I love Birkenstocks and I don’t see many people my age wearing them. Last summer, I threw a party and a friend arrived wearing Birkenstocks. She was sporting a pair of Adria’s. I was thrilled because I had just bought my red Arizona’s and was wearing them. We became Birkenstock buddies.
Shortly after my party, I ran into her at our city’s annual street fair. Both of us, again, were wearing our much loved Birkenstocks. We walked several miles that day with our kids, as we strolled the main drag. I have a memory of all of us eating lunch on the street watching a local kid perform magic tricks. It was a fun day.
After the stroll, we would continue to run into each other at our kid’s soccer games. Usually, we were each wearing our beloved Birkenstocks. I remember the last time we chatted at soccer was on Halloween. I was dressed as Wonder Woman and I happened to be wearing my red Converse that day, not my Birkenstocks.
What transpired after Halloween makes me think that my friend should have been the one wearing the Wonder Woman costume. A couple days after Halloween, I had gotten a call that she was in the ICU with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). I was shocked and saddened to hear that my friend was in the ICU, battling for her life.
For those of you unfamiliar with GBS, it is a rare auto-immune disorder that attacks the peripheral nervous system. The GBS CIDP Foundation International states “Guillain-Barré (Ghee-yan Bah-ray) Syndrome is an inflammatory disorder of the peripheral nerves outside the brain and spinal cord….GBS is characterized by the rapid onset of numbness, weakness, and often paralysis of the legs, arms, breathing muscles, and face. Paralysis is ascending, meaning that it travels up the limbs from fingers and toes towards the torso…(GBS) continues to claim thousands of new victims each year, striking any one at any age, regardless of gender or ethnic background.” (For more information about GBS, please visit http://www.gbs-cidp.org)
For about 6 weeks my friend remained in the ICU, completely paralyzed from the neck down. She was then transferred to an acute care facility where she spent months waiting for her nervous system to recover. As she slowly regained her strength, she had to re-learn how to independently manage her activities of daily living.
After battling GBS for 6 months in the hospital and various rehab facilities, she regained enough of strength to continue her road to recovery from home. She continues to have problems with her lower legs and feet. This is because GBS recovery begins in the torso and the limbs (hands and feet) are the last to recover. The opposite of how the symptoms begin.
My friend has issues with dorsiflexion in her feet. Dorsiflexion means that one cannot flex or bend the foot backward. This is the motion needed to keep on flip flops. Now that she was home, she wanted to wear her Adria’s again. However, because she cannot flex her foot backward she was unable to safely keep on the Birkenstocks without risking a fall.
She had tried on other shoe brands and none had worked. Besides, what she yearned for was a pair of Birkenstocks. She was just unsure they made a style that would stay on her feet, given the issue with dorsiflexion. She knew that I had started the “I Love Birkenstocks” blog and asked me to help her locate the Birkenstock model to best meet her needs.
Due to the problems with dorsiflexion, she needed a shoe with adjustable straps around her feet and ankles. She wanted to be able to tighten the straps to have an extra sense of security while walking. She lacks sensation in parts of her feet and is unable to grip the footbed. Thus, the straps were also needed to help keep the shoes on her feet. Moreover, the soles of her feet have become hypersensitive. This meant she would need a soft footbed. In addition, solid arch support was essential because she has been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis.
We looked at styles online and found the Bali. This style seemed to fit her requirements: ankle strap, soft footbed, and adjustable straps on the uppers. She ordered the shoes and the next day I received this text:
My friend was happy with her purchase! The soft footbed was exactly what she needed for her hypersensitive feet. Her Adria’s are in the original footbed and she recalled how difficult it was to break them in last year. With the Bali’s, she was able to wear them right out of the box with no issues.
Another benefit of the Bali, in addition to the soft footbed, were the adjustable straps over the toes and around the ankle. The adjustability made it possible for her to tighten the shoes to her liking and keep them safely on her feet. Finally, her issue with plantar fasciitis was addressed because of the amazing arch support provided by the Birkenstock brand.
My friend is thrilled with her Birkenstocks. It is heart warming to see her so happy. With all that she has experienced over the course of almost a year with GBS, she deserves only the best. My friend, like Wonder Woman, has highly developed fighting skills. She has fought an uphill battle regaining her strength and continues to improve over time.
I look forward to the day when we can take our kids outside the house for a playdate. Perhaps by the time our annual street fair rolls around again she will be up for a stroll. Or maybe this Halloween we can take the kids trick or treating together. Might I suggest she be the one to dress as Wonder Woman this year?! Whatever the first adventure outside the home may be with our kids, I am fairly certain that we will both be wearing a pair of comfy Birkenstocks for the outing.