Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Special

I am special, but not always in a good way. When I was four or five years old, my knees started to hurt me. After seeing our regular doctor and an orthopedist, the diagnosis was made. I have chondromalacia. Generally an ailment that affects marathon runners in their 40's, I was the youngest person this doctor had ever diagnosed with it. Lucky me.

I spent the better part of my youth struggling with my knees. If I overdid anything, they would hurt. Even just walking sometimes made it unbearable. I spent the last hours at Sea World being pushed around in a wheelchair once when it was really bad. It made sports a virtual impossibility. I would try to play, but they acted up. I never got good at anything because I could never play long enough or hard enough. The sports that I really wanted to play were out of the question because there was too much impact. I could swim, but that was about it.

My parents were very reluctant to have it treated surgically because of all the horror stories they heard about the patients who underwent the procedure. When I was about 10 or so, the surgery began to be done with arthroscopic methods, and thus was less invasive with a shorter healing time. They still waited a few more years, making sure that there weren't long term side effects for the patients. Finally, when I was 14, my knees were to the point where something had to be done. I was in pain almost all the time and the surgery seemed safe. A couple weeks after I graduated from 9th grade, I went in for surgery.

Had I known how hard the recovery was going to be, I might never have agreed to it. One knee was worse than the other, so it was the one repaired. The surgical procedure is called a lateral release, and it basically helps to reposition the knee. I was in a full leg brace for 6 weeks and it took well over a year for me to be able to walk up and down stairs without feeling like I was going to fall. With time and healing, it got better. A little.

It's been a long time since that first surgery, and I was told then that I would probably need to do it every ten years or so. I'm way past that. I have stuck to my guns though, and refuse to do it until and unless I really can't take it anymore. Thanks to the surgery, I now have arthritis in the joint on top of the condition itself. I don't need a barometer to predict the weather, my knees do just fine.

I've been thinking about my knees a little more often than normal these days. They are getting worse. Again. And every time I step outside, they hurt. Though the cold doesn't bother the rest of me all that much, it bothers them. I've learned to live with the pain. To take medication to treat the symptoms. And as much as I possibly can, I try to just ignore it. The idea of going through surgery with four kids just isn't an appealing one.

I'm special. And I'm tough. At least in some ways. ;)

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