7 Lessons Learned Post Surgery

It has been 10 days since my ACL/Meniscus surgery and I’ve learned quite a few things. Not only about myself, but my relationship with my husband, the patience that comes with a personal setback, and the mental strength game. Here are a few lessons that have surfaced over the past week post ACL surgery – I hope anyone going through a similar situation, whether it’s a surgery or a personal setback, can take something from this.

  1. Set your mind on the next step, not the next mile. Much of the recovery road boils down to mental fatigue; getting so focused on the huge obstacles you still have to overcome, the long road you still have to travel. This is a waste of time and will not help speed things up in any way. What I’ve tried to focus on is where I want to be in the very near future, what the next few days will look like, what I should expect and prepare for. I’ve done lots of research on outcomes of ACL/Meniscus surgery, have asked a LOT of questions of my surgeon and Physical Therapist, and put the work in at home. Skipping the needed steps won’t speed things along and could possibly set you back. So, be where you are and know it’s where you need to be.
  2. The work you have to do will be painful. You just need to prepare for that. It hurts. A lot. But the work I’ve done over the past few days has gotten me to where I am now. I’m at 90 degrees and can straighten my leg almost completely. There’s definitely more work to do and my knee feels like there’s old wood hinging it together. But, I’m not even close to being done. So I will put in the work, no matter how painful.
  3. Ask for help. My husband and I have a great rhythm down when it comes to home duties. He takes care of outside and I take care of inside. Which can seem lopsided at times – let’s be honest, a lot more work needs to go on inside the house than outside on a per day basis. BUT he really stepped up over the past week, filling ice buckets, moving my CPM machine, cooking dinner & lunch (that I pre-made/ordered, but still!) being patient as I hobbled around the house, feeding the dogs, doing dishes, grocery shopping.  I’m really thankful to have someone who’s willing to pick up the slack when I’m unable. My mom also offered to come and help, clean, do whatever I needed….and I took her up on it! When your mom offers to help in a time when you could really use it, no matter how old you are, you should take her up on it!
  4. Keep your problems in perspective. Thinking only in terms of your tragedy can leave you feeling quite pitiful. Believe me, what happened is awful and it is ok to feel down. But wallowing in your own misfortune will mentally drag you down to a place you should not visit often. Think about how fortunate you are to have what you do. In my case, I thought how lucky I was to not have broken my leg, to still have my limbs, to have insurance to be able to get healthy. There are always worse cases and the sooner you lead your thoughts with a grateful perspective, your outlook changes.
  5. Be patient with yourself and grateful for where you are. You can’t compare yourself to anyone else on this recovery journey. Do your research, get informed, follow people on social media who are in similar situations, but know everyone heals differently and gets to certain points at different times. I asked my Surgeons’ PA (who’s had ACL surgery) if he could bend his knee to 90 degrees 3 days after his surgery. I asked my PT what he thought about being on crutches still 6 days after surgery. I asked one of my best girlfriends when I could/should start doing hamstring exercises, cause I saw a girl on instagram who was doing them. They all told me to stop comparing my healing and progression to anyone else. Be patient in the process and don’t push yourself to reach someone’s milestones.  The human body is amazing and if you’re working everyday at pushing the needle (without pain), you are right where you need to be.
  6. Celebrate the small milestones. From taking out my drain, to not needing to take painkillers, to taking steps without crutches, I have been very vocal and excited about the milestones I’ve reached. Allowing yourself to feel proud of your accomplishment, you set yourself up for success over the next hurdle. Sounds silly, but these little milestones get in bedded in your sub-conscious, giving you confidence when you need it most.
  7. It gets better everyday. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint, so I’ve really needed to pace myself mentally and physically. You can not compare yourself to where someone else was at this time. You should know if you are working on it, tomorrow you will wake up stronger.

Post ACL Surgery: Recovery Day 3 & Day 4

It has been 96 hours since I received my ACL reconstruction & meniscus tear surgery. It’s Day 4 and it’s been quite a ride – lots of highs and lows over the past 48 hours…

1. Low – Early afternoon of day 2, I was heading upstairs and felt dizzy and almost slipped backwards. It was embarrassing, as I thought I was stronger.

2. Low – Wednesday & Thursday (day 2 & 3), still took pain pills – one of the big guys at night, one in the morning and two of the little guys during the day. My knee HURT!

