December 4, 2020
Dear Dr. Rozbruch,
What a great visit it was with you yesterday!
Zachary and I had no idea what to expect when we made the appointment to see you after almost a year of not checking in with you or getting an x-ray of his ankle.
My observations of Zachary in the last 8 months were truly heartening.
It was as if while the rest of the world was struck by a terrible malady, Zachary rose from his. I can’t tell you what it was due to.
For three and a half years he was almost glued to his bed, and his room, except for a few short lived months of positive motion, which were dashed by a terrible episode at HSS Rehab in Stamford.
He was still.
His body and his soul.
I remember his frustration and demeanor when he once walked into an appointment with you and asked if you could redo the ankle distraction because he was in pain and thought it went back into place. Your face and body language were one of huge disbelief and disappointment and you said, “What? We just did it! It is not possible!” You spoke to him straightforwardly and said that the effects of the distraction would not be seen overnight and that it sometimes takes up to a year to feel the benefits and positive results.
His youthful impatience was in disbelief. He wanted it to be better then and there! He went back into his cave depressed and sullen and mostly immobile.
Yes, he had PTSD. In a very dramatic way.
I wondered if he would ever pull himself out of it.
And then all of a sudden, out of the depths of a year fraught with a deadly pandemic, a new Zachary emerged.
It was not instant.
And it was kind of like the old Zachary.
But kinder. Gentler.
Don’t get me wrong – he is not an Angel…Yet.
He was moving. Again.
Sure, he was in pain. But it didn’t seem as severe.
He began working the rest of his body.
He became more in tune with his body again.
Not just from the outside but from the inside.
He became a vegan – with some lapses.
He educated himself on what was good for him.
He was his best physical therapist.
He started standing straighter.
The cane suddenly disappeared.
No, he was not walking normally, and I anguished over the sound of his not so normal footsteps and his lopsided gait as he once had the stealth and grace of a dancer.
But he laughed more.
And talked more.
And ate in our company more.
And was a bit silly again.
And lived more.
He started riding his bicycle. Mountain biking. Even took a few falls, much to my chagrin. And took a stab at kayaking, even joining an event that made money for a nonprofit. He swam – somewhere. I know because I washed his swimsuit and towels. He took me to the beach. Twice! It was the best two days of my summer.
I had no idea what was going on with his ankle specifically.
But I saw a change in him.
Yes, there were many days when he was in a lot of pain.
But he was pushing himself.
And then suddenly he became more involved with the outside world.
Having the confidence to work.
Part time – but it was a huge change watching him get out of bed and leave the house. A man on a mission.
It cannot be easy to see yourself as someone with a disability.
Especially when you are young and fearless.
I don’t know what his expectations are of himself.
But I know mine of him.
I expect that he will overcome this too.
The way he has overcome physical obstacles in Parkour.
Maybe he won’t run or jump but he will crawl and climb and pounce and carefully and stealthily find a way to the other side.
And maybe he will not be in the best shape.
Or maybe he will be in a different shape.
But he will be a better man.
Because in my eyes, he will always be invincible.
Yesterday was a huge leap forward.
It showed us all what a mere mortal could do.
You, Dr. Rozbruch, who could straighten a severely deformed ankle and grow some bone using your incredibly creative mind and intrepid endeavors.
Along with Dr. Levine who I am undyingly grateful for being a part of this dynamic duo surgical team, making this magical match and being Zachary’s sounding board for three years. And Andy Meyers who so deftly and lovingly made an extraordinary brace, with or without lipstick, that would give Zachary the courage and confidence to step freely without a crutch. And Zachary, who showed us that he would not give up trying to improve on what he had even if what had was not something he was happy with.
I saw the pride on both your faces yesterday.
The pleasant surprise and confirmation when the x-rays exhibited what we hoped and prayed for – that there was no degrading since the last x-ray a year ago and that the ankle retained all the positive characteristics that the surgery and fixators fashioned.
It was amazing to see both of your faces as you manipulated a foot and ankle that moved way beyond your expectations.
To feel both of your excitement as you knew you accomplished something you could illustrate as an example to inspire confidence in others at this amazing procedure. To hear the way Zachary described how he felt when he actually was able to “feel” the sand under his feet at the beach.
To get the chills when way you spoke about how this ankle was saved without the debilitating alternatives of movement via a fusion or a prosthetic.
It is all his.
No, it was not the collagen that helped Zachary.
It was you.
And it was him.
And somewhere in that whole powerful mix of skin and bones and skill and science, there was the heart.
And the hope.
And the will.
And I believe, there will never be the “won’t” or “can’t.”
And there I was, watching two magicians at work.
Having the ultimate faith in their magic.
And in the depth of the human spirit.
With star struck eyes believing, as always, in the impossible.
We are not done yet.
You and Zachary have only just begun this dance.
The best is yet to be…
When I left your offices yesterday I saw a little sign that read,
“The people who work at this Hospital are people that actually leave footprints in your heart forever.”
Well, we have a huge one on ours.
It belongs to you.
With deepest gratitude from,
Just a mother who loves her son,