From the time I was 10, my legs just didn’t feel right. I complained to my parents but it just didn’t make sense since I hadn’t been doing anything out of the ordinary. On some days, just walking around school could set it off.
Multiple doctors’ appointments were in vain–there never seemed to be an answer.
“It’s growing pains, he’ll grow out of it,” said the doctor our family trusted the most.
After all, he was the man who saved my brother’s life at birth. The man who came to our house in the darkness of night and sat on the floor when my brother was finally released from his month-long stay in intensive care after his appendix burst. The man who we never would have doubted.
By age 14, I was finishing my first year at the Middle College, where I would later graduate. I still had pain in my legs. I lived with it almost daily. My parents had finally heard enough about “growth spurts.” They contacted Dr. Pituch, a doctor who my family had met when my severely handicapped brother’s appendix had burst and he was on life support.
Pituch answered when my mom called him on a warm June evening in our garage. I don’t even remember why we were out there.
“Dr. Pituch, my son Kyle is having a really hard time with his legs, is there any way you could help us get into a doctor at The University of Michigan?”
Before I knew it, I was in the office of Dr. Robert Hensinger, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. He had me stand up and walk down a small hallway.
“How are you even walking around normally?,” he asked when I walked back and sat down. “If you would have waited another year you probably would be in a wheelchair permanently.”
Hensinger ran some tests, and when the results came back, it wasn’t “growth spurts,” or even “growing pains.” I had a critical Vitamin D deficiency. My body wasn’t adequately processing the Vitamin D that it was taking in, so i was required for a period of time to take supplements in order to stabilize my levels.
The lack of Vitamin D caused the growth plates around my knee to develop unevenly. My inside plates were developing at a faster rate than the outside ones, which resulted in an outward bowing of my legs. I met with the surgeon who was going to perform the surgery, Dr. Michelle Caird. From a surgical perspective, I could say that I got lucky. My condition was too advanced for the simple figure eight shaped plate that could have allowed the outside plates to catch up, but it wasn’t so far gone that I needed to have the large metal halo looking device that would be affixed to my leg for several months. The option that we went with was a procedure called a High Tibial Osteotomy. I had the surgery on my right leg at the end of August 2011, and the left leg a month later. The last thing I remember before the first surgery is being on the operating room table and having the anesthesia administered as U2’s Pride (In the name of love) played from a radio in the room.
The surgery consisted of them going making two incisions, one on the top of my shin area, and one on the outside of my leg. They went in and surgically broke my tibia bone and then removed a wedge of bone. They put a long metal plate in my leg to stabilize it and keep it straight when it healed.
First the first several months I was in a hard half cast on my legs. When the first leg was done I could use my left to put weight on, which allowed me to walk with a walker. However, that ended when I had the second surgery. For about nine months I couldn’t put any weight on either leg. I was in a wheelchair and had to rely on others for just about everything. In the summer of 2012, I started physically going to physical therapy instead of them coming to my home. I transitioned to a walker, and then finally was able to walk short distances on my own without assistance.
This was a difficult time in my life, both physically and mentally. When you are forced to rely on others for even the most basic of tasks, you start to feel helpless. My time unable to walk really was an eye-opener for me. It allows me to empathize with those who suffer from disabilities related to mobility and forces me to approach things from a different way. It really has made me realize the importance of handicap accessible parking and entrances. When I wanted to go somewhere I was at the mercy of handicap accessibility. There were places that I couldn’t go simply because they lacked ramp’s or parking.
I still struggle some days, especially when the weather is bad. Some days my tibia/s hurt so bad I don’t want to get out of bed. But I have to remember two things, that its only temporary pain, and that there are others who would sacrifice so much to be able to take the steps that I take, as painful as they may be.