Thursday, August 18, 2011

An Achievement on the Road to ACL Surgery

It is time for another update. For those who may stumble upon this post and not understand what is happening, I had a fall the weekend before Independence Day. I was busy multitasking while going down some stairs. I essentially missed a step and fell down onto the concrete floor with my knee bent under and to the outside of my body. My ACL was completely torn through, the meniscus is shattered and laying in pieces in the joint, the MCL was torn and remained attached "by a couple of threads." Since that time (7 weeks) I have been in physical therapy to try to strengthen and retain flexibility in the MCL while my body tries to heal it. Increasing the strength and flexibility of the knee is in preparation for surgery to repair the other two injuries. This triple injury is sometimes called the "Unhappy Triad" and is usually the injury sustained when an athlete has a "blown knee."

My surgery is scheduled for one week from today. I had a pre-op exam with my family doctor on Tuesday. My blood pressure was really good, 118/79. The doc gave me the once over. I am down 32 pounds since summer began! The doc said that it would be good if I could be down some more before I have the surgery, but it will take a year or more to do that safely. So with all things considered, I am in the best shape that I can be for this operation. Everyone believes that I should have the surgery now. With the instability in the knee, there is a possibility that I could have a fall and injure the few remaining ligaments that I have.

Besides the healthy eating and tracking everything, I have been working very hard in the gym. The MCL was only attached by a "couple of threads" and the body tries to bunch that up to protect it. My therapy for the past 7 weeks has been to strengthen and retain flexibility in that MCL while my body tries to heal it. I have good range of motion in that MCL now and it is much stronger than it was. It still becomes stiff when I sit for awhile, but a little stretch and it is good to go.

Today, I had a moment when I was really proud of myself. Mind you, moments when I feel really proud of myself don't come around all that often. But, I'm trying to celebrate my successes on this journey, and today was just such an occasion. There is a sign in the pool at the fitness center where I now have a membership. The sign says that 64 lengths, or 32 laps of the pool equal one mile. When I first started working out, swimming ACROSS the pool looked impossible to me. Today, I swam 32 lengths of the pool, which is a half a mile!

Granted, it took me some time (about an hour) and I had to rest a couple of minutes between laps. Almost certainly my "built-in buoyancy" kept me from becoming a speed bump on the bottom of the pool. BUT, I am only able to kick with one leg, and I DID drag myself to and fro in that pool (the LONG WAY) 32 times! And for that, I am proud of myself.

Tomorrow, I see the surgeon for the final time before my surgery date. I believe he will check the flexibility and extension I have in the leg now. I will show him the cuts that were caused by my robo-brace on the back of the knee. I will ask him to send a letter to my school district with an explanation of why I need to be out of school through September. We will discuss my post-surgery options for care. I have already decided to have a ligament from a deceased donor implanted rather than harvesting a portion of one of my own healthy ligaments. The surgeon won't know if the meniscus is able to be sutured back together until he gets into the knee and looks at the blood flow. It may be that he will just remove the pieces from the joint.

By all accounts, everything I've heard and read about this surgery, it will be a difficult recovery. Total recovery time is 6 months to one year. The first two weeks after the surgery reportedly have a high level of pain and very little weight bearing on the leg. One person told me that it could be as long as 6 weeks before I will have enough control of the leg to resume driving. I am hoping to be driving within 2 weeks. I think it is natural to feel some anxiety, especially when you keep hearing about the level of pain. Normally, I have a very good tolerance for pain, and I'm hopeful that won't fail me now. I take comfort in knowing that I have done my best to prepare my body in the time I've had.

I anticipate that I will make some backwards movement in my fitness level and weight loss at the beginning of my recovery period. I am going to do my best to keep my Spark alive and eat as healthy as I can (although I understand that I will be somewhat at the whim of my caregiver as to my food choices.) I will be doing the exercises necessary to regain function in my leg without causing damaging swelling, and that will have to be good enough for now. I resolve that I will return to the gym and pool as soon as I have permission to do so. Mostly, I will work on being patient with my body as I heal, and to be kind to myself if a few pounds find their way back to me.

This won't be easy (I am NOT a patient patient), but I have every confidence that with the help of my wonderful, supportive friends, I will continue on my journey in spite of this bump in the road.

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