The boy who grew

This is a story of pain, of growth, of love. 


Robin was a very talented kid. His biggest passion was basketball, he could never stop talking about it, his room was full of posters of famous basketball players and his wish was, one day, to become one of them. Robin’s life was completely normal, he had two loving parents as well as two loving sisters. He was smart, but never wanted to do his homework. He was kind, but never wanted to help in the house. He was loving, but he did not really enjoy giving kisses or hugs. He was a normal 13 year old pre-adolescent kid.


One thing I did not mention is the fact that perhaps Robin was not like any other 13 year old boys. He was born with a leg shorter than the other. This was not a surprise to his family, they always knew that one day, the big moment would have come and he would have had to get through surgery. Two initial centimeters of difference, after 13 years, became nine. Don’t get me wrong, he was still able to do everything, he was one of the best of his basketball team and he was actually living a completely normal life until one day everything changed. 


It came suddenly, as a surprise, “He needs to have surgery as soon as possible, it’s an emergency, otherwise the difference becomes too big” the doctor said. Robin had 20 days, 20 days to live knowing that the next 10 months of his life would probably be the most hard and painful days he would have had to experience. The surgery sounded horrific. Things that if you are a bit light-hearted, dear reader, perhaps it’s not too wise to continue reading. The thing they put on your leg when you have to stretch it is called “Ilizarov”. The doctor said that they were going to cut the chin-bone and the thigh bone in half. Then they would put screws that would enter the bone and then every day, for 4 months, someone had to unscrew the thing allowing the bone in half  to separate and leaving the space for the bone bulb to recreate, and thus stretch the leg. One thing is to see it written like this, and another to see this monstrosity on a little 13 years old kid. 


Robin was out of the hospital only two days after his surgery, it was Christmas Eve and he went back home. He was crying from the pain, he had 20 screws in his skin that, every time he tried to move, would hurt one more than the other. He had an entire cage all around his leg that was trapping him from doing anything other than very slow movements. It was painful to watch. The first few days were tough: “why me? I could have been a normal kid like my friends, I will never be able to play basketball as I did before” he always said. He was crying because of the pain. Pain in his bones, pain in his heart. 


Then, the stretching part started. This might sound horrific. With the help of a spanner, Robin’s mum, every eight hours, needed to unscrew the bolts that kept the screws off the cage together. Three times a day, one centimeter per 10 days, 100 days of pure pain. The goal was to arrive at 10 centimeters, though the more the time passed the more painful it was. His muscles and tissues couldn’t keep up with the stretching and Robin had this constant feeling of something pulling inside of him that never stopped. Robin cried a lot. He was screaming and crying.  What can someone do other than staying next to him and holding his hand?  His family wanted to take all the suffering away, but this was Robin’s fight. He was fighting against nature, he was racing against it. 


Robin used to walk with one foot on tiptoe. During the time after the surgery, his mother built a platform under his shoe which was 10 centimeters high. But after all these days, tears and screams, Robin finally felt this incredible new sensation of a new equilibrium. He was walking with both feet at the same level, no tiptoe, no  limping. The leg was longer; a miracle!  Now, he was very close to the finish line, and everyone was watching him. His mother, who never showed any weaknesses and hid her tears in front of him. His father, who  always tried to cheer him up and support him. His sisters, who were far away, loved him and held his hand when the pain was too strong. His friends, who from the first day were next to him and made him laugh. His neighbors, who would always be interested in Robin’s improvements and would smile when meeting him in the street. His basketball team and coach who made him realize that sometimes the greatest matches do not only happen on the basketball court. Everyone was there, watching him finishing the race, tired, exhausted, but grown and happy. 


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