed their support so I could stand with assistance to transfer.

A couple of years ago, my nursing home had a consultant evaluate me for prefabricated leg braces. When I asked why I could not get new "made to measure" ones, I was told Medicare required that I be able to walk 10 feet in order to get them. Even though I needed new supportive braces, I was leery about prefabricated ones. So, I kept using my old ones.

On my birthday last September, a rivet in my right leg brace broke. When I called, the orthotist said if I dropped off the brace he could replace the rivet while I was out for the day. When I went in, the orthotist told me my braces were old, ineffective and needed to be replaced. I explained what I was told about Medicare’s requirements. He assured me that all I needed was a doctor's prescription and Medicare would replace my braces every five years. I was both stunned and pleased at that news.

I spoke with my doctor, and a prescription was sent to the orthotist. I was measured for new braces in November, and they were ready in early December. My new braces are made from a different type of plastic and, instead of a single ankle strap, have one long strap that crisscrosses at the ankle. The orthotist feels these braces are more effective than my old ones.

I wondered if it was the serendipity factor of breaking a rivet that allowed me to get new braces. It sounds good, but that is probably not the case. All along Medicare may have had a process for me to get new braces, but I may have been misinformed.

I have had my new leg braces for more than a month. In the beginning, I was pretty sore when I took them off, but I am getting used to them. They support my ankles so much better. I never thought the inconvenience of a broken rivet would result in me getting new braces, but that is what happened. I am grateful for it, and for my new braces. 

Topics: Activities