Finally! I had leg lengthening surgery for a second time

This article is about my second leg lengthening surgery experience. Hope you enjoy and find it useful.

 

“To progress again, man must remake himself. And man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.  In order to uncover his true visage, he must shatter his own substance with heavy blows of his hammer.”

– Alexis Carrel, “Man, The Unknown”

 

I just read this quote from Alexis Carrel and I wanted to share it with you, as I liked it very much. We need to believe in what he has said. If we want to change, if we want to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we have to tolerate all the sufferings of this transforming journey.

I am writing this article while I am myself going through this pain and suffering. It has been 5 years since my first surgery, and today it has been my 34th day since my second limb lengthening surgery. I think I have just passed 3 cm mark. Today, I am planning to have an x-ray done and my doctor’s assistant will examine the results.

Just a small note before getting into details: I hope this article will be a comprehensive guide enriched with photos, videos and x-rays for people who are considering, planning or just want to learn more about leg lengthening surgery. I will talk about my height increase journey from 160s to 170s, and about all the challenges and the solutions I have found.

At the same time, I am a coordinator at Wannabetaller company, which is an institution arranging pre-op/post-op and consulting services for patients who want to have limb lengthening surgery.

I am writing this article with my “patient” identity rather than my “company coordinator” identity. Additionally, I hope this article and my experience will be useful for you since this is my second surgery, additionally I have had the chance of seeing the work of more than 10 doctors in this field, as I have monitored hundreds of limb lengthening patients.

An odd fact: My actual major is Psychological Counselling, but I wasn’t able to adapt my own psychology to accept my short height and live happily with it. I never managed to get rid of this obsession, neither when I was seeing my peers growing taller at the age of 15, nor when I was assigned to an official public duty when I was 23 years old. I had already tried all absurd height increase methods known at that time or found on the internet, writing about which can be a material for an entire book.

I had my first surgery when I was 24 years old, and when I was sure that there is no other solution to getting tall than surgery. But I was even afraid of a simple injection. How could I bear 12 pins on my leg for one year? Also, these surgeries were new in Turkey at that time and the number of limb lengthening cases was small.  Normally, I should have taken a step back with my anxiety but I dived right into the first opportunity like a mad lover.

I can’t even tell you how hard those days were. And those days were long. Holyfix method was applied in my surgery, which is like Ilizarov but it is a more compact and modern tool. After 5th month, my bones weirdly decided not to consolidate and I slept and woke up with those devices for exactly 15 months and 12 days. I walked like a penguin with 12 pins in my leg and I needed someone else’s presence and assistance. Moreover, I had my surgery on femur. Those who know will understand how it feels like. In femur surgery, pain is more and mobility is more limited. In that period, I was unable to sleep on my side. The back of my body was greatly damaged in the first few months.

Holyfix / A Counselling Psychologist
A photo from my first surgery back in 2015: Holyfix on femurs

Since these are my views for my first surgery, I am hesitant about recommending it to other people. I can only recommend leg lengthening surgery to those who believe they have no other option to live a normal life and couldn’t get rid of the obsession for a long time (at least for two years).

I still don’t know why, but I never regretted from those days. I was so obsessed that I was tolerating all of the difficulties of leg lengthening surgery, with the hope to experience better days in the future. 15 months and 12 days for 6 cm. Although it does not sound like a profitable solution, I believed I had no other choice at that time. I think I adjusted my psychology to that situation.

No matter what happened, all remained in the past and the devices were out. Now, I was enjoying the relief after the bad days when I heard, “hey did you get taller, you look different”.  I think this relaxation was also partially caused by the relief from long and painful process coming to an end. I even enjoyed simply standing with my arms wide open when I saw the sun.

