This all started with a bump on the knee. During basketball season my daughter Grace complained of pain, and we noticed some swelling. She was riding another mighty growth spurt, and running around more than ever, so we chalked it up to something developmental and benign.
And the bump seemed familiar. I'd remembered hearing some other parents talk about their kids' knees swelling. It was a fairly common condition, caused by irritation of the patellar tendon. What did the parents call it?
I snapped my fingers as I searched my brain.
Ausenschlaugers. That's it, Ausenschlaugers disease.
Now I had a name for it. When Grace limped, I gave her Motrin and told her it was just Ausenschlaugers and lots of kids have it. Easter at my house must have been like having dinner hosted by Dr. Nancy Sniderman; I sliced the ham while blabbering on and on about Ausenschlaugers.
"It's self correcting," I said. "Athletic girls get it all the time!" I became known for my Ausenschlaugers soliloquy. A friend called to ask how the basketball season had gone, and I told him about the Ausenschlaugers. And I could almost hear him thinking, No! Not that! At the end of the season, the knee pain was a little worse, and so we decided to have it X-rayed. I told the technician I suspected it was Ausenschlaugers. She looked at me in a quizzical sort of way and then closed the door to take the pictures.
A few days later the doctor's office called with the report.
"Osgood-Schlatter," she said.
I asked her to repeat it.
"It's named after Dr. Osgood and Dr. Schlatter, who first diagnosed it," the doctor said.
Now, you know what it was like when you were in your 20s, and had a date with someone you really liked, and you got back into your car and looked in the rearview mirror to discover you had something hanging halfway out of your nose the whole time? That's what I felt like when I hung up the phone with the doctor.
Shamed, I traced my Ausenschlauger history, squirrelling around in my head for all the places I'd spouted the word. The half-dozen friends I'd chatted with heard about it over the phone: Ausen-blah-blah-Schlauger-blah-blah. And now that I think of it, I was probably Ausenschlaugering all over the basketball bleachers, too. Why didn't someone correct me? I would tell them if they had spinach between their front teeth, and isn't this the same thing?
Then I did what I should have done at the very beginning. I Googled adolescent knee pain, and it popped right up. Osgood-Schlatter Disease is common and usually passes without much more intervention than icing and ibuprofen. And I was wrong about girls getting it. As many as seven times as many boys get it. For grins, I Googled Ausenschlauger, thinking German beer or Swiss cheese. There's no such word, although there's a woman on Facebook with that name.
Grace's knee is feeling better. As often happens, once we had a name for what was ailing her -- and knew it wasn't serious -- the pain started to fade. She is running around again. And we are all very grateful it was just a case of Osgood-Schlatter, and not the dreaded Ausenschlaugers.
Beth Dolinar is a former Riverside resident and Pittsburgh television reporter who is staying at home to raise her two children. She can be reached at cootieJ@aol.com.