At St. David's rehab I started out while I was still in my wheelchair on the famous Six Minute Walks that my therapists timed me and measured my distances. Early on, Casey would roll me down, distance-counter in hand, from the elevator to this newly remodeled basement of the east wing of the hospital. In the long hallway I stood up with my cane on the shiny floor and on her mark, set off on the Six Minute Walk. Through this little event they were able to determine my speed, balance and endurance level. I would like to think I trained for the walk as it were an Olympic event. Back in those days, in the summer of 2012, I only had a brace that would keep my foot from dropping, otherwise known as an AFO (ankle foot orthosis). The problem that I had my old AFO was that I had to buy an another pair of shoes two sizes larger for my right foot. My current AFO is more streamlined and fits into my regular size shoe. But back in the hallway, I set my goals for the glowing exit signs in the middle of the double doors. I always began with my left foot stepping forward, with my right foot trailing. The strong leading the weak.
At the end, Casey rolled my wheelchair to me, and we discussed my efforts and any improvements against the last times. My best time was 240 feet back in 2012, up from a dismal 108 feet first time I did it. Since then I have been using a Walk Aid, a device that stimulates the peroneal nerve that lifts the foot.
These days, I walk using my Walk Aid in conjunction with my AFO to keep my ankle from rolling. I do a lot of walking while visiting farmers' markets, going to Wheatsville, Target, Pease Park (where I do about a half-mile walk), around Mueller Lake, playing disc golf and puttering around my house, just to name a few. So my advice to stroke survivors is get outside and walk. If you are unable to walk, at least get some fresh air and exercise in any park near you. It takes some effort, but you will be glad you did.