“With the rapport I’ve built with the Boundless team, I don’t feel that I’m a client, but that I’m almost a collaborator, working towards making my leg brace more effective with each visit.”
These braces are made for walking—and working—around campus.
When Alex Parent—a University of Toronto student born with cerebral palsy—was four, his mother took him to pre-school in a little red wagon. But it was when he got his first pair of braces at Boundless through ErinoakKids Centre, that his mobility really started.
“For me, the braces were a whole new experience,” he says. “Everything opened up.”
Like many young children, Alex was intially self-conscious about wearing a brace and tried to downplay it among friends. But as he entered adolescence and became a self-proclaimed science nerd, he became more interested in knowing what “this thing attached to my leg was”. What were his braces made of? What kind of new technologies could improve his brace? That’s when he developed a close collaborative relationship with the team at Boundless.
Working together, Alex and the Boundless team have come up with various bracing solutions that that address his physical needs, as well as his daily activities.
"The University of Toronto is a huge, sprawling campus with old buildings that have steps designed in Victorian times that were built without railings”, he explains. Along with balance, fatigue is an issue for Alex. He needed a brace that would help him conserve energy. That’s why he decided to use an energy storage and Return (ESR) ankle-foot orthosis (AFO), which allows the user to employ less energy while walking.
“When you walk, the brace bends with your walk,” he explains. “And then when you release it at the knee, it gives you a kick as you continue. This allows you to gain more of the energy back with each step.”
For his part time job at a café, which involves bending, Alex needed a different style of brace. This brace is an single axis (or hinged) ankle-foot orthosis (AFO), which allows him to bend more easily at the ankles.
In keeping with his irrepressible nature, he had it finished in a shade he called Iron Man Red.
He now sees his braces as being an essential part of who he is. “I look at my brace as a literal vehicle. So if there’s a problem with it, it’s like a car engine. I go to see the best mechanics I know—the team at Boundless to ensure that it’s running as effectively as it can.”