Hi! My name is Laura Werlinger and I live in Jaffrey, New Hampshire with my husband John and my dog Dexter. I am a recovery coach/peer recovery specialist for a recovery center and am working on obtaining my Certified Recovery Support Worker certification from the State of New Hampshire. I can proudly say I am a person in long term recovery from substance use disorder. Photography is a passion of mine and has been since I was a child, capturing the moments that pass as memories to forever look back upon. I also enjoy all things crafting! I refer to myself as a Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease warrior, as I suit up and go to battle with it everyday. “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal – Albert Pine.” are the words I live by. I believe in giving back and leaving a legacy bigger than myself by sharing my truths so the next person may not have to go through the same struggles. Advocacy is huge with me, being the person who can bring a voice for those who cannot is an honor.
I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska and when I was about 18 months old I was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease (approximately 1979.) Growing up knowing I had CMT so I have never known anything different, this is just how I have always been. I was very well educated early on CMT, in school for research projects I often wrote papers on the subject. Knowing isn’t the same is feeling like you fit in as a child however. I was the awkward kid in school, the one who was the slowest, picked last in gym class, I was always injury prone. I started kindergarten in double upright AFOs, the old school kind with the metal bars going up each side and the fixed white shoes attached. It was hard never feeling the same as everyone else. I later moved into the rigid plastic AFOs that ran up the backside of my legs. My ankle bones always hit the sides, they were uncomfortable and rubbed until there were blisters and there was no flexibility at all. When the articulating joints for AFOs were introduced we tried those with the plastic AFOs and the result was the same, a hard stop and more pain. By middle school I refused to continue to wear them anymore.
For decades I avoided doctors and any sort of treatments for my CMT because my past experiences had been so negative. When the pain in my right foot was getting to the point I really needed to see a specialist, I was blessed enough to find an amazing medical team in Boston who specializes in CMT.
One of the doctors suggested AFOs again and I cringed. She talked up Allard AFOs, about how they run up the front of the leg allowing more mobility, less muscle atrophy, less pain, more freedom. I reluctantly made the appointment with the orthotist on the team who works with the clinic and was honest about my feelings but told him I would try but would not commit to actually being compliant in wearing them.
I had my final fitting appointment for my bilateral Allard BlueRocker 2 ½ AFOs and never looked back. It was a learning curve to learn how to walk in AFOs again after almost 30 years, I had to be taught how to walk correctly, and I am still having to learn how to move the correct way and not Laura’s adaptive way, learning to use the correct muscles.
The difference is remarkable. I have more energy, I can move faster, I am more stable, my gait has been corrected, and best of all I don’t have to look at the ground for every step because I don’t know where my feet are going to land anymore.
Recently I was able to do a tiny little hike with my husband, mind you it took me quite a while and I was still terrified, but I was able to do it without rolling my ankles! My Allard BlueRocker 2 ½ AFOs don’t hurt like any of my previous brace experiences. My experience with my Allard BlueRocker AFOs has made me more confident in myself.
I am grateful to have an amazing group of people in my life who have supported me on this journey to push and encourage me to share my truths, and embrace my authentic self, AFOs and all! I am starting to come out of my shell and no longer feel like that awkward child in gym class. I hope by sharing my story with all of you that you too can feel a little less awkward and more free.
Laura now enjoys
walking as her therapy
AFOs allow Laura to
extend her passion
Designing AFO-covers has become a fun
Another of Laura’s newly-designed AFO covers