Monday, August 12, 2013

The Day That Changed Everything: Part 4

By far one of the most difficult experiences of my life happened about five and a half years ago.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

As I stare at this blank page, I find myself grasping for the right words, but there really are no right words.

For most people, a broken leg is an inconvenience at worst, a few weeks in a cast and on crutches. But for me, there were no guarantees. For me, a broken leg meant that I might never walk on my own again. As I lay in bed, it occurred to me that everything I worked for, all of those hours of PT might amount to nothing, all because a nameless, faceless person decided to flip the spout on a water fountain.

I was out of school for the rest of that year, from December to June, because if somebody even bumped my leg the wrong way, it could implode. (And no, that's not an exaggeration. That was an actual warning from my orthopedic surgeon.) For three months, I wasn't allowed to bear any weight whatsoever in order to minimize that risk. So I hit the booksI basically taught myself for the remainder of eighth grade.

It wasn't all bad. My friends threw me a surprise party for my fourteenth birthday, and I learned how to get around without weight-bearing by propelling myself with my hands and using a computer chair with wheels.

But sometimes the unfairness of it all hit me like a ton of bricks. The well-meaning elderly people at my physical therapy appointments would sometimes smile at my physical therapist and ask, "What's wrong with her?" and my heart would sink. Because on one hand, I truly believed that nothing was wrong with me, that my challenges were making me stronger. But another part of me whispered, "Where do I even begin?" Do I start with the cerebral palsy or the broken leg that is breaking my life?

In mid-March, I was allowed to begin weight-bearing again, and that brought a whole new set of challenges. I literally had to relearn how to walk. Going from one end of the hallway to the other with a walker left me out of breath and sweaty, and it was slow and painful work, like running a marathon in slow motion. Each step required a tremendous amount of thought, and sometimes I just wanted to give up.

Here I was, at fourteen years old, and I was worse off than I was when I was three.

As my walking gradually progressed, I began using forearm crutches, but my gait was still slow and achy.

And I'll never forget my next doctors' appointment. My mom had asked my orthopedic surgeon what my outlook was like.

"She'll probably use the crutches for the rest of her life," he said casually—almost cheerfully, "and a wheelchair for long distances."

Just like that, my world came crashing down around me. For my entire life, I had fought against uncooperative legs to walk on my own, and here it was all being taken away from me in this doctors' office.

I could embrace cerebral palsy. I could embrace challenges. I could deal with the surgeries and the stares, the pity and the therapy appointments. But I couldn't accept the soul-crushing idea that the countless hours I spent strengthening my legs were a waste. I couldn't accept that everything I had worked for could be stolen from me by a puddle next to a water fountain.

No. I refused to accept that.

(to be continued)


  1. Of course you did!

    I'm sorry that was such an emotionally and physically painful time for you, but I love how you are able to look back on that time with so much clarity now.

  2. And a warrior was born. I'm sorry you had to be beaten down for it to happen, but I think the results are beautiful.

    At some point in our lifetime doctors/therapists and others will learn never to underestimate how a persons will power will trump science every freaking time.

  3. Kerry,
    You get me every time. You are amazing and while I hate that you were in so much pain and that you had to hear horrible and discouraging words, I love that you beat the odds and are able to bring us with you back in time through your writing.

  4. I hope you know that you inspire me, Kerry. Not just as a mom to a child whose story is much like your first two years, but also because of your writing. You are so talented and clearly practiced. With your determination and history of kicking "no" in people's faces, I can't wait to see where you edn up in 1, 5, 20 and 50 years.

  5. This one is harder for me to relate to, because I have never dealt with a circumstance like this. I do rely on a chair for longer distance and when I was younger, I did use crutches the rest of the time. However, I imagine it is difficult to adjust to, especially if it is not your norm, and especially if you never really used adaptive equipment before.


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