Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Those darn knees

"If only you could fully extend your legs, if it wasn't for those darn knees"- my mom sighed a few times when massaging my legs.. And she's right - contractures in my legs have always made it difficult to walk, stand or even take go up a flight of stairs. My legs would just get tired quickly with gravity almost pinning me down to the ground, making me exhausted. Try as I might, I could never get my knee to go beyond the 100 degree angle, it's as if they're physically blocked. Through the years , my parents had hoped to physically loosen them and give me more movement. The added benefit of being in a cast waste down- your legs are forced straight for a few months and after a while everything lets go. I've even seen kids put in a cast without a surgery to recover from for that very reason. After a while the body gets used to the new position and stops fighting it. A boy I shared a room at the Children's Health Center in Warsaw for a few weeks had it done and I'd be lying if I said that my parents never considered it, however briefly. It was an effect similar to wearing leg braces every day. After a (longer) while all the tension every day. When you released the lock that held the brace locked straight, my legs would go numb, and I'd literally feel weak in the knees. For a few weeks we even tried "nighttime braces"- a lighter construction covered in fabric. I found it very difficult to sleep in thee things given that I was side sleeper. Try getting to school in the morning after a thing like that. My mom was always envious of kids who had hyperextention. Their knees locked straight, if not a little over. A bit of an opposite of my condition they had some problems kneeling, crawling and sitting down. But it was very easy assisting them to walk up the stairs or even go a larger distance. You could just have them stand against something and they would never get tired. When I was a child, there wasn't a whole lot of things you could say were "wrong" with me or different, but my right hand and knees were dead giveaways. I'd would have been easier if we just had it fixed somehow. I thought about all the things you can do if you can properly stand when I saw this girl at the store last Sunday. She was walking with a set of Peto style sticks, her legs straight, never bending, wobbling from side to side, drawing the step from the hip. She wasn't wearing a brace of any kind, her legs were just naturally locked in that position. I don't want to speculate as to whether she was in fact a pupil of the Conductive Education method and I could tell she had some type of neuromuscular disability- you often see it in the eyes or the tension in the face- but I would not venture a guess on whether or not that was actually CP. (My dad would often assume that a lot of the kids with disabilities had it, when in fact they've struggled with different types of brain injury. Her walk wasn't fast nor particularly majestic. Although she was making her steps slowly but surely I was a bit surprised. She didn't have the added weight of a metal braces nor the discomfort of metal rods going into the shoe. I always thought that if my legs could get that straight I'd move with more ease. But I guess moving your entire leg by transferring your body balance from left to right is difficult regardless.

My parents were entertaining the possibility of me having a knee surgery but then decided against it. I was revisiting this idea upon my planned arrival in Warsaw in 2008, but fate (and immigration) intervened. What can I say, the older I get the more I can appreciate the idea of having more movement.

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