Friday, June 03, 2005

Homemade Kneecap Surgery

The following is a true story. It is one I told to seventh graders in public school, but it will strike a familiar chord with parents as well.

Not all the stories about my daughter Holly include a trip to the emergency room. There actually was a time when she had accidents but just plain didn’t want to see another doctor or emergency room as long as she lived. If you had had a needle in your foot, two arms and three elbows, an emergency appendectomy, eyes crossed, and your fingertips crushed off, you would also think twice about seeing more doctors. For instance, one day when Holly was in the eighth grade at Pioneer Middle School in Upland, California, she was playing softball during P.E. class. The coach saw that a certain small batter was up at bat, so he told the outfielders to play in closer. That was a bad strategy.

Holly was in left field on that bright, sunshiny day, and she crept in closer to the third baseman as the pitcher wound up for his first pitch. It was poorly thrown and barely got to the plate. “Ball One!” was the cry of the guest umpire, a girl who had been hurt at home and had an excuse from heavy-duty exercise.

The outfielders relaxed and looked around, expecting a rather slow day. Finally, the pitcher got the ball over the plate. It was a feeble strike.

On the next pitch the ball came closer to the batter. “Wham!” the bat shouted as it met the ball for the first time. The small batter, from whom everyone expected so little, had hit a hard line drive toward third.

Quick to get into the catching position, Holly leaned into the ball as if flew toward her, straight and fast. She didn’t have long to wait as the batter tossed her bat aside and headed for first base.

The speed of the ball unnerved Holly a bit as it drove right at her. Somehow she miscalculated and the ball missed her glove. It passed by her outstretched hand and bounced off her knee, heading for the centerfielder. The batter headed for second base as Holly’s teammates groaned.


Holly also groaned. The ball had hit her on the edge of her kneecap. It transferred some of its energy to the bone before bouncing off at some thirty degrees. Holly’s kneecap suddenly found a new position almost to the side of her leg.

It hurt! A dislocated kneecap is painful. A scene flashed through Holly’s mind--of ambulances, more hospitals, more doctors, more shots and more crutches. She said to herself, “I’ve had enough!” So she took the heel of her hand and hit the edge of the dislocated kneecap bone. That did it. The force of the blow drove the kneecap back into position. It did not stop aching, but the obvious damage was gone. She tried to move her leg and it actually did what it was told!

“Maybe,’ she thought, “I won’t have to go to the hospital if I can make the leg move just enough to finish this game.”

Holly tried various moves. Some of them worked, some did not. But she grimly decided to hang on until the end of the game. She knew that if she didn’t tell anyone, she could avoid all kinds of unwanted attention from medical practitioners. So that is what she did.

Fortunately, it was not long until the game was over and it was time to dress. Holly limped off the field that day, an unsung heroine. She did not even tell her parents. It was a long time before I even heard about it.

Well, you know what I would have done. I would have been so concerned that I would have insisted that Holly go to a doctor for X-rays and so on, just to make sure she was all right. You would have done the same thing.

But Holly toughed it out.

Sometimes, you have to fight your own battles. It is a sign that you are growing up.

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