where wheelchair users and BIID/transabled unite!

Dream Come True

Chapter One

There it was. The chance I have always waited for! I got the chance to work as a probationer in a company in Germany. I was a 22 years old male student that lived on a developing country, and going again to Germany would be a good opportunity to improve my professional and life experience. I would start working there in 8 weeks, so it was a lot to be done until there. They sent the air tickets and helped me finding a place to live. Fortunately the woman that did this kind of work in the company was very nice to me and asked me exactly what kind of place I would like to get. I decided to live alone in a small apartment, even though it would be more expensive than living with other students. I really wanted to have privacy because I had already thought a lot about what would I do when I would live really alone and where nobody knows me. Money would not be really a big problem because I would get more than enough to live OK.

Finally the big day arrived. After saying goodbye to my friends, relatives and parents, I moved to Germany. I had already studied there for about 1 year before, so I can speak German and things were not that different. The apartment had a living room, a mini kitchen, a small bedroom and a bathroom. It was really nice, the furniture was OK for my needs and the most important thing, I had my own privacy there. The city where I lived was nice; not that big but had everything I needed. Next week I started working it the jog seemed really nice.

Some days after that I got Internet connection at home and then I started to make my big dream come true. For the last years I have constantly thought about wearing a Milwaukee Brace. The thought about doing it, really turned me on, it excited me. Unfortunately until that day it has been impossible because I lived with my family and, after I started studying in college, with a friend or my sister. First I thought about ordering all components of a Milwaukee brace and build it my own, as I really wanted it to be as in my dreams. But it seemed too complicated to build it and I don’t even have the tools I needed. I also really wanted to feel as a real Milwaukee Brace wearer feel, by having the brace fitted by an orthotist, but I was afraid no orthotist would build one for me, or at least not at the way I wanted.

I decided to try to find an orthotist that would do that for me. I looked on Internet for some orthotic offices and some orthotic manufactures. I mailed three of them telling that I had always wanted to wear a Milwaukee Brace and that it could even be benefit for me as I hadn’t had a good posture since I was a teen. I do really had a lazy posture, maybe even some degree of kyphosis, but certainly not enough for a treatment with a Milwaukee Brace. Actually my posture became better because my parents kept all the time asking me to stay straight. Much to my surprise, two of the orthotist’s agreed to build me the Milwaukee Brace. After mailing some more time with them, I found out that just one of them would build the brace in the way I wanted as a reasonable price. He told me he would need me to sign a paper saying that I knew what I would be doing by wearing a brace that I didn’t really need it. At least the straps I didn’t need and that I assume the responsibility for any damage it could cause to my back. He worked on a city about 150 km far from where I lived. We made an appointment for the following Saturday, when we would talk about the details and maybe even get the cast he needed to build my brace. He sent me then a requisition for the X-ray that I should do before the appointment.

I was very anxious for that appointment. What would he think about me? That I was crazy by wanting to wear such a big brace! But I decided to go for it. He didn’t ask me any question about why I wanted to wear a Milwaukee Brace. Maybe he knows others that were also attracted by braces. By taking a look at my X-ray and my back he found out I really have kyphosis, but that it was not bad enough to require a treatment. He told me that the brace could really help me to improve my posture, but not that much because I was already an adult. He told me I would get a custom made Milwaukee brace, with a thermoplastic girdle and kyphosis pads. I then asked him what about adding shoulder pads with outriggers that would push my shoulders back and would improve my posture a lot. He answered that they could be really useful in my case, but he hadn’t suggested them before because he thought I wouldn’t want them as they limit completely the shoulder movement and even some arm movement. I told him I really wanted them as he agreed.

After that I asked him about getting scoliosis straps and pads, because I wanted to experience the same feelings as real Milwaukee Braces wearers did. I promised him just to wear them sometimes for short periods, but he told me I would be responsible for it and that I needed then to sign the paper he told me before. I agreed and asked for a lumbar pad on my left, a thoracic one on my left and an auxiliary sling under my right arm. I also asked him to adjust the front and back uprights really well to the forms of my body. I wanted them to follow my body contours. He smiled and said I was a very demanding client. He told me that he always did that for his patients as it made the brace looked better, was more comfortable and easier to find clothes to wear over it. He agreed as I said that there were some braces that were really big, especially the neck ring and that the upright just below it were frequently too far away from the body. He told me that he would need to use stainless steel bars because I was taller than most other patients, as most of them were teen girls. The bars needed to be more rigid, but they would weight just a little bit more, which was no problem for me. Then he asked me if I would like the uprights and the neck ring to be covered, and I answered negatively. I wanted the nice shiny metal of my brace to be visible. The occipital pads and the throat mould would be made of white plastic what seemed OK for me. We arranged some more details and then he told me we could start with the cast if I wanted. Because of all my demands the brace would cost 1200 Euros (about US$ 1200), which was a lot, but I was sure it would be worth it. I had already saved some money before for this purpose.

