ACL Surgery: Four Months Post Op

This coming Friday is officially the four month (16 weeks) post-surgery mark for me. At yesterday’s physical therapy session, I was cleared to run. Still no horseback riding (there’s too much of a chance of that twisting motion and/or an uncontrolled movement), but I’m happy with expanding my activities!

I ran today with my sister. We’ve got a little pond at work that has a soft track around it… We started doing a couple laps and ended up doing a mile, with one lap being walked. It was a great start and as the day went on, my knee actually felt looser than it has in a long time (good loose, not missing-the-ACL-loose). I am still having some pain – partially because my IT band and patellar tendon are tight and are pulling my kneecap to the left. Tonight I need to foam roll until I can’t take it and then ice a bit.

Here’s what my knee looks like now. It’s healing up rather nicely! There are 3 “holes” (top right and then two towards the bottom) as well as the larger scar where the hamstring tendon was harvested from. Ignore the white scratch… I was just itchy.

I’m really pleased with my recovery so far!

ACL Surgery: One Month Post Op

May 22nd marked the one month point in my ACL reconstruction recovery.

Yesterday was a big day for me. I had my first day back in the office (I had been working from home for the last two weeks) which was amazing… it was so nice to see all my friends again and to be back out in society! As fun as staying home for a month sounds, it really does get old, especially when you have very limited mobility.

I also had my second physical therapy session. Not to brag, but I’ve been exceptionally good about doing my exercises and it shows. If I can make one recommendation to anyone facing this surgery, it’s do your exercises before, during, and after your procedure! I reached 110 degrees of bend yesterday and was actually allowed to get on the bike and turn the pedals over. Sounds like a small thing, but it’s HUGE. Finally feeling like I can move my body is amazing! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not riding the Tour yet, but I can move my legs for about 5 minutes a day at no resistance. Baby steps.

The last lagging “pain” I have is in two places: my hamstring and my incision. My hamstring is where they pulled the tendons from – it’s just a sort of sore, stretching feeling if I move to quickly. I was advised to chill on those exercises to let it continue to heal. The incision is the general byproduct of surgery – it’s numb right where the cut is, then the outer edges feel like they’re on fire if something (the bed sheets in the middle of the night, for example) brushes across them. Annoying, yes. Permanent, nope. Time heals all wounds.

I’m still not cleared to swim (something I’m really looking forward to) and I have another two weeks on crutches and with my brace. The graft is at it’s weakest right now, so I’m doing my best to remember to take it slow and not to stress it! I’m trying to be patient and keep my eye on the prize (getting back on my horse!) while pushing myself to continue to rebuild my missing muscle.

Here’s to continued healing!

The Dark Side of Surgery

I’m going to start this post off with a disclaimer… while I generally try to be light and happy about life, I also want to use this blog to be real. This is definitely not one of those bright and shiny posts… if you’re looking for cute horse pictures or funny jokes, go ahead and skip this one.

I did a lot of research before I had my ACL reconstruction surgery. I mean A LOT. I learned all about allograft vs. autograft (cadaver vs. my own), the different types of autograft (hamstring, Achilles, or patellar tendon), and recovery times (8 months to a year).

It never even crossed my mind to research post-operative pain management. I hobbled out of the surgery center with 100 Norcos in my pocket and a numb leg. Fast forward three weeks. My knee was feeling pretty good and the broken toe was tolerable. I was finally to the point that Advil just about took care of any residual pain, so I tapered off the Norco with 12 pills left, feeling pretty strong and proud of myself.

Then came the unexpected. I went to bed Tuesday night and couldn’t sleep. Not even a little bit. I didn’t just have restless leg syndrome, I had restless everything. My stomach was upset, I was clammy, hot, and I was starting to get a headache. It was terrible. I finally fell asleep just after midnight, thinking I was coming down with some sort of flu.

Wednesday, the symptoms all continued and intensified. Thursday was even worse. I felt super emotional and anxious. I emailed my doctor who confirmed what my husband and I had begun to suspect – somehow, while I was busy healing, my body had become addicted and I was having withdrawals. Now, I’m sure on the scale of withdrawals it was minor, but I honestly felt terrible until about Sunday morning. I was blown away that in just under three weeks my body had developed such a strong dependence on something that would make me feel so terrible.

I am so, so, so lucky in that several people close to me have experience with addiction and were able to help talk me through what I was feeling (you know who you are and you know how much I love you!). Sometimes it helps infinitely to have someone tell you that you’re not crazy and you’re not going to die.

Let me be clear. At no point did I abuse the medication I was given and at no point did I “crave” more (thank goodness!). I simply stopped taking the pills once my pain was manageable. And became acutely aware of how so many people each day can very easily get hooked on opiates… because just one more pill would make the yucky symptoms go away. It was completely eye opening and terrifying.

The question at the end of the day: knowing what I know now, would I do it the same way? I honestly don’t know. I’m a firm believer that we can and are doing wonderful things with modern medicine and that no one should have to deal with major or chronic pain. I do wonder if there was something less strong, something less major that could have helped me without the terrible withdrawal symptoms.

So there you have it. My candid, not so pretty story of withdrawal. It’s not meant to scare you, but to just let you know if you’re facing surgery that it’s a very real consequence of taking pain medication, even prescribed, and to help you be prepared.

