17 March 2023
Para-equestrian horserider, Liberty, was born with a condition known as cortical dysplasia. Before children are born, developing brain cells organise into layers to form the cerebral cortex, the outermost part of the brain. But in some children, the brain cells do not organise in the way they're genetically supposed to. When this occurs, the top layer of the brain does not form properly. This condition is known as cortical dysplasia and is associated with seizures and epilepsy. Liberty’s epilepsy also affects the movement of her muscles and has right-sided hemiplegia. Her muscles from the right ankle upwards are affected.
LOC first saw Liberty in 2015 on the recommendation of a paediatric consultant at Kingston Hospital and she was fitted with an ankle-foot-orthosis (AFO) to help with her drop foot. Fast forward to 2022 and Liberty has had two rounds of surgery for her epilepsy and currently now only experiences seizures at night.
This means that she can enjoy one of her main passions, horse riding. She is a Grade 4 Para-equestrian. But the physical symptoms in her right leg were holding her back as her right ankle becomes very sore when riding. So, her mother, Rachel, turned to LOC for help.
Using carbon fibre allows us to create orthoses that are not only lighter and less bulky, but also stronger than traditional designs. In KAFOs, weight reductions of up to 30% are normal. This kind of weight reduction has an immediate positive impact on the patient, reducing their energy expenditure, which allows them to walk faster and for longer distances with more comfort.
Liberty was assessed in August 2022 by Jack Choong, senior orthotist, who first put her through her paces in our Gait Laboratory. This helped him identify that in addition to the support needed for her ankle when riding, Liberty would benefit from a separate foot brace to help her walk longer distances.
Jack prescribed two bespoke carbon fibre braces. Mum Rachel says:
"We have been so impressed with this fabulous man! Jack could not have done more to understand my daughter’s needs and took great care to create lightweight orthotics out of innovative materials. The result has been incredible for my daughter. She is now able to ride in comfort and is looking forward to competing this year in para-dressage. She is also enjoying being able to walk further without ankle pain. We are so grateful for Jack’s lovely manner, technical ability and drive to find a solution to her problems.”
Purple Day for Epilepsy is on the 26th March, find out how to get involved and support through the Epilespy.org website.