The casting session was a nice and strange experience. Being casted from the hip and pelvis to the neck is not something you experience everyday. At that time he told me that he could actually use some stock size girdle, but he told me that the custom made are always more comfortable and fit much better. I was already having a preview of how restrictive would my Milwaukee brace be. The cast was very restrictive and hot. I felt relieved as he started cutting the cast on my back. I then took a shower and we made an appointment for two weeks later, when my brace should be ready.

For the next 2 weeks I couldn’t think of anything else. Even at work I must pay attention so that I would not be caught dreaming about my new brace. At home I found already a good place where I could hide my brace in case someone would come at my apartment (I didn’t know many people yet) while I would be wearing it. I knew I would need to practice taking it off a lot, so that I could do it really quickly to be able to open the door when the bell rings. I also bought some more tight T-shirts that I would wear under the brace, as the orthotist recommended.

Finally it was Saturday. I picked up the biggest bag I have and travelled again to the other city. As I arrived at the office the orthotist told me he just finished my brace the day before, as it was a lot of work to do to because of my special demands. He asked me to come inside the fitting room where my brace was already waiting for me. Thinking about a Milwaukee brace has always excited me, but seeing my own brace as I entered the room made me breathless!! It was great!! Just as I imagined!! All the straps, pads, plastic and metal just turned me on! I couldn’t wait to put it on! Even if the orthotist knew I was familiar with Milwaukee braces, he explained to me basically how it worked and what each part of it was expected to do.

Then it came the time to put it on for the first time. I couldn’t completely hide my excitement, but the orthotist must already have thought I was crazy. I didn’t mind that he noticed I was turned on by the brace at that time. I took my T-shirt off as he unfastened the two Velcro straps in the back of the girdle and loosened the nut on the back of the neck ring and just held the brace opened by pulling the back uprights to the sides. Then he asked me to put first my arms and then my whole upper body inside the brace as the girdle just slipped around my waist. He closed the neck ring by fastening the occipital nut and then fastened the straps in the back of the girdle. He did it really tight, much more than I expected it to be. I asked him about it and he said that it was the way it should be worn and that it was really too soon for me to start complaining about the brace I chose for myself. I answered that I wasn’t complaining and that it was OK, as he said that in some days I will certainly get used to it, but that I should not wear it without tightening the girdle as expected. WOW!!! What a feeling being braced like that!! My posture seemed to be really good. My back was really straight! My shoulders were held back by the shoulder pads. I was really happy with my posture at that time!

Then the orthotist started looking at my brace to find some parts that needed to be adjusted. He took it off and put it on me for several times as he adjusted the straps, bars and pads. I asked him about the scoliosis straps that weren’t really tight. He told me that he didn’t want to be responsible for any damage to my back and that he had just installed them very loose. I should tighten them by myself if I wanted. Then he explained to me how to remove them, as I was expected to remove them for most of the time. I told him I would just wear them on special occasions. He gave me some old tools he didn’t need anymore that I could use to remove and install them again. Finally we went to the other room were he started to work on the document I should sign. He asked me to practice putting the brace on and to taking it off while I waited for him. Putting it on and taking it off was not an easy task, but with some tips he gave me I was starting to figure it out how to do it without problems.

When he finished the document he asked me to read it and to sign it. After that I paid for the brace, removed it and put it in my bag. As I did that, he asked me why I would not wear it on my way home. I told him that I wanted to get used to it before starting with extensive wearing. He smiled and said I was lucky not to really need the brace, because if I did, he would ask me to wear the brace for 23 hours a day. I would not be able to wear it a little bit less just in the first days, until I would get used to it. He recommended I wear it as much as I could, because the Milwaukee brace could benefit my posture a lot. He advised me to try to do lot of exercises and sports, even with my brace on like stretching and trying to pull the brace down. He said that my head should not really rest on the neck ring and occipital pads. The neck ring is just expected to hold the head centred in the right place and to stimulate the patient to stay straight by his own. He told me that the brace could cause some parts of my body to become sore or painful, especially the shoulders, because they were from that moment in a very different position. The back and my waist could also be sore after wearing the brace for a long time in the first few days. He told me to call him if anything really hurt a lot or if I had any problems with the brace. I was expected to come back in 3 months because he wanted to check if the brace was doing its job correctly. He then said I was ready to go and I thanked him a lot for the great work he did and for giving me the possibility to experience this wonderful brace.

