Katy's KAFO story

Routine spinal surgery left Katy Duncan in constant, debilitating pain. Now, a new custom fitted leg brace has ‘revolutionised’ her life.

For seven years Katy Duncan has suffered intense pain, muscle weakness in her legs, bladder and bowel complications and epilepsy. She has a rare condition known as Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES), a serious neurological condition in which damage to the spine causes acute loss of function of spinal nerve roots. The condition, which was caused when routine spinal surgery went wrong, has no cure and in addition to constant and debilitating pain, affects her ability to move around.

“I’ve suffered with CES for seven years. The first few years I was either bed or wheelchair-bound with long periods in hospital. I relied on strong opiate pain killers which left me with additional side effects.’

‘I’ve never been one for giving up though and with the help of the wonderful NHS teams in North Wales, I was fitted with a Knee-Ankle-Foot-Orthosis (KAFO) system with the help of Ottobock in order to help me walk. A KAFO is a brace for your whole leg and the custom made joints and bars help provide stability and strength where my muscles can’t. Initially I was fitted with just one, on my right side. The difference it made was phenomenal – so much so, I’ve just been fitted with a second KAFO system for my left leg’.

‘Not only can I now walk, but I’ve seen a dramatic reduction in pain and have been able to come off some of the heavy pain killers I was relying on. I have found my confidence again and am feeling like myself. I’m half way through a distance learning degree in Law and am looking forward to being able to work again.’

‘Receiving the KAFO systems have given me hope. I still rely on my elbow crutches but without the braces, walking would be a major problem. My CES also caused a bilateral foot drop so the ankle and foot plates are excellent to steady the lower legs and feet. They’ve revolutionised my quality of life. I had expected that they might help me be able to walk, but I never dreamt that they would improve so many other areas of my condition.’

‘After years of rehabilitation and appointments, I had thought that orthotics were the end of the line, but it’s actually just the beginning. I have so much hope and aspirations for the future now. I hope my story inspires other to trust the system and stay the course.”

Ottobock Orthotic expert Dave Buchanan added “Katy Duncan is a true inspiration. She has shown just how far a positive outlook, kind heart and lots of effort can take you. Our orthoses are available through many NHS Trusts and we hope Katy’s story inspires others to keep up their rehabilitation and trust their clinicians. The team in North Wales are a great example of how traditional orthoses can change someone’s life and we wish Katy the very best for her future”.

Katy’s KAFO systems are custom made for her by NHS Wales. They are manufactured by Orthotic specialists, Ottobock and are made of light carbon fibre.