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Posts Tagged ‘hip surgery’

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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People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.         Barbra Streisand

What do you give a friend about to undergo major surgery?  An encouraging card, a good book, or perhaps flowers?   This year I’ve broken with tradition and have instead been passing around ‘the claw’ – a grey, robotic contraption, which has raised a few eyebrows – until its true value becomes apparent.  

My mother-in-law presented me with ‘the claw’ when I was heading off to hospital for the first of two hip replacements.  I didn’t want it as it was designed for ‘little old ladies’ with arthritis, but I politely accepted, and I’m so pleased I did.   For six weeks after the surgery I had limited mobility and the doctor warned that bending too far would dislocate my hip.    Until you are in this situation, it is difficult to imagine the frustration of dropping your mobile phone and leaving it ringing on the floor.   It wasn’t long before I went in search of ‘the claw’ and it became my constant companion, acting as my arm and hand.

Last night I presented ‘the claw’ to a friend who is having hip surgery today.   Yesterday he was strong and vibrant, but for a time now he’ll need to slow down and rely on his wife and friends to help him recover.  I’m sure, like me, he will also come to rely on ‘the claw’ for those awkward moments when his body just won’t perform as it’s  supposed to.

There are times in our lives when illness and infirmity  are thrust on us, and we are forced to face up to our human weakness and mortality.   One of the most humbling and joyful experiences at these times, is discovering anew the love and support of our family and friends.    Most surprising for me was the kindness of casual acquaintances, who were willing to cook meals and show genuine care.    I’m learning that there are times when it’s okay to lean on others, no matter how much this bruises my pride.

When I was physically challenged after surgery, ‘the claw’ became a symbol to me of my own human weakness, and a reminder that I’m not an island.   It reminded me how much I need my husband, my children, friends and community to sustain me and add value to my life.   Without these relationships, life would be grey and dull, and I would exist in a void of selfishness.

‘The claw’ also reminds me of my dependence on God, who is the source of  my hope when times are tough.    I have friends who tease me about my faith, and assert that only weak people need to have God in their lives as a crutch.  But is it so wrong to need a crutch?  It isn’t until you are drowning in the ocean, choking for breath, that you reach for the hand of the rescuer.    The key is finding the hand that will lift you to safety, rather than push you back under the water.    ‘Crutches’ such as alcohol, drugs and money have a knack of lifting you out of the murky ocean, and then knocking you back under, more helpless than before.   Just as my human relationships deepen as I acknowledge my need for my loved ones, so too does my spiritual relationship expand when I cry out to God.   Ironically, the more vulnerable I am as I seek Him, the stronger our bond becomes.

None of us want to be needy or clinging vines, but I wonder if in our Western culture we have become so obsessed with independence that we’ve lost the art of loving dependence.    ‘The Claw’ will continue its adventures, assisting those in need until they are restored to health, reminding me that there is a time to accept love, as well as a time to give it, and that I am so fortunate to be a person who needs people, and needs God.

I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.    2 Corinthians 12:10

 

 

 

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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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