Hiking and ice skating with positive results

I had polio in my right leg in 1956, aged 6. Despite the fact that there is almost no muscle below the knee, I have always had a slight build, which has (I think) made it much easier for me to rely on the other leg. Walking, cycling and hiking are fairly easy, but I do to use hiking boots with a firm ankle support. I have a half-inch raise on my right shoe, but that is something of a compromise – it should probably be an inch, but that would make it much harder to control my foot.

I have also become rather fond of ice skating! This might sound crazy, but there are some amazing ankle supports around, and I find that a really stiff one, worn inside my skate boot, works rather well. I don’t use the support for normal activities.

At age 55, I started to get a lot of pain in my right (polio) foot. From hiking the hills, I was reduced to resting part way on the walk from the supermarket to my car! I knew about post-polio, but the doctor didn’t mention it, but sent me for some physiotherapy. The therapist decided that I had got into a bad habit of walking with my foot pointing out, which was straining a tendon, and gave me a variety of exercises to correct this. I was extremely skeptical, and almost began discussing post-polio, but I had a go, and over the space of a few months the whole problem went away (and I still ice skate!).

As the problem started to subside, I went to visit a lady who was considering possible supports for my foot. I told her that I had started hiking again, and mentioned a local hill I had climbed. Her look of disbelief (which I could not dispel), told me that it is very hard for health professionals to estimate what is possible with a polio leg – probably because they do not get many cases nowadays. I never told her about my ice skating!

I am writing this to point out that it may be unwise to instantly jump to the conclusion that you have post-polio – give simple physiotherapy a chance first! Also, remember that the professionals may find it hard to assess what you can really do.

David Bailey, dave@dbailey.co.uk