A Letter to Kaye Products: The Quest for a Better Walker

Below is a letter that I have written to the assistive device and therapeutic equipment company, Kaye Products.  I have recently discovered some issues with their Posterior Walker that do not meet my mobility needs as a person with a disability who leads a very active lifestyle and also as a group ex instructor.  After seeing the success that 16 year old Matthew Walzer had after writing to Nike to ask them to make him a shoe that he could put on independently, I decided to post my letter to this blog in the hopes that it might catch someone’s eye.  Please read my letter below and feel free to share if you are so moved.  There are so many people out there besides myself that could benefit from these small adjustments.

May 14, 2013

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Molly Carta. I am 24 years old, have Cerebral Palsy and have been a customer of Kaye Products since I was a toddler.  My parents and therapists have purchased many products from your company to assist me throughout daily life.  As an adult, I still use the Posterior Walker for daily mobility.  While this product has been useful and critical to my mobility for years, I am writing to you with a recent concern and request about the walker.

Despite having CP and difficulties with motor control and balance, I am a very active person. I have always understood the importance of staying in motion and taking control of my body and my health, so that I can live the life I want to live and not let my disability hold me back from anything.  This mindset shifted even more when I started working out at a gym after my insurance company stopped covering physical therapy.  In an effort to maintain the hard work and progress I had put into my life thus far, I began taking spinning classes while in college.  I had always wanted to ride a bike, but my balance issues prevented me from doing so.  A stationary bike that kept your feet on the pedals seemed like a perfect fit.  Even though this was challenging for me, I was so proud and excited to be taking part in a fitness class so mainstream that those feelings outweighed the difficulty.

Over the years, I began to take more classes and try new things.  There were few classes on our weekly gym schedule that I didn’t try at least once and my passion for health and fitness grew by the day. This past September, I decided to take this passion to an even greater level when I signed up for a Group Exercise Instructor Certification course through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. I didn’t only want to take classes, I wanted to teach them.  I knew that this was going to be a mental and physical challenge for me, but that had never stopped me before.  About a month ago, I began teaching a class geared toward people with disabilities and other limitations.  The class is taught from a chair and focuses on general strength and low impact cardio.  However, I would eventually like to expand the class to be a fully functioning group fitness class.

I am writing to you in the hopes that Kaye Products will be able to provide me with some assistance with the difficulties I have noticed with my Posterior Walker.  One of my main concerns I have been struggling with is the ineffectiveness of the rear brake system.  I currently use silent rear wheels with internal brakes.  Not only do these wheels seem to wear out very quickly (the last pair I had lasted not even a full year), but the brakes do not seem to work on many surfaces.  When I am taking and teaching classes, my walker is constantly sliding backwards both while I am holding on and if I do have to let go for any reason.  You can imagine how difficult this is, and the additional energy it takes, to always make sure I’m not going to slide.  My balance is effected greatly by my CP, and my walker is supposed to aide in me feeling more secure.  Instead, I am constantly worried I am going to fall while standing due to the brakes not working.  This seriously impedes my ability to adequately progress when taking or teaching classes.  I was hoping that Kaye Products might be able to come up with some sort of add-on or block for the brakes in order to keep the walker a safe and secure assistive device. I know that Kaye Products manufactures All-Terrain wheels, but I am concerned that these wheels are too large and would also not address my needs.

In addition to this, the Kaye Products walker frame and setup is not the most easily maneuverable and agile. I understand the need to create a walker out of durable and sturdy material, but with that also comes a very heavy product.  I find it very difficult to fold my walker and lift it in and out of my car when driving. It is also very bulky and gets in the way when I am trying to complete certain exercises or demonstrate them for my class participants.  I am well aware that my needs and concerns are not that of a “typical” person with CP or another disability, if there is such a thing.  However, it is clear that there is no other market for assistive devices or people with disabilities who might be more active or need special modifications in addition to those provided.

Having been a longtime Kaye Products customer, I have always been pleased with your company’s products, customer service, and responsiveness.  It is my hope that you might be able to help me in at least coming up with a solution to the rear wheel brakes so that I may feel more secure when standing briefly.  I also hope that you will be compelled to think of ways to improve your product for those of us who live more active lifestyles.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you to discuss these issues further.

Sincerely,

Molly Carta

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The Movement has begun!

Alright readers, I need to stop making a habit of this two month long hiatus I keep doing with my blog. It’s unfair to both of us; I feel like I’m not getting to share enough with all of you because I’m trying to fit everything into one post and then you are all stuck reading about “that one really awesome thing” that happened months ago. Sorry, I’m really going to try to be better (how many times have you read those words, huh?). I can promise that you’ll get at least two posts from me this week, since tomorrow is Blogging Against Disabilism Day 2013 and I’m signed up to contribute again!

