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THERE comes a time when some of us or the loved ones in our care would need to use something for support while recuperating, or as a permanent feature. It could be an arm sling, walking stick/frame or wheelchair.

An arm sling, for example, is used for many reasons. It’s generally required when you have a shoulder fracture, sprain or dislocation, rotator cuff injury or repair, or even when you’ve hurt any part of your arm like your wrist or elbow. The sling keeps you from moving your arm excessively, hence promoting healing and repair.

Other parts of our body that has been injured may need support too. Broken bones would usually be in a cast. These days, there are special boots that look like space boots to help the broken foot heal better.

Depending on the nature of healing needed, you may need to take pressure off your injured part by using one or several items like crutches and a wheelchair.

Sometimes a walking stick may help you keep your balance while you allow a torn something (meniscus, ligament, tendon, etc.) to heal. Or even a wheelchair, for that matter. But here’s the thing — the people who need it sometimes don’t want to use it because they think it makes them look old and infirm. It’s not cool! Or so they think.

Conversely, there’ll be those who know how to use all these items to the fullest for added drama and sympathy. We may not know for sure if his or her injury is real but it’s always good to be extra careful. It never hurts to be kind to an ailing friend. But that’s another story.

I remember when my late mother was advised to use the wheelchair, especially when travelling. She wasn’t at all happy about it, saying that she’d be okay if she walked slowly.

I tried telling her that her “taking it slowly” would slow down everybody and that she wouldn’t be doing anyone any favours. She didn’t budge from her decision until we went to China for a holiday.

My late father decided to bring a wheelchair on the trip anyway, saying that if mum didn’t want to use it, he would. Bear in mind that this was in the ‘80s when wheelchairs were thought to be for those who really couldn’t walk at all. It was unheard of for someone who could walk, albeit slowly, to use a wheelchair.

Anyway, mum was finally convinced of the benefits of being wheeled everywhere and that she could get to wherever she wanted faster.

She enjoyed the freedom, the speed and the fact that her body didn’t hurt as much compared to when she had to walk the distance.

She also enjoyed the attention she got from being a wheelchair user. I’ll never forget dad’s grin when mum was convinced. He was a little bit sorry to relinquish the wheelchair to her but was treated to its use too. They took turns using it.

More than 20 years have passed and my memories are filled with images of how my parents became more dependent on the wheelchair and other contraptions to support their movements.

They had several types of walking sticks of various designs, from single to quad base and even walking frames.


From the different experiences of my parents, friends and even my own, I’ve discovered that these aids have another use — prevention from further damage. It works to remind us of our injury and that we should be kinder to and gentler on ourselves.

For example, if your arm has been hurt and needs to be rested, an arm sling would be great to keep your movements to a minimum. It would also prevent you from forgetting that you have an injured arm and accidentally exerting it.

Additionally, people would be reminded that your arm isn’t well and, therefore, wouldn’t expect you to lift or carry items. Instead, you’ll receive the assistance you need.

It’s the same for knee or foot damage. While you may not be so hurt that you’d need surgery or crutches, a walking stick with a solid non-slip base can provide stability while you walk. It acts as a reminder that you need to be extra careful about where you walk and how fast you do it.

People are more likely to be considerate while you navigate your way around tricky spots.

There are some injuries that don’t require any cast or special protection. If only there were something that could indicate that a person was quite fragile and cannot withstand a big bear hug or thumping on the back due to a fractured spine, slipped disc or osteoporosis.

Family and friends can sometimes get over-excited with their affection, especially after a long absence.

Splints and bandages around fingers and wrist help protect an injury too and serve as a reminder for us to be mindful. It also protects us from those iron-grip handshakes.

Sometimes it might be a good idea to minimise physical contact with someone who’s physically injured unless your assistance is required.

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