All posts by Grace F.

Compartment Syndrome Journey for Teenage Girl

When I was in the seventh grade I was winning my division in road races and running state ranked times in cross country. However, when eighth grade XC season came around I started experiencing extreme pain in the calf when I would run or walk strenuously. My school trainer said it was growing pains so I continued to try to run although most days would end in a fall to the group and crying from the severe pain. I didn’t think the pain could get any worse- I was wrong. I was to the point where I couldn’t run at all. I kissed goodbye my state ranked times and my training schedule and fell into a stretch where I was so mad with myself that I didn’t want to do anything. My mom took me to an orthopaedic doctor at the end of season and he said the pain was being caused because my bones were growing faster than my muscles. He sent me to physical therapy. I did PT for a few months while I continued on in basketball season. I could only stay in the game for minutes at a time before I couldn’t feel my leg anymore and had to sit out. I decided to take the summer off from running and thought that a break may help. I returned to the XC team my freshman year. The pain was still there and only getting worse. My basketball coach and a few teammates suggested that I was faking just so I didn’t have to do the running. My mom took me to another orthopedic doctor hoping for a new diagnosis. He said that nothing was wrong and I should do more PT and stretching. Crushed once again, I did what he said. Track season rolled around and I only did the short distance races but still in pain. At the last race of the season, during the 800, I felt a pop in my foot and fell to the side of the track. I was in a great deal of pain and could barely walk. As I sat and iced my foot at the meet, my cross country coach came up to me and informed me that he had been researching my symptoms and found something called Compartment Syndrome. That night, my parents and I researched it and the symptoms matched exactly. We went back to the previous orthopedic doctor the next day. He diagnosed my foot as having a fracture and gave me crutches and a boot. When we asked him about compartment syndrome- he completely turned it down. Just when we thought we’d finally have an answer, we were yet again crushed. However,my mom wanted to get a second opinion. So we went to a new doctor but he didn’t have any appointments open for a few months in advance so we saw his assistant. She immediately suggested compartment syndrome. She had just been to a conference on it and my symptoms matched exactly. She said my case was so obvious that she didn’t even have to do the pressure test- god bless. My mom and I left that appointment crying tears of joy because this long journey of doubts and unanswered questions could finally come to an end. But..it was just the beginning. My first step in my recovery process was to heal the fracture. For three months over the summer I was on crutches then a few more in a boot. By the time it was healed we were a few months into my junior year. My surgery date was finally here. This surgery was so painful and the recovery process seemed like it lasted decades. After months and months on crutches and months of learning how to walk again, I was finally able to start doing activities like biking. I moved up to the elliptical and swimming then finally running. When I ran again, the symptoms returned…only in my other leg. We immediately went back to my doctor and he said, sure enough, that compartment syndrome often occurs in both legs. I was scheduled for surgery in the next 3 weeks. This time I knew what to expect. I religiously took my pain pills and wanted to push myself to walk sooner so hopefully I could run at the end of track season. Two weeks post op I learned how to walk and the day after I boarded a plane down to the Caribbean Island of Saint Maarten. I kept my fresh scars covered with bandages- which left some gnarly tan lines- and by the end of the week there I was able to hike and walk normal. I am a senior in high school now and just recently got cleared to run again but have not yet because of the fear. I am scared that the pain will still be there- whether it be the surgery didn’t work-which is fairly common- or a new pain arose from the surgery.

I still have 4 very large and visible scars along with no feeling in my ankles. I am patiently awaiting the day where I am not scared to do what I love again- just run. I think about giving up running but then remember why I’ve held on for so long. This will never be over for me, and it’ll always be a fight, but it is possible and I’m going to prove to everyone, but more importantly myself, that I will run again- stronger than ever.