Sunday, August 14, 2005

Making the Crooked Straight

This journey of life is mysterious, hard, and delightful, all at once. As I have mentioned, 0ver the past month I have spent a considerable amount of emotional effort looking after the care, feeding and emotional stability of my parents. Dad is 85 and Mom is 84, and clearly, they need more help. This opportunity to focus on the needs of others has been strangely beneficial to me. Life has become much less about me suddenly, and that is good. At 47, I have had the opportunity to reflect on what my life is about.

These changes have had caused me to reflect upon the character of the people I love the most - my family. Today, I thought I might share with you part of the story of one particular person who has, through the fates of life, shown me courage, endurance, and perseverance. My oldest daughter Kelly is now 14 years old, and heading to high school in just a matter of days. Even though she makes me crazy sometimes, Kelly is a wonderful kid. She has a smile that lights up the room, a sense of humor that consistently cheers her family and friends, and is just about the best friend a person could want.

Tippy Toes
When Kelly was little, she went everywhere on tip toes. When she walked, her heels really never touched the ground. I think it is a metaphor for how she lives life - always expectant. The orthopods we took her to cleverly called this condition "toe walking" (now there is what a med-school education will get you - sophisticated sounding diagnoses), and suggested we cast both her feet, to mid-calf, for a period of a month or so, in order to stretch our her Achilles tendons. We, as the serious and caring parents, considered the doctors' advice, and put her in casts. She was about 4 or 5, and she was a trooper, running about for about six weeks in two purple leg casts. She never broke her smile. We were hopeful the "toe walking" would taper off after the casts came off. It didn't. She just kept on moving through life on tip-toes.

Genu Valgum
When she approached Middle School we began to notice that she was markedly "knock-kneed", (or Genu Valgum - as medically termed and pictured above) and could not put her feet together without crossing her knees. More visits to the orthopods. Now it was getting more interesting. A surgical procedure was required, on both knees. Not easy. Slow recovery. The visit to the first orthopedic surgeon was less than fruitful, due to a noticeable lack of bedside manner. This seemingly gentle doctor told Kelly, "this is easy to fix, we just pound some surgical staples into your knee". Now, I don't know much about medicine, but the use of the verb "pound", is not in my mind a subtle way to explain something to a 12 year old. Kelly's eyes became noticeably larger as the use of the word "pound", and I somehow sensed we might seek a second opinion.

The second doctor was a much more diplomatic, and grandfatherly soul. He took a look a the xrays, looked at Kelly, and said, "Would you like to get those legs straightened out?" She nodded, apprehensively. He then smiled and said, "lets take care of this then - I can have you out of the hospital the same day". What a difference the initial approach makes. Kelly was steeling herself for this, not sure at all of what lay ahead.

The surgery took place on a January morning. Kelly was completely sedated, and had the surgical staples shown above inserted into both knees. Ok, not really inserted, more like, well, pounded. Kelly was in recovery in less than 90 minutes, and home late in the day.
More on the outcome, and lessons for our family - next up.
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