Ruibal column: Climbing the mountain of a pre-existing condition

I have this crazy idea that I want to hike to the top of Mount Sopris someday.

Not just because I’m sure the view from our valley’s mountain mother is breathtaking.

The summit comes in at just under 13,000 feet. According to, the route is just less than 13 miles.

I want to climb it because I have dwarfism. After three rounds of limb-lengthening surgeries, I gained 13 inches in length in my arms and legs.

Thirteen is lucky to me.

The type of dwarfism I have is called achondroplasia. It’s the most common form, where a person’s arms and legs are shorter in proportion to the rest of their body. Yes, Peter Dinklage of “Game of Thrones” fame has achondroplasia too.

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Growing up, the main reference people made was to “Little People, Big World.” Growing up was trying and exhausting as a kid different from the rest. Kids are ruthless. Adults are pretty childish, too. I couldn’t go anywhere without being stared at, pointed at, whispered about.

One adult asked me in overly slowed, enunciated speech, “Do you go to a … normal school?”

“Yes … Do you?”

My school was accommodating. My chair had a padded back and I was given a stool so my feet didn’t dangle all day. My third-grade teacher had us stop reading “The BFG” aloud in class because it often used the word “midget,” a term widely considered derogatory.

Yeah, yeah, maybe some would say I’m a snowflake who was protected against “mean words.”

But when the world is so harsh to you day in and day out for a condition you never asked to have, it’s nice to have solace in a classroom where you can learn without the sting of being different.

When I was 11 years old, I underwent my first round of limb-lengthening surgeries at the Rubin Institute of Advanced Orthopedics in Baltimore. Limb-lengthening is when bone is surgically broken and pins are drilled past the skin, muscle, into the bone on either side of the break. It’s then attached to a device. I’d turn…

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