I came up with this DIY design almost year ago, but was too ill to make it myself. Looking at it you might wonder why that should be so, as it’s very simple – the question should give you an idea of just how ill I am (plus I only recently had the idea of using the toilet frame). Even now, and I’m very much better than I was a year ago, it was exhausting just fetching the frame from the bedroom and cleaning it up (it’s not been used for years – I have another in the bathroom).
I’m supposed to elevate my legs, particularly my right one which is worse, by far, than my left, and currently sports a blossoming ulcer (my nurses tell me it’s showing signs of healing – I hope they’re right).
It has proven quite impossible to do that, as my nurses insist that I do, without inflicting severe pain on myself because it puts pressure on tissues which are already badly damaged. This design, utilising a portable toilet support frame and neoprene camera straps, is hugely adjustable and supports my leg without putting pressure on any of the damaged areas (for now, just above my right ankle, on the outside but, in the past it has been almost the entire lower leg from toes to just below the knee).
This support works perfectly now and – just in case it all goes to hell again – it would have worked last year too as it puts no pressure on the then damaged areas. My heel rests on the far strap, the closer one goes behind my knee. If one side, which is fabric, proves slippery, it can be flipped as the other side is grippy neoprene.
This is the basic set-up (I have a third strap which I might use to keep my foot in position in case I fall asleep). It’s currently on its lowest setting.
And this is the thing in use. It can be raised as needed – the legs are adjustable – and the straps can also be tightened more though they feel fine for now, at least. And, of course, more straps can be added if needed. The straps should stay in place. If not, I can run webbing straps between them but I’ve tried it out and I think they’ll be OK.
The toilet support I already had (they cost about £25), the straps cost me £2.28 each from Amazon. What Amazon don’t tell you – and they’re doing this far too often – is that they were shipped not from the UK, but from China,** which explains why they’ve taken so bloody long to get here. Still, they were cheap (in the UK good ones are £20 or so each), and enabled me to test the idea economically. Though I’d have paid more to get them sooner, had I known.
**They arrived with another order I’d also assumed was from the UK but was from Belgium.
The straps are wide enough to be comfortable, but if you’re fatter than me or – often a problem with lymphoedema – badly swollen, I’d suggest using them in pairs. Or opt for tripod straps which are designed to take more weight.
Make sure, too, that the straps are parallel – some camera and tripod straps are asymmetrical, like this one I bought for my tripod. The reason for that is the head of the tripod is much heavier than the foot, so the point of balance is closer to the head, hence the strap is wider there.
Update: I’ve added the third strap as a foot support – works very well too. It also has the advantage of locking the closest strap in position.
There is one problem I don’t have an answer for. Whenever I elevate my leg – and this includes being in bed, where I’ve cut down a foam wedge to hold my leg in place – when I lower my leg or get out of bed, the fluid that’s drained out of it rushes back, and the pain is pure agony.
In bed I get around this by taking a dose of Oramorph half an hour before I get up. Not a perfect solution but it reduces the pain to a tolerable level (though I appreciate what’s tolerable will vary from person to person). During the day I might just have to live with it.
Or not – it has been a major disincentive to elevating my legs in the past, and might continue to be so. Time will tell.
© R. W. Graves 2014