Thoughts after the surgery

Pediatric dwarfism clinic

[Congenital diseases] (2) When I was little, I was bullied because of ..

30 Jan 2023
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(2)When I was little, I was bullied because of my short height



Cha Ji-Young


The IV painkiller incident during hospitalization

Patients usually receive IV painkillers after a big surgery. But one time, I cried out really loud because I didn’t get the pain killer IV on time. The pain didn’t go away despite regular painkiller pills or IV painkiller. I once even regretted having the surgery after looking at my swollen leg with a metal device inserted into my leg.

About 3~4 days later, the bandage that was wrapped around my leg were taken off. I lost my words when I saw my swollen legs and the huge metal rings around my legs. Nurses came back and forth my ward during hospitalization, and also they came for disinfection every morning and night.

The disinfection process was also very painful. But they told me the condition would get worse inflammation occurred after germs went into the bone through the metals. At first, the nurses helped me disinfect the wounds, but later I did it myself. They told me that I had to do it at least 3 times in a very meticulous manner.

When it had been a week since the surgery, the professor came to my ward and told me that we should starting lengthening little by little. At first we lengthened 0.5mm every 6 hours, twice a day. In the beginning, I could feel the pain while the bone was being stretched. The pain persisted on the first 3~4 days, then the pain decreased gradually and became tolerable.

We lengthened 0.5mm on the first 2 weeks, but after that, we started lengthening 1mm each day. After a few days, the stitches from the surgery were removed. I had to keep lengthening every day until the professor told me to stop.

A little after I had the surgery, I couldn’t sleep well because of the pain in my legs. I even got angry at myself because I couldn’t sleep properly. A few days after that, I received a pair of white shoes with a long strap. The professor told me to wear those shoes as long as I had the device on, and try to move my ankle with the shoes on as much as possible.

They next day during the rounds, he came to me and told me to go to the sports medicine clinic in 3~4 days. The first day I went there, I was still on my bed. The director told me that I would be coming to the clinic often. That day, I first learned how to stand on my feet.

Then he told me to come to the clinic on a wheelchair and that we would exercise walking. I got scared after I heard it, because standing on my feet was already hard enough for me. But Professor Song told me that my legs would stiffen and have to re-operate the legs if I don’t exercise enough.

Going to the bathroom and showering was very difficult at first because of the Ilizarov devices. So when I was washing my hair, I bent my head backward on a wheelchair. For the bathroom, I could have used the potty made for patients, but I didn’t want to use that. So even though it was a bit difficult, I kept using the restroom.

Every time I did that, the skin around the pin insertion site was ripped and opened apart. And probably because I was very sensitive due to pain, I had conflicts with my mom several times. I was discharge not too long after that.

Professor Song told me to manage and take care of myself well, to avoid inflammation. He also told me not to forget to do rehabilitation exercises regularly. But all these were a bit hard to do at home, I was afraid and worried..


Good things thing and disappointments during hospitalization and rehabilitation

One good thing while I was receiving rehabilitation therapies was that I got to exercise regularly even though it was painful and agonizing. Thanks to the exercises, my legs didn’t stiffen and have to go through another operation. One disappointing thing about rehabilitation was that after I got home, exercising was not as comfortable as the time I was exercising at the hospital. I don’t have much to say about the rehabilitation center, but I wish the center could get some devices that are more convenient as exercising right after the surgery is very challenging and painful.


Rehabilitation with no complications and equinus foot deformity correction

Luckily, I didn’t have any severe complications after the Ilizarov surgery. I just had one severe inflammation in the beginning, which I ended up going to see Professor Song and had one inserted metal rod removed.

So thanks to regular, yet painful exercises that I did at the rehabilitation center, my legs didn’t stiffen. After I came back home, I couldn’t exercise on the treadmill even if I wanted to. So instead, I did exercises with my walkers on. I did walking exercises when I was up and, I did ankle exercises when I was sitting down. Walking with the walkers was also very tough and difficult that I wanted to quite several times.

But my mom pushed me to exercise as much as the teachers did at the rehabilitation center. It was so painful and exhausting that I cried and hated it, but I still had to keep exercising. I exercised with my mom the first few months. But gradually the amount of pain decreased slowly, and I was able to exercise by myself later on. I also gained enough strength to walk with crutches and the walkers on. After regular exercise, I was able to walk back and forth till the end of the block by myself.

I have been going to the outpatient every 2~3 weeks since the discharge and one day, they took an x-ray. I tried to put the heel of my feet on the floor against the wall but I wasn’t able to do so. The professor said that it wouldn’t have happened if I lengthened 5 cm only. But because I lengthened 10cm, not 5cm, the tendon wasn’t as long as the bone, and I ended up having equinus foot deformity. I was anxious once again because I didn’t know what the equinus foot deformity surgery was about. But the professor told me that this surgery wasn’t that painful and it was a very simple surgery. When I came out of the surgery, it really didn’t hurt at all.

But I saw something different after I was discharged and was going to the outpatient clinic. It was another patient who also had the same deformity like me, but he had received a more painful surgery where the pin was inserted from the sole of his foot. So I asked the patient’s mother why he had to surgery. She said he had to receive such a painful surgery not only because he had lengthened a big amount as well, but also because his ankles were bent down too much from not wearing those walkers. So I thought that I was lucky to have worn the walkers regularly for a long time despite the pain.


The pre-surgery times when everything was inconvenient

Before the surgery, I had to step on a stool to take my clothes out or put something in. Also, because my legs were too short, I had to have the clothes altered after buying them outside. I was also teased and called names like a dwarf or a disabled at school. In society, I was discriminated and not accepted in many places because of my short stature. So I had always been resentful and feeling guilty.

When I came home after the surgery, I was as exhausted and in pain as I was in the hospital. The area of pin insertion was painful and eating meals, going outside, and sleeping were all very inconvenient. I also had to have my clothes custom-made because of the Ilizarov rings on my legs.

But looking at myself in the mirror and thinking “how much have I grown?” helped me tolerate the pain. I had to take some time off from school since it took me 1 hour and 30 minutes to get to my school.

I was very inconvenient and exhausting to go up and down the stairs when I was going for an outpatient visit. Another inconvenient thing was that I had to use the wheelchair with the Ilizarov rings on and take public transportation.

When I passed by on the street on my wheelchair, some stared at me with widened eyes, some were talking to each other, and some came up to me and asked several questions about my legs. I still didn’t like that people were staring at me, but I explained to them about my hurt legs.


I became more confident after the surgery

Everything became much more comfortable after I was done with the surgery and became 10cm taller. I didn’t have to use the stool that I used to use for taking out things and I didn’t have to get clothes altered after I buy them.

More than anything, I had to be classmates with kids who were 1 year younger than me. Less people were teasing me, and some were even helping me out. I was also very glad that less people were staring at me after the surgery.

The only thing I dislike about the surgery is that it left so many surgery scars here and there. I even feel like flying because I became taller. Of course I am happy that I became 10cm taller, but I used to be greedy and hope that I could lengthen more than 10cm. So it was quite a disappointment at first.

What I am most satisfied about the surgery is the fact I became taller, of course. Even though the scars are the downsides of the surgery, my life is a lot more comfortable now that I am taller. It feels so great to be tall that words could not express how I felt. I feel proud of my lengthened legs. I was psychologically in extreme stress because of people’s finger pointing and stares.

Now that I am taller, I was able to get out of the mental pain, but also the pain that I had in my legs and knees before the surgery. I was still wondering why I received the surgery when I was going through the process. But now that all the devices are removed and I got taller and pain-free, I think it was a good decision.

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