In a journey marked by resilience and determination, Sofia Niazi navigates the challenges of living with Blount disease, from enduring multiple surgeries and relearning to walk, to overcoming mental barriers and rediscovering a passion for sports.

Painful. A singular word that encapsulates my experience with Blount disease. From as early as six I grew accustomed to constant operations and X-rays and Doctor’s appointments. In less than ten years, I have had six operations which have left me temporarily bed-bound and unable to walk for decent amounts of my life. Although now I am proud to say I have fully recovered from it all and have been discharged, I can say it was not an easy journey and it came with many challenges (mental and physical). However, through it all, many things helped me such as: supportive doctors, family and kindness which have outweighed the mental effects of not being able to do sports or walk for large periods of life.

So, what is Blount disease? Blount disease is a growth disorder affecting mainly young children (under the age of 4) where, the growth plate puts pressure on the Tibia bone, which causes it to bow outwards.

Of course, relearning how to walk 6 times, dealing with the excruciating pain of broken bones and constantly being on Morphine (which has many side effects!) and other medication is not convenient, but the worst part of it all was the small things. Originally being bed-bound was heaven – I had my family giving me meals in bed everyday and I could use the “my leg’s broken” excuse to get any gift I wanted. However, with time the novelty wore off and even the smallest things were impossible to handle like the inability to turn in bed, carry my own belongings, go up the stairs and having to sit on the sidelines in sports lessons while everyone played which made it worse. Having to constantly depend on others can make you feel helpless in some ways especially when its for a long time.  

After ten weeks I was finally allowed to walk again but it wasn’t that simple. Although physically I had mostly recovered, mentally I hadn’t so much. I struggled to walk again, not because I didn’t have the ability to do so but because I was so used to crutches (as also an emotional support) and in my mind, I didn’t feel ready it was more difficult to get going again and continue to pursue my passions for sports. That’s when I learnt recovery was not just physical but mental. According to National Institute of Health – “Higher levels of emotional well-being are beneficial for recovery and survival in physically ill patients.” Much other research suggests similarly. 

And now, through that realisation I am fully able to do any physical sport including rock climbing, skating or basketball even with a gap in my bone which I would have previously thought to be impossible, which goes to show just how much of recovery is mental and that resilience is key. 

Being discharged was anticlimactic, it was only a few months after until it hit me that I would never have to go to appointments every three months again and that I was truly finished with it all. I didn’t know what to with myself afterwards, my leg issues had been such a massive part of my life that when I didn’t have to worry about it, I felt incomplete as I was always so used to having to adjust my everyday life in order to protect my leg. However, now I’m free from that burden, and looking back, I realise the struggles helped me to become more compassionate to others and understand the struggles having a life-long illness can cause.