If you or someone you know need help with prescription or other drugs, please visit http://www.na.org. Talk to your doctor, find a meeting, take action.

 

ACL Surgery: 3 Weeks Post Op

I can’t believe it’s been three weeks (and one day) since my surgery! My knee has been healing really well – all of my incisions look great and I started physical therapy this week. I’m proud to say that I’m ahead of where they expected me to be at this point; something the therapist credits to my pre-surgery exercises. If you’re considering ACL reconstruction, DO YOUR PREWORK!

Even with a lot of up front work, I’m still amazed at how much my quad has atrophied in the last three weeks. In the picture below, I have both legs flexed as hard as I can. 


Seriously, in real life it looks worse than the picture. I’ve been lucky – I was able to do straight legged raises since the first day – a lot of people struggle with just that!

I’ve still got a long way to go, but am happy with where I am so far! More to come!

ACL Surgery: Day 2

The headache is finally gone, so that’s good. I was able to spend a good part of the day somewhat sitting up, which was nice… My back is tired of laying down!

I think the local anesthetic is wearing off though because I’m definitely more “aware” of my knee. 

I also started my exercises… I have 3 jobs: rolling my ankles, leg lifts, and heel slides. I was utterly shocked at my inability to even lift my leg today… I eventually got two whole leg lifts in. This is gonna be some hard work! 

My sister, nieces, and Dad came to visit today… It was nice to see everyone!

ACL Surgery: Day 1

It’s been a long couple of days.

First of all, I survived surgery. Yay! The doctor said it went really well… It was a complete tear that had started to reattach and if I had done any sort of cutting activity, I would have torn it again. 
After a little bit of a meltdown right before surgery, they gave me some wonderful concoction of drugs and the next thing I knew I was here:  

Apparently I’m one of THOSE people under anesthesia and when I woke up I took a swing at a nurse. I don’t remember that, but oops. I didn’t swing at this guy:  

Coming home was rather uneventful and I decided I was hungry. I also had a pretty bad headache. Several saltine crackers and some chicken noodle soup later, I was barfing and then headache was definitely not better. It was a long, rough night and most of today:  My mom, Mike, and the pups have been by my side taking really good care of me. My headache finally went away and I’m getting a little hungry. Hopefully this is the upswing!

I’m overwhelmed with the calls, texts, and messages everyone has sent! Thank you all so much!

More tomorrow!

Subconsciousness

Welp, my brain is definitely working this surgery thing out while I sleep… the other night I had my first surgery nightmare. I woke up in recovery and the doctor told me he had bad news. He had to amputate my whole leg and I needed to learn to ride my horse one legged. Yup folks, apparently that’s the worst thing my brain can think of.

We’re now 11 days away from surgery. I really am kind of excited in a weird way. I miss riding. A LOT. And until I have the surgery, I can’t do it. Really, there’s no other alternative, so at least once I get through the worst of it, I’ll be on the road to recovery and actually healing instead of in this frustrating limbo.

We’ll see how it goes over the next couple weeks! Here’s to some dreamless nights!

A Decision and a Date

My last post about my ACL was one of cautious optimism. I headed into physical therapy with that optimism, but very quickly learned that if I want to get back to the way things were, I’m going to need surgery. In the end, it was a really easy decision.

My surgery is scheduled for Friday, April 22nd. I probably shouldn’t be, but I’m ridiculously excited to actually have a date. It finally feels like things will be back in my hands, that I’ll be in control of my rehab. I can’t wait to get past that first awful week and into physical therapy!

Between now and then, my job one is to get that leg as strong as I can get it. I was amazed at how quickly I lost muscle tone in the two weeks that I was on crutches, something I’m told by my physical therapist will be much worse after surgery. So, I’m working it… quad squeezes, leg lifts, and soon the bike.

Here we go!!!

Cautiously Optimistic

I met with my surgeon today to discuss my options with regard to my poor, torn ACL.

Right now, my knee is still a little too swollen for him to tell 100% if it’s a complete tear or a partial tear. He can tell from the MRI that it’s definitely torn though. A partial tear would open up a door to a non-surgical solution. Essentially, I can work through lots of physical therapy to build up all of the muscles in and around my knee to help support it if the tear is partial. If it’s a full tear, I’ll pretty much need surgery without a doubt.

Here’s what I really liked about this surgeon – he’s not rushing me into surgery, but we have a game plan. It’s still a very viable option, but we’re going to give it a month of PT (which I would be doing if I had surgery anyway). After that month, I’m going to meet with him again and he’ll mess around with my knee some more. That will tell him one of two things – it’s fully torn or it’s not (that month is enough time for the swelling and fluid to go down). If it’s fully torn, we do surgery. If it’s partially torn, I have a choice to make based on how I feel the therapy has gone – if the knee feels great, I can try life without part of my ACL. If I don’t like how it feels or am worried about future stability, then we go into surgery.

I feel like I’m rambling, but I’m so so so excited to have a plan and something to work towards. Over the next couple weeks, I get to start weaning myself off the crutches (seriously, I’m so amazed at how weak my leg muscles have become over the last two weeks) and then the brace. I start PT on Tuesday, so in addition to biking and swimming (my only two approved activities) I’ll have some exercises to work on.

Fingers crossed!