Of course, the casts didn’t work. My hip never re-grew into a nice, smooth ball and socket, like the doctors intended.
Even the leg braces they put me into after the casts didn’t work. Those highly uncomfortable plastic and metal leg braces strapped around my thighs, which I wore faithfully for two years, which made me walk like a penguin, which caused me all kinds of social isolation and exclusion… yeah. They didn’t work.
Nothing worked. My femoral head stayed flat and misshapen, with a square-shaped acetabulum, for the rest of my life — and it continues to be as such, to this very day. Arthritis eating away at the measly amount of cartilage that’s left, causing bone-on-bone grinding with every single step I take. (I was diagnosed with arthritis due to Perthes at age 17. How’s that for a welcome send-off into adulthood?)
They say that the age of diagnosis contributes to the long-term prognosis (as in, the younger you are, the better your outcome.) But I was only seven when I was diagnosed with Perthes, which is still relatively young; so, WHY DIDN’T THE SURGERIES WORK? Why didn’t the casts, braces, and traction work?
Oh, and about “traction” — don’t even get me started. Try being a kid and being forced to lay on your back for hours, days, and weeks, with your leg suspended in the air by a boot held up by overhanging straps. Just laying there, your leg up, your body immobilized. I was so uncomfortable. So confined. So unable to move. I remember thrashing around in my bed, trying desperately to turn over onto my side, my stomach, SOME other position besides just laying on my back. But I was trapped there, at the mercy of that contraption. At the mercy of doctors and nurses, at the mercy of this treatment for this disease that I never asked for. Never wanted. And never got rid of.
To this day, I suffer constantly. People around me who don’t know me very well must think I’m pretty lazy. People on the street who see me walking very slowly, people who bitch on social media about “slow walkers” — boy, they must think I’m pretty lazy.
They don’t know that every single day my hip feels like a thousand knives stabbing me from the inside out. They don’t know that I have to calculate every single step in my head to ensure that I don’t “overdo it” by walking a LITTLE BIT too far, or a LITTLE BIT too fast, that day. They don’t know that if I DARE to overdo it one day, that I won’t be able to sleep that night because pain will be radiating from my hip, causing me to toss and turn and try to find SOME position to get my hip to the point where it doesn’t feel like what it actually is: a tiny, rotten little apple in my body. A joint that is soft, and cratered like the moon.
They don’t know that one wrong step, one extra movement, might send me into the dark abyss of a flare-up where, lo and behold, you won’t see me for several days because I’m at home, laying down, with my hip up on a pillow, trying to heal it just enough so that I can function semi-normally, yet again, for one more day.
They don’t know about the ice packs I must put on myself, even in the dead of winter, to try and cool the heat emanating from my left side. They don’t know that there is NO MEDICATION that helps, except for those which put you to sleep and make you even more non-functioning. They don’t know that their well-intended yet totally ignorant suggestions to “try acupuncture?” are completely useless because things like acupuncture and massage DO NOT WORK ON BONES.
And what they REALLY don’t know is that there IS. NO. CURE. FOR. THIS. except a Hip Replacement!
Oh, let’s talk about that hip replacement. Let’s talk about the fact that general society, including some doctors (!!!) think of hip replacements as being something for OLD PEOPLE. Let’s talk about the fact that every SINGLE doctor I’ve seen for my hip since I “aged out” of Shriner’s Hospital at age 18 has said, “well, you’re just going to have to deal with the pain until you can eventually have a hip replacement.”
Eventually have a hip replacement. Eventually have a hip replacement. It’s a mantra that goes through my head every day, a light at the end of the tunnel, calling me forward to it’s glorious conclusion — freedom from pain.
Freedom from pain? I can’t even imagine it. I can’t even allow myself to imagine it, because then I might just break down sobbing in front of you, imagining an end to the 30+ years I’ve been suffering in silence, looking simply “lazy” to all the able-bodied people who strut around with their normal lives, who are praised constantly for their physical accomplishments, who have no goddamned clue how lucky they are.