Everything was going well but I couldn’t give up my habit to wear hidden heels (elevator shoes). I felt that my obsession degree decreased from 10 out of 10 to 3-4 out of 10, but I made a mistake in one thing. Once you get used to elevator shoes, it is not easy to give them up. You internalize the extra height gained from those shoes and you have this unnecessary obsession when you take off the shoes. I should say that prior to my surgery I felt short even with these shoes. Now, I feel normal when I wear them. In the past, I was sweating from anxiety when someone talked about height and I froze even if I was the one making the most of the jokes. But with this surgery and with the support of the shoes, I could give examples to my students to be realistic when setting a target and that it is not a very smart decision to become a basketball player if you are extremely short heighted.

Meanwhile, I was heading to my second leg lengthening surgery, due to the effect of those elevator shoes, and because I was thinking that 170+cm range is a safe zone for a male.

LON limb lengthening on tibia Turkey 1
My second limb lengthening surgery: LON on tibia

I woke up to a new morning. 35th day. Before beginning today’s diary writing, I did my Achilles Tendon flexibility exercise and then 0.25 mm bone distraction. I become a taller person every 8 hours. I think I am growing faster than a teenager. Of course it is difficult to say that I enjoy it during the process, because our health is always the first priority. Especially the pain related to muscle tension, it has increased a lot. I expected to face this pain when I reach 4-5 cm, but I was caught unexpectedly. I have just gone past 3 cm, but my heels gradually rise up when walking, especially the heel of my left foot. I understood one thing: If you want more than 3-4 cm, you need to increase your leg flexibility sufficiently before surgery. Additionally, you need to make sure your Achilles Tendons stretch well enough when you do these exercises. If I had this done in time, I suppose I would sleep better on last 3-4 nights.

I strongly recommend getting physiotherapy assistance. You will benefit from it, even if you get online physio support. Or, even watching exercise videos instead of watching movies and playing games will make you exercise more on that day. Additionally, sharing your experience with others and exchanging your knowledge will also increase the efficiency of your exercising. For example, when I shoot videos for sharing, I exercise faster than usual. When I don’t make videos, my performance is not even half of this.

This is also true for my walking videos. You know, sharing something brings more rather than taking from you. In my video below, I can tell I walk faster than normal. Moreover, I like listening to music, so walking while listening to music helps me get more efficiency from my efforts.

Here you can see my video where I am doing exercises and walking at various stages of my procedure:


Yesterday I had lots of pain. This pain was mostly caused by muscle tension. After having my x-rays done, my doctor and his assistant told that I can overcome this with the help of exercising. To be honest, in a similar manner to many other patients, I was lost in thoughts, such as, “doctors don’t empathize with us patients, at the end of the day, it is us who were pierced by those nails and screws, not them, I have pain at the moment and I’m not in the mood of doing exercises”. In the end, I realized that my pains are much more stubborn and persistent than me, and decided that I am only deceiving myself. So I did stretching exercises accompanied by music, then got up and despite the pain, I walked with a walker and then with crutches. After 10-15 minutes, my pain had already reduced. Because my blood circulation increased, and after the stretching exercises I had given my legs what they needed. This is what I want to say: Either you curse the darkness, or walk towards the light. Yesterday I too saw the benefit of fighting this battle and thinking in a solution-oriented way instead of getting lost in the darkness.

Also, this time I planned to have 3 times per day rather than 4 times (4×0.25mm). Although I will lose some time, this will be healthier. If I can do my exercises more, I can reach my target height in a healthier way.

I need to say this thing: many patients might go out of control for lengthening amount and limit. I have seen it in many patients. When their doctor says 7 cm is enough for lengthening, they might think it is okay to have extra 1-2 cm and they want to have that 1-2 cm because they paid for it and they break the rules. These patients can’t go back to their normal life in 6 months which would normally take 1 month after the device is removed. The only thing they do afterwards is to get mad at their doctors, blame their faith and bear the consequences. This is not a simple job. We must be aware of our limits and duties and we need to leave the job to the expert, in this case to the doctor.

I need to add that some doctors can’t resist to patient’s insistence to have 2 cm more. Those doctors also recommend to support it with exercise but this is a great risk and generally, they spend months to compensate muscle and nerve damages. I should also mention a long bone union. 

