I have always been an active person; I played every sport under the sun since I was 4 years old. When I was 11, both my coaches and parents noticed that I was slowing down and my knees were always swollen and stiff. I initially went to my family doctor and they told me it was too much activity and I need to slow down a bit. But to me slowing down wasn't an option.
My parents decided to get a second opinion from an orthopedist. They took x-rays and sent me to physical therapy. I was in PT for about 3 months with no improvement, so the orthopedist told me to go to CHOP (a children’s hospital) to see an orthopedic surgeon who deals with children. We made the appointments and saw the doctor there. They initially immobilized my knees (one at a time), and sent me to a rheumatologist. I had the necessary tests done and when they came back negative the doctors thought I must have Lyme disease or Lupus.
While all these tests were being done over a 5 year long painful and frustrating period, I was out of all the sports I loved to play. I was now 15 and still in constant pain and had swollen joints. I told my parents that if the tests came back negative again I wanted to see a sports medicine orthopedist. When the tests came back negative we made an appointment with Jefferson's Rothman Institute. I was very hesitant to see another doctor but I kept my spirits up that maybe this time I would get an answer and be able to get back into the sports I love.
I met my doctor just a week before my 16th birthday. I told him my knees were always swollen, stiff and sore and they would constantly dislocate (subluxation). He sent me for both an MRI and x-rays. The MRI showed a partially torn ACL in my left knee and the x-rays showed that I had no cartilage between my femur and tibial head in both knees. I finally was diagnosed on June 9, 2006 as one of the youngest patients with Osteoarthritis. I was also scheduled for the following week for surgery to repair my ACL; this was on my 16th birthday and I couldn't ask for anything better.
I am now 20 and have been with my doctor ever since, he was able to get me back into soccer, karate, skiing and biking. I've had 6 other surgeries since then to clean my knees out and repair the dislocations, but ultimately my doctor is trying to buy me time because I need knee replacements but my age is a limiting factor. I have the body of a 75 year old woman but I still go to school, work, and play sports. I learned a lot from this experience and I couldn't even begin to thank my doctor for all he has done for me.
I'm a pre-med student and I want to go into orthopedics so I can get another athlete back in their game like my doctor did for me. I live in constant pain but I learned to use as fuel for my journey. Like the old saying goes, "Do not fear pain, for as long as you feel it you know you are still alive". Well, I'm alive and pain has become not only a major part of my life but it’s a motivator to push my body to the limits every single day.