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Posts Tagged ‘hip dysplasia’

I haven’t always been Kerry Osborne.  Once upon a time I was Kerry Sims.  I’ve also been known by some of my slightly-less-than-charming acquaintances as Dim Sims and Waddles. Those names have a cute and whimsical ring to them these days, when I view them from the comfort of middle age, but back in my school days they felt anything but cute.  They stung, they hurt and left me burning with shame.

“Dim Sims” was flung around in my primary school days – an ‘amusing’ adjustment to my surname which left me feeling like I was stupid.  Ironically, the boys calling me this were regularly failing their tests and getting the cane for their bad behaviour, while I was the “good girl” getting straight A’s.  But the irony was lost on me in those days.

“Waddles” emerged in high school and had a more vicious undertone, as it was a reference to my awkward gait and slight limp due to a then-undiagnosed hip problem.  I remember one day being circled by a group of boys, imitating my walk, thinking it was quite hilarious.  I don’t even remember who they were, but I do remember the burning shame I felt, the tears in my eyes and the heavy feeling of worthlessness.

I was almost forty when I was ready to face my hip problem.  Chronic pain and a concerned partner finally forced me into a corner.  When the orthopaedic surgeon told me that I had severe hip dysplasia from birth and my hip sockets hadn’t formed properly I was shocked.  It was also a gigantic “Aha!” moment when the truth finally hit me. Apparently I had done an amazing job getting around all of those years but now it was time for surgery.  The shame I’d locked inside all of those years, trapped like a big block of ice, began to melt away.  In the café at St Vincent’s Hospital the tears flowed hot and fast, the ice melting at last, as the shame that had shut down parts of my emotions finally washed away. As St Vincent’s Café sees many tears, I was able to cry without interruption.

Thankfully over the years a culture has emerged where bullying is no longer the norm and mentioning it isn’t treated with scorn.  I work these days in a school vigilant in finding ways to empower students and protect them from bullying.

But sadly in our society bullies continue to persist, despite our enlightenment. Bullying may begin in the school-yard but it continues in the workplace and sometimes, sadly, in our homes.  The bullying child may have endearing qualities with his cheeky smile and grubby knees, but the vicious boss who verbally strips staff of their self-worth, or the violent husband who humiliates and damages his wife with his fists and his controlling ways are just plain ugly.

When I was in my twenties I met one of the old school bullies at a party.  My life was full and fabulous and I was about to head off overseas to work and travel the world.  My old classmate was unemployed and just out of hospital for treatment of his mental health and drug dependency issues.  One of the first things he said to me was how sorry he was for the way he had treated me at school. He seemed to be struggling under the heaviness of guilt.  I smiled at his heartfelt apology and told him not to worry.  One look into his eyes told me he had already paid for the way he had lived his life thus far.

Comedian, Jerry Seinfeld  puts it well in his advice to those surviving a break-up:  “The best revenge is living well”.  Now I’m not an advocate for revenge, but there is certainly wisdom in those words.  For a time we may feel belittled by the bullies in our lives, but the scales will turn one day.  The key is to hang in there, and wait and watch.

So if you are being bullied or have been bullied, please take heart.  Don’t believe what you are hearing about yourself. It isn’t true.  Just as I’m not dim, and my disability wasn’t my fault, the same is true of you. If you don’t believe those damning words and hang in there, one day the tide will turn. Walk away, smile to yourself, and believe that you are valuable, gifted and full of potential.

So to my old bullies I say this:  I forgive you all – you were young, silly and thoughtless, and perhaps someone was bullying you too.  But I do believe you reap what you sow and Someone has my back who is far more powerful than all of us.  I pray that you will confess, apologise and take an honest look at yourself, and learn to live a life that brings joy to others rather than despair.

