Let me start by admitting one thing; It is a ridiculous life I live. I know that, and I try to be thankful every day. Now that we got that out of the way, let me tell you about an absurd trip on which I recently went.
We had just spent an amazing week in Barcelona and were on our way back to the states, work, and reality. A few days earlier we flew EasyJet from London to Barcelona and getting there was a breeze. If you’ve ever flown around Europe, or in and out of London for that matter, you probably know that Gatwick Airport handles a ton of ‘domestic’ travel while Heathrow is home to the international traveler. As such, we had an early AM flight back to Gatwick from Barcelona with a few hours until our plan back to Atlanta departed from Heathrow (are you still following?). Side note: I am a crazy traveler. If I show up at the airport right as they’re boarding my section I consider it a success. This would stress most people out, I know that. Contrary to what my boss thinks this trip was not that type of trip. In fact, this time around we had PLENTY of time… to the point where I was feeling a bit disappointed we were cutting the trip short to make sure we had enough time between flights. Boy was I wrong. I’m going to cut to the chase here, because the details aren’t that important. FOG. DELAYS. WE MISSED OUR FLIGHT BY 20 MINUTES. Damn it. What now? We had been blessed with perfect weather in London for the 24hr stint on the front end of our journey, but the typical London weather had returned. I really wasn’t in the mood to just find one more thing to do in London… then it dawned on me. Everyone talks about how easy it is to travel around Europe; why not go somewhere else? Isn’t there some underwater tunnel/train to Paris? Done. Thankfully, I have the most amazing travel partner, and she jumped all over the suggestion. Hop on the internet in the airport, buy train tickets, book a hotel in Paris next to the train station, and off we go.
We arrived in Paris around 8pm, checked into the hotel simply to drop off our bags and caught the first cab to the Eiffel Tower. This was our last ride — it would all be walking from here on out. After taking the obligatory pictures and then some, we opted not to wait in line to ride to the top but instead decided to see as much in Paris as we could in less than 12 hours. Next stop: Arc de Triomphe on the way to Champs Elysees (the Champs). We’ve just visited the Eiffel Tower. Now we’re walking the streets of Paris in the middle of the night, holding hands, getting to know each other. Seriously, does it get any better than this? Of course…
While walking on the champs we find a little cafe and decide to sit for dinner. What’s on the menu? Escargot, foie gras, and red wine. Dessert? Nutella crepes. Remember I warned you. This is a ridiculous story. We chatted about life and questioned, “Exactly how do we go back to normal life after this ridiculous trip?” After dinner we continued down the avenue and hoofed it over to the Louvre where we were alone under the moonlight.
Can you picture that? Arguably one of the most visited sites in Europe (maybe the world) and we had the entire place to ourselves (and a few rats, but that tends to kill the mood so ignore that). We stayed long enough to capture a few amazing shots and reminisce before talking the long hike back to our hotel. We got in around 2am, with just plenty of time to catch 4 hours of sleep before catching the train and heading back to reality. Back in the real world or not, I can always say I’ve been to Paris just for dinner.
Today I’m reminded of the preciousness and fragility of life. I received word that the wife of a friend of mine was killed tragically in a car accident earlier this week. It’s reported that an 18 wheeler ran a red light and t-boned the car of which she was the passenger. Both she and the driver were killed as a result of the accident. As I drive home complaining about <insert non-important life issue> I feel incredibly guilty for not focussing on all of the things and people I have to be thankful for.
I only really know Jeff, my friend, from the baseball field. He exudes kindness and his personality and apparent love of life are infectious. On numerous occasions he has reminded me about the “love of the game” as I tend to take men’s league baseball too seriously (those of you who know me understand that I’m my own worst critic and at times am too competitive). Jeff and his late wife have 2 young, beautiful kids who frequent the baseball field for some of our games. I’ve repeatedly thought to myself about how well behaved and happy their kids are and what a great job Jeff and his wife must be doing of raising them… something I hope to achieve one day (I’m at that point in my life).
I am in shock and horror for Jeff’s loss. I can’t begin to imagine the pain he and his family are experiencing right now. I will call and pay my condolences, say prayers, and over up anything I can — but at the end of day I wish I could do more. I hate that it takes a tragic event like this to stop me in my tracks and focus on what is important in life. Next time I leave a painful meeting at work or get stuck in traffic I hope I can remember Jeff. I guess the lesson of the day is: Don’t take for granted the blessings you have in your life. Be thankful every day ALWAYS.
