The Pros and Cons of Using a Walker

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by Kendall Harvey |

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As a Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) patient, I use a walker 95 percent of the time. FA interferes with my balance and coordination, so my walker prevents falls by providing something stable to hold on to.

Rationally, adjusting to a mobility aid was easier than I thought. For me, it was a logical transition: If I don’t want to fall, I need to accept help. But emotionally, it’s taken some time to fully adjust and accept my new reality.

I am not ashamed of or embarrassed by my walker. I view it as an extension of myself. It is something I need in order to function. I don’t see it as an object to be feared or to cause pity.

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(Courtesy of Kendall Harvey)

However, it is hard to accept that I am now “dependent.” Before FA, I was always very active. I was a confident go-getter. It’s scary to think how easily I could get stuck or stranded if I didn’t have my walker or someone to help me.

On the other hand, it’s a relief to know that I can safely do things with the help of my walker that I couldn’t do without it. It helps me live life on my terms, although with modifications.

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My hands are occupied when they hold on to my walker, which has proven to be the biggest emotional obstacle. I can’t hold my husband’s hand when we walk into a restaurant on date night. I can’t hold my toddler’s hand when we walk through a parking lot. (Don’t worry — he knows to hold on to a strap on my purse.)

I can’t carry my baby back to her room when she’s fussy and wants some quiet cuddles. I would trade those walker handles for a loved one’s hand any day.

I am also adjusting to the barrier my walker becomes in certain situations. People in stores or hallways don’t quite know how to greet me. I try to quickly put the breaks on my walker and step to the side to give hugs, but “quickly” and FA don’t necessarily go together — it’s usually pretty awkward.

I don’t like keeping the world at “walker’s-length.” I would rather that distance not be there, but I need the walker for safety, so I guess I just need to practice the “move to the side for a hug” move some more!

Plus, there are the petty inconveniences that add up throughout the day. For example, when I wash my hands in a public bathroom, the paper towels are eight steps away. I get my walker handles slippery and wet when I cross the room to dry them.

Or the fact that my smartwatch doesn’t register my true step count because my arms don’t sway with each movement. I know that these are small things that don’t really impact the big things, but the little things can add up and dull my sunshine.

I also know that my FA will worsen. I’m soberly aware of the fact that one day I will miss my current phase of mobility and the freedom I have now. That fact constantly reminds me to count my blessings and make the most of what I can do each and every day. But that doesn’t make my heart hurt less while it catches up to my logical mind.


Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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