You don’t give birth to courage …
… courage is born of adversity
I was one of those babies that a mom dreads having. Always crying and irritable. Bottles, nappies, burping, anything and everything that my mom could think of, none of it helped. They had me at GP’s, pediatrician’s and specialists, toke x-ray’s, did blood work, all the tests they could think of but could find no profound deviation from the average growing child’s body structure and enzyme levels. The verdict was always the same, “just another trouble child,” with the only advice being “you spoil’t him with attention, you need to let him cry so he can learn that crying doesn’t bring attention.”
Sometimes special treatment is not so special after all,
Children don’t feel privilege, they feel isolation
As time marched on there were still no respite or end in sight for my mothers frayed nerves and our then house doctor found a mother and child sitting in front of him, both drenched in tears and bawling their eyes out. Seeing my mom’s own depressive nature getting the better of her, he offered her a scapegoat in the form of “blood sugar imbalance” and prescribed a strict non-sugar diet. So it came to pass that for the greater part of my childhood, I was denied sugar of any kind.
Even in those years, I was as thin as a plank. When going out to restaurants the waiters would stare in disbelief as my parents would order me a diet cool drink, keeping in mind that back in those days diet food were still diet food and only the desperately overweight even thought of putting it to their lips. When going to birthday parties I was sent with a backpack filled with special sugar-free treats and drinks. I remember once in kinder-garden, when a teacher neglected to tell my mother about a upcoming birthday of one of the children …
There I was, stood along side the other children in front of a table laid out with little packets of sweets and treats prepared by the birthday boys mum. As I looked around at the excited children and my teacher, oblivious to the oversight, I toke a tentative step towards the table. I was half expecting my teacher to pull me to the side and hand me a slab of sugar-free chocolate that tasted much the same as a cup of coffee without sugar, the thought was there but the substance was lacking. With no one watching, I grabbed a packet and ran out of the class room as the bell sounded for break. Holed up in a crawl through tunnel in the playground, I devoured the packet of treats. That night, I slept without incident … in fact, it turned out to be one of my better weeks …
What is normal to a child,
other than that which they feel over a prolonged period of time
I could never keep up with friends on the school playground or during athletics try outs and I couldn’t make sense of it. We were the same age, same level of physical fitness, yet when it came down to it, they could easily out run and out play me. My lungs would burn and my head would start swimming. My whole world would throb in flashes of red, to the tune of my heart beat and I would be incapable of comprehensible speech. Fine motor skills were next to impossible as my hands would tremble and shake. It was embarrassing but I thought it was supposed to happen and that the other children were just strong enough to control it. I won’t talk about the pain I was in because you don’t remember things that are ‘normal’ to you. All I know is that it was always there but I didn’t have anything to measure it against, and had no reason to question it.
One of my most vivid memories, were as a seven year old, with my grandma, God bless her, watching over us while my parents were away on a business trip. I was given an assignment by my first grade teacher, to read out loud from a book. They were afraid I had a speech impairment as I had a strong English accent while my home language was Afrikaans. On the given day I was irritable and uncooperative, bursting out in tears for no apparent reason. My grandma, being the type of person she was, sat me on a chair, bundled me in a blanket and proclaimed, “If you want to be a baby, then be a baby … go on cry if that is all you want to do.”
Later that night, I woke in anguish. My legs had started hurting, as they do from time to time, but this was far worse than I had ever experienced. It felt like someone had my legs in a vice grip, applying pressure to my lower leg as though to bend it into a ninety degree angle. I yelled out, more out of desperation for it to stop rather than anything else. Because of my outbursts earlier the day, my grandma wrote it off to separation anxiety and an attempt to draw attention, but this carried on deep into the night and she eventually had no choice but to try and remedy the situation … if only for the sake of my sister trying to sleep in the next room over. She tried everything, from hot water bottles, blankets to her own chamfer body lotion but nothing seemed to help.
When adversity comes knocking,
and surprises you with a revelation instead
At fifteen, the school was holding their annual athletics try outs. Desperate to compete in at least some form of athletics during my high school career, I was practicing hurdles on a sapling in our garden. One of our darling dogs had dug a hole right in the middle of my make believe athletics track and the grass had grown long and obscured it. During my run up, I felt a searing pain in my left knee and collapsed to the ground. It must have been, oh, five minutes that I lay there, waiting for the pain and the incomprehensible nausea to subside yet it felt more like an hour. When the feeling had finally returned to my leg, I hobbled into the house as best I could and told my mom, “somethings gone wrong” as I stood pointing at my swollen knee.
It’s insanely annoying how a doctor’s visit always leaves you in more pain than what you were in when you first entered their surgery. He performed a little ritual that I am now intimately familiar with and have a burning hatred for. First, he would place his thumb next to my knee cap and push on it causing it to slide around like an egg yolk on a plate. The sensation, although not painful, has the tendency to make your whole body scream “Stop! That’s not natural!” With a raised brow, he proceeded to the part that makes me wish I was born without manners. With his arms curled around my calf and his knee on the examination table as though he half expect it to require all his strength, he jerked at my leg. I could feel the joint separate as the tendons stretched. The searing pain from earlier came flooding back and I could feel the tissue surrounding my knee swell up a new. With these revelations in mind, I was sent off to the radiologists.
One of the nurses passing me in the hall of the radiology department stopped, looked at my knee and said, “Ouch, when are they going to reset it?” I frowned and looked at her, “What do you mean reset it?” Her eyes grew wide and she asked me to straighten my other leg. Stunned, she turned and walked away, whispering to the other nurse down the hall “Oh my god,” who just nodded knowingly. I couldn’t understand what the big fuss was about and decided it must be my scrawny legs that they were referring to. On receipt of the results we were handed a referral note for a orthopedic surgeon and sent on our way.
I can still recall lying on the examination table while he spoke to my mom in the next room, as though I was of no consequence. Like a mechanic discussing the reasoning behind writing off your car after a bad accident. ‘Bilateral patella alta’ was the term he used to describe it. My knee caps rides too high up and the slightest pressure to the side of my legs or even from my own thigh muscles, can cause them to slip out of alignment and dislocate. At the time there was nothing else they could do but to send me to a biokineticist in the hopes that strengthening my upper leg muscles would help keep my kneecaps in place as my the positioning made it virtually impossible for my ligaments to do their work properly. I was supposed to go back for surgery when I stopped growing but somehow, my father saw to it that it never happened.
And so my journey began. The first drop had fallen into the ocean and a couple of pieces to the puzzle of my life fell into place
~ End of part 1 ~
~ LM ~