Day 554: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

You know the saying about not judging a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes? Turns out, the same applies to walking half a mile with his cane.

When I was in the CBC building last Friday, I passed by the courier drop-off room and saw a sign that read “Caring Crutches Helping Haiti.” Below the sign was a barrel of canes and crutches and a notice explaining that a Toronto physiotherapist had launched the campaign to collect and send them to Haiti. According to the notice, it’s estimated that 200,000 Haitians have lost one or more limbs as a result of the devastating earthquake in Port-au-Prince. (For more information, email

I knew I had an old cane rattling around in the garage, so I brought it into work today planning to take it over at lunchtime. What I didn’t plan on was how strange it would feel to carry a cane.

A shellelagh sale!

My late father-in-law suffered from knee pain in his later years, but resisted carrying a height-adjusted medical cane, preferring instead to use a walking stick that had belonged to his father-in-law. Once he got the hang of it, though, he had a blast using it to reach ahead and push the button for automatic doors, elevators and the like.

What I realized today was that people do look at you differently when you have a cane. I wasn’t even leaning on it and I had doors opened for me, curious looks and heads tilted in sympathy. I turned it upside down so it was clear I didn’t actually need it, but then it looked like I was getting ready to smack someone. And because it swung from side to side as I walked, I almost did!

I was never so relieved to deposit it in the barrel where it will be sent to those who really need it. And if I ever do need one someday, at least I can say I’ve taken one for a test drive.

P.S. Some amazing break dancing (with and without crutches!) from the opening ceremonies of the Paralympic Games from Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli and his crew. Enjoy!


One thought on “Day 554: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  1. It’s interesting to hear how you felt about using a cane. The feeling of being “different” or “disabled” is probably just touching the tip of the iceberg for those who don’t have a choice as to not using one to get around. The reality of having to be dependant on the use of a walking aide to get around is something we all should try once so that we can understand just how inconvenient and humiliating it can be when we can’t readily move around or are treated differently because one is well, “different”.

    I am a designer and creator of custom ergonomic canes just for these reasons. I make canes for comfort, stability and style. The unsightly aluminum or mass fabricated bent wood cane is not always comfortable or even stable enough for a heavier or taller person, least of all does it give the user any sense of style. Each person’s hand is a different size and shape and we start to have other issues such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or nerve problems that prevent us from having full use of our fingers and wrists. I take in consideration these issues by designing handles that are comfortable for the individual. The height and heft of the shaft of the cane is also important, as a person who stand 6ft tall, weighing over 300 lbs, has different needs than that of a person 5’5″ tall, weighing under 200 lbs and the cane that is not the correct height will cause additional structure muscular problems for the user.

    I use fancy domestic and exotic hardwoods that I try to show off the natural beauty of the wood and create each piece as a portable, wearable artform so that the user and viewer can enjoy the beauty of the cane. The aesthetic value of the cane will give the user a better sense of pride and dignity which hopefully will allow them to conquer their day with a better stride.

    Please view my work at Canes and feel free to leave feedback.

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