There is no room in this vast and beautiful world for bullies, and there is no room in my heart to listen to them anymore.  Kindness and love are far more interesting.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”   Romans 12:17-19 (MSG)

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I can bear scorpion’s stings, tread fields of fire, in frozen gulfs of cold eternal lie, be tossed aloft through tracts of endless void, but cannot live in shame.
      –
Joanna Baillie

On my wedding day I grasped Dad’s arm tightly and tried not to limp.    Limping up the aisle with so many eyes gazing at me seemed at odds with all my notions of the elegant bride.    I did okay, with the limp only vaguely visible on the wedding video.

My limp was never welcome in the school yard.    The boys called me ‘waddles’ and would imitate my awkward gait.    In my early teen years, when blending into the crowd was paramount, I stood out, and for all the wrong reasons.    I sometimes wonder if bullying is a form of natural selection at work – accepting the strong, and rejecting the weak.     Or perhaps it is an ego builder for all the bullies, puffing out their chests as they compare themselves to someone of  lesser value.    Or maybe it is merely thoughtlessness with its menacing companion, cruelty, engaged in some lively teamwork.

When I was a child suffering from a disability felt like a shameful secret.    My parents never spoke of it, and I always felt that it was somehow my fault.    Was I too fat, or too useless, or too slow?     Most sporting events caused me extreme anguish and embarrassment.   It was only on a horse cantering through the bush or along the beach that I felt I could participate fully in my physicality – and it was the bond with my equine friend that afforded me this joy. 

Over the years the pain increased and I limped more.     As an adult I continued to carry the shame.    If people mentioned my limping I would be defensive and feel they were belittling me – like the kids in the school yard.    I refused to seek medical attention – absorbing my parents’ mindset of denial.

When I met my husband he dragged me to an orthopaedic surgeon.    I complained, but I knew he was acting in love.   We discovered that something was amiss with my hip joints, but the diagnosis was vague and it seemed there was nothing they could do about it.    The intense scrutiny was torture, and in the end it still felt like my fault.   One surgeon told me my case was ‘too difficult’ and he ‘didn’t want to touch’ me.    A kind and supportive physiotherapist worked patiently with me for years, but I felt  my inability to perform the exercises well  and often enough was leading to my deterioration.

Three years ago I sat crying tears of joy  in the cafe at St Vincent’s Private Hospital after meeting Professor Michael Neil.    Earlier that morning he had told me what was wrong with me.   I had severe dysplasia of my hips, probably from birth, and he thought I had done extremely well to make it into my forties with such defective hip joints.    He gazed at me with compassion, told me he could fix it, and held out hope to me like a precious life line in a sea of slime.    In one consultation he had smashed the cocoon of shame that had encased me for years.    After finally receiving a clear diagnosis, I understood.    None of it was my fault.   There was nothing to be ashamed of.

Professor Neil told me that most people who have their hips fixed with surgery continue to limp.    He wasn’t sure why this happens, as often the physical cause has been removed.    It takes a long time to strengthen muscles weakened by years of lack of use, but I wonder if the real reason goes deeper.   I wonder if we continue to ‘limp’ in our emotions and in our soul.    I’ve worked hard at the gym and now love to go for long walks.    I can dance all night, and go shopping all day.   I’m not sure if I still limp, but it doesn’t feel like I do.   I walk tall and feel strong and invincible.    The pain that plagued me is a thing of the past.   I’m not limping in my soul either.    The shame deceived me, but it was a lie and I’ve let it go.   I feel healed, inside and out.

Tomorrow I will take my youngest son to see an Orthopaedic Surgeon to find out if he shares my condition.   He sometimes walks with a limp.    I hate to think that I have passed this affliction onto my beautiful son who I love so dearly,  however one thing I know for sure, I’m not going to pass on the shame.      We can’t control the disabilities of our bodies, but we can certainly control how we care for our souls and hearts, and we can refuse to allow shame to consume us, or to infect others.

I wrote this blog yesterday.   Today I sat in a cafe at Prince of Wales Hospital, crying tears of joy after being told that my son’s hips are perfect.  He hasn’t inherited my dysplasia.   I cannot begin to describe my gratitude and joy.