I was so happy with my “trophy” inside the bag in my hand. I walked really fast to the train station because I wanted to arrive soon at home to start wearing the brace. On my way home I couldn’t avoid showing my happiness all day. I still went to the mall before going home to get some food for the next day, as I was planning to wear my Milwaukee for the whole day on Sunday. Arriving at home I just closed the door, opened the bag and started installing the brace after taking my T-shirt off. It was such a great feeling to have it on! I felt so rigid, straight, safe…!! I walked to my room where I had a big mirror. I just couldn’t believe how great the brace looked on me. My upper body was full of metal, plastics, straps and pads. I got another mirror so that I could see my braced back. WOW!! What perfect posture I had with the brace on!! The kyphosis and shoulder pads were doing a great job. The girdle was really tight, it was squeezing my stomach, but it was a nice feeling to have my waist totally covered and pressed by it. After that I still practiced taking the Milwaukee brace off and put it on again.

After some more time appreciating my brace it was time for dinner. As I prepared some food I first notice that it was going to take a lot to get used to the brace. Even some activities such as bending down to get something on the floor were from that moment on a challenge. Eating could be also difficult. I found out that sitting not so near to the table and bending a little bit forward could make it easy to see the food. I would certainly need to get used to use my eyeballs a lot more. Later on the night I also noticed that dressing and especially putting shoes on would not be that easy anymore. I was lucky that I had always been kind of thin and most of my clothes were loose fitting without the brace. That avoided the need of buying lot of new clothes. By the way, I decided that I would wear the brace always over the special T-shirts I bought without anything over the brace. I didn’t want to cause any problems to my skin. It also turned me on much more, as I would surprise myself frequently by seeing a man in the mirror showing his beautiful brace in its whole magnitude. It would also be easier to take it off quickly and hide it in case someone would come to my house. Then I would put another T-shirt to avoid the person seeing the ones I wear under the brace. Sleeping that night was quite impossible. I was still too excited because of the brace, thinking about what my life was going to be from that moment on. I soon found out that by adjusting the pillows differently I could lay comfortable on the bed with the Milwaukee brace. The shoulder outriggers kept my shoulders from bending forward. So, lying on side kept my head much higher, what could be compensated with an additional pillow.

When I woke up next morning my back and shoulder were sore because they were not used to being straight all the time. As I took the brace off and took a shower, I noticed red marks on the side of my neck, because my neck rested over the side of the neck ring during the night. I remembered that I would need to take care about that, because I couldn’t go to the work with such red marks everyday. Fortunately after the shower they were almost gone. Before putting my brace on again I thought about taking the scoliosis straps off but they looked so nice on me. So I decided to loose the scoliosis straps because I didn’t wanted to damage my back. There was almost no pressure on them anymore. That Sunday was wonderful, it was the first whole day I spent on my brace, even if my shoulders and back were hurting late in the night. I was enjoying the brace so much and I wanted to get used to it as soon as possible. It was so beautiful and made me so proud of my new posture! On that day I watched some TV, read newspaper and magazines and used the Internet. I found out that I couldn’t sit in a lazy position on the sofa as I used to do before. I should sit straight or lay on my side to be able to watch TV. Reading was also a little bit more complicated, as I needed to hold the book or newspaper a little bit higher than before and also get used to using more of my eyeballs. Fortunately I have always been good with typing because if I hadn’t, I would have had problems looking at the keyboard. It was so nice to chat with other people interested in braces, much more from that moment on as I had my own Milwaukee brace! I loved sharing my experiences with other brace wearers and also to hear their experiences. It was nice to feel safe, rigid, tightened and straight in the brace for the whole day, I really enjoyed it!!

The next week I needed to work for the whole day and of course I didn’t wear my brace. I have always been shy about what would others think of me, but the experience of wearing this magnificent brace was making me have second thoughts about it. Maybe someday I’ll have the courage to wear it all the time. But what would I tell people about my brace? Would they believe I had to wear it because of my bad posture that wasn’t really that bad? How would it be to take the attention of all people? Would I still have the possibility of finding a girl that likes me even if I wear a Milwaukee brace? Those were questions I would work out to find a good answer. After work I went home as soon as I could. I wanted to wear the brace as much as possible. It was so nice to come home tired from work and then being able to feel the safety of the Milwaukee brace. Unfortunately I could just wear it for about 12 to 15 hours a day, but that’s much better than not having a brace at all, as before. Each day I would get more and more used to it. On Wednesday I slept all through the night without any problems. The sore back was already nonexistent and the shoulder pain was much less already. I really missed the brace during the day so much so that on Friday, after work I went to the mall and bought enough food for the whole weekend, because I planned to wear the brace for the whole time.

