On a recent weekend I took a trip to visit a friend. Since I had recently received a Minerva Brace from Peter at casting supplies, I decided that I would try it out during the drive. I have tried it out before, but, not for any long periods of time. I decided not to wear it at my friend’s home, but during the trip I would try it out.
Getting into a Minerva while driving is not easy task, I was fortunately travelling along a lightly travelled road and was able to get into it without any problem. A few miles later I came to the first test of being able to drive with a brace that immobilizes you from C1 to T1. I needed to stop and make a turn. Looking both ways requires turning your back near the bottom instead of just the neck. I was able to do the job without any major trouble. A number of miles later I was entering the Interstate. Checking your blind spot is another of those challenges that requires quite a bit of eye movement, peripheral vision, and really watching your mirrors.
I now needed to stop at a rest area and this became the first time in public while wearing my Minerva. Getting out of the car was the first hurdle. Clearing your head requires a little manoeuvring. As amazing as it seems, the first person I saw made a comment about the brace. He said something to the effect of ‘That thing is kind of like being in the service, huh?’ I just said ‘I guess.’ I really didn’t think about what I would say and didn’t have anything intelligent to say. Getting back into the car was just as interesting as getting out. The worst part was trying to back out of the parking place. Turning far enough around was almost impossible. I managed without incident and was on my way.
After about an hour and a half I was really beginning to notice the effect of wearing a brace of this type for more than a half-hour. When you are not using the muscles in your neck you start to get an interesting sensation. It is actually quite relaxing. However, all good things must come to an end. I was nearing my destination and decided to take off the brace. I would have to wait a day to put it on again.
I left my friend’s home the next day and after only a few minutes I put the brace on again. The first thing that you do is to unbutton your shirt and get it off of your shoulders. I leave the right side of the brace adjusted and therefore I just slip the shoulder strap over my right shoulder and my right arm above the lower chest strap. The next thing that I do is to wrap the forehead strap around and get the back of the head support in position. Then I thread the left lower chest strap around and attach the Velcro. Next comes the left shoulder strap. Now comes the coupe de grace, you need to position the chin support, which until now is just ahead of your mouth. You thread the straps on both sides of your head into the chin support and tighten them until it is in position. You now simply put your shirt back on, this all happened while driving down the road. If you try this, remember that driving is the most important thing you are doing, be safe about it.
About an hour into the drive I decided to stop for dinner. This would be the first major public outing while wearing my Minerva. I decided to stop at a fast food place. Going into a public place has interesting ramifications if you still want to keep your desire to wear neck braces private. I decided to visit a place where I didn’t know many people in the town where I stopped. This would lessen, but not eliminate the possibility of being discovered. (I wasn’t!) Then I approach the counter and had to wait a while as they had just gotten a few large orders and were catching up, so I had to wait in front of a number of people. I ordered my dinner and then proceeded to eat my dinner. It was quite interesting when a young family came into the restaurant and the kids noticed me and asked their mom what I was wearing. She had to explain that he must have hurt himself and that was to help my neck and back get better. If they only knew what the real reason I was wearing it was! I discovered that eating was a whole new experience. Chewing and swallowing is quite a bit more difficult when you are wearing a Minerva. I managed and left with the rest of my drink and continued on my way. I discovered that trying to drink does require a straw in this case and that swallowing does require some work. I think that with practice I would get the hang of it, however.
As I approached my hometown I decided that it was time to get out of my brace while I was still on less travelled roads. This procedure is much simpler than putting it on. Sadly, this marks the end of my first real adventure with my Minerva.
Now I am planning on my next adventure. I think that I would like to take a weekend and go somewhere and check into a motel. I would wear the brace throughout the entire weekend. This would include driving there, checking into the motel, while in my room, while out and about, while eating, and especially I’d like to see how it is to sleep with it on. If that is successful I might consider advancing to wearing it to a technical conference. You see I attend these once every year or two and I think that spending 3-4 days in it while in a group of about 2000 others would be the ultimate adventure. This would require driving to an airport, getting checked in with luggage, then flying to the destination city including changing planes at a hub of the airline. Then I’d have to get the rental car or a taxi ride to the hotel, check in and then attend the conference for 8-12 hours a day.