When telling most people my story, I tell them to imagine me standing in front of them being around 3'8". That is what life would have been for me if I hadn't encountered Dr. Paley and underwent limb lengthening. Because of Dr. Paley, I confidently walked out of the Paley Institute a tall 4'11", thanks to Dr. Paley and his unbelievable staff.
My parents had no information about Achondroplasia when I was born. They spent countless days and nights researching and figuring out what life would be like for their first child. After being told I would have to undergo many correction surgeries to live a painless life, Dr. Paley's name was referred to my parents from our pediatrician who had heard about him. After researching Dr. Paley, my parents and I made the trip to West Palm Beach, Florida, from Kansas City to receive more information.
Waddling into the clinic with extremely bowed legs and a very curved spine, we were ready for answers. Since I was around 9 years old at the time, I was shocked at the metal devices on patients while waiting in the waiting room. After spending hours at the clinic, receiving answers and information about a life-changing procedure I could receive, my parents and I determined it was best to receive treatment from Dr. Paley.
Going into the first limb lengthening of my femurs, tibias, and fibulas, I wasn't entirely sure what I was getting myself into. I am not going to lie, the first few weeks were very difficult with the physical pain and getting used to external metal devices. After moving my life to Florida for a few months, I left the institute four inches taller, with straight legs, and some of my back lordosis fixed. Coming home and being able to reach the sink, put on my shoes, and touch the floor with my feet are all indescribable experiences. After those feelings, I knew I had to undergo another limb lengthening to make my life even more accessible. With my second limb lengthening, I gained six inches on my legs. Going into the second procedure, I knew what was ahead of the road and was mentally prepared. It isn't easy not being able to bear weight for several months, attend physical therapy daily, or the physical pain you deal with while going through this journey. With a few correction procedures in the process to make sure everything is done perfectly, I left Florida as a confident 4'11" teenager.
Now that my legs were lengthened, I knew my arms needed to undergo limb lengthening as they were now above my hips. Hearing everyone say the arms are "a piece of cake," I believed them and can now say the same. Even having to go back into surgery two months after the installation of my upper arm fixators, I had to go back into the operating room and receive two additional fixators on the lower part of my arms because my bones started to curve. After receiving additional fixators that weren't planned, I can still say the arms are the easiest part as you are able to walk and still function in day-to-day life. This time, I left Florida with five additional inches on my arms, making my body proportionate and very functional.
After coming back home and being able to hop in my bed without a stool, participate in normal activities all my friends were doing, and not being stared at as much in public, made the limb lengthening process 100% worth it. Never did I think that walking into a clinic at the age of nine years old, thinking it was just a normal, quick doctor's appointment, did I think one man could change my life for the absolute better. Never did I think a group of doctors, physical therapists, and staff would become a second family and that Florida would quickly turn into a comforting home to me. Never did I think I would be able to meet people from all over the world who have the same condition as me and I would call them some of my best friends. Never did I think that I would have a journey so special to me that I can tell my story with and be so passionate and proud of. Never did I think Dr. Paley would help change my life, make it more functional, and make me able to navigate a college campus on my own, climb mountains literally and figuratively, and make me more proud of the person I am today than ever.