Kate McRae: Singer Walks Again After Suspected MS Diagnosis

Kate McRae Knee Ankle Foot Orthoses

Kate McRae was a busy singer/songwriter and very active young adult until a suspected multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis left her in a wheelchair. With the help of custom knee ankle foot orthoses (KAFOs), she is now back on her feet walking, climbing stairs, and dancing again.


I’ve always led an active life. I was a busy singer and songwriter living in Nashville averaging about 150 shows per year with my band. In my free time, I enjoyed swimming, running, climbing, paddle boarding, scuba diving, and even some competitive ballroom dancing.  

My Suspected MS Diagnosis

I started feeling tired near the end of 2017, and in January 2018 things really started to go downhill. I became extremely exhausted, so much so that it became progressively more difficult to even show up for rehearsals let alone get through them. My wrist and ankles were the first to lose strength rapidly. My arms and legs continued to weaken as other neuromuscular and autonomic symptoms appeared. By that summer, my life had changed dramatically. I was 30 years old, nearly blind in my right eye, and unable to feel or control my legs from the knee down. Doctors narrowed down my diagnosis to be autoimmune and suspected MS. My parents put their lives on hold and were my support, bringing me to medical appointments and helping me adjust to everyday life.

Meeting the Hanger Clinic Team

Knowing I was losing my strength and control of my legs, I requested to begin physical therapy before I became wheelchair dependent. After a couple months of treatment, the physical therapists noted foot drop and the increasing wobbliness and weakness in my legs, especially in my right leg. That’s when I was introduced to Hanger Clinic in Hermitage and my orthotist Richard Brown, CPO, C. Ped. He was amazing and asked me about my goals. I told him walking first and foremost, but I wanted to be able to dance, swim, and paddle board again, too! Then I laughed because I knew how farfetched that must have sounded. But it was the first time in a while that I had felt hope and encouragement.

Richard made a leg brace for my right leg, but noted that it was likely I would need one for my left, too. He was right. In early 2019, I was back for the left leg brace. Initially it was very difficult for me to stay balanced and standing, but I was determined to do more. It was with this first set of custom knee ankle foot orthoses (KAFOs) that I started to make some progress. I finally had something sturdy to balance on that would pick up my foot for me. Every day I worked to build my endurance standing on my feet and using different muscles to advance my legs forward.

With some arm crutches to help balance, I started trying to walk. First just down the hall, then down the sidewalk, and eventually got to where I could walk about 100 yards. Then I sent the video of me walking to the mailbox to Richard. He was so thrilled and told me that it looked like I might be ready for another type of brace.  

Reaching My Goals

I received a set of Safety Stride Stance Control KAFOs in the summer of 2020. This new set was a game changer. I started to reach some of my goals. I am at the point where I can walk two miles without arm crutches, I’m getting better at climbing stairs, and I dance with my friends when we go out and listen to live music. I even successfully paddle boarded on the bay the other day for about three minutes! I used to run in high school and college. My goal is to do a 5K in the future. I’m also working on resuming my music career and putting hand controls in my vehicle to drive and regain one more piece of independence.

I think back to when I was sitting in my wheelchair. With the incredible support of my family, my medical team, and Hanger Clinic, I was able to take what seemed like an impossible challenge and just take one step at a time to work towards the goals I set for myself. While the physical challenges have been extremely hard to overcome, the hardest part was keeping faith that I would be able to live an active, independent life again. I still don’t have control of my legs on my own, but with the help of Richard and my custom KAFOs, I now can balance, walk, and get back to living. Richard and the Hanger Clinic team continue to help me every step of the way with their kindness, ability to find technology to help, and assistance through the insurance process. They genuinely care about patients and put in the work to help.

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