About 2 weeks out you’ll have a follow up with your surgeon. He or she will make sure that everything is going as planned in physical therapy and check that your small scars are healing properly. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but for me it’s finally time to get the stitches and staples out. I’ll actually be able to shower without using waterproof bandaids!
You will quickly learn that sitting at home, relatively immobile gets old very quickly. Getting out of the house is 100% necessary. There are some perks too — you should ask your surgeon for a temporary handicap pass. When you’re on crutches you’ll want that up front parking, I promise.
I have always wanted to drive the carts at the grocery store. Finally I have a reason to. Who knew they were SO slow. Be prepared for stares!
Well last night was MUCH better than 2 nights ago. I finally got ahead of the pain with the medicine, and it was amazing. I actually slept through the night! At this point I felt comfortable rolling onto either side (with my brace on of course) which made all the difference in the world. I set an alarm for the middle of the night when I needed to take the next pill, and it was certainly worth it.
Today I was going a little stir crazy so we decided to get out of the house for some breakfast. Getting around really isn’t that hard at all. The worst part is once you get to the destination figuring out what to do with your leg. I ended up sitting in a long booth so I could put my leg up.
Later that afternoon I went back to my exercises — more of the same from yesterday. I was able to get my knee to 90 degrees using the CPM, which was my goal. Hopefully at PT on Monday the progress will show.
I was able to actually take a good shower by myself today for the first time (it was much overdue). Waterproof bandaids and Saran wrap helped to keep the incisions completely dry. I’m still in need of a shave and haircut, but those can wait a while since my looking a little rough is still excused.
Here is a new pic of the knee with the 3 incisions. You can see the knee is still incredibly swollen. Guess I need to spend more time with ice and the Game Ready. I’m off to bed now — hopefully it goes as well as last night!
Here is a very important lesson. You MUST stay ahead of the pain by taking your pain medicine BEFORE you are in pain. Once you’re in pain, it’s too late and you’re going to be miserable. That was my night last night. I think I may have slept for a total of 1-2 hours (and subsequently my girlfriend slept even less). Last night was easily the most pain I have experienced in my life. Let me reiterate — set an alarm and stay ahead of the pain! I am not a huge fan of pain meds in general, but trust me, you’ll need them.
Lesson #2: It’s all about the supporting cast. Before you have surgery make sure you have a really good parents, girlfriend/boyfriend, wife/husband, someone/anyone who is going to take care of you. My parents who would love nothing more than to pamper me unfortunately live about 800 miles away, and I opted for a pretty quick surgery so they aren’t here to take care of me. Needless to say, this time around was pretty scary. Without my amazing girlfriend (and her supporting cast) I would not be surviving! If you don’t have a good supporting cast, before surgery is the time to acquire one.
So, day 2 after the surgery my pain meds from last night finally kicked in. Now I’m dizzy. Apparently I just can’t win! This is exactly why I’m not a huge fan of pain meds. Physical therapy lasted about an hour and a half today. More of the same drills (leg lifts, stretching, stem/stim) and some new exercises. The worst of the day was either the leg lifts combined with the stim/stem (electrical stimulation), or the hamstring stretching. This time I lie on the table face down with my legs hanging off the end of the table right above the knees and let gravity begin work on my tight hamstring. Painful yes, but that’s not it. Try adding a weight to the ankle (2lbs, but trust me it’s enough). Bring on the pain. Lesson #3: Get a good physical therapist! Thankfully I hit the PT jackpot after my shoulder surgery, and I’m back on her rotation. A little bit of pain can be a good thing and a good physical therapist will push you right to the correct threshold.
The rest of the day is more of the same — walking with the assistance of the crutches (b/c there was minor meniscus damage I am able to be weight bearing already), lots of recliner & tv time, and lots of pain medicine assisted naps. The other thing I forgot to mention that has been added to the regimen is the CPM. The CPM is a great machine that is used to get my flexion back (extension is usually easier). The goal is to get to 90 degrees. I feel a little ahead of schedule since the CPM rep told me to start at 30 degrees, and today I was able to hit 80 degrees. Tomorrow hopefully I’ll push it to 85 or 90 degrees. I’ll upload pictures soon. For now, more tv and hopefully I’ll actually get some sleep tonight. I’m ahead of the pain with the medicine this time!
