Janet Wardweb
Quality of life improved thanks to St. Mary’s Hospital Orthotics Staff
26 September 2019

The quality of life for an Island patient living with Multiple sclerosis (MS) has been considerably improved thanks to the specialist work of the Isle of Wight NHS Trust Orthotics and Prosthetics Service. 

The Orthotics team at St. Mary’s Hospital have been praised for their commitment, innovation, skill and care in coming up with a solution to enable Janet Ward to regain a better quality of life and give her the confidence to walk again comfortably and safely. 

In 2010 Janet Ward was diagnosed with MS which is a condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of potential symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance.  Over the past 9 years Janet’s mobility has slowly deteriorated and in 2015 she had a leg brace fitted to support her drop foot. But overtime her foot started to rotate and so the Orthotics team worked with Janet to provide a splint which stopped the rotation happening. 

Three years later Janet’s mobility started to get a lot worse and she began to experience hip pain which resulted in her falling every 2 weeks. The orthotics team got to work to try and find a solution for her and a knee-ankle-foot orthosis (KAFO) was suggested.  A special, light weight leg brace, the first of its kind that has been designed and made at St. Mary’s Hospital. A couple of prototypes were trialled to get it absolutely right for Janet before she received her orthosis in December. 

The Orthotics team help to improve mobility for many patients through specially fitted supports which can give correction or prevention of a physical deformity, stabilise joints, reduce pain and reduce the risk of injury. However, this particular customised leg support has been made from carbon fibre which is light but strong and has dramatically improved Janet’s balance and control and has helped to reduce her risk of falling. 

Eight months on and Janet has found the splint life-changing. She said: “I feel much safer at home now, especially when I am on my own. I am much more independent and it is comfortable to wear, even so that I can have a nap in it during the day and I use a lot less energy with it on and I’m able to function a lot better. When I haven’t got it on it feels like I have weights on my feet, like the feeling when you walk with a child stood on your feet; it is very tiring without it.” 

Christofer Vlahopoulos, Senior Orthotist/Prosthetist, said “I worked closely with our Orthotic and Prosthetic Technician, Dave Frimley, to develop the brace for Janet. We are exceptionally pleased with the result and the impact this has had on Janet’s life.” 

Carol Mabey, Head of Department, added “Because we are a joint Orthotic and Prosthetic service we were able to use prosthetic manufacturing techniques in the production of Janet’s orthosis.  This allowed us to use a very specific knee joint from a German manufacturer which produces a brace with only one joint on the outside of the knee instead of one each side.  This along with the carbon-fibre material produced a very light, very strong brace which is less intrusive for Janet to wear.  The benefits are immediately clear with Janet reporting no falls since December and an increase in her confidence and independence.” 

Janet recently attended the public meeting of the Trust Board to share her experience of using NHS services and the difference the Orthotics team have made to her life. Janet said:  “I have had lots of contact with other services including physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, continence nurse, MS nurse and neurology and have always had a good service. “But the best bit of it all is the care and attention of the orthotic staff. They were so proud of what they had achieved and to see how the work they have put into designing my splint has changed my life for the better.”

 

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