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The first time my kneecap dislocated was when I was playing soccer in seventh grade. The grass wasn’t particularly wet, there were no small dips in the ground, but the person I was about to run into triggered the brakes on my feet. The uneven distribution of weight on my right knee and sudden pain, accompanied by the cracking sound of the cartilage and tendons slipping out of place, and the sudden loss of sensation below my knee as I fell down would be something I could never forget.

Recovering didn’t seem difficult, and in a few months’ time, I thought I could walk without crutches and run just fine again. Almost. It was hard to ignore how my kneecap would wobble and threaten to pop out of place, or how I would easily lose my balance and stumble. It was worrisome, but I decided not to get it checked because I thought it would get better with enough time. Troubling my parents any further was the last thing I wanted to do, and my pride refused to admit that anything was wrong, which cost me.

When it dislocated the second, third, and fourth time, I grew more afraid of doing anything that could cause it again. Running, swimming, even going up the stairs seemed to pose a risk to the weakened ligaments that held one singular joint in my body. New pairs of crutches joined the first. Physical education seemed to be a death trap, and the knee brace acted as my sole guarantee of safety. Often, I would be reminded of the injury when dull pain pulsed throughout my knee. The feelings of guilt and embarrassment reared its head whenever I had to be wheeled into a hospital, acutely aware of how I was making my parents and friends worry. It was easy to act as if I was already back to normal and make jokes in poor taste, but I often privately worried about my knee.

Even though physicians and doctors advised me, I did a disservice to myself by not partaking in more physical therapy and exercises on my own time, which could have easily prevented the dislocation from happening so frequently. It sounds silly, irresponsible even, but grades and extracurriculars held priority over my own health. The threat of early-onset arthritis is real now, and surgery was recommended to me.

But I want to think positively. My dream is to be able to work in other countries while traveling extensively, but it will be difficult to do things I’ve taken for granted, such as walking for several hours, with a busted, weak knee. My repeated injuries have forced me to come to the reality that I’ll only ever have one body. Something like my goals will always change, but they’ll always be there for me to pursue anytime. Until then, I need to learn to stand on my own two feet again.

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