Instead of dealing with all these problems, it is better not to ask more and settle with the results. But some patients like saying “I got this tall” and some doctors like saying “my patient is this tall”. As you know, no one will change a pair of healthy legs with a pair of long legs that they can’t walk. If you are going to have the surgery or if you are in the limb lengthening period, you need to be sure about your limits. This is why I don’t want to push the limits. After I reach 5 cm, I plan to continue with the permitted limit after my doctor analysis my muscles, nerves and bone union. 6 or 6.5 might be enough. 

After talking about exercises this much, I must say how important it is to dress your wounds if you have an external fixator or if you plan to have one in the future. If you have an infection, you would say, “I should have dressed my wound in every hour”. For this reason, never ignore the wound dressing that you should normally do in every 2-3 days. Especially, I struggled a lot with infection after my first surgery. I had so much pain that it was like burning fire on the pins in my skin. I didn’t want to move. My bone union also slowed down during infection. There were swelling and redness. All of these have taught me to be more careful in my second surgery. I think it is related to the method. My first surgery was holyfix and it lasted too long; after some point, you are no longer care. I remember going to the movies or played the pool. I wasn’t able to be careful about my wound dressing after all that. Now, I clean any fluid leakage with batticon and dress the wound carefully. When there is fluid, I am dressing that region at least in every 2-3 days. When it comes to health, the best thing you can do is to take measures. During the first days of hospitalization, the doctor’s assistant showed me how to dress my wound and we video recorded it. I hope these recommendations and the video below will help many people to be careful.

 

Day 41 

I am writing this post late at night. I am sure many limb lengthening patients missed sleeping at night without waking up. When you have your lower leg surgery, your pain related to tension will increase especially after 3-4 cm and this disturbs your sleep. 

I must be really close to 4 cm. I was really excited when I reached 4 cm in my first surgery. It was nice to grow longer when I was 24 years old. Now, I am as excited as I was since I know the results. My excitement decreased because I am no longer obsessed as before. I want to reach 5-6 cm as soon as I can and I want the device out. Luckily, I am closer to this happy end every day.

If you ask me how I spend my time, I am working at home office while it is not as efficient as before. I have finished a book until now and I am reaching the 2nd book. I am reading an article that interests me from some of the websites I follow. Also, I started to watch a foreign movie to improve my English and to spend some time. Sometimes I play strategy games. And I have this diary…

I don’t want to have a too long diary because I plan to write and share my progress after getting better. If I write every day, it might be a good idea to turn it into a book 🙂 I planned to write a book with psychologic analysis about the situation I experienced. I think I am procrastination because of my laziness.

I walk more. Because of the tension, especially on my left leg, is increasing every day. My heels are not touching the ground and they are taking off. I try to stretch my Achilles tendon with more exercise and walking and I think it is working. Because when I try to walk without the exercise, I am struggling because my heels take off and after 15-20 minutes of walk in the house, my heals start to touch the ground. I am trying to that 4-5 time per day. Because I must do my share if I want a better and healthy result.

I saw that many patients neglect their exercises. And they want to have lengthening more than 6-7 cm. These numbers are not realistic. I hope you reach those numbers but walking health might be hard and bone union might be slow. You need a good exercise and walking program for a fast recovery process.

I don’t work with a physiotherapist. But I highly recommend working with one. I had a really good physiotherapist in my first surgery. I want to thank her again here. I am repeating what I have learned from her in this surgery. But sometimes even though you know what do to, professional support will enable you to do more and you can go back to your normal life with your new height easier and healthier.

Today, I am planning to make another exercise video. As you know, writing and sharing your plans with others will help you to commit those plans more. So, I hope I can make the video and upload it here today. I want to try some new moves. I have shown the basic moves in my previous videos. But please do not make the moves in my next exercise video without consulting to a physiotherapist or a doctor.

(I will upload the video I mentioned)

…..

