Today marks exactly one week since I had ACL reconstruction surgery. In some ways it seems like it’s gone by fast, and in others… it’s been the longest week of my life! If you don’t care to read about knee surgery and all of the glamor that goes along with it, feel free to skip over this post today. I want to document my recovery in order for me to be able to look back at the process and to help anyone else that may be undergoing the same surgery.
In case you missed it, I (completely) tore my ACL while skiing in Vail April 4th of this year. When I initially had my ski accident, my knee hurt like crazy but I definitely didn’t imagine that I had torn anything. At worst, I thought I had a nasty sprain. After weeks of doctor’s visits and an MRI, I was diagnosed with a fully torn ACL. My doctor advised that I have surgery as soon as possible so that I could recover and get back to my active lifestyle. I was a little scared at the idea (and frankly, a little angry) but knew what I had to do.
My surgery was scheduled for 6:00 am last Tuesday, May 20th at the surgery center in the same complex as my orthopedist. I couldn’t shave my legs (in case I would cut my leg and get an infection) or take any vitamins three days before the surgery. I couldn’t eat anything after midnight the night before (no problem- I was sleeping!) or having anything to drink- even water- within four hours of surgery. I was also prescribed a CPM machine to use for a minimum of 12 hours a day for ten days. Having to be in the machine all day sucks, but it speeds up recovery because it keeps your leg continuously moving.
I woke up that morning a little anxious, super thirsty and took my dogs on one last walk around the neighborhood. I knew it would be a while before I was able to walk them again. I also had Greg take a photo of my legs, so that I could compare what they looked like pre-surgery.
You can see in that picture that my left knee was still a bit swollen from the accident!
When I arrived to the surgery center, I was taken back by a nurse to my little “room” where my vitals were taken and I was given a gown to change into. She talked to me a bit about the process, asked me several times which leg I was having surgery on and put in the IV. Surprisingly, I barely felt the IV go in. She wrote different markings on my left leg and covered the leg with iodine.
After that, she went and got Greg from the waiting room so that he could sit with me until I was wheeled off for surgery. The anesthesiologist came in after that and talked to me about what he was going to do. I was given a nerve blocker and after that, everything is pretty much a blur. I remember kissing Greg goodbye and then having the nurse standing over me as I woke up after surgery. As I came to, she was asking me to rate my pain on a scale from one to ten. I just kept saying “ten.. ten.. ten.” (I’m not sure if it really was a ten or not, but that’s all that would come out of my mouth.) She kept talking to me and gave me ice chips, and then went to get Greg. He told me to smile for a photo showing that I made it through surgery:
I spent about an hour in recovery, and then hobbled out on crutches to the car. I felt okay- just really tired and thirsty. I camped out on the couch as soon as I got home, elevated my left leg and put ice on my knee. I wasn’t hungry at all, but made myself eat a piece of toast so that I could begin taking some pain medication. I was really sore, but it was tolerable for a few hours. Paige came by to visit later in the afternoon, which was really nice. She brought lovely flowers and I told her all about the fun procedure.
Soon after Paige left, I tried out my CPM machine for about an hour. Then, all of the sudden, it seemed that all of the pain medication from the IV wore off. It was honestly the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life! My knee was throbbing and it felt like there were knives being jabbed into my leg. I tried focusing on breathing and took more pain medication, but nothing helped. It hurt so bad I cried (and probably screamed a few profanities) and after an hour of that fun, Greg called my doctor. He had me take some different pain meds that I was prescribed when I initially tore my ACL as well as Advil. After another hour, the pain finally went down to a tolerable degree. I was drugged up enough to get a decent night’s sleep that first night (even if it was on the couch!).
When I woke up the next morning, I got right into the CPM machine. It was really hard to get in and out of those first few days since I couldn’t lift my leg at all!
I ate a little breakfast, but my appetite still hadn’t really come back. I spent most of the day sleeping, taking meds, and sleeping some more. My friends Marisa and Valerie came to visit that night (and brought some lovely gifts!), which was really nice. Very slowly, I made my way upstairs to my bed that night and actually slept with my leg in the CPM! The machine hardly makes any noise, and with enough pain medication I was able to sleep for most of the night. I woke up with an upset stomach on Thursday, but tried to eat some breakfast in order to take my pain medication. Unfortunately, that breakfast didn’t stay down long.
I also got to change the dressing on my leg that morning and was really anxious to see what was underneath! I expected to see tons of bruises and swelling. It actually wasn’t that bad- no bruises, less swelling than I thought (the layers of gauze made my leg look huge!) and lots of medical tape covering the the holes that were drilled, incisions and stitches.
If you don’t want to see, scroll down now! Otherwise…
Lovely, isn’t it?
I spent the next few days doing the same thing- sitting in the CPM, watching tv, reading, working some and sleeping. On Friday I got to finally take a shower- and it was the best feeling ever! I had to cover my leg with a towel and trash bag which was kind of a pain, but there was nothing better than finally being able to wash my hair! I stopped needing to take pain meds on Saturday and just took a few Advil throughout the day for swelling. Don’t get me wrong- there was still pain- but it had become a lot more manageable. I really only felt pain when I’d stand up, and my leg actually felt really good when it was in the CPM (which was the majority of my waking hours).
We had some friends over on Saturday night for dinner and Cards Against Humanity, which was a lot of fun. On Sunday, I finally got out of the house! It’s weird when you don’t leave your house for several days- you almost forget what it feels like to be in fresh air! Greg and I just took a short drive into Boulder and saw some pretty views (I didn’t leave the car), and then got back home. I’ve been trying to follow the doctor’s orders by getting in at least 12 hours a day in the CPM (and do various other quad strengthening exercises), so being gone too long wasn’t really an option.
Memorial Day was spent the same way- on the couch, in the CPM (not exactly the most fun holiday weekend!). It bummed me out that I didn’t get to run the Bolder Boulder (which I had signed up for last winter) but there’s always next year. Ever since Tuesday, the dogs have barely left my side.
This past week has been extremely challenging and like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never not been able to walk at all or even lift my leg up. I’ve also never had to be completely dependent on someone else for everything (thank goodness for Greg working from home too!). Luckily, things have gotten just a little bit easier each day (and I’m able to walk pretty well on crutches now!). I have my first post-op appointment with the doctor this morning and am curious as to what he’ll say about my recovery so far.
I’ll be back with more details soon!