Grandparents Day is a very special holiday near and dear to our hearts here at SAS.

To help us celebrate this important day, we would like to share a story that was submitted to SAS for our Favorite Memory Contest this summer. This story comes to us from T. Hamboyan. Enjoy!

My juvenile rheumatoid arthritis started attacking my feet as soon as I learned how to walk. One of my favorite pictures of my Grandpa is of him carrying me on his shoulders when I was about 4 or 5. He's carrying me because my feet are hurting too much for me to walk, even though the distance I needed to walk was, by most standards, negligible. In the picture, he's crying because he knows how much pain I'm in and knows there is nothing he can do to make the pain better: all he can do is prevent the pain from getting worse.

This has, in many ways, been the recurring theme of my life: not how to make pain better, but how to prevent pain from getting worse. My medical team growing up was especially fond of this. I would go to bed every night locked into splints: splints for my hands, splints for my legs. I'd wake up every morning, the splints would come off, and I'd have to snap my joints before they would even begin to move. Then I'd have to spend up to 2 hours working on my joints before I'd be ready to go to school. In elementary school, I would wake up at 6 every morning, even though my Special Education bus didn't show up until 7:45 or 8.

When I was in elementary school, my doctors became concerned about my feet. They were worried about future deformity. To prevent this future pain, they installed "Metatarsal bars" in my shoes. These were literally 1/2" thick blocks of wood that would be drilled into my shoes where my toe knuckles would land. If that sounds incredibly painful to walk on, imagine that pain added to my already substantial foot pain. It was unbearable, and the bars were removed from my shoes relatively quickly.

That was only the first attempt to "correct" my feet I suffered through during childhood. There was a set of full-length orthotics made for me in early high school, which were then fit into a $92 pair of sneakers that were supposed to help my feet. They were too painful for me to wear and quickly got hidden somewhere in my closet... I only recently donated the sneakers to the local thrift store, after trying them on--with and without the orthotics--and realizing I'd never wear them again.

After those, I resorted to buying the most comfortable cheap shoes I could find. This continued until 8 years ago, when my arch pain became unbearable: it felt like my feet were going to snap in two with each step. A new set of orthotics were made, and these did make walking bearable.

When I got married in my early 20s, I had another set made, which made wearing shoes even more bearable. But in all these years, I was still buying whatever pair of shoes I could fit my feet and orthotics into. I would walk into a store having only a vague idea what size shoe I'd be purchasing: the smallest was a size 6.5; the largest, for a wedding, was size 8.5. Most ended up being around a 7 or a 7.5.

And yet, in all these years with foot pain and all the shoes and orthotics I've tried, I'd never owned a truly comfortable pair of shoes. Any shoe I owned, if worn long enough, would cause some sort of pain: either it'd rub against my deformed toes, or pinch my feet, or put too much pressure on my ankle, etc.

Three years ago, I saw my podiatrist about foot pain. He told me that I needed to buy a better pair of shoes: shoes that would likely cost $140. It is a testament to Rob's character and love for me that he immediately agreed to this. We went out to SAS Comfort Shoes in Annapolis to purchase the most expensive pair of shoes I've ever owned.

I had my feet fitted properly into shoes, with my orthotics. For the first time in my life, I wore shoes that were truly comfortable. It took some effort on the part of the salesperson to not only find the right shoe for my feet, but the right inserts to add or remove. When he got the shoes right and I took those first steps without my feet hurting, I nearly began to cry in the store.

The shoes I am now wearing fit my feet, deformities and all. They're not the most beautiful shoes, but they are the first shoes I've worn that don't cause me pain.

I never want to take them off. And in 3 years, I haven't. I wear my SAS shoes inside and outside. The only time I'm not wearing SAS shoes is when I'm in bed, showering, or swimming.