Fall Down 7 Times........ Get Up 8
Everything in life is a choice – choices come in the simple, everyday moments and they come in the hard, defining decisions. There’s a verse in Proverbs that speaks on how though a righteous man may fall seven times, he gets up again; whereas, the wicked man would stay down (Proverbs 24:16).
Running is analogous to life in a multitude of ways – you take the hills as the ups in life where you push yourself to achieve great heights, and the downhills you ride out one step at a time so as not to tumble and land in a heap. If you do fall, you have the choice to succumb and admit defeat or rise up and continue forward no matter how hard it may be.
I grew up in a very athletic family and I grew up running. I was running 5k and 10k races by second and third grade. In middle school, I ran long distance in track and my freshman year of high school, I ran cross country.
I was lazy and gifted (L.A.G. - a term my dad endearingly used about my sister and me in various capacities). I was naturally pretty good - I broke the mile record for my elementary school, ran varsity my freshman year, was competitive in races, etc. – but, looking back I wished I had pushed myself more. It’s a lesson learned that I don’t forget, because you never know when life could shift and the moments you had to give it your all are gone in that same capacity.
After my freshman cross-country season ended, I began running in a trail race series with my dad. We did a race one day where you got to run with a dog from a shelter to give them exercise. I started off the race and entered the trail at a strong pace, never knowing about five minutes in, a single moment would change the course of my life.
Left foot up, right foot down, left foot down, and the right foot came up, but the cycle stopped as my left leg remained planted. My knee twisted with jarring pop (sound included), and my body collapsed ungracefully. The dog I was running with stopped, hopping all around me sensitive that something was wrong. I yelled to my dad trying to get his attention as he unknowingly continued down the trail ahead of me. Another racer ran quickly to get him as I tried to access what had happened.
We went to the hospital, but the swelling was too intense to see anything on the x-rays that day, so I left with crutches, a brace, and medicine. If I recall correctly, we ended up finding out I had torn my meniscus slightly, there was bone bruising, torn stretched ligaments and so forth. However, the doctors we saw didn’t understand what had happened.
It took years, countless doctors, x-rays, MRI’s, question after question, traveling throughout Maryland and Virginia, my knee giving out a second and a third time, crutches and physical therapy over and over… my mom driving me hours and hours to all of these appointments, doctors, rehab sessions, school with crutches…on and on. Then, one day I met with a doctor (a runner himself) who was able to really understand that the pattern of bruising and associated injuries that I was experiencing were consistent with patellar subluxation. Essentially my kneecap was dislocating to the far left side of my knee, causing me to collapse, but the other ligaments - chiefly my medial patella femoral ligament (MPFL) - was strong enough to pull my kneecap back into place as I fell.
I had my first surgery after the third time my knee dislocated. I was told it was about similar to common ACL surgery in intensity/recovery if you can relate to that. The doctors went in to try to remedy the build-up of scar tissues from associated injuries of the subluxations that caused pain beyond the recovery periods. They went in via arthroscopic surgery and removed my plica (like the spleen of you knee a.k.a. it’s not essential to knee function). The recovery was a few months and I began to run again.
Then, four years after the first time my knee dislocated, the fourth time happened. The pattern was the same - another round of crutches and another round of physical therapy and another slow start to be able to run again. Again I picked myself up and ran though, my parents encouraging me and being there for all the highs and lows.
Time moved on and at the end of my first year of college, my knee dislocated for the fifth time… I was running and my knee gave out. I collapsed in front of a bus full of college students that last time. I remember staying awake most of the night crying – half in pain as I iced my knee that had swollen to twice its size and half in frustration - after all the years, all the struggles, all the starts to running again, it had happened for the fifth time.
By this point too, the doctors and physical therapists had told me that a fifth time would require reconstructive surgery as my MPFL was getting torn/shredded apart – few strands of the ligament were still intact and no amount of strength in other parts of my body was enough to stabilize my knee. The doctors had also forewarned me of the magnitude of pain and recovery that would come with the uncommon operation should I have to undergo it.
I had reconstructive surgery that summer after my first year of college. I was blessed with an absolutely incredible surgeon and my parents were by my side. The surgery entailed taking a piece of my hamstring and attaching it between my patella and my femur. Anchors are placed in the kneecap to hold the new “ligament” and a tunnel is made into the femur to connect it.
It was an intense, extraordinarily painful recovery of about a year before I could begin to run again. I had a brace from my groin to my ankle that was locked into position. Over time, the brace was adjusted as I increased my range of motion. My muscles in my left leg had completely atrophied. It took months to tighten my leg or be able to lift it myself. I remember staring at my leg and in my mind going move leg, lift up, okay lift up and completely nothing happened. I also had to relearn how to walk because of it. They placed me in an antigravity treadmill and I relearned how to walk at the age of nineteen.
There were countless lessons learned along the way and much more to the story, but this explains a bit of my athletic history so to speak. I was very blessed throughout the process. Sure I had people ask why I would continue to run and insinuate that I was stupid given the history of injury, but I had FAR more, like my parents, who encouraged me to continue to keep going and to never give up.
Again, it’s like life in the Kingdom. HE is for you and there are far more with you in the Kingdom than anything or one against you. The journey instilled in me an appreciation of being able to walk and to run and to move. If you know me, you know I love my long walks and if my knee holds up for it, I love my runs. If you didn’t understand the appreciation, maybe this story explains it a bit. I still feel pain, my knee aches in cold weather, I still work on exercises specifically to help keep my knee protected and the five years shifted my life drastically, BUT I still get to run and I still absolutely love it.
If you look at my knee you’ll see seven scars and if you look at me I am still running - all glory to God.