It May Be Crooked, But it Still Works! By Sam Lehrich (Age 16)

Sometimes things require extra effort for me…or at least that’s what I have told myself.  And I must admit this is something I’ve always been a little bitter about. When I was younger, I couldn’t help but wonder why other kids on my sports team seem to have an easier time than I did? It was impossible not to notice that they could run faster and more naturally than I could. For example, when I was in 5th grade, everyone on my baseball could more easily field a ground ball than me. This made me feel jealous and frustrated. Ultimately, I discovered what was causing my issue.

After several doctor and surgeon visits, my family and I finally figured out that my right knee was the cause of all my challenges.  Upon reflection, it was the one part of my body that has always stood out to me. My right hip is off center and as a result, my knee tilts in the opposite direction that it should and awkwardly sticks out. Now don’t get me wrong, I always knew this was not the biggest deal and that I had it better than a lot of other people. At least I could walk, run and play sports! But, my knee undeniably caused me pain. To help improve it, I went to physical therapy for a long time to learn how to do specific stretches and exercises to compensate for this and to relieve my physical discomfort.

The good news is that as I grew older, the pain has lessened, although my knee is still strange looking! Even though I have always loved to play sports, I still saw my warped and crooked knee as a debilitating factor for me to fully participate in sports. For example, I was embarrassed about how it looked in public. I would even go as far as to cover it up for the entire year in 8th grade with a compression bandage. I wore the bandage around my knee all the time, even in the summer, only taking it off to swim. Beyond the challenge of having to run between 5-8 miles every day, my shame about my knee was the real cause of my hesitation to join the cross-country team my Freshman Year of high school. But, I decided to ignore my fears and go for it. After two seasons of running for the team, it is undeniable that joining was the best decision of my life. I have met so many friends and reached my goal this past season of breaking 20 minutes in the 5K, running 19:44! It felt great to set a goal and meet it, especially when I knew my path to that goal was a bit of a rocky road. This type of accomplishment helped me tremendously to stop feeling badly about myself because of my knee.

My knee is not perfect, but it is part of who I am. I have learned that even if I must work a little harder than everyone else, I can successfully overcome any fears and it is entirely worth it! Yeah, my knee will always be crooked, it bends differently than it should, it still looks funny and requires that I do extra physical therapy work. But, I like to focus on the positive—my knee works and I am thankful for that! I’m also grateful for it because my challenges with my knee have taught me that putting in effort and hard work are not only worth it–they can even motivate to make you stronger!

 

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