So much has gone on in the past two months. I finished interning and grad school, went to California for Rehabilitation Counseling Conference and…oh yeah, started teaching my group fitness class! You know, that little thing I could not stop talking about. We had a free workshop at the gym for my first class and there were about 40 people there. My energy was all over the place, but I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome into this world surrounded by everyone that has helped me get to this place in my life, and some new faces too! And from what I was told, I did pretty darn good for my first class. It’s only gone up from there. Now that the regular classes have started, I have 9 people coming and they all seem to like what they’re seeing/doing! As with any other class, there are varying levels of fitness, limitations, and goals, so finding the balance has been a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I’ve waited so long to face. I’m still getting a lot of my kinks out with cueing and all that (instructor right and left anyone?! I honestly have to write a little L and R on my hands every week), but it’s getting there. For once in my life I don’t expect something to happen overnight. 🙂 I’ve included some workshop pictures at the end of this post, courtesy of Marisa Pellerin Photography once again. She’s amazing.

I wish I could share more about it all, but it’s so personal and perfect to me that I can’t even access so much of what went on that day, because I felt like I was living in a dream. I don’t praise myself, I don’t let others praise me, but this time I will. This is something that I have worked so hard for. Even at times when I didn’t know it. And now it’s here, and I’m living it. Sure there are pieces of the puzzle still left unturned, but it’s all room for the dream to grow a little bigger!

Check back tomorrow for my BADD post, a good one for sure! And check out the Fitness Rehab Movement on Better CT this past week!!

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2012 In Review: Thank You!

I’ve been seeing a lot of review posts in my reader the past day or two and it’s been fun reminiscing over posts from some of my favorite bloggers.  I don’t want to post a year in review for this blog, mainly because I didn’t post from February to May, but I did go back and reread to give you all my top three favorite posts. So, here they are:

1. Coming to a Gym Near You…: Announcing AFAA’s newest Certified Group Ex Instructor; the day that I vowed to stop yearning to sleep to dream, because my dreams have arrived.

2. The Power of the Mind: Validation. Strength. Perseverance. Having people to push you and have your back.

3. Fitness Friday: How Group Fitness Gave Me Life: Acknowledging all that group fitness has brought into my life and has taught me about loving myself. (Note: my WordPress year in review stats tell me this was a highly trafficked post, so thank you all!)

There you have it!  Before I shut down for the year, I want to say thank you to all my readers, commenters, lurkers, and even those of you that just stumbled upon this site by searching my tagline. You have done so much to help me not only make this blog what it is, but also find myself. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

In 2012, every bit of laughter and tears, victories and defeats, brought me here to a happiness I never thought I’d find. In 2012, my dream was realized. There are not enough words to describe what this means to me. It all still feels so amazing and surreal to me that I wake up some mornings and have to look to my wall and see that certificate again before I believe it.

I wish you all happiness and blessings on this last night of 2012, and cannot wait to venture into 2013 with you towards new goals, friendships, and fitness classes to teach! 😉

 

Coming to a Gym Near You…

I’M AFAA CERTIFIED!!!!

I’ve been waiting and waiting…and waiting for these results for what feels like an eternity! I know that my presenter told us it would be about 4-6 weeks, but I always assume they overestimate these things and when it got to be mid-way through week four this week, I started to  doubt that I’d passed the practical portion of the exam–I was almost positive I had passed the written portion.  Then last night, I just had a feeling that it was the day.  I was in class until 7pm, so I texted my sister and asked her to please get the mail, but not to tell me if anything came. When I walked in the door after class, I noticed the envelope sitting on the table. I ran over to the table, sat down, and ripped it open to see what was inside. All I read was the “Congratulations!” on the letter and I threw it down and screamed/cried/laughed and every emotion in between! Everything I’ve been feeling for the past months and weeks came flooding out of me like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

All night I could not stop smiling and staring at my certificate. I DID IT!

What this means to me is something I’ve tried to put into words so many time, yet I fail every time.  All I know is right now I’m on top of the world and I don’t see myself coming down anytime soon. I have never wanted anything so badly, and I have achieved it.  These few months have led me to amazing new people and experiences, and deepened my passion for fitness, both for myself and for others.  I am so excited to be a part of the AFAA family–one that has already welcomed me with open arms in the past 24 hours! I am even more excited to start planning my classes and get out there to help others realize that fitness truly can be for everyone and that they can make their lives however they want.

So to everyone out there who has a dream and is not sure they have “what it takes” to make it happen.  I’m here to tell you you do. Fight for it, and when it’s yours, rejoice in that moment. There is no better feeling.

Heading to AFAA, Continuing to Grow

I head to my AFAA Group Exercise Certification workshop in less than 36 hours.  It has been a long 4 months of studying, hours upon hours at the gym re-choreographing what should be the simplest 8-minute cardio routine, practicing, worrying…you get the point.  I’ve spent so much time over the past 4 months doubting my abilities, what right do I have to be getting certified as a fitness instructor?

