Surgeon Knows Best

My last post was kind of a downer. I certainly don’t want to put negative energy out there, but this whole thing has been a rollercoaster and it helps me to write about the ups and downs. Although my first week at home was somewhat of a struggle, I’m happy to tell you my second week was much better. I think possibly five days passed where I didn’t cry! (This is a huge victory.) When I first got home, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself all day. Both of my parents work and I wasn’t even really “allowed” to go up or down stairs while home alone. This made for a very lonely and boring week. But after the first several days, I began making lists. I’m a pretty organized person and two of my favorite things are A.) making lists and B.) crossing things off of lists. I found ways to fill my day. I’ve been keeping up with my bills from Chattanooga, making sure my rent, cable, electric and car bills are all in order. (Remember how I said I’m organized? I wasn’t kidding. Paying bills is somewhat fun for me. Lame-o.) I’ve tried to keep up with e-mails from friends, family and viewers. I finally did pick up a book and am three quarters through with it. I am watching some TV. I’m on season four of 30 Rock which has kept me laughing. I’m whitening my teeth a lot. They should be blinding by the time I’m back on TV! One night, my mom and I did our nails while watching The Biggest Loser. I got a do-over with my friend who invited me over last weekend – when I was too depressed to go. She and I, her fiancee and another friend made dinner, caught up and watched Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It felt like a really normal, fun night and made me very happy. I have also learned how to go up and down stairs by myself, which means I can raid the fridge whenever I want!

Monday through Friday I go to physical therapy for a little over an hour. My therapist stretches my leg every which way and I do exercises to keep it strong and flexible. I don’t dread it. Everyone there is nice and it gets me out of the house. A woman from our old church has organized volunteers to pick me up and take me to and from PT. It’s such a gift and I am grateful for the sweet people who are willing to help our family in that way.

I am still lengthening my leg several times a day with the magnet, as well.

As I am feeling better and getting used to all this, the near future still looms over me. If you haven’t already realized, this leg lengthening process is different than other types of surgery. With many surgeries, you have the procedure and then heal for six to eight weeks. I did have surgery to implant the lengthening equipment into my leg, and that’s definitely the hardest part. But as I’m healing from that initial surgery, I’m pretty much still having a little bit of surgery every day as we lengthen little by little. Your body has some give and you can go about a half inch or an inch without straining your nerves, muscles and skin too badly. (I have just under an inch right now.) But there comes a time down the road, where things actually get harder, because your muscles and nerves don’t want to be stretched two inches or more. This more painful part could come at any time now.

Every two weeks, I have to go back to Baltimore for a checkup with my surgeon. He looks at x-rays, plays around with my leg and tells me how it’s going. Yesterday was our first meeting since I’ve been at home. I was pretty much ready for Dr. H to tell me how awesome I’m doing. I’ve been working very hard at keeping my leg flexible. I can bend my knee to 100 degrees (this is more than is expected) and my leg can still go completely straight. Those are two big things they look at. My pain has been moderate, but manageable.

  The picture on the right is from two weeks ago and the x-ray on the left was taken Monday. Can you see the difference?! The size of the gap is how much my leg has grown.

To my surprise, after looking at my x-rays, Dr. H said, “I think we should slow down your lengthening. Your bone isn’t filling in quite as fast as I’d like.”

“But I thought I was doing so good?” I whimpered.

“You are, but I would like to see some more bone growth in your gap and it’s just not there,” said the doctor. (Your bone is supposed to start regenerating a little bit in the gap. It will look gray or hazy if that’s happening. Mine has a little bit of that, but apparently not enough.)

My heart sunk. I’ve been eating Tums like candy to get my calcium. I add vitamin D to everything I drink. I’m working really hard at PT. This is MY life and I need to get back to normal as soon as possible which means going full speed ahead! I wanted to bargain with him, or beg him, or bat my eyelashes. “Please can’t I just keep going at the same rate, Doctor? (wink wink)” But I didn’t do any of that. Turns out, discussing the progress of a major life-changing operation with your surgeon… is not like asking your dad for $20. It’s actually pretty serious stuff.

So now I am lengthening on a slower scale. Instead of getting 1 millimeter a day, I will alternate growing .75 mm one day and .50 mm the next. This is just for two weeks, until I go back for another checkup. Then Dr. H will look at my x-rays again and determine the best rate for the following weeks. As many things are, going slower could really be a blessing in disguise, because that means my bone may start to heal as we go… and that means faster healing once we’re done lengthening. So it may not set back the process as a whole.

I guess I just need to realize I’m not in control. Besides doing my part at PT and getting all my vitamins, it’s out of my hands.

  (This is not a subliminal message for you to shop at Best Buy… just the only ruler I could find.)

With this new lengthening schedule, I will hit 1 inch of growth on April 30th. I think I will feel pretty accomplished on that day. Yet, if I look at an inch on a ruler – it seems so silly. I’m disrupting my life for that?! All of this discomfort, pain and strain on my family for a small fraction of my index finger?! (And I have tiny fingers!) But 1 inch is halfway to my goal – and my goal is not silly. My life will be better for decades if I can just get through this. And with nearly one inch and one month down… I’m pretty sure I can make it through to the other side.

Psalm 46 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”


PS, I am getting around on crutches just fine, but it’s too tiring during long distances. Here is a pic from my first motorized cart experience at Trader Joe’s. Not gonna lie – it was pretty fun! I didn’t hit anyone or knock over anything. SUCCESS!


6 thoughts on “Surgeon Knows Best

  1. You are awesome and this blog was so enlightening ! So glad you’re healing well. Speed doesn’t count , healing does ! Take care and hurry back to the scenic city!!!

  2. You can add me to your list of potential drivers (plus I’m always willing to stop for lunch on the way home.) You continue to be in our thoughts and prayers for comfort and healing.

  3. It’s better to do it the right way the first time than to have to go through the process of re-doing it! (That’s what I tell my students anyway!) You are in great hands and even though it wasn’t the news you were hoping for rest your mind knowing that they are doing what is best!

  4. You are so brave! I am tremendously impressed with your courage and strength. And what wonderful parents you have! Keep up the great attitude, we are pulling for you and miss you in Chattanooga. You are in my prayers.
    All the Best!

  5. Love this and love you! You are so strong, brave and’s inspiring. I’m sure I could come up with some type of list for you to make to occupy your time 🙂 hehe talk to you soon.

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