Walker vs. Crutches? No contest

September 18, 2010

The physical therapy people at the hospital seemed deadly serious about their proclamation that they would not allow me to be discharged unless I had an approved assisted walking device. Nothing so conventional and unobtrusive as crutches, either. Crutches were not on the approved list. What I needed was a walker. And they were going to hook me up. I said sure, okay, whatever, and I fell back into a light, drug-addled sleep.

A knock came on the door a couple hours later. It was the hospital’s official walker dealer with my shiny metallic wheels. He had an info folder, and he’d taken the liberty of contacting my insurance company to find out how much of the burden they’d shoulder. Results were inconclusive, as was the sticker price itself, but he got me to sign here and here, and initial there, and he was off. I rolled over and went back to dreaming about running half-marathons or whatever.

Now, I would have imagined “Walker Salesman” to be a real Job From Hell. None of your peers take you seriously, you have to make cold housecalls in retirement communities to people who can’t hear you and are living on a fixed income, et al. Not true, it seems. This guy’s got the sweetest gig ever – a captive audience of injured, over-medicated marks who are led to believe their only option is his walker at some price to be announced at a later date.

Fast forward three days, and I can tell you, there’s no practical use to having a walker in your home. The thing is just plain cumbersome and not maneuverable. The getting up and down sucks, the getting through doorways sucks. Take that thing out the front door into the real world, and strangers and friends alike are guaranteed to laugh their heads off while reaching for their camera phones. No wonder old people with walkers seem pissed off all the time.

If you’re ever in my position, dealing with the surgical aftermath of ankle bone popped through skin, find a way to go the crutches route. Several major pharmacies and grocery chains will loan you crutches for a refundable $25 deposit, and they’re portable. If someone laughs at you for being on crutches, they’re automatically the lesser person. Plus you can use a crutch as a retaliatory weapon. You’d need a whole lot more coordination and cunning to beat someone senseless with a walker.

I think what turned the tide for me was lying in bed, nonfunctional leg elevated, and watching a viral clip on “Tosh.0” of a beautiful woman doing an elaborate salsa dance routine with a one-leg amputee who had nothing but one crutch as support. I knew I had to upgrade. I was struggling to use my walker to get from the bed to the heaping plate of delivery pizza in the kitchen, while this one-legged mega-pimp was making his Salma Hayek mambo dreams come true with a single crutch.

My father-in-law drove up yesterday to help with the kids while my wife was at work. I felt uncomfortable asking him to empty my pee jug, but I was only too eager to share with him my dream of crutching my way down the stairs and out to the street to pick up the mail like a normal human being. He was so enthusiastic he put on his cabbie hat and rushed out to Walgreens before I think he realized he was leaving his two small grandkids with an invalid who hadn’t shaved in five days. I held down the fort in his absence, walkering my way to the loveseat so I could feed and placate infant Silas and sing along to those godawful Barney songs with toddler Sarah.

The crutches are worlds better. That’s not to say being in this situation doesn’t still suck. My armpits are a sore mess, and each of my wrists sports a circular skin break the size of a hole punch where crutch steel has worn me away. But I did actually set foot outside in the daytime today. I crutched into the neighborhood barbershop and got myself a trim, and I picked up a footlong Cold Cut Combo from Subway. My wife was with me the whole time, and both legs were screaming at me when we were done.

I’ve been in bed ever since, injured foot propped up. And you know what? When you’re laid up, you have lots of time to read. I got a look at the small print in the walker paperwork. I have 30 days to return that piece of crap with receipt for a refund, for any reason. As far as reasons, you can’t get more all-encompassing than, “Your product sucks, it was forced on me, and I don’t even know how much it cost. Eat it, Walker Salesman!” Hopefully, he can take use my returned walker to convert some other motion-challenged hospital dischargee into a spiteful-assed bitch.

P.S. The one and only fun thing about the walker – Sarah loved to get in front of me as I was slowly walker-ambling up the hallway and throw all her 23-month-old strength into pulling that thing in her direction. She really exerted herself and had fun with it. Leave it to a little girl to make so cumbersome and obnoxious a chore into something downright cute for twenty seconds at a time.

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10 Responses to “Walker vs. Crutches? No contest”

  1. Becky (Schulte) Clark Says:

    As a PT, I’m shocked they wouldn’t give you crutches at the hospital, especially if you are weight bearing as tolerated. If I had seen you I would have given you the hook up 😉

    • dadsdaytime Says:

      It’s “toe touch” weight bearing, lingo I’m not incredibly familiar with, so I put it in quotes. As the next post reveals, you can do a lot more damage to yourself with crutches than with the walker, and I suspect that might be the reason the hospital won’t issue you crutches upon your exit. That and of course they want to have their exclusive walker dealer head down to your room to hawk his wares.

  2. Kate Hayes Says:

    Interesting! I’ve never been exposed to the whole walker sale experience before…but what you described seems very wrong. Good thing you can return it!

    On the other hand, my Grandma has a pretty tricked out walker that holds all kinds of stuff, like her Bingo markers and her extra large handbag. Maybe they make a walker that has a connector for an infant seat? If not…someone should think about it.

    • dadsdaytime Says:

      Do me a favor and don’t show this post to Grandma. I have a feeling she could probably take me right now. But first she’d have to find the bed I’ve been bedresting in these past couple weeks. That would buy me a little time.

  3. bob bretz Says:

    I am going through the same thing right now with a total rebuild of my arch and ankle. Your story has brought some humor into my mostly humorless days. Thank you!

  4. Silver Says:

    I had dealt with both after a motorcycle accident and I will tell you the Walker blows out my crutches. That is not to say that the walker is better, but for me and the condition I was in, it was a blessing. I broke my ankle during the accident along with injuring my right arm and hand. To make matters worse, I had shoulder surgery a few months prior on my left shoulder.

    The crutches were too tough on my upper body and werent that stable. The walker proved to be more stable and less pain on my upper body in general when using it.

    Is the walker dorky and funny looking? yes it is.
    But in my condition, I didnt care. I prefer comfort over appearance even though I knew the walker would garner attention.

  5. Lisa Says:

    I just had a J plate and 6 screws put in 3 months ago, at the same time I was dealing with a pelvis fracture on the other leg so I’ve been 0 weight bearing on both legs. I’ve just graduated to the point where I’m allowed to weight bear 100% on the pelvis and as much as I can bear on the ankle (which isn’t much). Total atrophy. The crutches are a little less painful but require that someone carry things like plates and glasses and anything else I can’t slip into a pocket or my purse. The walker gives me some little independance (I’m using a rollator) in that I can carry stuff and when it gets too hard I use it like a knee scooter. Sadly there’s no solution that fixes everything, I have to weight bear or I won’t walk properly again.

  6. William Power Says:

    Sitting here in accute post-op care with smashed knee laughing like fool readiing your item on walkers vs crutches. Made my day, thanks! PS In Canada we get most of this stuff for free through Red Cross, which I just learned today.


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