Over the past week or so though, my mind and my heart started to have a shift. I began to let go of the nerves. I began to tell myself that of course there are going to be things that are more difficult for me because of CP, like making my movements stay on the beat of the music. But that’s not all that teaching is about. And that’s certainly not all the fitness is about.  I began to tell myself that I will try my best, and I will show what I know how–my determination, my physical and mental strength, my ability to modify, and my desire to make a difference and show others, okay myself too, that anything is possible.

Tonight I made the executive decision to not attend one of my grad classes so that I could take some time at the gym to do a final run through in front of the mirrors and then stay for my new found love: kickboxing.  I’ve really come to like this class because of the huge physical challenge it provides me.  It’s one of the only classes I take that is spent entirely on my feet and almost entirely having to balance on my own without holding on to my walker for support (except for kicks because, well, I’m pretty sure we all know that’d end with my face meeting the floor).   We were doing front kicks at one point and these are always the hardest for me because of the muscle control needed not only to lift for the kick, but the whole concept of actually pushing the kick out.  Well, tonight I kicked higher than I ever have before.  Almost a foot higher. And it was a pretty damn good kick if I do say so myself.

After class, I was completely overcome with emotion. I was so happy that I actually got to see some serious physical improvement for the first time in a while, and was so proud of myself for continuing to keep at it even on the days when progress seems like it will never come.  I was so emotional over the fact that I have finally found a way to keep myself active.  Most importantly, I am so ready to share these feelings with the world.  I’m ready to step out and say “I can do this and I want other people to know that they can too.”

Almost 6 months ago, I got my second tattoo. I got it on my wrist so that I could see the words every day and remind myself how important they were.  Today I am proud to say that these words have brought me here: to a whole new world of possibilities waiting just ahead of me, to being proud of myself, to kicking higher, and to being ready to own my place and my purpose in this world.

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These 4 months preparing for AFAA have provided me with some amazing opportunities for physical, emotional, and spiritual growth and I absolutely cannot wait to see what’s next!

Thanks for reading and wish me luck! 🙂 I’ll update this weekend about my experience.

Fitness Friday: How Group Fitness Gave Me Life.

Happy Fitness Friday! Not sure if this is the only one I’ll ever write, but the topic fit for tonight, so I have to go with the nice little title!

So much has evolved for me in the past few months. I’ve mentioned in a few posts before how I hit an almost two-year long rut after graduating college and leaving the comfort and support of my amazing gym where I spent so much time for four years. Moving on for me when I joined a new gym meant opening up again; letting people know my story, my strengths, my limitations; and being more self-motivated than I’ve ever had to be before.  In 3 months, I can proudly say that I’d almost consider myself back to where I was 2 years ago physically and in an even better place than I ever was emotionally. I’ve also added 2 additional classes to my weekly workouts and tried a bunch more. I was away from the gym for 2 weeks due to a pretty serious abdominal strain, but I’ve been working my way back up since Monday. Tonight I tried a new class, Piloxing-a fusion of Pilates and Boxing, and while it wasn’t my favorite, I was so proud of myself for trying something new.

On my way home, I got to thinking how much Group Fitness (and those that I’ve created lifelong friendships with through it) has changed my life. Because of Group Fitness:

-I spend more time in the gym than I do doing anything else (with the exception of homework). Damn Graduate School.

-I get to have the amazing experience of riding a bike, even though my balance prevents me from riding one on the road.

-I have met some of my best friends (and grown closer with some family members. Love you Claud!).

-I have competed in 5 5k road races and finished every one.

-Physical therapy became fun.

-I feel like a dancer.

-I look at myself as a person-a mind, a body, and a soul-instead of Cerebral Palsy.

-I’ve learned how to modify movements and classes to make them work for me.

-I’m virtually pain-free (if you don’t count soreness and abdominal strains).

-I can look in a mirror (both during a class and elsewhere) and be okay with what I see.

-I’m actually starting to love what I see.

-I am stronger and more physically successful than any doctor ever believed I would be.

-I AM AN ATHLETE.

–I have developed a confidence in myself that I never thought I’d be able to uncover…

The strongest marker of this confidence for me is knowing that, on September 15, 2012, I will be taking a huge leap of faith when I take Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Primary Group Fitness Certification. I know this is going to be difficult for me. I’ve got the academics/studying down no problem, but the practical component is going to require continuous hard work this summer. My movements aren’t the same as everyone else’s and it sometimes takes me longer to coordinate them. I know all of this, and I’m doing it anyway. There will be hundreds of people getting certified on that day with me, most of whom will not understand how or why I’d want to put myself through the rigors of certification. I know all of this and I’m doing it anyway. 

Why? Because Group Fitness gave me something I did not yet have: passion, purpose, hope. If I can get certified and help one person-with disability, injury, or just starting out at the gym for the first time-to find that too, it will all be worth it.