ACL Surgery Day and the next two months

Well, at least ACL surgery is quick.  I was scheduled for 8 AM, got checked and signed all the paperwork and got an IV put in.  Then a hour or so of waiting around, getting my knee shaved, talking to anesthesiologists and having the surgeon come in and initial my right knee.  Then off to the operating room about 10:30 AM, where it took less than two seconds for the anesthesia to put me under.

The doctor went in and took a chunk of my hamstring tendon, and as he put it, “did some arts and crafts with it”.  This involved making the graft the right length and attaching a string to it to help thread it into place through the holes he drilled through the top of my tibia and the bottom of my femur.  He also poked around in there and put a couple stitches in the torn cartilage of both menisci.  I was back in the recovery room by 1 PM, and out of the hospital by 2:30 PM with my crutches and immobilizing knee brace.  They also gave me a DVD of the highlights of the surgery.  Not something for squeamish people to watch, but I liked it.

I ended up with a couple issues from the surgery.

The first issue was the painkillers.  When taking prescription hydrocodone with acetaminophen, make sure to take it with food, like the label says.  I didn’t have much appetite, so a couple time I just took the pills with some water.  It turns out that painkillers will go straight through your system and numb your bladder and everything else in the pipeline if there’s no food in your stomach to help soak them up.  It makes it hard to sleep when you can’t tell if you need to pee or not, but it feels like you might.

The second problem was the antibiotics.  Well, not the antibiotics, but the side effects.  I haven’t taken any antibiotics since high school, so about fifteen years.  As it turned out, the microbes in my intestines were not antibiotic-resistant.  When all the microbes in your intestines die, you end up with diarrhea.  Diarrhea is never fun, but when you’re on crutches and can’t bend one leg, it becomes even more of a hassle.

So, that was it for the next three weeks.  No weight on the leg allowed.  Rehab consisted of trying to flex my quad and working my calf muscles.  Three weeks of no exercise makes your leg into a toothpick.  Between the muscle loss and the antibiotics, I lost over ten pounds.

After my three week appointment, I got rid of the crutches.  I never want to be on crutches again.  They are just awkward.  I walked around (gimped around, anyhow) like normal all day, and woke up the next morning with my calf muscle feeling like I had run five miles the day before.  Evidently I use my calves a lot while walking, because that sucker was sore for the next week.  The calf muscle came back really fast, though.  The quad and hamstring are taking longer, as I’m still weight-and-activity restricted, but about eight weeks after surgery, it’s all feeling really good. The knee flexes almost completely, definitely better than it was before surgery, and the strength is coming back pretty quickly.  I’m looking forward to being able to get back to normal activities this summer.

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ACL surgery and recovery

So, I lucked out and tore my right ACL playing volleyball on November 6, 2011.  I’m putting the date down here, so I don’t have to keep looking it back up.  The fun part was I actually dislocated my kneecap at the same time, which was all the doctor I saw at the sports medicine clinic diagnosed the next day.  It felt a lot like the dislocated knuckle I’d had playing softball about five years earlier, on a much larger scale, so that made sense to me.

I had a month between that appointment and the follow-up that was automatically scheduled, during which a lot of the major issues with the knee went away.  The swelling, which had never been terrible, disappeared.  The range of motion was almost all the way back to normal, except that I couldn’t squat down onto my right heel without a feeling of pressure behind my kneecap, like the thighbone was trying to push the kneecap forward.

Therefore, I wasn’t too surprised when I went back on December 5th and the doctors finally diagnosed the ACL tear.  I went in for an MRI that same day, and got the confirmation back on December 9th that the ACL was completely torn, plus the lateral and medial menisci both had fairly severe tears.

I met with the surgeon the next week, and scheduled surgery for January 3rd, the earliest there was an opening.  So I had surgery five days ago, and I finally decided to put some of this down, more to get it all straight in my head than anything else.

Next post- Surgery day and the fun of recovery and rehab!