Out but Not Down- The Story of my ACL
It all started when I made a last ditch effort to hit the jammer at 19 feet. She was on the outside lane and I was a half of step behind her sprinting as fast as I could to catch up after making an off target hit .03 seconds prior to her passing me.
Between turns 1 and 2 I gave it my all and used the toes on my left foot to give me the last power push I had left to give. That’s when I heard it “pop.”
Like a taught reflex, I pulled my knee to my body and did a one foot glide off the floor. I continued to skate pass the team bench, dropping off the pivot panty to the bench coach and found my stopping point near the EMTs. It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t swollen. But my body told me something wasn’t right.
I have been trained through other skaters experiences with knee injuries to know that hearing/feeling a “pop” sensation was not good.
After the EMTs checked me out they suggested I not play in the second game of the day and have it checked out by a doctor. They thought it could have been my IT band or a meniscus injury cause my ACL/PCL/MCL were all strong and intact. In fact they said, “Whew! at least it isn’t your ACL!”.
So I sat out the second game of the day and watched my amazingly strong and cohesive team come from behind and beat Tampa by 10 points, which made me feel relief in my decision to sit out and let my knee heal.
The earliest I could get to my PT guy I went in for a visit. He examined me and said, “mmm.. well, it’s not your ACL..”. Pretty much those were the only words I was looking for at that time. We had a HUGE game against DC in a couple of weeks and I was trying out for team USA (which I had already bought my plane ticket and was stupid stoked about) in a month after that so I had to make sure my body was in the best condition it could be so I could perform up to my standards.
My PT guy checked me out and said it was a hamstring strain. So I took it easy in scrimmage and tried to keep my body active by going to speed practices and just skating around, doing small little strengthening exercises to build up muscle since I didn’t feel comfortable with lateral steps or sprints.
I was able to participate in the much anticipated DC game in June. I taped my knee up soo tight that I couldn’t even straighten it when I walked. I got through that game ok and we did a great job at playing as a team, which is always makes for a victory, no matter what the score says.
Next up was a home game against Tallahassee. Again, I taped my knee up and played pretty much 4 of 6 line ups for the whole game and came out feeling a little sore but nothing that was too much to handle.. or anything I felt needed to be researched any further.
We had a summer break and during that time I attended speed practices to work on my endurance and form and to overall strengthen my knee.
On our first practice back in July we tried a new drill out. I decided not to tape up my knee since I felt the conditioning during the break had for sure made it stronger than ever… aka- completely healed it up.
As it turns out, on the first drill back from break, I went to do something fancy and did a turn around toestop stop and twisted the shit outta my knee.
That time not only did the POP sensation freak me out, the pain was absolutely UNBEARABLE! NEVER.. even in child birth, have I felt such a burning, excruciating pain as I did that Thursday night. Once I felt that pain and pop, my reaction was to grab the skater in front of me by the waist and hold on to her as tight as I could until I was able to mutter words to let the team know something was definitely wrong. Jojo, whom I was holding tightly, realized something was wrong and said, “you ok girl?” after shaking my head no, she said, “ok girl, you just hold onto to me… just hold onto to me girl..” For some reason, her tenderness allowed me to relax and breathe enough to let go and get off the track.
Once on the mushroom, Jojo’s boyfriend, who was also a firefighter that hangs out during practices, did an evaluation on my knee. He thought it could have been some type of dislocation but said I should definitely have it checked out. So the next day I called my PT guy and he again did an evaluation on me. Without knowing what the firefighter said, he too thought I had dislocated my knee cap. And again he said, “At least it’s not your ACL!”.
So I went through the recommended PT and was cleared the night before I was set to fly to Tampa for Team USA try outs. Knowing I wasn’t 100% going into the try outs, I had to look at it as something that was a once in a life time opportunity and absorb as much joy and training as I could from the experience.
And I did.
At the try outs I again tweaked my knee to the point where the pain didn’t go away for 30 minutes. I opted out of the scrimmage and knew by the end of try outs that I didn’t make it. Who in there right mind would put an injured skater on a roster when there are literally hundreds of skaters healthy and ready to give 120% at any time?!? Not to mention, it wasn’t my best showing, performance wise.
Regionals was right around the corner and that was where I wanted to be my healthiest. The day after I got home from Tampa I called my PT guy and this time I told him that I feel something is going on and I need to have an MRI. Without hesitation, he hooked me up with one of the best knee surgeons in Raleigh to have an MRI.
At the first meeting, Dr Barker did an evaluation on me and told me he was 90% certain that it was a meniscus injury that may be treatable enough for me to play at regionals but he still needed to do an MRI in order for him to know exactly how damaged it was and what treatment I needed.
