In 1977 when I was around 7 and half years old, I began to have severe pain in my right hip. It got to the point where I didn’t even want to walk. My parents scheduled a doctors appointment and after careful inspection and several x-rays…it was determined that I had Legg Calve Perthes Disease in my right hip.
Basically, LCPD stems from blood supply to the femoral head of the femur/hip joint being cutoff resulting in the bone dying.
The femoral head becomes misshapen causing pain and makes walking difficult. I remember over-hearing my parents discussing treatment options with the doctors. My choices as I understood them were: amputation, hip replacement surgery once or twice and eventual amputation or an experimental orthotic brace.
I know my parents still wonder if they made the right choice…but I’m going to wholeheartedly say that they did. I’m still not sure what caused the condition. Maybe it was genetic…who knows.
We were sent to a Shriners Hospital in Alexandria Virginia if I can remember right. There, I was fitted with a prototype leg brace. I remember how heavy they were (approximately 30 pounds) and they were made of leather and steel. They had a metal bar between my knees to force my hips apart. This was supposed to reduce pressure on the joint and hopefully allow it to heal and regenerate.
I was told I would need to wear these at all times, even when sleeping. I remember my father coming into my room on the second night and carefully removing the braces to allow me to sleep better. That was awesome.
Over the course of 2 years (1978-1980) the braces went through 3 prototypes with each subsequent model getting better and more user friendly. I did things just like any other kid despite these leg braces being so damn heavy. But when I needed a rest, I had to use a wheelchair, especially when out doing things in public.
Besides the pain and the weight, what I remember most was how people treated me. It seemed as if there were 4 categories…A) I was a freak, B) they had sympathy, C) they understood and treated me as normal or D) they avoided me. Believe me…you learn to get used to people staring at you.
In school, the teachers strictly forbid me from doing anything at recess and went so far as to assign someone to stay inside with me and play board games or something. I have always been an outdoors orientated person so this was torture to me lol.
Fortunately, they don’t use this form of treatment anymore and just reduce activity and let it heal on its own.
I was born with a strong will. And I credit that and my family for carrying me through situations such as LCPD. I refused to be seen as handicapped and instead figured out ways to work around it. I didn’t let this condition define me. Thankfully most children are resilient and with support can go through stuff like this without too many lasting scars.
So if anyone noticed me standing kind of funny in any of the pictures on this blog…now you know why. One leg is shorter than the other and still causes some pain. I’m sure I could use a hip replacement but I’m not ready for that yet.
I guess for me, the key take-aways are that just because a persons body isn’t 100% doesn’t mean their mind is handicapped too. Staring and pointing makes YOU Captain Obvious! Duh, we know we’re different lol. Save your pity…we’ll figure it out and cope with it in our own way.
And a big THANK YOU to my Dad. He was my rock and was always there for me. He let me help out with splitting and stacking firewood and all of the other chores and projects. He treated me like a normal kid and introduced me to fishing as well. Sometimes just being present is enough to encourage people to keep moving forward.
Life is good so keep going.