The only good thing about going to a hospital or surgical center is the graham crackers they give you. The rest of it isn’t so fun. There’s the waiting, for one. They tell you to get there at least an hour earlier than when your appointment actually is. Then you end up waiting. And waiting. And waiting. You have time to finish two books, and take a trip to Narnia and you’ll still be waiting for your turn to be filled up with who-knows-what. A nurse calls your name and you think oh finally. It’s my turn. And you wait some more- just in a bed instead of in a chair. And there’s that feeling you get in a hospital. They’re not happy places- hospitals. Usually you’re there because someone got hurt, or someone’s dying, or someone almost died… But that day didn’t feel like that for me. That icky feeling just waved hello and walked on by. Heck, I didn’t even mind the whole waiting process (Well, not as much as I would have anyway). And there’s a good reason for that too. You see, that day marked a new start to my life.
My knee would always hurt. No matter where I was, what I was doing the pain was always there. I was able to tune it out and ignore it, but that’ s not always the best choice. So, per my mother’s insistent demands, my dad took me to his orthopedist place. There are certain days you shouldn’t go to the doctors. Sunday being one of them. This should have been common knowledge to my family- no high paying doctor would work on a Sunday. Despite that little fact, we went on Sunday. I didn’t know any better- I was eleven or twelve I’ve never been to a specialist before. My dad? Well… it was the only day he had free. Big mistake. The waiting wasn’t long. Understandably so: it was a Sunday after all. It went like a normal appointment. One of the nurses got me for the X-rays, and after about 5 minutes, he came in. He gave me his name (which I don’t remember) and started to explain what was wrong.
“Hi,” he said smiling. He looks nice. I thought. He had a bright smile too. Being as anxious as I was, I didn’t look him in the eye. Or focus on his small talk. So I focused on other things. The beige paint that was slathered on the wall. The crinkle of paper on the bed? as it shifted under my weight. The book in my hands a comforting presence as I fiddled with the pages. It’s words still fresh in my mind, giving me a place to escape to.
“Hi,” I mumbled. Just barely meeting his gaze.
He smiled again.
“So I took a look at your X-rays,” he started typing on the big computer in the room, somehow understanding that small talk wouldn’t do anything. “And there’s nothing out of the ordinary. I’d assume it’s just growing pains. Because how old are you?” he turned to me.
“12” I managed a smile at what he said. Thank God there’s nothing wrong. It seemed unlikely but who was I to question what a doctor said.
“Yeah. Just growing pains. Everyone your age gets them.” My smile lessened at that. I didn’t want to be seen as weak because I wasn’t able to handle some knee pain. I was about to yell out It wasn’t my idea to come here, when he walked out the door with a wave bye.
I jumped off the bed thing and followed my dad out the door.
Three months later and pain became my best friend. Just this time it got worse. And worse. And my mom knew it wasn’t just growing pains when I started to not want to go to cheer. And when it hurt too much after church (because of the sitting and standing and kneeling and more standing and kneeling and standing). So my dad and I went to the doctors again. It was still warm out. The breeze dancing around us. Playing with my hair and pushing it in my face. I fiddled with it, once again anxious. It was almost like last time. But last time it was warmer, and last time we didn’t know what we were getting into. This time, we did our research. This time, the wait was longer. And this time, the doctor found something.
“So I took a look at the X-rays you took three months ago,” he went right in. No small talk. Which was fine. “And honestly,” he pulled up the pictures, and turned to me. “I’m shocked your first doctor didn’t find this,” he motioned to a darker spot on the X-ray and made sure we were following along with what he was explaining. “See this spot?” I nodded. I thought that was normal. Just like it’s normal for everyone to get knee pain. “That spot is a part of your bone that’s soft. Obviously, that’s not normal. From your symptoms and the position of the spot, I’d assume it’s because your veins are tighter than normal,” he went into a deeper explanation after that. An abnormally (and uselessly) long name for the problem, and that it’s something related to genetics(?) is all I got after that. Then there was the no running/jumping/tumbling rule.
“I can still cheer though, right?” It was the first thing I said that wasn’t a vague ‘uh-huh’.
“For now, yes. But it has to be limited.” I stopped listening after that. At least I get to cheer, I thought.
We left and I started waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And two years later I was still waiting. The days began to blur together and I threw myself into school and flute. Finally, two years later after those appointments, my doctor ended the game. Temporarily. But it ended nonetheless. I was finally going to get surgery. In my excitement of finally being able to not be in pain, I forgot about the waiting… And the pain. So I went. And waited. Read two books, watched a season and a half of my favorite show, Supernatural, and took a trip to Narnia before they called me to get my surgery. I don’t remember much after that. Just getting the IV in my arm (which was not fun at all) and meeting the anesthesiologist. My mom had told me that the surgery took an hour- when it really was supposed to take 20-30 minutes. The first thing I can truly remember were the graham crackers. They were really good graham crackers. Then I started waiting. And waiting. And waiting