Working with the community... for a healthier community.

New Brace Means New Lease on Life


By Dave Tompkins

A few years ago, Carolyn Stevens was experiencing unbearable pain in her
right ankle. It was so severe that she was having difficulty walking
and frequently came close to falling. At 73, aches and pains are not
uncommon, but Carolyn knew this was different — and she is not your
typical senior.

Diagnosed with polio when she was just 18 months old, she has walked
with a limp or used a brace most of her life. Still, she never
considered herself handicapped.

“I did anything everyone else did,” said Carolyn. “I think it was harder on my parents than on me.”

Pain and limited mobility have always been a part of her life, but did
not prevent her from raising a family in Yates City, IL and working in a
variety of positions including preschool teacher, day care assistant,
and even a bus driver. Still, this pain was different, so she started
seeing an orthopedic doctor who discovered that the disease had
significantly damaged her ankle muscles — twisting them around the bone.

She also suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, so she began taking shots
to alleviate the pain and considered ankle replacement surgery. When the
surgical option fell through, she resigned herself to living with
discomfort and continued to receive medical treatment. When the pain
spread to her knee, the doctor said both her knee and ankle were worn
out and recommended she go to Comprehensive Prosthetics and Orthopedics
of Peoria. That made all the difference.

“Since meeting with Raju Roy, Certified Prosthetist and Orthotist I have
a quality of life I didn’t know I could have,” said Carolyn. “When I
first met him, I was nervous, but he was so caring and reassuring.”

During her initial review, Raju Roy assessed her needs and current
abilities, and then made an impression of her leg right there in the
office. He also reviewed her brace and was surprised to learn it was 18
years old. Carolyn had no idea that she should have had regular
assessments to ensure the brace still met her needs and functioned

Carolyn was also impressed that Raju knew so much about polio. Today,
the disease is almost unknown, but at the time Carolyn was growing up,
it was a crippling childhood illness that all parents feared. Carolyn
had met many doctors who knew what polio was, but had no idea what the
personal impact of the disease was.

Complicating Carolyn’s situation were past medical procedures which had
been common during the time they were performed. Growing up in rural
Wallace, Indiana during World War II, Carolyn frequently went to Riley
Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis for treatment. There, she was fitted
for a steel and leather brace when she was just three years old.

She received new braces as she grew in addition to undergoing operations
to strengthen her ankles. As she got older, the doctors were concerned
about how both legs would grow as she matured.

“I had an operation on my left leg — my good one — to keep it from
growing,” said Carolyn. “Now, my good leg is a half-inch shorter than my
bad one.” 

The disease, operations, and years had taken their toll, but despite
these difficulties, Raju was optimistic that CPO could help.

“My ankle had twisted my foot almost completely to the right, and he
told me it will never be completely straight, but he was certain that
CPO could get it as straight as it could,” said Carolyn. “I found that
hard to believe.”

When the brace arrived, Carolyn was discouraged by the size, assuming
she could not put it on over her jeans. Raju took the time to show her
how to put it on and how to use it. He also told her that the brace
would be painful initially as her foot would resist being reset into the
proper position, but it would fade as it adjusted.

“Putting on the brace and using it for the first time was such an
emotional moment for me and my husband (Chuck),” said Carolyn. “I used a
walker when I was getting used to the brace, and he (Chuck) said that
he’s never seen me walk so straight.”

Now, she occasionally uses a cane and is sure to visit Raju and the CPO
staff every six months for a review. As she continues to progress, she
recalls how much things have improved since her first visit.

“CPO has made a huge difference in my life,” said Carolyn, “and they are just as helpful as the first time I came.”

CPO has more than 20 locations including offices in Peoria. CPO offers innovation in prosthetics, orthotics, and pedorthics, with compassionate care and attentive customer service. You can learn more about Comprehensive Prosthetics and Orthotics, as well as find a directory of all of their locations, at; or call them for more information at 309-676-2276.

Photo by Amanda Williams, In Your World Portraits