My ACL Reconstruction Surgery Experience

Let me begin by saying that I probably couldn’t have chosen a more awful time to get knee surgery. I am a mother of two, very young children. My daughter Kaya is a rambunctious 2 year-old who is still dealing with the birth of her younger brother. Her baby brother, Felix, is merely 4 months old and exclusively breastfeeding. Needless to say, I have my hands full.

My comfy room

However, the rugby injury resulting in a torn ACL nearly 9 years ago was finally starting to take its toll on my knee. by the time Felix was 2 months old, I could hardly go for a walk around the block without dealing with swelling and pain later. I should have probably gotten it operated on right after the injury but the doctor assured me that unless I wanted to go back to playing a sport like rugby again, physical therapy should be enough to get my knee moving freely again.

To a certain degree, he was right. Since the partial ACL tear, I’ve ran a marathon in Seoul, Korea, a half marathon 3 months after giving birth to Kaya in Warsaw, and a handful of 10k’s. I think it was the two pregnancies that really did my knee in, by the time I was pregnant with Felix, I quickly realized that jogging was no longer an option- it caused a moderate amount of pain.

Long story short, I found a doctor, set a date, and went under the knife on january 29th. due to the fact that I am breastfeeding Felix, I decided to skip sedation (but get anaesthesia from the waist down, of course) and anything other than paracetamol (ibuprofen) for the pain. Now, I have to say that under normal circumstances I would never opt to be fully conscious during surgery (although watching the operation happen on a screen was cooler than I thought it would be), or deal with post-op pain with no real painkillers. But the idea of weaning Felix at such an early age was too much for me to bear.

Surgery itself was ok, although I did beg a nurse to talk to be about anything other than what was happening throughout the entire thing. And I must say that the sound of a drill going through my bone was not exactly calming….but I survived. I was starving by the time  the operation was over, but was not allowed to eat for another 6 hours, which is about the amount of time it took for the anaesthesia to wear off. And that’s when the trouble began. After eating, a doctor came into my room and asked, on a scale of 0 to 10, what my level of pain was. It was a 3. Four hours later it was a 9. Needless to say, I did not get any sleep that night.

My knee the morning after surgery

The next morning my doctor came in wearing his street clothes to tell me he’s very happy with the operation. Judging from my symptoms, he was worried I would have other injuries in my knee, but the only problem which needed fixing was my ACL (which was non-existent). He used a ligament from another part of my leg to create a new ACL and used a screw which will dissolve to keep it in place. The doc then changed my bandages, which was gross because he also needed to pull out the blood catheters which released blood from my knee. He gave me his cellphone number which I thought was pretty awesome and asked me to come in a week later.

A physical therapist came in shortly after and showed me three simple exercises to do 3x daily. He also showed me how to use my crutches. an hour later I was set free!! Now comes the hard part: dealing with my kids while recovering….

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