ACL Reconstruction

One day before: I woke up this morning thinking about how all the turning and stretching I did as I woke up will no longer be an option after tomorrow. I hiked at Stony Brook yesterday with Charlie and Rachael as a final “hoorah” before I become immobile. Having driven past the park after PT last Friday, I realized I had not been there yet this summer.  We walked the West Rim Trail which is one I don’t normally do. So. MANY. Stairs. I hope I’m not too sore tomorrow – I am usually the most sore two days after a tough workout. I ordered a foam mattress wedge to elevate my leg and a foam roller for stretching. Tonight, I plan to make plenty of meals to eat over the next few days. I’m going to bring a shelf downstairs to keep books, magazines, knitting supplies, and my laptop on hand. I plan on sleeping in the recliner for a few days before attempting the stairs. I’m not looking forward to sleeping on my back. This is going to be an experience.

One day after surgery: As someone who is healthy, doesn’t go to the doctor that often, and has never broken a bone, I describe surgery as a surreal experience. I know for those who work in medicine it is reality, but for me, it was like a TV show. So many people come into the room. They ask me my name, date of birth, and to confirm the nature of my visit (ACL reconstruction, left knee). They give me the nerve block in my upper thigh, and I make jokes about my hole-y underwear. I was rolled to the operating room, moved to a new bed, and pumped with the anesthesia. I woke up nauseated and uncomfortable with a full length brace on my leg. I was so sleepy and sick. They kept trying to get me up, but I kept fading. Sleeping felt better than nauseated and sore. I threw up after using the bathroom. Then I got in the car and went home.

Day two post-surgery: The nerve block wore off this morning at 2:30 AM and the pain level went up to about a 9. It took awhile for the pain meds to kick in, and I cried and moaned quite a bit. When I woke up around 8AM, I was nauseated and tried to eat, but it came back up. I didn’t keep a meal down all day. I continued to sleep on the recliner with my leg on the foam wedge and pillows. I wasn’t too uncomfortable – making adjustments for my back as needed. My little sister helped me from the minute I got home. She didn’t like me getting up to use the bathroom without letting her know. An excellent aide.

Day three: My arms and right leg started feeling the burn. My shoulders, biceps, and traps took the brunt of it. I assume my triceps will strengthen as well. I still felt nauseated but was able to keep food down.

Five days post-surgery:  I slept in my bed for the first time since surgery, and it was amazing. This was the most mentally taxing day post-surgery. I had physical therapy today which went great, but the trip, with the walking around and being vertical, was exhausting. The good news is that I am healing perfectly. My legs aren’t that swollen, the incision was hardly bloody, and I’m in very little pain. The past two days, I’ve only taken one pain med with dinner. I’m struggling with quad isolations (which I think is from being so reliant on my right leg over the past seven months). The bad news is that the doctor had to repair damage on both my medial and lateral menisci. I will be on crutches, ie. not weight bearing, for 6 weeks. The pain from the lateral meniscus was what had finally made me get the MRI. I knew the menisci were damaged, but I hadn’t planned for this. The reality of being crutch-bound for so long set in on the drive home. After thinking about not being able to take my dog out on our daily adventures week after week, I finally cried. I know it’s temporary, but Charlie is so frustrated with me. I love taking him to the park. I love walking trails with him. It’s a huge sacrifice for both of us. I’m mad at myself for getting injured. I keep telling myself I am going to be stronger afterwards. I’m finally going to heal this injury. Today I couldn’t shake it off though.

Three weeks post-surgery: I haven’t taken the prescriptions since Day 5. I take Acetaminophen every few hours for the anti-inflammatory benefits. I can lower myself into the tub to take a shower. My stretching and exercise are going well. I can straighten and bend a lot better this week. I can feel the tension in the patellar tendon easing. I can even cross my left leg over my right. The calf pumps and quad exercises are definitely building the strength again. I’m also really good at sitting down and getting up with one leg. However, I’m really tired of the crutches. I want to walk so bad. I hate crutching up and down stairs. It’s hard not being able to carry anything. I had been hopping a lot, but I think I pulled a tendon in my right calf yesterday. It’s sore today so I can’t hop. I have to carry something in one hand and hold the crutch in my armpit AND GO SLOWLY. In 20 days, I get another brace and can start walking, hopefully.

Four weeks post-surgery: My right leg feels better after going easier on it the past week. Overall, the Acetaminophen is helping a great deal for my injured knee. I noticed a decrease in swelling over the top of my knee – which is what is making extension difficult for me. I’m struggling to go from extension to flexion smoothly. I feel pain in the back of my knee during extension and tension in the front when flexing – obviously.  I hate to admit it, but I haven’t been as consistent with my exercises because I’m feeling down about being unable to walk and not being able to work. Originally, they wanted me to work from home, but if I want to stay on top of my exercises I’m spending about six hours a day stretching and strengthening. Then add eating, bathing, and going to the bathroom -ON CRUTCHES- and there goes my day. I don’t get to the computer until six or seven at night.  Plus, sleeping in a brace does not get easier the longer you wear it, at least not for me.

Fourteen Weeks post-surgery: My extension is good but I still can’t do much more than -3 degrees. My right leg is at about -5, so the injured knee is definitely not as flexible yet. My physical therapist says I’m doing great, and they are impressed with my progress. I have been putting the functional ACL brace on less, and I actually have been experiencing less pain without it.  I’m doing more walking and less stretching at work. The main place I experience a little pain is where the arthroscopic insertion was. It may also be the meniscus repair on that side. I went back to work at about Week 8 after getting the functional ACL brace. The doctor cleared me for desk duty. The first few weeks with the new brace I spent most of the day on the computer. I needed to keep it straightened or else it would stiffen up and make walking tough.