Wishing it Away This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

November 8, 2012
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I remember every detail of that day, down to the last second of insignificant time. The before, during, and after will forever be imprinted in my mind as a reminder of my limits. I also know that what happened and what will happen are nothing compared to the hardships some experience, but I can't help but want to wish it away.

“This will require a surgical procedure,” said my orthopedic surgeon. These words sent my heart on a sprint. I had been told countless times why my knee caps persisted in dislocating every time I turned a certain way, and I had also been told over and over that I would probably need surgery to tighten and reconstruct the tissue to help prevent the dislocations. However, I had still hoped that other options would fix the problem. I had had an operation before, but getting my tonsils out and having work done on my leg seemed different. If everything didn't go just right, I would have to give up activities I had done forever, and my life would change in ways I wasn't ready for.

The butterflies from the weeks before turned into stinging bees when I awoke the day of the surgery. While we waited at the hospital, occasionally I would feel a stab of panic before I calmed down and tried to concentrate on my book. On the outside I seemed calm, but my inner turmoil increased as time moved faster.

When the nurse called my name, I jumped, my fear finally getting the best of me. The next hour and a half I put on a gown, was covered with blankets I wished I could disappear into, received an IV, and the doctor came to talk to me and draw some Xs on my leg. “These are just to make sure we don't operate on the wrong leg,” he said. Then another doctor appeared and, for what seemed like the fiftieth time, explained what was wrong and what they were about to do. He also said that if what they had in mind didn't work, they would need to go a step further and be more invasive. As they talked about congenital defects and the ligament and tissue looseness, it all seemed far away. However, I'm sure that my parents listened to every word as they sat on either side of me holding my hands. Before I knew it, the nurse was saying, “Only a few minutes left.”

Then the anesthesiologist came in and, noticing how scared I was, joked around to help me relax. He asked me if I was ready. I could only give a shaky smile in response, for fear that I would cry if I spoke. In about thirty seconds, I started to feel a little weird and a few tears fell without my permission. After a few minutes, they were telling me that it was time to go and that I would be just fine. My parents left, but not before kissing my forehead and wishing me luck.

Then they wheeled me out. By then I was completely out of it and giggling while also crying. Just as they opened the doors of the operating room, I blacked out.

At first the anesthesia dreams brought memories of carelessness and fun, but then, they turned dark. My mind was working through the different scenarios of post-op horrors: the doctors telling me the problems were worse than they thought … my parents telling me I would never play softball again. With these came the unrealistic nightmares of never being able to walk, having an infected leg, and being paralyzed. I knew these were not going to happen, but in my unconscious state I had no logic to say that it wouldn't.

Upon awakening, I felt horrible. The misery I felt seems impossible now, but at its worst I couldn't see an end. Words seemed to run together as I tried to form a sentence. My head felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. I finally managed to ask the question that I needed to know the answer to: “How did it go?” The words came out in a jumbled mess that I still cannot believe the nurse understood. Her answer was loud and uncaring: I had done fine.

For what seemed like five minutes but was actually several hours, I dozed, only to be woken by a nurse who told me to eat, drink, and sit up. Well, as you might imagine, a girl who is coming out of anesthetic doesn't have the strongest stomach. So every time the nurses made me do this, the drink and food would reappear almost instantly, and I would be left with a burning throat and watering eyes. After each episode, the nurse would tell me to lie down and relax. Like clockwork, just when I'd fallen asleep, they would wake me up to go through this sequence again.

My mom was the only one who seemed to realize what I needed. She signed my release papers and moved me to our hotel so I could sleep for as long as I wanted – at least until it was time to take more pain medication.

The next morning was rough, but not even in the ballpark of the day before. During my post-op visit with my surgeon I was happy to hear that my incision looked fine. I was fitted for a splint and had my leg rewrapped tightly. I knew that I had a long recovery ahead, but I was determined to beat the expected time of six months.

The next few weeks were tough, and I was tired all the way down to my bones. However, I kept going. Week after week, doctor's appointment after doctor's appointment, I kept up my strengthening work.

Then, six weeks into my recovery, I fell at school. When I hit the ground, my knee felt like someone had stuck a pry bar in and was wiggling it back and forth. An emergency trip to the doctor was necessary, followed by a sharp slap in the face when they explained, “Your recovery has been set back two weeks.” All the hard work seemed to count for nothing.

Of course, I couldn't give up just because of a small setback, so I got back to work doing stretches and exercises twice as often so I could still meet my personal deadline. I started physical therapy. They pushed me in a way I needed. The therapists would joke around, making the most boring or hard exercises seem fun. Instead of dreading rehabilitation, I looked forward to it. My therapists became my friends during a difficult time.

My first attempt at walking after my surgery was a challenge. The therapist had to teach me the motions again, like a baby just learning to walk. After one trip to the end of the hallway and back, my leg was shaking and I was breathing hard. Then the doctor reminded me that my other knee would eventually need the same surgery, and I still had more procedures to go on my left leg.

On the car ride home, I thought about what he had said and realized that I would never be a normal carefree teenager. I evaluated my future, and I knew that I needed to be strong, but I allowed myself a few tears and swore that they would be the last self-pity tears I would cry. The whole way home, I couldn't help but wish that I could wish it all away.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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