I bugged and bugged his office so much that within a week and a half after our first visit I was able to schedule an MRI and have my results read to me. Normally, he is soo booked up that it would have been a month after the MRI before he could meet and talk about the results. His office soon found out that I wasn’t going to wait a month.
When going into appointment, I had expected to be told that I will need a couple of shots in my knee and after regionals I will have to do a small procedure to clip the meniscus but all in all, I should be at east 85% at regionals… my only priority of the season.
I remember waiting in the next room as I overheard him tell another patient that since she wasn’t very active, he wouldn’t suggest she go through the surgery that an athlete would in order to remain at a high level of activity.
Being weary of doctors, I was quite impressed he suggested the least expensive route to go for this lady beside me.
I remember waiting for 20 minutes for him. OMG.. I was pacing around. Getting on and off the paper lined ‘bed’.
Finally in the room with the results in hand (via a computer) he jumped onto the bed beside me and we sat there together looking at the results.
“So here is your meniscus… and see.. it is connected all the way around.
Hmmm… wait…… Look at this. … This is your ACL.. you see how it is here but when I change the angle, it disappears?”
Me- ” uh, ok.” (having no clue on how to read MRI results).
“Well, it appears you have a torn ACL. It’s completely detached. You see how it isn’t attached anymore? You see that? Yup, not attached at all.”
I sat there for a few seconds in complete silence dealing with total shock.
My first thought was, “OMFG, I let down my team.” Then I went onto thinking, “why didn’t I have it checked out in May when it first happened? Why did a handful of people not consider it as serious as it was? How could 3 professionals miss the fact that it was my ACL? Nay, convince me it wasn’t my ACL.”
After a bit of conversing with him about those concerns he examined me again and made the observation that I was heavily guarding my knee. Let it be known I am a rather uptight person, especially when strangers touch me on my hurt knee, and I have really strong thighs, so of course I am going to be guarded.
He asked me to try and relax. 5 minutes passed of me saying, “ok.. am I relaxed now?”, “nope”. Finally, visioning waterfalls and beer I was able to find my happy place and relax enough for him to physcially show me the difference in both knees. Once He showed and explained to me the difference, it was very obivous.
I asked about my options and there was no way around it, I had to have surgery.
I said ok, let’s get it done.
When he left the room, I just sat there and cried. I thought of my family and wondered, how am I going to be able to take care of my kids? I am a stay at home mom, my job is to raise a happy, healthy, respectable 2 year old boy as well as, be able to have my 14 year old daughter on time for school, get food for her lunches, take her to her friend house for some paratelic time and just do mother daughter date nights
I thought about my derby family and what burden I am placing on them to have to redo line ups and have to mentally get over a missing family member in their time of need. I thought about the freshmeat skaters who just passed try outs and depended a lot on me make sure they were getting trained effectively, if not by me by another qualified skater. I thought about the long period time I would have off skates. How, in my most stressful times, skating was always my outlet and has been for many years now. I thought about the uphill battle when I do return. Getting my endurance and strength back to 120%. I thought about all the money my husband and I were going to dish out for this surgery, since we elected to have a high deductible vs a low monthly payment. I thought about my husband, who owns his own business and works from home, doing the job of 2, in addition to his normal burden of client work.
All of these things flooded my heart. If I was able to take my heart out and put it on a scale, I swear it would have weighed a thousand and seventy pounds at that moment.
As I put my head in my hands and I took a deep breathe and said, “It will all work out.”
The next 30 minutes the Dr and I hashed out all the details to the surgery, which would be in 13 days. We talked about the different options and I chose the cadaver option for quicker healing time and overall better success rate at returning to, or above, the strength I had before it tore. The Dr assured me that he was highly qualified for this type of surgery and went on to explain that he lectures about ACL surgeries all across the world and that was his favorite surgery to perform. He gave me his website and told me to go on it an watch the video of the actual surgery. As I left, his assistant came in and reassured me that Dr Barker was the best person for this surgery and that if I needed anything she would help me however she could.
Once at home, I had to begin informing folks. I sat down and wrote the hardest email I have written in a long time to my team. I sat there, trying to focus through the massive tears welling up in my eyes and the small burst of breakdowns I had after every sentence I wrote. That email was written with pure emotion, not concerning myself with grammar or sentence structure.
I knew I would have some skaters say, “why don’t you just skate through it and get a brace.” So I addressed that thought head on and respectfully asked that people accept my decision and respect it.
I got a lot of warm responses. I also got a lot of responses from skater who have been through this surgery backing up my original thought, “it will all work out”.
