One Foot after the Other

After a year without standing, Clarence Prior walks again at Taunton Mills

By Kristian Partington

Clarence Prior was told he’d likely never walk again by the team of caregivers who supported him at the long-term care home in Whitby where he lived for more than three years. His mobility had steadily declined during his time there; “my legs just gave out,” he says. “They told me I was too weak and they just didn’t bother with me any more.”   

Clarence using the Rifton Tram
With the help of the Rifton Tram, Clarence Prior
is building his strength to walk again. 

It was frustrating, he admits, but part of him was resigned to the fact that the aging process can be tough and loss of mobility was his reality.  

And yet, just days after he moved to the Village of Taunton Mills, he was standing. He moved in on a Friday in mid-September and when long-term care kinesiologist Victoria Raimundo met him the following Monday, she saw something others perhaps didn’t see. Though his paperwork said the only suitable means of transfer for Clarence was a Hoyer mechanical lift, Victoria saw strength. He could lean forward when asked, indicating core strength, and he could propel himself in his wheelchair using the power of his own legs.

“Clarence, can we try standing?” she asked him.

“Oh no, I can’t stand,” he replied. “I haven’t stood in over a year.”

“Well would you like to try?” she asked again.

They wheeled over to the sit-to-stand machine that assists people in transfers and with Victoria’s support, Clarence managed to stand under his own strength for more than two minutes. The machine and Victoria were there for safety, but it was all Clarence. He marched his feet up and down a few times and when he finally sat down again, a little winded, Victoria saw a slight wash of pride come over his face.

He called his wife later that day to relay the news, and has since worked steadily with Victoria and the Program for Active Living (PAL) team to build his strength. Something so many people take for granted, like using the washroom, is now an option for Clarence; for more than a year, it wasn’t so. Victoria believes it wasn’t weakness the previous team saw in Clarence but instead they saw a challenge they didn’t have time to tackle.

For safety’s sake, two people still support Clarence during his transfers with the sit-to-stand machine, but he’s doing “phenomenally” well, Victoria says. With the help of another device called the Rifton Tram, which supports and protects him as he bears his own weight, he now walks for upwards of five minutes at a time. In two short months he’s gained new confidence and strength, even though he admits he tires easily. “I’m 93,” he says, with a smile, so maybe that’s to be expected.

He fully intends to keep building his strength, he says, and he’s grateful to have the support of Victoria and the rest of the team to help him get there.