Ong continues working at KFC despite painful knee condition

Carter Kangas, Staff Writer

Photo by Carter Kangas.

Timothy Ong (12) charged towards his first period class. He was late. He couldn’t afford to be late. He sprinted. He stumbled into class and found a chair. He collapsed into a chair and heard a pop. His knee exploded in pain. He knew immediately what had happened. He had dislocated his knee. Again.

As he crutched his way onto campus the next day, his big immobilizer brace, the clack of his crutches, and his slow methodical pace drew people’s gaze.

But Ong was used to it by now.

At 10-years-old, Ong dislocated his knee for the first time on a trampoline. After a round of x-rays and MRIs, Ong learned that he was born with a shallow patella groove, a genetic defect that makes his knees prone to injury and forces him to wear a brace to support them. According to Ong, he’s dislocated his right knee twice and his left knee thrice since then, all in varying ways.

“I can dislocate my knees by playing tennis, jumping on a trampoline, or just when I do something that involves a lot of twisting or jostling of my legs or lower body,” Ong said. “The most recent time, I ended up popping my knee, and I was in so much pain that I couldn’t go to any class[es] that day.”

While Ong’s activity is limited, he said that he will keep working at KFC to save money for college. His condition is not life threatening, but is permanent for the foreseeable future.

“I’ve pretty much given up on playing sports, especially tennis, and most other physical activity,” Ong said. “But I can endure it. The pain isn’t enough to make me quit my job. I kind of need to keep working so I can keep my college plans on track.”

Ong has had lots of experience with injuries to his knees, and tries to always stay positive. His advice is to take it one day at a time, always trying to look on the bright side of things, even if nothing is going your way.

“How I think about it is, it’s only a bad experience immediately afterwards, when I am in the immobilizer for up to a month,” Ong said. “The mentality I try to keep is that it’s really not that bad, except for that one day when you first injure it, and you push through and deal with it. I go day by day, pushing through and trying not to think about it. You don’t think about how long you’ve been in the brace, you go one day at a time, and try not to let others know that you care too much.”

Ong discussed how school can be a struggle and what he does to try and improve his condition.

“After I injure [my knees], I can’t run because it just hurts too bad and I can’t bend my leg fully because it hurts and swells up from time to time, especially at work,” Ong said. “I can ice my knees or just take over-the-counter medication if the pain gets too bad. It only hurts super bad like two to three days after the injury.”

Even after all the pain and frustration he has gone through, Ong refuses to give up his job, knowing that he has to keep working towards his college future, and that there is hope that he may be able to fix his condition.

“I could somewhat fix the condition if I could have surgery to replace a ligament on the inside of my upper leg, but it’s very likely to jostle my growth plates and stunt my leg growth,” Ong said. “For now, I’d much rather live being wary of this than risk jostling my growth plates. But I am hopefully that I’ll be able to get the surgery sometime during college, which is another reason for me to keep working and saving as much as I can for college.”

According to Ong, keeping his goals for the future in mind has helped him persevere through his injuries.

“I’m always worried about injuring myself again, but there’s not a lot I can do about it,” Ong said. “I struggle with basic human tasks, like running, so I just have to limit myself. But not when it comes to things like work. A lot of times work is boring and stressful, but I kind of need to keep working because I need to save up the money. I have to have some money saved up to pay for off-campus college dorms, and I can’t let anything get in the way of that.”