Surgery Recovery (Pt. 1)
I thought it would be cool to share my journey throughout my knee surgery. I will go over my experiences with the day of surgery, the healing process, my progression with physical therapy, my emotional journey, and my nutritional intake for the following weeks afterwards.
How Did I Reinjure My Knee?
So, let's start out by talking about when I actually injured my knee. To do that we need to look back at my previous knee injuries. Throughout my school years of playing soccer, my coaches and parents have always been adamant about clarifying whether the things I felt in my knee were just pain or was it an actual injury. Was the knee pain something minor that I can push through, stretch it out, ice it, and take some anti-inflammatories to alleviate what I was feeling? This concept has always stuck with me, so to be able to pinpoint the exact moment that I recently reinjured my knee is impossible. My first two knee injuries I heard that “dreadful pop” that people talk about when tearing something. This event in itself should tell someone to immediately seek medical attention. However, with this recent injury I didn’t hear that “dreadful pop”. I can tell you that in April I ran five miles around our property with Bobby. Immediately after I was done I was in pretty significant pain and that was sign number one. Sign number two was when the swelling began the next day. In my head, pain after running wasn't necessarily unusual for me due to my history. However, a few days after the run the pain was consistent and the swelling was still there despite ibuprofen and ice. Sign number three was the consistent pain, swelling, and now limping. After a week of nursing the knee and trying all the things I knew that I could try I began to experience instability. That was sign number four when my knee began to give out. Once I felt the knee giving out I said to myself “Oh shit, it's my ACL”. I knew it was my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) because I had remembered the feeling from previous knee injuries. Basically, my femur and tibia shifting was exactly what I was feeling. So, I decided to contact a medical professional and gave Dr. Prisk’s office a call.
Dr. Prisk scheduled me for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to see what exactly was going on with my knee. Once we got the MRI results back which revealed the ACL tear, medial and lateral meniscus tear, and some abnormality in the preexisting hardware. We agreed upon four weeks of physical therapy to try and restrengthen the knee. These types of knee injuries can be healed with time and consistent therapy; however, after four weeks there was no progress so we both agreed upon surgery. I continued physical therapy until the week before surgery. Dr. Prisk and I agreed that physical therapy would better my chances in recovery.
My Surgery Day
Between the preoperative time, my actual surgery, and then recovery Bobby and I were in the hospital for over twelve hours that day. My surgery day was exhausting, to say the least, and I am pretty sure Bobby ate all his snacks in the first six hours. LOL. Due to coronavirus (COVID-19) Bobby and I were not allowed to be together in the preoperative and postoperative time until we were ready to go home.
To say the least, this knee surgery needed to be done. My first surgery, my ACL was replaced with my own patella tendon also known as an autograft. This time around, we were replacing the ACL with an allograft also known as a cadaver (Kan et al. 2016). There was an excess amount of scar tissue and adhesions within the knee. When my old scar was opened up along my iliotibial band (IT band), there happened to be a large ball of old suture tangled up with the anchor that was intended to be in the femur holding the one end of my ACL. My IT band was severely damaged from these adhesions. Additionally, there were other adhesions all throughout the knee that needed to be cleaned out as well as cleaning out the torn medial and lateral meniscus. A new anchor had to be placed amongst the femur in the existing location. If we would have drilled another hole, my femur would have most likely cracked or fractured. Then two new anchors were placed within the tibia to complete the placement and anchoring of the new ACL. What I am thankful for is that Dr. Prisk said there was minimal evidence of arthritis. This is very promising for my future, as my meniscus has been cleaned out three times already. The meniscus is the shock absorber within the knee joint, so a significant loss of that is what causes degenerative changes (Wilkerson 2020).
Prior to my surgery day, I had setup everything downstairs in our living room and bathroom. We have steep old farmhouse steps so there was no way I was getting up and down those with crutches at least for the first week. So, we got a blow-up mattress in the living room and everything else I would need for a while. Of course, prior to my surgery I did a massive grocery shop, and ordered a bunch of premade chicken from The Chicken Pound just to help out with meals for Bobby and me.
After the surgery I remember trying to wake up in recovery; however, my body does not tolerate anesthesia very well. So, it took me a bit to become alert and maintain a wake state. Once I was actually able to stay awake, of course the nausea and vomiting occurred, which remained for at least the first twenty-four hours. Of course, Bobby and I were hungry, so we went to Dairy Queen after the hospital! Unfortunately, the food did not stick well for me, so we went home and then it was bedtime for the first night. LOL. Bobby slept on the couch downstairs with me the first two to three nights to ensure I was okay getting up and down off the air mattress in the middle of the night. I was so relieved to be home that night after being in the hospital for so long and not being able to be with Bobby.
Going to bed that night, I knew in my head that next day was the beginning of my recovery journey. Thinking about my experiences in the past, and now being older, I really wasn’t sure what to expect as far as speed of recovery, pain management, or my emotional and mental state. But this next day was crucial for me to begin on the right path immediately!
Kan, SL., MD., Yuan, ZF., MD., Ning, GZ., MD., Yang, B., MD., Li, HL., MD., Sun, JC.,
MD., Feng, SQ., MD. 2016. “Autograft Versus Allograft in Anterior Cruciate
Ligament Reconstruction: A Meta-Analysis with Trial Sequential Analysis.”
Medicine, September. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000004936.
Wilkerson, R., DO. 2020. “Meniscus Tears.” The American Academy of Orthopedic
Surgeons. March. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/meniscus-