Soon after graduating summa cum laude from Georgetown University, Katia came to the International Center for Limb Lengthening (ICLL) for a checkup with Dr. Standard before heading to her family’s home in Spain. Katia had seventeen surgeries throughout her childhood to treat congenital femoral deficiency. This rare birth defect is characterized by a short thigh bone which results in a limb length discrepancy where one leg is shorter than the other.
Katia’s mother reflected back, “My biggest concern, without a doubt, was making the wrong decision. I hoped that, with time, despite the surgeries and hardships, my daughter would be healthy and that both her legs would be even. Yet I always feared that she would have a very difficult childhood, going through surgeries, pain, suffering, and emotional trauma and have it all be for nothing in the end. I worried the surgeries would not work or, even if they did work, the psychological effects would be devastating. I would tell someone with a similar concern that the process is difficult; the treatments are rough, and there are often surgical complications. One has to be a generous and steady parent to weather these procedures. But today, after 18 years, I can assure you that it was totally worth it: I feel it was a great victory in my life, because, in the end, I saved my daughter’s leg. Precisely because of what she went through, she is emotional, sensitive, kind, and mature. She is a strong individual, and I am very proud of her.”
Katia shares, “At my middle school graduation party, after my last limb lengthening… I danced around in a pair of golden sandals—no platform shoe. No more ugly black sneakers that boiled my feet in the summer. I’ve been dancing nonstop ever since—with both my legs. I once climbed the 212 steps to the top of the bell tower at Bath Abbey, England and got to see the view of the entire city underneath me. None of that would have been possible without the surgeries I had. When I go to the beach, I tell curious children that my scars are from a shark I once fought, (always a hit!). Beyond the day-to-day physical rewards, this experience has taught me to fight for myself and always be proud of my differences.”
She continues, “If you are a parent of a child with an orthopedic disability, I’d like you to know that I am eternally grateful for what my mother did. She gave up her entire life and moved to a different continent, without more knowledge of America or English than that granted by dubbed movies. Her strength and selfless love saved my leg and if I can now dance with my friends it is because of the ICLL and because of her.”