That weekend I really wore it all the time. I just took it off to take a shower and exercise. I also started to do some exercises with the brace on. It was so amazing to wear the Milwaukee brace continuously for that many days. I was already starting to become used to it and to do everything I did before. Believe it or not, there’s a lot to get used to. I wore the brace because I wanted to, and it has never been a problem for me. Some things that happen when you’re in a Milwaukee sound really funny. I guess it must not be easy for the ones that really have to wear a Milwaukee brace. Especially wearing it in public, which I had not experienced yet. By the way, I was starting to think of what would be my next step after I would get used to the brace. There’s so much I would like to do…

Chapter Two

After some more weeks wearing the Milwaukee brace when I was at home and on weekends, it was already becoming a routine to have it on. I really got used to it, I must even take care to move at a normal way at work and not as I could not bend my back. I even felt being much taller now, as my posture improved a lot since I got the brace. That made me feel proud about the brace. I was starting to get the courage to wear the brace in public to show everybody my precious, the brace that made my back look so straight.

The thoughts about wearing the Milwaukee brace in public made me remember from the time I wore orthodontic braces, which sends me to the time my curiosity and fascination about braces started. I’m not sure when it was exactly, probably around the age of 8 I think. But I still remember from the first kids on school that wore braces, especially the ones that wore headgears and a girl that wore leg braces. She was some years older than me. I never talked to her and have never seen her anymore, but I guess she got polio and ended up in braces. She seemed to be OK about her paralyzed legs, and wearing leg braces and using a wheelchair. It was also a guy about 15 years older than me that lived not far from my house who also wore leg braces. I remember seeing him just about one year before coming to Germany. I’m happy that he’s successful on his personal and professional life!

I’m not sure what fascinated me more at that time, if the leg braces which seemed to be quite complex or if the headgears which were quite common at school. Most of the time there were some kids wearing a headgear at school, most frequently girls. Braces were not that usual as nowadays and were quite expensive. I guess that made the parents of the braced kids demand them to wear their headgears at school to speed up the treatment. Or they just wore them because they liked to get attention or just didn’t mind wearing it in public. I never asked them about why they wore it at school as I thought their orthodontists required them to wear it all the time, which made me fear about getting braces each time it was mentioned by my mother or the dentist.

I had three classmates (two girls and one boy) that wore headgear at school and some more that I know that needed them too. This three wore cervical headgears and two of them wore their headgears at school for some months until getting free of them. I remember the girl complaining that it was difficult to speak normally with it on and the boy taking it off when we played soccer. I couldn’t really understand how a piece of metal like the face bow, a neck strap and two elastics could help fixing the smile, but that I found up later.

That’s surprising how I can remember until today most of the people I saw wearing headgears on my whole life. There are probably more than 60 or 70 and most of them wore cervical ones. Four of them wore Interlandi headgears, 4 others wore high-pull and just one girl wore a combination one, which seems to be very rare. There was almost always someone wearing a headgear at the schools I studied, most teens about the age of 10 to 15. Even during college I saw 6 other students wearing headgears!! I can still remember seeing a girl wearing a nice high-pull headgear with transparent plastic straps on my first day at College, which made me think College would be the Heaven.

Let’s go back to the time I got my own braces. After some months of delay, finally at the age of 15 I got into orthodontic treatment. I was diagnosed with Class II malocclusion, which means overbite. The recommended treatment required metal brackets on my upper and lower jaws and a headgear. The idea of wearing a headgear made me feel strange. I was afraid and excited at the same time!! I had always wanted to try wearing a headgear, but I was also very afraid about wearing braces in public, as I had always been very shy. My fears got even worse as the orthodontist mentioned that I needed an Interlandi headgear to avoid my jaws growing down. It was expected to have straps over and in the back of the head and around the neck, which connect to plastic C shaped pieces just above my ears, where the elastics are connected. I just started to relax when he told my mother and me that I would be expected to wear it for only 12 hours. After getting home I remember my parents supporting me because of the braces. They never imagined that I was very excited about the headgear I was going to get.

