FES, 4 weeks later

I was fitted  with a Functional Electric Stimulator (FES) in December 2014.

Single channel FES kit

Single channel FES kit

No expectations

FES has changed my life but not in ways that I was expecting. Actually I did not really have any expectations. I had not done any research into it; at times I’m so idle. I was only getting one fitted because a consultant said that a FES would combat my drop foot. She referred me to Queen Sq. I also suspect that she did not entirely approve of my MuSmate and Orthosis.

Stored in the cupboard

My MuSmate and ankle foot orthosis (AFO) are now gathering dust in my wardrobe. I cannot remember exactly when I started using the MuSmate. I think it was sometime in 2009. Foot drop was the reason why I fell over when walking and I had to do something about it. The MuSmate gave me a new lease of life. I could now walk further and more easily because it helped to lift my left foot off the ground.

The AFO was fitted in the summer of 2013. There were quite a few teething problems. Yes it did reduce the effects of foot drop and a hyper extending knee but I was never truly happy with it.

The FES was fitted on Tuesday 16th December. I went back to the clinic on Thursday to check everything was OK. They compared my walking speed with and without the FES, I am walking faster by 28% with the FES.

Oh dear, first crisis

Next morning I got up early to go to a networking meeting in London. As it finished I realized the FES had suddenly stopped working. The best solution would be to go straight to Queen Sq and ask for help. After a 45 minute wait the physio saw me and said I had ruined the electrodes. Each night I had been washing them; instead they should be a gently wiped with a wet finger.

The connection for the heel wire is not good. I use a strip of surgical tape on my leg to stop the wires coming apart.

Positioning the electrodes

Within a week I had forgotten the exact position of the two electrodes om my left leg. Until I find the correct positions the FES is useless. I found positions for the electrodes but I was stimulating the wrong nerve. For three days I was wasting over half an hour a day to find the right position for them :-(.

In desperation I asked Google and found a paper that contained all the correct information. It is so useful and since then I have placed the two electrodes in the correct place almost straight away. When you are being told this information in the clinic on the first day it becomes a chronic case of information overload.

Last week I bought a belt, isn’t ‘click and collect’ wonderful, so I now can thread the FES onto it. It can be slid onto the waistband of trousers but I would always be frightened of it falling off. As it is a piece of kit that costs £700 – £800 I do not want to take any risks. In case you are wondering, it has been hired to me.

Better stability less stress

Well, walking is now easier and more natural. My balance is better; I don’t fall over quite so often. Everyone I have met has said that I walk more naturally and no longer use my hip to lift my left foot off the ground. They all say I look more stable and with better balance. OK so I walk better but I’ve still got MS.

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