Gavin begins to have sharp, stabbing pains in his hip. These pains mysteriously show up only at night. After a repeat of interrupted nights, Mom and Dad decide to take Gavin to the doctor and find out what is really wrong.
The doctor shook his head and sighed. “I think you need to take Gavin to a specialist, Mrs. McLauren. I’ll have the nurse make an appointment for you. Maybe you can see him today.”
A specialist! This wasn’t sounding good. Gavin mused as he and Mom walked to the car in silence. Maybe it wasn’t a pulled muscle after all.
Later that evening at the supper table Mom told Dad what the specialist had found.
“Legg Perthes Disease?” Dad said the words slowly. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“It showed up plainly on the x-rays,” Mom explained. “It is a degenerative condition—not an infection or anything. The doctor said it just happens to some individuals without any known cause.”
“So it doesn’t hurt now?” Dad looked at Gavin.
“No, sir,” Gavin shook his head gravely. He almost wished it did, then he’d know he had a disease.
“So will he need corrective surgery?” Dad asked.
“No,” Mom said. “No surgery is needed if he stays completely off his leg for—maybe up to two years.” Gavin’s heart took a nose-dive again, just like it did when the doctor first said it in his office. Mom continued.“During that time the ball in the hip socket deteriorates and then grows a new one back. It is really quite amazing, but he has to keep his weight off his leg while all this is happening.”
Gavin felt like an elephant had just sat on him. Two years! It might as well be a lifetime! How many football games, bike rides, hikes, swimming excursions, and races would he miss out in during two years time?!
“He needs crutches, of course,” Mom continued, “but they won’t be in until Monday.
Dad shook his head. “School is starting in a few weeks,” he said. “How is he going to get around in school on crutches?”
Gavin hung his head. He felt that he was causing all kinds of trouble for his family. But what could he do?
On the first day of school, Gavin found himself standing on the playground at recess looking longingly at his classmates running and throwing balls. He could hardly contain himself. His eyes wandered back and forth, finally lighting on the hand-over-hand bars. Why couldn’t I play on those? They only take arm action, he reasoned.
Off he went on his crutches to the hand-over-hand bars. He waited his turn, and then laid his crutches beside the bars and hopped on one leg to the poles.
“You’re not going to do it, are you?” a little girl asked wide-eyed.
“Sure, why not!” Gavin asked as he climbed up using his good leg, and reached out for the first bar. Most of his class was out on the field. He did feel funny on the playground with the little kids, but hey, maybe this was something he could do!
He reached from bar to bar until he came to the end of the row. Realizing his crutches were on the opposite side, he swung around and went back again. His arms were
screaming for relief as he reached the last bar. But he’d done it! He hopped down and picked up his crutches.
“Wow, you’re good!” the little girl standing by said in awe.
After that, Gavin began to look for other games he could participate in. One day, a group of kids were playing tag.
“Can I play?” Gavin asked.
“Sure,” the leader agreed, sizing him up as an easy out.
Though he kept ahead of most of the kids who chased him, he was finally tagged by a boy. As he hopped toward the players, the kids began spreading out in all directions. He paused and decided on his target. Then he started after him. It looked like the boy would stay out of his reach until suddenly Gavin raised his crutch and brushed the boy’s
“Got cha!” Gavin panted leaning on his crutches.
“Hey, no fair!” the boy turned in surprise.
The rest of the kids were holding their sides laughing at Gavin’s prank.
“Ah, just be out,” one boy finally said. “Gavin’s on crutches.”
As the days went on, Gavin’s confidence and coordination on crutches increased. He tried more games. Football and baseball were out, but when a group gathered to play kickball, he asked to play.
Hopping up to meet the ball, he managed to kick it, and then he’d work his crutches double time to first base with surprising speed. He didn’t always make it, but he had to try! He even suspected the kids were giving him a break sometimes.
Though it was winter, Dad started taking Leanne, Lindsey, and Gavin to the YWCA in the evening. Granddad was a former lifeguard, and it had been his suggestion that swimming would strengthen Gavin’s leg without putting any pressure on it.
Being in the water gave him a freedom he couldn’t enjoy anywhere else with his bum leg. Lindsey, Leanne, and he would play “Marco Polo”, tag, and keep-away for hours.
“Look at the monkey!” Lindsey cried one night watching Gavin walk along the diving board on his hands. He’d learned how to walk on his hands in gym class. If you can’t walk on your leg, use your hands, he figured! When he got to the end of the board, he pushed off and drove straight down into the water. It was exhilarating to be able
to move around without his bad leg holding him back!
The memory verse from a recent Bible lesson popped into his mind. “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” Maybe there was really something to that Bible promise, Gavin reflected.
“So what’s wrong with your leg, Gavin?” Jerry asked at lunch one day as he set his tray across from Gavin’s in the cafeteria. “I don’t see a cast or anything.”
“I don’t have a broken leg,” Gavin explained to his classmate. “It’s a condition called Legg Perthese.”
“Does it hurt? I see you hopping all over the place,” Jerry looked interested.
Gavin grinned. “No, it doesn’t hurt, but since the bone is fixing itself, I have to stay off my leg.”
Jerry nodded. They finished their lunches and went outside.
After lunch recess, as the students came in, a group of guys passed Gavin. He heard one ask, “Hey, what’s wrong with that kid?” referring to Gavin.
It was Jerry’s voice that replied, “Ah, he’s just faking. It’s not even broken!”
As the crowd swept by, Gavin was stung by the betrayal. After that he often heard whispers and sneers of “crip” in the groups around him. Would his leg ever be normal again, he wondered impatiently.