I am only 17, but my knees make me feel like I am 90. Well, at least they used to. I am the unlucky teenager that has already had four knee surgeries in her short lifetime. Most people assume my injuries were caused by a sport; I do play lacrosse, but no, I was just born with my kneecaps in the wrong place in my leg. I went under the knife for the first time when I was 11, but my doctor could not do anything to correct what he saw due to my young age. The only real benefit that came out of that surgery was that I can now tell people I have cartilage cells stored in a cell bank in Boston when they ask for a random fact about me. After years of my kneecaps slipping in and out of place, my family decided it was time to go back to the doctor. The summer before my junior year I had two surgeries to pull my kneecaps down into their natural groove. Tibial Tubercle Osteotomy. Say that three times fast. Having two surgeries with a name that complicated and fancy made me think, “Well, surely nothing could go wrong.” I was wrong. One of my knees didn’t heal correctly, and I actually had to have another surgery in April of my junior year, rounding out my knee surgery total at four. At this point, I am fairly sure you are asking yourself, “Why would this girl want to tell us about her knees?”
My knees have become a part of who I am. Obviously my knees have always physically been a part of my body, but when you have been on crutches as much as I have been in the past year or so, they become a part of your identity as well. It may sound strange, but I have become known as the girl with the bad knees and have learned to laugh at myself for having the most unheard of knee problems. I have learned new ways to enjoy life when I wasn’t able to do everything my friends were doing. I have learned new things about myself, and so much more. But what I find the most important is the lesson I learned about not taking my health for granted.
I was temporarily disabled and I am so lucky to be able to use the word “temporary.” Even in that realistically short amount of time, I learned some struggles that permanently disabled individuals face every day of their lives. Even getting around school every day was insanely difficult. Opening doors for myself was virtually impossible, I couldn’t carry anything, and I knew what it felt like when somebody non-handicapped was using the handicap stall in the bathroom and having to wait. These may not seem like large issues, but it is the small activities such as those that make up our days, and when you can no longer do such seemingly minute tasks it is incredibly frustrating.
While I know I can’t solve all problems that face permanently disabled individuals, I hope I can at least get a few people to appreciate their health more and become more aware of the struggles that some may face.