My Name is Melissa. I am 37 years old. My first surgery was when I was a few hours old. That was when the life-long struggle began-only no one knew it yet.
My mom was still unconscious from labor, and my dad was still in the waiting room. They called in a pediatric orthopedist immediately to perform minor surgery and casting. When my mom woke up, the nurse said to her, “I am so sorry about your baby.” She thought I had died because no one would tell her anything. My dad finally told her. They were so glad that I was alive and okay.
The orthopedist didn’t know how severe my club feet were. It was both of them. But, he knew at that point that I would need more surgery. And, I did. My last surgery was 4 years ago. He is still my doctor. He is now the best specialist in club feet. I was very lucky. I was born in 1975. What my doctor didn’t tell us until I was 15, was that he didn’t realize then that I had Type III, which was almost uncorrectable. Lucky for me, I had already had about 10 surgeries by then-so they weren’t going to give up now-and neither was I.
My right foot was much more severe than my left, so I had more surgeries on the right than the left. As a teenager I sometimes used crutches, or a cane. And recovering from surgery was always a wheelchair. Also, I have very little-if any-calf muscle on the right. There is clearly a noticeable difference between my right and left legs. My right side is also much weaker than my left. I cannot carry anything on my right side, because my right foot
cannot hold the weight-not even my purse. I have scoliosis because I am always naturally leaning to the left. I dislocate my knees and hips because they are out of proper alignment. I have extreme arthritis in my legs, knees, hips, and feet. I constantly break bones in my feet all the time from the slightest things because my bones are extremely brittle.
Over the years I have tried so many different arthritis medications, pain killers, motrin, etc. I finally decided about 10 years ago that the meds weren’t doing anything, and I didn’t want to be a medicine cabinet anymore. SO, I learned to get used to my pain. During my last surgery, I developed RSD (reflex sympathetic dystrophy)-more commonly now called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It is a disease in which pain signals are being sent to the brain that you are in pain continuously even after the surgery has healed, so your brain still thinks you are in pain and suffering-and the pain you feel is real, but there is no physical reason for it. I suffered from this for about a year, until I decided to go for electrical brain stimulation treatments (after I had tried everything else, of course other than spinal). This was an experimental treatment, consisting of 30 minutes of an external electrical probe sending stimulation signals to the pain center of your brain. I did this for 5 consecutive days. I then repeated this 6 months later, and then a year later. I am now in remission, and have been for 2 years. I am so grateful. I am also incredibly fearful of my next surgery now more so than ever before. But, I live every day to the best of my ability.
I have taken to riding my bicycle. I may not go as far as everyone else, but I go as far as I can-and that’s what matters. I keep my legs as strong as I can. I swim as much as possible, and I stay as active as I can be. I never give up. I may never wear a pair of high heels (I have to wear enormous orthotics, and can’t stand on my toes), but I have the fanciest sneakers anyone has ever seen. I have learned not to be self-conscious about my legs. However, I will not send a picture of my feet because still to this day, I do not like anyone looking at my feet. I prefer my face-because that’s what’s important. Like my mother always says, if you look at that picture, how would you know? No one would look at your feet 😉