Do you so sometimes wonder what 2021 would have looked like if we didn’t have a global pandemic still raging around the world changing our habits and limiting our freedom? Especially the freedom to travel the world, encounter new cultures, meet new interesting people or find fantastic new places? I know I do…
On the other hand, it humbles me and makes me grateful to live in a democratic country where human rights, including the right to explore the world, are common good. I realized that only half of the countries in the world really allow such freedoms and according to the Freedom House website, this has been declining for the past 15 years.
However, in it’s most elementary form, freedom of movement is much more than what is stated in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Because I consider being able to walk one of my most basic human rights, and that proves to be more difficult than most people can imagine.
So 2021 might not have had many travels for me in store, but I did make another, hopefully final, journey in being able to walk. The ultimate freedom of movement for me personally to be frank: being able to get up and walk from point A to B.
We went to see the Orthopedic surgeon earlier this year who told us, after investigating the latest RX-images of my legs and feet, that he would like to do a final corrective operation on my feet this year. Just a few days later we got a phone call from the hospital that a surgical slot had opened up asking us if we could be there later that day so that they could perform the surgery the next morning. Without hesitation, my parents quickly packed some clothes, my toothbrush and my toys and before I realized it I was in the car for a 120km drive to the hospital in Leuven.
The surgery, which took about 5 hours, went perfectly. I was taken to the recovery room where Mom sat by my side and comforted me. I was in a lot of pain but luckily the epidural pain relief made it all barrable. The surgeon had meticulously corrected and reconstructed some of the bones in both my feet in order for me to be able to keep them straight. Knowing that my feet contain some of the smallest bones in the human body, he literally worked his fingers to the bone 🙂
By the time it was Friday, only 3 days after the operation, I was all set in new casts and ready to leave the hospital for several weeks of bedbound recovery at home. Normally I would have had to stay longer in the hospital but since this was my third major orthopedic surgery the doctor trusted me to be in good hands at home. Furthermore, due to Covid the hospital didn’t want to keep people as long as they usually did.
This time luckily, dad didn’t have to turn the car into a mobile bed as I was able to sit comfortably next to mom with my legs and feet up on the backseat of the car.
Once home, my brother and my dad had put a bed in the living room with my special anti-pressure mattress so that I be as comfortable as possible. Al set with my toys and with an excellent view on the back-yard, I was gently placed in what would become my safe haven for the next couple of weeks.
Less than 2 weeks later it was time for us to head back to the hospital for a first checkup and change of casts. It was also the first time see (and gently wash) my feet after the surgery. Taking of the casts was quite the ordeal as the sound and vibrations of the cast cutter was excruciating to me. It took about 20 minutes to get out of them and then it was time to get a couple of more x-rays taken to see what my feet looked like on inside.
After returning home again with a new set of casts, the next weeks was more of the same… staying in bed, playing, eating and yes, even had to wear diapers again unfortunately… That’s why I was so excited when I was finally ready to go to the little boys room again like a boss! Mom and dad had more and more trouble keeping me in bed and as I started to slowly regain my freedom of movement, I took the liberty to start exploring the living room, and test my climbing skills on the sofa, which to me, felt like free climbing El Capitan.
On the first of july, 9 weeks after my operation, I was finally ready to shed off my 3rd set of casts and to trade them in for new orthopedic splints. We spent quite a lot of time in the hospital and had to go back and forth a couple of times between the doctors cabinet and the orthopedic workshop to get everything just right. But the great team at the UZ Gasthuisberg Leuven hospital was patient and caring so a couple of hours later, I was ready to finally start my summer – on my own two feet!
I also felt I had to prove this to the doctor so I immediately took the opportunity to show him the great results of all the work he did, by walking in his cabinet only minutes after I got out of my casts and into my new orthopedic splints. Although still a bit unstable, I was so proud of myself and I saw that both my parents and the doctor were amazed and with awe by my performance.
Ten days later – it was time for my first outdoor hiking trip! Truth be told… on the back of my parents of course. Let’s just say I didn’t want to overdo it these first few weeks. But we had a great time walking in the forests near our house and enjoying nature. It was great to finally be outside again, to feel the warm caress of the sun on my face and smelling the sweet sent of late spring blossoms again.
So as normal life is starting to slowly return and more and more people, including myself of course, are getting vaccinated against Covid19, we can start planning for our next adventure. Not 100% sure yet what will be possible and when with the travel restrictions and all but a road trip with a camper to the Nordics is still on my bucket list. So who knows I might be able to convince my parents to finally leave the cocoon we’ve been living in for the past year and half and plan a trip up north for next summer?
But until then, I will work hard every day, together with my incredible mom and our physiotherapists, to be able to walk so that I don’t have to piggyback every time we head out and to be able to stand my ground, on my own two feet, legs and hips… all of them now properly fixed, healed and ready to rumble… so hold on world, cause here I come!