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On January 15th of 2013 an SUV crashed into the driver's side door of my car. Over the next two years I would undergo hand, shoulder and hamstring surgery as well as five procedures and eight long post-op and post-procedure periods. I was continually told after the accident that I had unreasonable and unrealistic expectations in regard to my long-term prognosis. What almost everyone including my physicians didn't understand was that I didn't believe, nor did I expect my surgeries and PT to return my broken, twisted, disabled body to the way it was before the accident. I expected my surgeries and PT to give me an opportunity. Winston Churchill said, "A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty."
The crutches, leg brace, walker and canes that I used after my surgeries bankrupt the opportunity my surgeons had given me to regain physical ability from my physical disability. Those devices forced my body to be continuously misaligned and moved in ways it was never designed for to maintain balance causing secondary disability.
"I was continually told after the accident that I had unreasonable and unrealistic expectations in regard to my long-term prognosis."
- Linda Smith Swerdlow
I am a Black Belt in the martial arts styles of Kung Fu, WuShu and Escrima. I began my martial arts and Qigong training in my twenties with Sifu K and Master Wong and my Defendo training with Bill Underwood at the age of twelve. The first time I met Master Wong he handed me two books. The first book was Gray's Anatomy. Sifu K told me that I needed to learn how the body was put together and how it moves. The second book was a Physics book on rotational force. Master Wong told me that the Physics book would teach me to think of the human body as a biological movement machine made up of levers/skeletal bones and fulcrums/joints.
I started learning how to walk again without crutches on April 1st of 2015. I walked one block that day and the next day I walked two. It had been two years and three months since the accident. During that time, I had eight long post-op/post-procedure periods where my movement and mobility were severely restricted for months and months at a time.
On the 14th of April of 2015, I finalized my 4-year walking plan to regain physical ability from physical disability using my martial arts and Qigong training and started my working walks. I walked six painful miles that day. It took me six hours to walk those miles and I stopped and rested more then I walked. When I came home, I asked myself what I had learned that day. Then I took inventory and cried.
I couldn't write with my right hand due to the scare tissue in my right index finger. I couldn't write with my left hand due to the ulnar nerve damage in my left arm. I had such profound nerve pain from my damaged sciatic and ulnar nerves that I couldn't sit for more than five minutes or pull my arm inward towards my side without pain radiating down my arm. My left leg was an inch longer than my right leg. My left hip, left leg and left foot were rotated outward away from the mid-line of my body. When I took a step, my left leg was so twisted that my left heel kept hitting the instep of my right foot. This was from the secondary disability caused from the way my crutches, leg brace, walker and canes had forced my body to be misaligned and moved. I had trouble turning my head due to the damage in my cervical spine from the accident and the three and a half months that I used crutches.
After I took inventory of my body, I started creating a motion map and a series of walking and standing exercises that would align my movement through the mid-line of my body as I walked. Martial arts, like the study of dance, is the memorization of movement patterns. I started my Motion Map by mapping the motion points in a body that was in postural alignment using a skeletal diagram. Then I mapped my own broken twisted body on a skeletal diagram. Next, I overlaid my map on top of the map of a body that was in postural alignment. I did that to give myself a starting point and point of reference to work from.
The motion map and exercises that I created were designed to realign and reconnect the afferent, efferent, interneuron highway of my body through the mid-line. In martial arts, dance and most competitive sports you practice something until you think you know it then you keep practicing it until it knows you. When what you're practicing flows out of you without thinking then you've developed procedural memory that is automatic.
Procedural memory is a form of muscle memory. When a body is injured, or movement is restricted for a continuous length of time without interruption the afferent, efferent, interneuron highway that controls how we move and the way we move is changed. To quote Dr. Davis, "Use it or lose it."
"... you practice something until you think you know it, then you keep practicing it until it knows you."
- Linda Smith Swerdlow
When I started learning how to walk again my left leg felt like someone had taken my right shoe, put it on my left foot, tightened it up as tight as they could, then rotated my left leg and hip outward and then wrapped it in electrical tape. I had such profound muscle atrophy in my body from the two years and three months of restricted mobility that If I leaned left towards the lateral side of my body I started to fall sideways.
When I was a kid I used to love walking forward and backward along the edge of the curb. Walking along the edge of the curb forces you to equalize your step and stride and moves your legs closer together towards the midline of your body. I started with five steps on a very low curb near my house. I set my line of sight in the distance of the direction I was moving and not down at the ground. I did that to align my pectoral girdle over my pelvic girdle and to help maximize my visual field to maintain my balance. Every day I added a few more steps on the edge of the curb until I was walking more steps along the edge of the curb than off.
After my hamstring surgery I would complain to my husband almost daily that my crutches were bankrupting the opportunity that my surgeons had given me. I would tell my husband almost nightly how the crutch feet on my crutches could not replace the talus and calcaneus bones and that your underarms were not designed to carry the weight of the body. How my crutches were creating injury and physical disability with each step I took because they didn't keep my body aligned as designed. When I briefly used a traditional cane after I started walking, I would complain to my husband that you can't extend your base of support on one side of your body without creating physical and functional disability throughout your body. One night my husband told me to stop complaining and to use my knowledge of biomechanics to build better mobility devices.
" ... you can't extend your base of support on one side of your body without creating physical and functional disability throughout your body."
- Linda Smith Swerdlow
I started creating my inventions by visualizing how to align a disabled body in a way that would create ability from disability during locomotion. When I wasn't thinking about how to align and reposition my steps to create physical ability from my physical disability during my daily working walks, I was thinking about how to create mobility devices that would keep a disabled body more stable and aligned when moving.
Every day before and after my working walks I would would use the cane that I invented for fifteen minutes. I did that to help my left foot relearn how to walk from heel to toe again. Walking from heel to toe engages your core muscles and improves your posture and balance.
It took over three years and three thousand miles to untwist my left leg. My left leg, hip and left foot are straight and aligned as designed. My legs are the same length. My step and stride on both sides of my body are balanced and I have regained contralateral and reciprocal movement throughout my body. I have one-hundred percent of my former range and mobility in my left arm and shoulder. As of April 15th, of 2019 I'd walked 4,514 miles on my daily working walks.
Being limited in mobility is difficult and painful. After my surgeries and procedures, I used crutches, walkers, slings and canes. After using them I decided to use my knowledge of human mechanics to advance these devices and reduce the secondary disabilities that they cause.
In January and February of 2019, I received my first two utility patents, and in April 2020 I received my first design patent on my cane and crutch foot. My Walker/Rollator patent was issued on November 12, 2019. I have more patents pending in the United states and abroad and additional improved mobility items being developed. I'm excited to bring my knowledge of human mechanics and my improved mobility devices to others like me!
"The only way to create ability out of disability is to align and move the body the way it was designed to move."
- Linda Smith Swerdlow