If you’ve ever seen the movie Forrest Gump, you may remember the scene where a young Forrest is hobbling with his heavy-duty, old fashioned leg braces, trying his hardest to run away from a group of mean-spirited boys on bikes while a young, super slow motion Jenny is screaming “RUN FORREST RUN!” Then Forrest breaks free from from his braces and takes off running and it’s all very poetic. That movie deserved every one of it’s 4 stars.
Forrest had the braces because his spine was “crooked as a question mark”. My spine has never been as “crooked as a question mark” unless I’m in yoga class, but my legs were. I was born with a fairly common condition called a femoral anteversion. It happens in up to 10% of children.
This is how the John’s Hopkins Center for Orthopaedic Surgery describes a femoral anteversion:
The femur is the long bone that goes from the hip to the knee. “Anteversion” literally means “leaning forward.” Femoral Anteversion is therefore a condition in which the femoral neck leans forward with respect to the rest of the femur. This causes the lower extremity on the affected side to rotate internally (i.e. the knee and foot twists towards the midline of the body). Because some degree of rotation of the femur is always present as kids grow, it is considered abnormal only if it is significantly different from the average value of a patient of the same age.
That part about it being considered an abnormality only if it differs significantly from the average value would describe me. I was an early walker and it was apparent right away that something was not right. I was fitted for special shoes that didn’t help. I wore a fun contraption that looked a little something like this for awhile:
Random kid from the SureStep website.
They are called “twister straps”. Except this was the late 70’s/early 80’s and mine were less stretchy awesome comfort and more leather bondage. See where the Forrest Gump reference is coming from? That thing didn’t work either. Then it was more special shoes with orthotics built in. No dice.
So the other option is a surgery called a femoral derotation osteotomy, where a doctor will cut the femur, rotate it to a correct position and then pin it back together. It is generally not recommended to consider this until a child is older because in 99% of cases, femoral anteversions correct themselves. It is considered a developmental abnormality which means that this happened in the womb, but it is also thought that there is a genetic component. I come from a long, distinguished line of terrible foot/leg problems on both sides of my family…other femoral issues, club feet, etc. According to my pediatric orthopaedic doctor, the chances of my anteversion correcting itself were slim to none. My procedures would be bilateral – meaning they would happen on both legs – and the first one would occur when I was 3.
My earliest memories all involve hospitals, which sounds depressing, but it really isn’t. I don’t remember ever being sad. I remember going on the hospital tour with my parents before my surgery. I remember what the anethesia smelled like when they put the mask on my face and the dream I had while I was under – colorful balloons floating up and up and up. I remember waking up in recovery and not being able to move my legs and wanting my mom. Okay maybe that last part is depressing.
After that surgery I was in a behemoth of a cast for months. It went from my waist to my ankles on both legs with a bar in between and I had to use a wheelchair. Except that I couldn’t sit up because of the cast, so it was like a flat bed on wheels that I became extremely adept at moving around. I was in preschool at the time and had no troubles there. I remember celebrating my 4th birthday with my school friends and eating cake sprawled on my wheelbed. At night when it was time for sleep, my dad would carry me upstairs and my parents would try to maneuver around the house on it and took chips of paint out of the doorframes. I was a MUCH better driver than they were.
I have one ridiculous photo of me in my casts and I searched high and low for it before writing this post and unfortunately couldn’t find it to share. So here’s a picture of me as a toddler instead. Check out how far those footsies turned in! Also check out how much Betty looks like me! Everyone always thinks she looks exactly like my husband until I show them baby pictures of myself.
I had a super fun time hanging out in mega-cast, but then it was time for surgery #2 to remove the pins that they had installed to help my femurs heal back together. And then…back in a cast. Though thankfully for not nearly as long this time. I remember the day when I finally got that cast off. I sat on a table while the doctor sawed through them with a little electric saw and plaster dust was kicking up and I was laughing. My skin felt warm from the friction. Then I thought I could just jump down off the table and run out the door. Not so much. After not using your legs at all for the better part of a year, there is a definite learning curve with the whole walking thing.
I had a few issues over the years. Every time I hit a major growth spurt, the pain in my hips and where my femurs connect with my pelvis was so tremendous that I wouldn’t be able to walk. Twice I was on crutches for 6 months. The doctors had no idea at the time why I was in such a world of hurt, but looking back it was probably due to the fact that I had the surgery at such a young age. I was decidedly non-athletic all through school. I didn’t play any sports. I ran a 16 minute mile. My legs were an excuse all the time.
I never in a million years thought I would be a runner. And now I am and I never want to stop. I was having a conversation with my mom recently and she’s kind of shocked at how far I’ve come in the past 9 months. She said that the doctors had told her that my legs would be extra strong after the surgery. I love that.
So that’s how my little corner of the Internet got it’s name. Who knows what my life would be like now if I hadn’t had my legs fixed. I still have a thick 4” raised scar on the outside of both my thighs. When I was little they took up pretty much my whole upper leg and I used to hate when people would ask me about them, but now I kind of love them. Scars can be cool. They tell neat stories sometimes.
Do you have any cool scars? What kind of shoes do you wear? Do you love Forrest Gump?
Also my RoadID Giveaway is in high gear and I just want to thank everyone so much for all the great comments I’ve received so far! You guys are amazing!! And if you haven’t entered yet and would like to, check out yesterday’s post!