Can I reiterate how amazing the nerve block is? I slept through the night, without waking up once in pain. Oh yeah, I did take a percocet to help. You should set an alarm in the middle of the night to wake up and take your next dose of pain medicine. Trust me, you do NOT want to get behind on the pain. If you stay in front of it your life will be so much easier.
Now it’s off to the Dr.’s office for a little post op checkup. The surgeon went over my surgery pictures, showed me the “not just torn, shredded” ACL, and had me take an x-ray. It’s pretty strange looking at an x-ray of your leg with screws in it. Overall the surgery went really well, and I’m ready for physical therapy day one. Can you believe they start you day 1? Oh yeah, I forgot they changed the bandaging on my wounds and cleaned up the incisions — there are really only 3 main incisions. It’s hard to believe they can do that much work through 3 little holes.
Physical therapy on day 1 is pretty relaxed, and since the nerve block wasn’t completely worn off there really wasn’t much pain. Now I’m headed back to the recliner for some dinner and TV before bed.
Well today is finally the day of the surgery. I’d be lying if I said nerves didn’t kick in at this point. I just signed my life away. The only time I have ever signed more papers was when I bought my house. Surprisingly skydiving has way less paperwork… go figure! After I signed all of the paperwork I was taken back to the prep room. There my vitals were taken, I changed into my amazing gown and hair net, my leg was shaved, I was given an iv and the best part… the nerve block. The nerve block is an absolute must! The nerve block will completely numb your extremity. I had this done with my shoulder and was incredibly thankful to have this done for my knee. I will say that it is the strangest feeling ever after the surgery b/c your leg seriously feels like it’s not there. Try as hard as you can, but you simply cannot move your toes! After the nerve block was administered, I said my goodbyes to my amazing girlfriend who was taking care of me. The next thing I remember is waking up in a wheelchair — where I asked when we were going to start. Nice how that works huh?
Getting home and onto the recliner was a breeze. Again, thanks to the nerve block. I instantly hooked up to my new best friend, the Game Ready (ice/compression machine), and started watching TV. It is imperative to elevate your heel, and not prop the leg up from under the knee. You will fee a bit of a stretch, but it will pay off. I didn’t really have any of the post anesthesia nausea, so I consider myself pretty lucky. Now I’m off to bed!
As I mentioned there are quite a few things to think about when it comes time for ACL Reconstructive surgery. One pretty large decision you have to make is which type of graft you would like to use for your new ACL. There are 2 initial classifications – an autograft (your own body) vs. allograft (cadaver).
Patellar tendon: A piece of your knee cap (bone) is taken with the tendon still attached – on the other end a piece of your tibia is taken with the same tendon attached. This is the “gold standard” when it comes to ACL reconstruction. This method however leads to a largely increased risk of tendinitis of the knee. This risk kept me away from using this method.
Hamstring: A piece of your hamstring is taken to be used as the new ACL. Everything you read references that the hamstring is not as strong as your original ACL, although there are methods which increase this strength. I passed on this type of graft b/c I didn’t want to take a chunk of my hamstring, and I’m a little paranoid about the strength of the new ACL (I don’t want to go through surgery again!)
Achilles tendon: I went with the achilles tendon for 2 reasons. 1. The achilles is incredibly strong (feel how tight it is!) and 2. My surgeon just so happened to have a really good graft lined up from a 24 yr old. (Crazy that they share that information, huh?)
There is a lot of conflicting information regarding what type of graft to use. For every good article you read, you’ll read another that is completely opposite. At the end of the day you need to find a surgeon who you trust — and you can always get multiple opinions.
Most every surgeon and physical therapist will tell you that the most important part ends up being physical therapy, rather than the graft itself. No matter how strong your graft is, if you don’t work hard at PT, you’re bound to have another failure.
If you have ever tried to get a quote for surgery you know that the medical industry needs some oversight or change. I had a SLAP repair of my right shoulder a few years ago, and I’m still receiving bills from companies I have never heard of. This time, I was determined to know everything up front… easier said than done. The surgery center where my surgery was to take place gave me a call with “all of the fees” I was to incur. According to them there are 3 people who will be requesting money.
Lucky for me, I knew this wasn’t the case. In reality there are quite a few more people who will come knocking on your door. Here’s the full list I was able to compile.
The company who provides the graft
The ice/compression machine (I opted for the Game Ready)
The CPM machine (continuous passive motion)
Prescriptions (trust me, you’re going to need some pain meds)
Hopefully that will give you a better idea of who you need to talk to in order to come up with pricing.