When I was seven I began experiencing extreme pain in my left hip joint. As the situation became increasing worse and the local family doctor was not able to diagnose the problem I was sent to Children's Hospital in Toronto. After many tests and multiple xrays they diagnosed the problem as Legg Calve Perthes.
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is a childhood condition that occurs when blood supply to the ball part (femoral head) of the hip joint is temporarily interrupted and the bone begins to die. This weakened bone gradually breaks apart and can lose its round shape. The body eventually restores blood supply to the ball, and the ball heals. But if the ball is no longer round after it heals, it can cause pain and stiffness.
To keep the ball part of the joint as round as possible, doctors use a variety of treatments that keep it snug in the socket portion of the joint. In my case the decision was to suspend my left leg in a large brace that allowed the hip joint to heal without weight on it. This can best be seen in the photo at the right.
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease occurs when too little blood is supplied to the ball portion of the hip joint (femoral head). Without an adequate blood supply, this bone becomes unstable, and it may break easily and heal poorly. The underlying cause of the temporary reduction in blood flow to the femoral head is still unknown. In general, children who have had Legg-Calve-Perthes disease are at higher risk of developing hip arthritis in adulthood — particularly if the hip joint heals in an abnormal shape. If the hip bones don't fit together well after healing, the joint can wear out early. As well, children who are diagnosed with Legg-Calve-Perthes after age 6 are more likely to develop hip problems later in life.
I wore the brace for three years. Since I couldn't sit in a normal chair I was given a special stool and desk at school when I was in grades 3, 4 and 5. As a direct result of wearing this apparatus ,that included a steel bar that went from 4 inches below my left foot to my armpits, I had to bat left handed when playing baseball since I could not bend my left knee. To this day I swing a bat and golf club left handed.
On the bight side I was the only one in my family that got to go to summer camp. For the three summers I wore the brace I attended the Rotary Club's camp for "Crippled Children" Yes that's exactly what they called in back then. 'Camp for Crippled Children'.
In 1958 I was selected to be Owen Sound's 'Timmy' which was a position created by the Rotary Service Club to promote their annual sale of Easter Seals. In addition to attending the Rotary Summer Camp I was one of several children in Owen Sound who attended a dinner with a celebrity, Wipper Billy Watson, who assisted the Rotary Club in promoting their annual Easter Seal Drive. Wipper Billy Watson was a famous pro wrestler at the time.
After wearing the brace for three years follow up x-rays showed that my hip had completely healed and my hip-ball was well rounded. I was one of the fortunate ones in that I did not develop arthritis nor did I experience any related problems in adulthood.