I was born with an extensive birthmark most of it concentrated on my left leg. I now understand this to be Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome, which causes vein malformations and usually results in abnormal development of blood vessels, soft tissues, bones and the lymphatic system. My parents said that as a baby my left leg was abnormally large but they prayed and it miraculously evened out and the puffyness and inflamation went away.
My first ten years were not affected by my birthmark in any way other than the usual remarks and weird looks kids will give to something abnormal and some funny stories. One day on my way home from a sweetie shop (candy store) three kids knocked me off my bike, and were beating me up until one of them saw my birthmark and started freaking out thinking he had caused it and they all ran away!
When I was 11 in my last year at primary school during a football (soccer) practice I was tackled hard and my opponents cleats cut my left ankle. I didn’t pay much attention to the cut and just assumed it would heal but weeks went by and it became infected. It wasn’t until it had become so painful that I was limping during a game that my field hockey coach noticed and took a look and we realized I needed to bring it to my doctors attention. So began the next 31 years of living with a wound that refused to heal.
This was 1988, a time before the widespread prevalence of Diabetes and Aids so wound care was not something the medical profession had put much research into. My rare disorder was not well understood nor did they think to give me an ultrasound to find out how much my vein malformation was affecting my healing (I now know that the main vein in my left leg stops at my knee, and I have next to zero blood flow in my lower leg). I had a skin graft operation that didn’t take. Because I was missing my main vein my other veins were doing a lot more work and so appeared to be varicose veins and I underwent a varicose vein stripping. This didn’t help and so I was told to stay off the leg and keep it elevated for blood flow purposes. The irony here was that because of not using my ankle my achilles tendon atrophied and I lost the pump mechanism in my ankle further hampering blood flow.
Although I had to give up sports which was something I was good enough at to be serious about pursuing , I discovered guitar, writing songs and reading. I am so grateful now to have had the time and impetus to pursue tools and gifts that would serve me well in the future. I must have written 300 bad songs before I wrote a good one and if I had not been off the soccer field that most likely would never have happened. I am also a fairly extroverted person but being forced to spend so much time alone and away from my peers helped me develop an appreciation for the alone time that is needed to recharge my batteries. There are too many blessings and benefits to count because of this strange and painful burden I have carried, and they will most likely be a main focus of this blog going forward.