Saddle up

This post is for anyone who has an ankle or foot injury, or who has had one—or who might have one in the future.

When my doctor raised the prospect of ankle surgery a few years ago, I was deterred in my enthusiasm by the spectre of clomping about on crutches for several months. You hobble awkwardly; you throw your upper body into graceless hunched positions; you wear out your arms and wrists. I remembered these things well from a number of surgeries on the ankle that I had as a young girl. When you’re on crutches, you know you’re handicapped.

Nova knee scooterAt any rate, when I finally committed to the ankle fusion several months ago, the surgeon’s assistant suggested I check out something called a knee scooter. That caught my attention. Anything called a scooter can’t be all bad. It must have a little life to it, I thought, even if isn’t motorised.

I located one at a medical supplies store not far from us. I tried it out, whizzing around the shop, much as you’d test-drive a new Porsche—flying down the aisle past walking frames and raised toilet seats, careening around corners, applying the handbrakes to screech to a stop. The scooter won me over and I ended up buying one. (For about $350. I could have rented, but as my non-weight-bearing time is so long, it worked out cheaper to buy.)

I picked it up a week before my surgery and practiced with it regularly. Within two or three days after the operation, I was using it for short journeys through the house. It’s been my partner ever since. It has great manoeuvrability: a few sweeps of the handlebar and I can wedge into or back out of anything. It’s fast and easy. On our vast hardwood floors, one sweep of the foot will take me 2 or 3 metres. In Masters hardware store the other day, with its glass-smooth concrete floors, I effortlessly travelled at twice the speed of the pedestrians accompanying me. I felt like a kid on a skateboard.

All set for Melbourne Cup

All set for Melbourne Cup

So this post is a plug for knee scooters. I wanted to share my experience, as I hadn’t realised knee scooters existed, and judging from most people’s reaction, others hadn’t either. Maybe, with your own fractured ankle still well in the future, you also haven’t heard of it. You’d want to consider renting or buying one if you damage a foot or ankle.

But to complete the picture, let me tell you a few things they didn’t mention at the shop.

My model, the Nova, is only suitable on smooth surfaces. On grass—pitiful. On gravel—you might as well put it on your back and crawl. If a front wheel hits the smallest impediment, a corner of carpet, perhaps, or a small stone, the handlebars will jack-knife and the scooter stops sharp on the spot. No problem if you’re inching carefully along, but travelling at speed, you’re in trouble. In my youth, I once flew over the head of a horse whose foot caught in a loop of tree root. A similar effect is possible on the scooter.

I’ve had two mishaps. One happened when I was spinning across a broad patio, and didn’t spot a small twig. It stopped the left wheel instantly, jack-knifed the handlebars and pitched me off. It could have been nasty but it wasn’t, leaving only my dignity damaged. The other mishap was a minor stubbing of a good-foot toe while negotiating a tricky reversal. Ironically, that one could have been nothing, but a stubbed toe on one’s only weight-bearing foot turns out to be a major impediment that sent me back to the sofa for a few days.

And here’s a hidden truth: it’s Rick who helps make it all look easy. He’s the one who hefts it into the back of the car, helps hoist it up over serious obstacles and occasionally lends a push on an uphill slope. He’s the unsung hero of the Heather-and-her-scooter story.

So the scooter is making a world of difference to my convalescent period. On the crutches, which I use outdoors or whenever there are steps, I feel awkward and disabled. On the scooter I draw admiring glances from 10-year-olds and feel tall, mobile and in control. You can’t beat that as an aid to healing.

Nine more sleeps until the cast comes off, assuming all is going well inside its fibreglass fortifications. But it may still be several months before I can be fully weight-bearing on the ankle, so I expect Scooter and I will be partnered up for some time to come.


Spring into SongThe scooter was the star of the Spring into Song weekend I just attended. It was a residential workshop, held at a venue an hour or so from here. Like many places in these wheel-chair friendly times, the venue left me with no need for crutches at all. I watched for twigs and pebbles on the pathway and kept the brakes on for the downward slopes. I used the scooter for sitting, standing, kneeling and leg-elevation. I carried music, water bottle and jacket in its nifty little basket. Attending a residential workshop with shared dorms, bunk beds and limited space might not seem an obvious thing to do in my condition, but I got to sing, with 85 other people, gob-smackingly beautiful songs written or arranged by Rachel Hore and Stephen Taberner. With my trusty scooter (and let us not forget Rick, who loved the workshop as well) I flourished all weekend.


If you’ve read this far because you’re interested in the scooter, here’s a thorough YouTube video of my model.

But before you buy, check out this all-terrain version, which appears to have handled the smooth-surface-only problem.


3 thoughts on “Saddle up

  1. Heather – sounds like you and Scooter have a heavy romance going on – good on you!! Before you know it the relationship will be over and you can look for something else to play with ha ha. V

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