Two days before surgery (aka- the last day I could drink beer) I asked some of the skaters who have had this surgery to have a dinner with me so I can ask questions and hear about their experiences and get little tips that will make my life a little easier post surgery. I can’t begin to thank those ladies enough for taking time out to talk with me that night. The Surgery Sisters Club.
The day arrives. I had to be at the hospital by 5:30 am. I wasn’t nervous. I never regretted my decision, any part of it. I was completely confident in my doctor and the hospital that I was at and knew that I was in good hands. I was as calm and collected as I am making Rockett Science speeches at practice. I knew this was the right thing to do and there was nothing in my soul that doubted it.
It’s kinda like me being at the front of the pack with Jesse King and looking back and seeing all the folks that had our backs. Like Mordant, Jojo, DVS, Pinky, Elka, Eris, Thrashley, Daisy, Fyte, Legs, Holly, Clobbers, Sue, Fate, Heavy D, Smacky and the rest of the CRG family.
Though they were not even awake at the time, they were definitely in the room with me.
Waking up from surgery was crazy. I was in a room with other drugged out, post surgery patients which made it feel like a morgue.I suppose that was quite fitting since I am now 1/634 Zombie.
It was cold, and white, and smelled like sulfur. I had some real bad awful pain. There was a lot of pressure on my knee and one part of my leg just wouldn’t stop hurting. It felt like something was stabbing me in the wrong place. So of course, in my drug out state, I tried to figure out what it was by asking the nurse a million and a half questions. Luckily, I wasn’t the first of my kind and she knew the exact statements to say to me to get me distracted from my original quest by asking me if I wanted more pain killers. She was a tricky one, that nurse.
After a few hours of dozing in and out of narcotic induced naps, I had to prove I could put weight on my leg by walking, with a walker to the bathroom. After showing her not only could I put weight on it, but I could also do a one foot jump squat with my eyes closed.
Yeah.. I’m just kidding. [my eyes were open]
So home to recover was what I have been waiting for since I knew I had to have this surgery. Celia Fate prepared me: have book bag to carry around items in since you’ll be on crutches and buy a lot of ice. I had the crutches Eris lent to me, though I had to bring them up a notch, from the 5’2″ setting to the 5’4″ setting.
The first day was a daze. I was extremely nauseous from the anaesthesia. I couldn’t eat anything so my stomach was really messing with me. Taking such powerful meds on an already queasy stomach made for a miserable 24 hours. I had great support from my family and I pretty much laid in my bed all day, drifting in and out of sleep.
From day one, literally from birth, my mom has always been my biggest and most supportive fan. This situation would prove even more on how lucky I am to have such an amazing mother and friend in my life. My mom never hesitated to come over for 8 hours days to help take care of me and my son. Never once moaned at having to pick up my daughter from school in the afternoons. In fact I had to ask her to please not wash the dishes, my husband can get them when he gets off work. No matter what, my mom was there, ready and willing, to make my life easier in a time when I was completely unable to do anything. [Thanks Mom!]
On my 3rd day post surgery I said goodbye to the crutches and hello to PT. Enough of just sitting around, it’s time to start doing the dirty work to get back to full strength! I tried to do small things around the house to help out but mostly I just stayed put on the chair, icing my knee all day. Knowing that this is just one f many phases in recovery, I allow myself some lean time to take it easy because the road will get rougher and I need all the strengthen I can get now in order to tackle the bumps successfully.
From the first hour post surgery on, the process just got better and better. Sure, there were a few moments that were very painful, but all in all, I would think, “it could be worse.”
I suppose I see my situation as: “Is the glass half full or half empty” type of philosophy.
Then I realize that it depends on what’s inside the glass.
If it’s beer, it’s half empty. (something I am personally motivated about)
If it’s something else, it was half full. (like water, something I am grounded to for survival)
It’s all based on motivation and how you put your situation in perspective. You wanna feel self pitty and look at the things you’re missing, you’re losing sight of where you’re heading.
For me, I am heading for complete recovery.
In fact, I am looking forward to getting stronger than I was before!
I am 9 days post surgery now and I mainly walk without a cane. I still have my awesome little polar ice machine connected at all times. I have stopped my pain meds and am still taking my 800 mg Ibuprofen for inflammation.
Yesterday I was able to attend the Atlanta game which was hosted at Dorton. I was very lucky to be able to help out/participate by announcing the first game and textcasting the second game. It just felt good to get out of the house and be around my other family for a bit. Even I wasn’t able to speak with them it was just great being around their energy and watching them getting stronger and stronger as a unit and knowing, in about 7 months, I will be that strong alongside them once again.