ACL Replacement: it isn’t so bad

ACL? Anterior Cruciate Ligament—knee.

May 28 | I tore my left ACL playing volleyball (in WI for a friend’s 30th). It was a pick-up game—95% of those involved had never played organized VB. Oh but I have and love it. I had rotated to the outside hitter’s position and a dude set me up perfectly. I spiked it (they later told me is was a kill) and landed on a straight  left leg. It felt as if my femur and tibia kissed each other. I would say the pain was at a 6 and nausea was at a 10. There was no “pop” or scream. I fell back in a squatting position and hugged my knee until the nausea was at a 1. I was able to limp away to a lounge chair and ice.

Lesson #1: You get hurt when you least expect it. I've been an athlete since I can remember and ever broke anything (maybe my nose once, but that was never confirmed).

Lesson #2: The group of people I was with are some of the nicest and most thoughtful. Thanks to Ethan for having fantastic friends.

Lesson #3: Playing any sport on soggy grass in Chuck Taylor's isn't safe.

June 1 | I went to Oregon Sports Medicine (OSM) to get an x-ray—x-ray came back clean.

June 2 | I had an MRI (You lay down on a table with your knee in a 10″ long tube and for 45 mins the machine makes groaning sounds; it’s typical to fall asleep—I did).

June 7 | MRI confirmed ACL tear and possible meniscus tear.

June 7– Aug 2 | Two trips to PT (they want you to get as much mobility as possible pre-surgery), multiple calls to: insurance, OSM and Oregon Outpatient Surgery Center, a canceled surgery date (buy-up option started Aug. 1) and other surgery preparedness. I was prescribed the following equipment: a Continuous Passive Motion (CPM) machine, cold therapy unit, Zynex electro therapy devise, crutches and a leg brace; and the following medication: Oxycodone (pain), Oxycontin (pain), Promethazine (nausea), Arixtra (anti-blodclotting injection), xxx (constipation).

Lesson #4: OSM is excellent. They have offices in Wilsonville and Tigard. My surgeon was Dr. Kevin Murphy.

Lesson #5: Insurance can blow. Whenever changing jobs it's not enough to know you have insurance. Research the plan and buy-up if you have an unreasonable deductible (anything above $1k).

Lesson #6: I had two options for the cold therapy (both not covered by insurance): GameReady ($275 for 14 days) or B-Mini ($150 forever). I chose the B-Mini. I highly suggest not to get either of these! You'll get more consistent cold with plastic ice packs found at a FredMeyer type establishment in the first aid section $2–10).  

Lesson #7: Whenever possible get the generic drug. If there isn't one available it means the creator still holds the patient and therefore charges more to pay off the cost of creating it. 

August 3 | Surgery day at Outpatient Surgery Center. Ethan took me at 715a, surgery scheduled for 915a.Four steps followed. STEP 1: check in, write OSC the biggest check I ever have before, get fitted for my brace. STEP 2: get taken back into the prep-area, change into smock (keep underwear on); nurses chat with me while they put on Ted hose and massage sleeve for the right leg, put in IV—find out why I tend to pass out when I have my blood pressure taken or blood drawn = vasovagal episode. Luckily I gave the nurses a heads up it might happen and was able to alert them "It's happening" before I completely lost it—they worked fast (reclined the bed, alcohol sniffs, cold packs, etc.) and saved me from passing out. What happens is I instantly feel nauseated, break out in a hot sweat and get very dizzy. It especially happens when I haven't eaten. Both the Doctor and Anesthesiologist stopped by the say hi and mark on my "bad" knee with purple marker. Amber and Ethan came back to see me before I was wheeled away. STEP 3: get wheeled into the surgery room. I checked the place out. It looked big. Was introduced to an aid (with a tatoo on his arm). The Anesthesiologist and two nurses were also in the room. The Anesthesiologist put a small tray on my stomach, said he was going to use me as a table, then told me he was putting something in my IV. It felt warm. I remember thinking when am I going to fall asleep. STEP 4: recovery area. I woke up up with the nurse (male) shaking me and saying I can wake up now. WEIRD! It's took me awhile to be able to open my eyes all the way. When I did I looked down at my knee. It was covered in ace bandaged. The nurse helped me get into street cloths and Amber came to sit with me. I felt surprisingly good. Could not feel my leg at all, so no pain. I was feeling a little nauseous so I drank yellow Gatorade, ate three saltine crackers and took a nausea pill. I then got into my brace and they wheeled me (first time in a wheelchair) out to the parking lot. I went back to my apartment, climbed the stairs (not a problem) and spent the afternoon hanging with Amber and Katie H. I wasn't tired and felt pretty good. Little–no appetite.

Lesson #8: Arrange for your best friends to be there before and after. (Thank you Ethan and Amber!)

Lesson #9: Shave everything you normally would say if you were going to wear your bathing suite. I found purple marker on areas I thought were a safety zone.

Lesson #10: Go with the flow. Don't stress out. Odds are you'll come out if it more whole then going in.

Post-surgery | I took my pain medication on schedule for the first eight days, but by day nine I was maybe taking one during the day and one at night—by day 17 I wasn’t even taking Aleve. Physical therapy started two days after surgery and is continuing twice a week through mid-October. I used the Zynex unit in the morning before I get out of bed for about a month after surgery.  It helped my knee loosen up faster. Two days after surgery I started physical therapy—twice a week up until September 30. October through November I’m down to once a week. Working on building muscle and strength. In a few weeks I’ll start running therapy! See my progression below:

 Surgery day, before / after, Aug. 3

 Post surgery, day 4

 Post surgery, day 5

 Post surgery, day 9

 Post surgery, day 10, my sister and I roll playing at her clinic

 Post surgery, day 15

 Post surgery, day 31

 Post surgery, day 69 "the face"

If anyone reading this would like more information about any part of the process please feel free to ask in the comments section.
  1. so glad it went so well for you! and i have to admit, the “I found purple marker on areas I thought were a safety zone.” made me laugh out loud!

    also? the face is a pretty cool battle scar.

  2. Wow, excellent resource for knee injuries. Though I’m bit worried about the purple marker.

  3. Amber said:

    So glad you’re a rock star! I knew you’d get better fast, your recovery has been amazing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: