My daughter climbed a hill today. Not just any old hill, but a really long, really steep one.
This is a big deal because, just over a year ago, she couldn’t walk.
In May last year we found out my toddler had hypermobile joints. Put simply, we were told her joints were too flexible to support her weight. Imagine a pipe cleaner or elastic band trying to hold up a marble, and you get the picture.
At nearly two years old my daughter still couldn’t walk and would be left sitting on the floor watching on helplessly as other children played around her, running and jumping. It was painful to watch the side effects of her delayed walking: withdrawal from play, intense shyness in new surroundings and an obvious hesitance to use her very chatty vocabulary the more she became aware of her difference to other kids.
Once physio treatment started we noticed a marked improvement. Her little feet – with no in-step and turned out at right angles to her body – started to move inwards. She was given special Piedro boots to do the job of her bendy ankles and to help strengthen her knees and hips.
Once she was up on her feet and walking, these were replaced with hospital-issue insoles which slotted into normal shoes. She still has these and, we’re told, probably always will. High heels and wedges look unlikely in the future, although our doctor won’t rule out the possibility that her feet will correct themselves at some point.
Just over a year on and I often forget the battles we went through to get Frog up on her feet. The nights where I would worry myself to sleep, afraid to imagine what could be wrong with her, are a distant memory.
I can barely remember the lump in my throat as I watched my baby be held down, screaming, under an X-Ray machine, as doctors worked to rule out hip dysplasia. I have brushed aside the image of my girl clinging to me terrified while a needle was jabbed into her soft skin and blood was drawn, as consultants checked her intense fatigue wasn’t caused by anaemia – or anything more sinister.
The truth is, just over a year on and Frog is OK. She can walk and run and jump with the best of them. Her hypermobility is only really evident when she gets excited – especially if she’s sitting down. That’s because her little body tenses with glee and her legs bend the wrong way towards the ceiling, like a double-jointed picture of happiness. (Incidentally, she also flaps her arms about as if she’d take off, but that’s nothing to do with her hypermobility.)
When I look back on where we were in April and May 2012, I can barely believe what my three year old is now capable of. Although she still often needs a buggy and asks to be carried after a while, she is a determined little person – and strong willed to boot. Today she decided she was going to walk up the huge hill to our house all by herself, and she did.
Who knows, tomorrow she might run up it.