Ready, set — oh no, my ankle hurts and it’s my senior year!

How my son manages the chronic ankle pain that stems from his hemophilia

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by Joe MacDonald |

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Last Friday, my youngest son, Caeleb, finished the first week of his final year in high school. He’s a mighty senior ready to conquer the world with his incredible artistic abilities.

Growing up, my son experienced hemophilia-related medical issues that most people could never imagine. I think of his many internal bleeds, hospitalizations, internal bleeds, surgeries, internal bleeds, and horrible pain. (Did I mention internal bleeds?) He survived difficult circumstances and continues to find his path to achieve his goals.

I felt a little fear as I entered his room last Friday morning. As usual, I walked into his bedroom, turned on the lights, and said, “Good morning, starshine. The earth says, ‘Hello!’” What better way to start the day than with a joyful celebration?

Caeleb acknowledged my morning ritual, but as he looked at me with sleep in his eyes, he said, “Dad, my ankle really hurts.”

My heart sank. A huge part of me wanted to say, “No, hemophilia, you will not take any more time out of my son’s day. We will not relive last year.” I thought of the many days he had to miss school and wanted to rally against the same thing happening this year.

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An illustration of person's lower legs and ankles.

Chronic ankle pain in hemophilia significantly affects quality of life

During his junior year, Caeleb experienced chronic ankle pain that often left him unable to attend school. Many days, he couldn’t get out of bed as spasms attacked him, one right after another. The pain stemmed from years of continuous internal bleeding episodes. It often took weeks for him to feel that he could make it to class. I constantly worried that he might have to repeat his junior year because of excessive absences.

As he lay in bed, I gathered my thoughts and said, “Buddy, we must try to get you to school. How can I help you achieve the goal of attending class?” Caeleb responded that he could wear an ankle brace for some relief. I also gave him some Tylenol, hoping that he might feel better.

Determined to tackle the day

Fortunately, my strong son fought his chronic ankle pain and got ready for the day. As I started my car, I asked him how he felt. He told me that his ankle hurt, but he’d manage to finish the school day. If walking became too uncomfortable, he said, the school nurse would lend him her wheelchair. I told him I knew it was challenging to go about his day with his ankle feeling angry and irritated, but he needed to work through the pain if he could.

I didn’t want Caeleb to think I was dismissing his feelings, but I hoped to teach him a lesson. Many times in life, varied distractions knock us to our knees. There are times when hemophilia complications become too much to handle, and those with the disease must seek respite from their everyday routines. But other times they must learn to push through discomfort, listen to their bodies, and respond in healthy ways when the pain becomes unbearable. Hopefully, Caeleb can find his own balance as he manages his bleeding disorder.

My boy went to school and didn’t require any assistance walking. As he got back in the car at the end of the day, I said, “It’s the first Friday of your last year of high school. It’s time for the MacDonald celebration of the beginning of a new academic year.” After I made my decree, Caeleb nodded, understanding our next stop would be at Baskin-Robbins for ice cream. Such a milestone requires the best.

He talked about his day as we sat, eating our tasty desserts. He told me that, as the day progressed, he felt better. He spoke about his new physical therapist and how he’s successfully helped Caeleb overcome problems with his knee and ankle.

We laughed at some goofy things my son did during his first week as a high school senior. But at the end of the conversation, I told him I was proud of him and how he managed his care. After telling a dad joke, I looked into his beautiful hazel eyes, and we laughed, not caring who saw us.

We were free.

Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.


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