Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mismatched Legs

My short lived Army career was ultimately my doing. When I originally went to MEPS the doctor who examined me failed to inform me that I had flat feet. Whether he knew the cause or not remains to be seen as I haven’t found it noted in my records anywhere. I didn’t learn of this particular flaw until my first few days at reception. We had to stand on a box with a clear glass top, a light inside it and a mirror at the bottom. The Drill Sergent (DS) then examined it and told us whether we had high arches, regular arches or no arches. This would become handy to know when purchasing the correct running shoes for training.

I was originally informed I had one regular arch and one low, but upon arrival to the PX and putting on the running shoes I was in pain just walking around for 15 minutes in the store. Another DS put me back on the box and told me I had flat feet. Obviously, the science behind this particular test is subjective, but the second evaluation was true and I purchased the correct sneakers. If only those were all we wore I would have been home free. Unfortunately, the boots don’t have support and I wasn’t informed I needed any before I went in.

Through my time at basic we had many come and go for various indiscretions on their part and some with true medical reasons. We had one girl, I’ll call her Bee (as in Bumble), who had spent the last year in rehab due to stress fractures in her hip. This girl was an inspiration. She was gungho, loved her uniform and was about 5 foot 5 inches and maybe 110 pounds sopping wet. I could toss her like a rag doll, but that girl never gave up. She spent about 5 weeks with us when she started going back to the doctors because she started having pain in her hip again. She was pulled from training when they realized the stress fractures had returned. She was looking at possibly another year of rehab if they didn’t ultimately dismiss her from service.

My own story started about 2 weeks into actual basic training (reception was the first 8 days). My right knee began to swell up and so I had it checked out and was put on profile for the next few days. I was banned from doing the Victory Tower sealing my fate of going back to red phase if I was ever pulled from duty because of an injury. You can’t graduate basic without having completed the Victory Tower.

Well, as the weeks went on my swelling knee became a gigantic right calf. I didn’t even notice it until one of the girls pointed it out when we were in the shower. The look of disgust as she pointed to it was actually pretty amusing – “What the hell is wrong with your leg?” It had grown to almost the size of my thigh. I wish I had taken a picture for posterity.

This lead me back to the doctor and forced an overnight stay with the “sick” company so the DSs wouldn’t harp on me and I could focus on reducing the swelling by keeping ice on my leg. I was pretty much on crutches from that point on which screamed “pick on me.” Once I returned the next day and he prodded and poked my leg he determined that more than likely I had stress fractures at least in my right leg to which my eventual physical therapist would unofficially confirm was starting in my left as well so I had a choice to make. Get the problem officially diagnosed then treated but get pulled from training and go to rehab for the next 6 months to a year or go home now.

Keep in mind that you are still a piss ant while you are in training. Until you finish basic training you are unworthy and treated as such by everyone who has any sort of rank around you. Also, remember I stated my fate would have been sealed for returning once I was cleared to do so. Whatever phase you leave in would be the phase you return to and though I was pulled from training during white phase (they earned blue phase status literally the next day) because I hadn’t completed the Victory Tower my already 7 weeks of basic wouldn’t have mattered – I would have returned to day one. I had been officially serving in the Guard for almost a year by this point but, I had literally gotten married 4 months before I left for basic training and while none of these reasons are necessarily good excuses for leaving they are my justification for the choice I made. I wasn’t going to hope for the best during rehab having nothing but bi-weekly 5 minute phone calls and daily letters from my new husband to start over at day one of basic to once again get pulled at 7 weeks because the stress fractures had returned. I chose to walk away with the hopes of one day returning if I was found fit to do so.

It would be over a year later that I would have a different physical therapist inform me that I had minor scoliosis which resulted in my right leg being shorter than my left. This is what caused my knee and leg swelling and why combat boots are pretty much worthless to me. I will always have issues with my knees and legs because of it, but the one thing I regret is not getting my chance to serve. It was ultimately my choice and I take responsibility for it, but it is hard wondering what might have been. I’m not bitter. It is a part of life and having a name for the problem gives me some peace since I know now I probably wouldn’t have been able to continue much longer even in rehab.

Not being able to serve has pushed me in many endeavors. I’m happy to serve in other capacities that are more behind the scenes and I support our troops at every chance I get. Before my head DS dropped me off to my out processing company (the Rejects as we were so fondly nicknamed) he told me “I’m going to salute you one day.” While I may not be lucky enough to see that happen I can at least push myself to be worthy of those words without the rank and uniform.

1 comment:

  1. Been looking through your archives- because I can. It's a terrible feeling when what you worked so hard for falls apart around you. I made it half way through a police academy not too far from where I am living and working now and promptly tore the cartilage in both of my knees during an exercise. It has been a long and very painful road to a still incomplete recovery although I finally earned a badge at a different department. I'm doing a very different type of LE work than I had originally planned and the weirdest part? I find myself eminently suited for what I do now. I'm working my way through, and I'm glad you didn't give up either.