After some weeks I finally got the headgear tubes and my Interlandi headgear. The first thing I felt was the way the face bow was stuck on my mouth. Before getting it, I always thought it would feel kind of loose on the mouth, being able to move it up and down. I can still remember my orthodontist fitting the Interlandi straps around my head and me practicing to put the headgear on and off. After he finished fitting it he asked me if I would like to wear it on my way home, which I asked sure not. I was expected to wear it only for 2 hours on the first day, increasing the wearing time on 2 hours each day. As I got home I went to the restroom and took a long look on my new toy. I was so excited with it and I wanted to wear it right on that time. Unfortunately my mother made me wear it for just a little bit more than two hours on the first night. On the second night I convinced her that I would be OK if wearing it for the whole sleeping time and that it would be better than waking up during the night to remove it. On the next morning I remember my dad and my sister waking me up to see my headgear, which I hadn’t already shown them. My sister made fun of me, but a few years later she got her own cervical headgear. The first nights with the headgear were a little bit hard to sleep as I was afraid to lay by side as I was used to. After some try I found it was no problem on sleeping by side and after some days my teeth felt not sore anymore in the morning.

I guess that after 4 or 5 days before getting it, I started wearing my headgear all the time I was at home, I simply loved to wear it!! I did it probably more than 14-16 hours a day and even more on weekends. I even took some small snacks while wearing it and built up a waterproof neck strap, which I wore sometimes while taking a shower. But I never wore it outside of my house, I was very afraid about it. I always took it off if it was someone not from my family at home. I guess probably only 5 people saw me wearing it. I think that if I would need to wear it nowadays, maybe I would at least give it a try to wear it in public. Because of me cooperating a lot with the headgear wear, my orthodontist asked me after 6 or 7 months to wear it just to sleep and gave me lighter elastics, as my teeth were almost already on their right place. I got kind of disappointed on that time, as I liked my brace. When I was at my room during the day I still wore the headgear by making a lighter elastic with 2 or 3 others, but it wasn’t the same because the lack of pressure on my teeth and head. Finally 2 or 3 months later, just before Christmas, it was all done: I should not wear my headgear anymore!! I got so disappointed and I still miss it nowadays. During the time I still had the braces I wore the headgear with no pressure sometimes and even after getting my braces off I did it just to remember part of the way it felt and looked.

Well… I guess that’s enough from headgear!! You must be asking where the Milwaukee brace comes on this story, right!?? Well… as I still was at school there was a tall and thin blond girl that wore a Milwaukee brace. At that time I did not pay much attention to her and her brace, but I remember her living not that far from my house and her sister wore a headgear at school sometimes. I didn’t even imagined how complicated could her brace be. I just found it out as I started to visit NBAK and “The Milwaukee Brace Site” some years after that.

But even then the Milwaukee brace was not my favourite. It just happened when I was going to the College one day and I saw a girl (age about 14) wearing a nice Milwaukee brace. I immediately ran after her and started to follow her until she reached her apartment, which was pretty near from my College. As I followed her I could see how lots of people really stared at her brace, probably by being surprised to see such a big brace. I tried to find her again for some days after that whit no success. Until one day when I was going to the College again and I crossed with her and her mother. She was wearing a nice pink top over the brace, which made most of the brace noticeable!! I started to follow her again, but the presence of her mother made me act carefully. Even though I walked really near to her and I appreciated her brace a lot until they reached their destination, which was a building where they got into the elevators. I thought that maybe they went to her doctor or orthotist, and after having a fast lunch at McDonald’s I returned and waited them come out of the building. Unfortunately I lost them; don’t know if they went out while I lunched or if they stayed there longer then me.

After seeing that girl wearing her Milwaukee brace with that nice top over it… my fascination about the Milwaukee brace got even stronger. I noticed that she had an outrigger on her right side. After that I just saw her once more when she was arriving at her house and having an ice cream. She stared and me as I stared at her, and I wasn’t even able to give her a smile. I do also remember an experience I had on the beach. I’m not sure but I have some images on my mind of a girl wearing a Milwaukee brace at the beach. I think she was wearing a T-shirt over it but she really caught my attention when she took it off and her brace could be seen on its whole magnitude. I hope it could have happened later, so that I could have appreciated it much more. Can you imagine a girl wearing just a bikini and a wonderful Milwaukee brace!!?? That would be another dream coming true.

After those experiences with the girl that lived near my College I got really fascinated by the Milwaukee brace and I started to dream with the day I could wear my own one. Many times I caught me thinking on a way to get such a brace and fortunately it became truth!! After more than 2 months wearing my Milwaukee brace just at home I was getting the courage to wear it in public. The weather was still cold what demanded more clothes and would help hiding the brace a little bit during the first experience.

Finally I decided that I would give it a try to wear it outside my house on the day I was going to have an appointment with my orthotist, which should happen on the next weeks. There certainly nobody would know me. I called him and made an appointment 3 weeks later, on a Saturday just before noon. On the next 3 weeks I couldn’t think on anything else. I was just wondering how it would be to wear such a brace in public and how people would react. Many thoughts went through my head on those days and I did lot of plans.

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