 

  1. Day

I can see the first lights of the sun. My real light will shine when the device is out. I am in a different city than my doctor who did the first surgery. I was living in Adana at that time. My process was getting longer. And when I saw a plane flying to İstanbul, I was dreaming the day when my device will be off. I will take that plane one day and everything will start again. Actually, I don’t have that many strong feelings now but I can’t say I am as patient as before. 

Today is 1 May. It is the first days of Ramadan. I plan to continue lengthening until the end of Ramadan. This holiday will be the top which I reach my new height.

Interesting! Now, I will be around 1.70. I will be in the safe zone I was desiring for a long time. I am not excited. Because I am keeping my excitement to those moments when I can walk healthily and with my new clothes when I reach my new height.

If we come back to now: The tension on my legs do not frighten me that much. Because I will give 2-3 days break if I have too much. They need to rest too. This way, they will be stretched and relaxed for lengthening again. After 5 cm, I reach my target. At the end of Ramadan, I think I will have 5.5 cm. We will wait and see.

Most people might think about why I don’t have 7 cm or 9 cm. Either these people don’t know about this subject or they do not care about getting injured and they don’t know how valuable their health is. No matter how much height obsession a person has, this must never exceed a healthy life. Otherwise, you will lose this gamble and you will cry a lot.

If you reached 4 cm and have tension, please don’t neglect your stretching exercise and if you didn’t have an internal surgery that prevents walking, please try to walk as much as you can. I feel really comfortable after doing these. Now, my heels are taking off but if I neglected my exercised and walking, my heel level will be no different than a ballerina. I want to end today’s post by sharing a video I made.

(I will upload the video I mentioned)

 

Day 58

Actually, normally I would write without thinking what day it is but recently, I gave up this habit. For approximately 1-2 weeks, I am doing 0.5 mm per day instead of 1 mm. This is because there is a lot of tension on my muscles and nerves and I decreased lengthening amount instead of making things worse. What is more, I didn’t do any lengthening for 1 day. Although these seem like simple solutions, it comforts you a lot. My painkiller needs to be decreased significantly and I can concentrate on my job.

Of course, no one wants to live with 8 pins in their legs. I recently didn’t have pain but still, I sometimes have mild pain. But you stop caring about these mild pains after those high-intensity ones.

I thought and made a decision. Normally, I planned to do 0.5 mm per day and take the device off at the end of Ramadan. Then I said, there won’t be much difference, instead of doing 0.5 mm per day and removing it after Ramadan holidays (holiday is 1.5 weeks away), I decided to do 1 mm per day and remove it before the holiday. This holiday could be a double celebration for me.

In the last 2-3 days, I do 1 mm lengthening. Actually, there is too much tension but it is worth removing it early. 

But please don’t make this decision on your own if you had the surgery. You must consult with your doctor. I am constantly in touch with my doctor’s assistant. This is not a joke. As I said above, the biggest problem I see in limb lengthening patients is late recovery due to excessive lengthening.

Just like anything else, you will be comfortable when you follow the rules. Of course, make sure that you found a doctor who knows and applies all the rules. 

I can’t make a walking video recently. Because my heels are really high from the ground. I am walking like a ballerina. This is called ballerina syndrome or Achilles syndrome in medical terms. Therefore, you must never neglect your Achilles tendon stretching exercise (a sort of leg stretching) before and after the surgery. Or your heels will be off the ground like me.

Thank God my target is not that high. I will be done when I am near 6 cm and this is enough for me.

This is the table I am using when I wrote this post. Before, my legs fit under the table in a vertical position. Now I am 5 cm taller and my legs can’t fit.

I also didn’t measure my height in the past 1-2 weeks. Because my heels are off the ground. But no matter what, I am at 1.70 I have dreamed. I think I am between 1.72-4.

I plan to have an X-ray next Wednesday. And if my bone union is good in the X-ray, my doctor will take the device off on Friday.

This way, this will be the end of my limb lengthening journey. This was a very long journey for me. I will write progress less frequently. But I will be sharing my progress and my process to go back to normal.

See you later for now.

 

Please stay tuned, I will update my diary with photos, walking and exercise videos, x-rays etc….

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