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Ambulation: walking

When I joined medical school, I learnt a couple of new words. Just like in primary school where we read a new story and identified new words, which we would then integrate in our vocabulary and eventually language, the new jargon in medical school would become part of my day to day. When I use some of these words, I fail to think about what exactly they mean for the subject, who in my case is usually my patient, and just write a comprehensible note for my own reference or for another health care worker interacting with the same patient. The language between medics is loaded with these words, which some time act as code to dissociate us from the experience of our patient.

One of these words is ambulation. It is a fancy word used by physical therapists and doctors to describe one’s ability to move from one place to another; be it on a wheelchair, using a walker, crutches, walking stick or independently. Right, you wonder why we would not just say walking, it has fewer letters in writing, it is easier on the tongue and it is familiar. But we want to sound different, so that when I am communicating to my other colleague, they receive the information while in a clinical posture. It is very important for us to remain in a clinical posture, that’s the only we can be rational/logical and be able to help you.

Learning this specific word also came with other details that I did not think about prior. The idea was not just walking but also how does someone walk? This is not the personality fit kind of assessment where you can easily label someone as lazy because they walk slowly, which is not always true by the way, but a different kind of assessing the physicality of it. It came with gait analysis, pointing out deficits and compensations, and of course identifying mobility aids that one was using. It came with, sometimes, being in a space where we are responsible for this ability that everyone should have; confining people to wheel chairs, amputating their legs and prescribing walking aids to facilitate movement. But it is not always sad and gloomy, sometimes it is retraining or training from the very beginning, how to walk. Cool, right!! I get to train someone to do something that is usually just automatic for most of us. I get to break it down into stages and graduate you through them till you are independent.

I don’t know if being in this space has made it easier for me to not take it for granted. I know for sure it reminds me to be appreciative of being normal. Yes, just being normal in some circumstances is winning the lottery. I know it reminds me to be mindful of how I am taking care of my body. It reminds me to jog, even though very slowly, to do my squats and my leg raises. It makes me want to go for a hike, just because I can, and ride a bicycle. It reminds me that I get to do normal things, and helps me identify others doing their normal things.

I may be exaggerating on the gravity of this mundane act, but just next month on the first Wednesday, the world will be celebrating world wheel chair day (falls every year on 1st March). I bet you did not know that was a thing, but it is. It has bothered me how very inaccessible some of our spaces are for those using wheel chairs. My own building, where I live, has no ramp. Our public transport is designed to leave this whole group of people out. I am sure you could also point out familiar places that you often frequent, because you can ambulate/walk, that are inaccessible to wheelchairs. This is the truth of our reality.

So maybe, with that in mind, you also, could start walking more, maybe you could run once in a while, do your squats, lunges and leg raises, lose the excess weight, take your supplements and follow through with your treatment where this is concerned. Maybe you could see your clinician about that knee, hip, stroke, diabetic ulcer before you forego this “normal” ability. To conclude, please always remember that everything, every single thing is always moving, and so should you!!

You could always visit us at Machakos orthopedic clinic for any orthopedic concern, (walking/ambulation is an orthopedic concern) for credible, evidence based and compassionate care.

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