I was born with talipes varus in my right foot. It took seventeen years to get rid of it.
I wore special boots with a caliper on the right leg for five years in primary school. Ever seen Forrest Gump? That kind of thing, only they ended just below the knee, and the caliper was on my right foot only, and they actually worked. They didn't impede my walking or smash apart when I ran, like they do in Hollywood. I wore them instead of any other shoes. Because I wasn't allowed to take them off, and because there was a massive metal stick attached, I couldn't go on bouncy castles. When I was finally told I could stop wearing them, I spent an entire afternoon on the first bouncy castle I could find, just because I could.
I had six major procedures, the first operation when I was 3 weeks old and the final one when I was 15 years old - GCSE year. On one occasion they moved a tendon from one part of my foot to another. On another, they deliberately cut my femur in half, twisted it slightly, and sealed it together again with a metal plate and six screws for good measure. (They opened me up again later to get them out again. I'm not sure if I've still got the plate.) I have six long scars on my foot, and I'm fairly sure of what at least four of them were for. I also have 16 puncture wounds from my most recent procedure - four months in an Ilizarov frame. After the frame came off, I spent a long while hobbling about on crutches while my leg strengthened, then doing physiotherapy to stretch my tendons so that my foot could work properly. I think I was 17 when - almost out of the blue - my consultant finally told me and my mum that I was ready to be discharged.
It's only now - creating this writeup, two years later - that the full shock of this has actually hit me. At the time, it was a weirdly numb feeling. I'd been in and out of hospital all my life. I had no fear of operations; beds and hospital food and anaesthetics were all part of the scenery for me. Trips to see the consultant were perfectly normal things to do. For me. But my mum had been taking me to see the specialist for 17 years. Since I was a tiny, tiny baby - since I was one day old and my foot was in plaster for the first time. And now it was all over.