Further details about Professor Michael Neil may be found at his websitewww.hipandkneesurgery.net/

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Recently, two brave young women I know had hip replacements with the gifted surgeon, Professor Michael Neil of St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney – the same surgeon who worked his magic on me.  With Christmas only five sleeps away, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on this miracle in my life.    Here are my thoughts from last Christmas:

Over the past decade walking had become an ordeal.   With bilateral dysplasia of my hips, pain was always my companion, accompanying me when I sat, stood, walked, or tried to sleep.   After giving birth to two sons and reaching my forties, time was running out for me to remain mobile.  I had consulted surgeons who considered my condition too complicated to pursue.

One autumn morning about two years ago, I was hanging clothes on the line in my garden when I smelt the eucalyptus of the bushland beckoning me.   I prayed silently, tearfully longing for the days I had enjoyed bushwalking.   Almost immediately I heard a soft voice in reply: “You will be bushwalking again.  Do you think this is too hard for me?”    Momentarily I was alarmed.   Was I now hearing voices?  At the same time a spark of hope ignited within me.   I went straight to the telephone to enquire about surgeons. 

All avenues led me to one surgeon, but to confirm I was on the right track I prayed specifically for certain qualities including compassion, competency, a sense of humour, being of a certain age and, most specifically, that he would look at me and say “I can fix it”.

Can you imagine my joy when I met my surgeon?  He was the right age, he laughed at my jokes, he was kind and, last but not least, he examined my X-rays carefully, turned to meet my gaze and said “Your hips are bad but they are fixable – I can fix them.”   The exact words I had asked for.   I learnt that if I had left the surgery much longer it would have been too late for the operations to be successful.

So 2008 was my year of the hip replacements.  I had my right hip replaced in early March and my left in early July.   I had to face many obstacles during this process.  

Only a week before the first operation I had a call from the hospital telling me I wasn’t fully covered by my health insurance.   We were able to find the money but it was a great disappointment and it was only my hope in God’s plan that kept me going.

I originally planned to wait twelve months between the operations so my health insurance would fully cover the second operation.  However, I suffered the most extreme pain in my un-operated hip, which started to regularly dislocate.   I was baffled to even know what to pray for but three friends stepped in to pray for me at this time, independently of one another.  They each prayed that the operation would be expedited and I would be relieved of the pain.    At the time I thought they were all well-meaning but misguided as we couldn’t afford the further surgery straight away and Chris certainly wouldn’t be able to get more time off work.  A couple of weeks later the surgeon phoned to say he had a cancellation.   Was I interested in an earlier operation?    My heart missed a beat as I recalled the ‘misguided’ prayers of my friends.  My husband’s employer went to great lengths to accommodate his leave and again we found the money.

With sons aged five and six, my mother with a terminal brain tumour, and my father and mother-in- law suffering from dementia, dropping out of life for several months to recuperate was a daunting experience but God’s presence prevailed throughout.   My husband was able to care for me throughout the considerable recovery period and our friends  rallied around making a difficult time seem almost enjoyable.   I must say my husband was the most devoted and helpful nurse any woman could hope for.

I am overwhelmed to be starting 2009 with a body no longer dominated by pain.   I feel like I have been physically re-born and can be the wife, mother and friend I’ve always dreamed of being.  Yet the lessons I’ve learnt about God’s immense love for me and the wisdom of trusting him, even when things looked hopeless, have far outweighed all that I’ve gained on a physical level.    I realise that my physical healing won’t last forever – but the emotional and spiritual healing I’ve received will endure.

During a recent holiday to the South Coast of New South Wales I completed a bushwalk to the top of Minnamurra Falls without any pain.    A year ago I could barely walk to the letterbox and here I was climbing a steep path through a rainforest.   I thought I would burst with gratitude when I reached the waterfall at the top.  God is so faithful to his promises and nothing is too hard for him!

 But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)      

 

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