Dear doctor who put my son’s knee back together:
We will always be grateful for your knowledge and surgical skills, and for fixing our son’s torn ACL. We understand that there are few cases like his, because not too many 9-year-olds are unfortunate enough to tear their ACL. We understand that you see a lot of patients for a lot of different things. In fact, we understand a lot more than you think we do.
And after a frustrating and upsetting visit to your office today, we think there are a few things that YOU should understand.
Our son is not just another case for you to add to your study. He is a kid who has now spent about 10 percent of his life dealing with a knee injury that’s usually reserved for professional athletes and grownups.
If you’re going to change your tune and tell us 10 months after a surgery you’ve been telling us all along would take a 9-12 month recovery (and now it might be as long as 18 months), you ought to have some reasons for that. Obviously, we want to keep our kid from re-injuring himself, but it’s our job as parents to manage his expectations. And it’s tough to do that when the expectations change and we’re not notified.
And while I get that you’re really busy, it would make things a lot less frustrating for everyone if all the people who were involved in our son’s rehabilitation were on the same page. When someone tells us today that our son shouldn’t be jumping, when the physical therapist (who, by the way, we switched to at your urging) told him months ago that jumping would be safe, I think you might understand why we’d get annoyed.
When you asked our son if he was listening to you today, I assure you that he was, but he was looking away so you wouldn’t see that he was trying not to cry. And I can also assure you that he’s listening to you all the other times you speak, even when you’re talking to us and assume he doesn’t understand you. He’s a kid, but he’s still in the room, he can hear you, and he knows what you’re saying.
And by the way, when you come into the exam room and ask him the same question every time (“What’s your favorite subject in school?”), you’re not really getting to know him. It’s still Writing, like it’s been every time you’ve asked. Maybe you should make a note of it, and get to know him some other way. Because you don’t really know him at all.
You don’t know that he was given an award for his positive attitude from the gym teacher last year, even though he wasn’t able to participate in gym for most of the school year.
You don’t know that he was given another award at camp this summer, for being one of two kids out of hundreds who were acknowledged for embodying the positive spirit and attitude the camp encourages kids to have. And he won this award while spending the entire summer in a knee brace, not being able to participate in the sports he loves.
You don’t know that he loves basketball, because you continue to assume that he only plays baseball, because that’s how he tore his ACL. He loves basketball so much that he went to as many practices and games for his team last year as he could, even though he was on crutches and couldn’t play. You don’t know that he’s been working for the last 10 months to get strong enough to play basketball this winter.
You don’t know that he has more than one person in his life who has nicknamed him “Smiley,” because he smiles most of the time. Even during this past year.
You don’t know that my son is one tough kid. The day after his ACL surgery, when it hurt too much just to move, he’d ask us to put the theme from “Rocky” on, and that would be enough to motivate him to do the bending exercises you told him he’d need to do to get stronger. You don’t know that sometimes he cries because frankly, this is just all too much for a 10-year old.
You don’t know that he left your office today upset, but with more determination than ever to keep working hard.
My son is more than his knee. I hope you’ll try to remember that.