3. Low – I eat just as many veggies now as previously, and I’m still constipated. TMI, but it’s definitely a low; I thought that wouldn’t be a problem, as though my veggie status would eliminate this side effect. I have been drinking apple cider vinegar every morning and had some prunes to help. And I turn 86 on my next birthday.

4. Low – Getting around is still uber annoying. My leg doesn’t bend much, getting into bed, off the couch, in a chair, on the toilet (where not much is happening anyway) takes an excruciating amount of time. Annoying.

My first visitor!

5. High – My mom came!! Afternoon of day 3, she brought cookie making supplies, her motherly instincts and hours of cleaning energy. Our house has never been so clean and I’ve so enjoyed her company! Mike and her have taken great care of me and cooked, filled ice machines, spotted me as I’ve traveled down the stairs….Love all the love.

6. High – I have my appetite! I’ve been able to eat the kale & blueberry smoothie I pre-made, I’ve enjoyed the roasted butternut squash soup I made pre-surgery, and mom & Mike have made delicious dinners while we chatted and watched romantic movies. Last night, after almost 24 hours of being Free from pain medication, I even had a beer!

The big reveal!

7. High – I went to my post-pop appointment and got great marks from my surgeon’s PA! He said I was healing beautifully, there was no signs of blood clotting and everything was on schedule. Following my appointment I had my first PT session (I get 12 that insurance will cover) and it went well! Will seems nice and he gave me some small things to work on – activating my quad, bending my knee and straightening my leg. Pretty basic exercises but not to be taken lightly.

I’m a bit nervous at my first PT session!

7. High – It’s day 5 as I write this and  I’ve been pain medication free for 36 hours+, have had success with the bathroom (hey, you don’t know what you’re missing till its gone!) and am alert as I drink my coffee outside, in a chair, with my knee slightly bent, in the merry sunshine.

Outside therapy

Continue reading “Post ACL Surgery: Recovery Day 3 & Day 4”

Let the Healing Begin!

It’s April 5th – 24 hours after my ACL/Meniscus surgery! It’s been a long month of waiting for this day – after my back country ski accident, I had a work trip, my surgeon had vacation and I needed to get my range of motion in better shape.

My leg pre-ACL Surgery – I couldn’t fully straighten it.

 

After a wonderful weekend with my family – my dad came out from Philadelphia, so we got to the Denver museum of  nature and science, a few breweries and lots of time reminiscing – I was ready!

Yesterday began at 6 am, after a wonderful night of sleep, surprisingly enough. Mike dropped me off at the front of the surgery center, I was checked in and taken back to the pre-opp room. The nurse was extremely nice and after I changed into my beautiful gown and stocking cap, complete with a compression sock for my right leg, she put an intervenes  in and we chatted. I asked her how many patients she’d see in a day…23! I was the first of the day, so felt lucky about that!

Mike was invited back took some pictures in my garb. I was certainly a site to see.

Another nurse came back and scrubbed my leg down, then the anesthesiologist came in to talk about the nerve blocker, my Surgeon came in and asked if I had any questions…..and it was go time.

I was given a sedative, asked some conversational questions to get me relaxed, then wheeled back to the operating table, moved onto the table….and lights out.

I woke in a room with a nurse, with zero recollection of anything! Mike came in and let me know I’d been in that room for almost an hour. A short roll in the wheelchair to the car and we were on our way home.  He put me to bed and I slept…

Waking up, my pain came in waves. The blood bag attached to my wound drained the excess from my knee. It was pretty gross! The nap left me surprisingly hungry, so Mike made one of the Hello Fresh  meals I got to make while I was on the mend, and it was delicious. I had heard you lost your appetite after surgery but apparently mine was in tact!

I went to sleep that night at 6, having iced my leg every 30 minutes, a pill on the nightstand to pop in case I woke up in pain, and loads of water by my bedside. Waking up at 4:30, I was in excruciating pain so had to wake Mike up to get me another pill. My leg felt as though someone had beaten it with a hammer! After taking a pain pill, having some water, I went back to bed. When I woke up, I had some smoothie, had another pill and took a gander at the paper work I got to take home from my surgery describing the areas my surgeon worked on and pictures of the internal work pretty gory stuff!

My leg still felt like dead weight – the nerve blocker was apparently more topical because inside it felt like chopped liver, but still felt tingly on the outside. Let’s just say going to the bathroom isn’t the easiest! The brace they gave me at the surgery center was extremely bulky and cumbersome and hard to move around. The bandages were extremely tight and the drain seemed to be filling quickly. Mike made me get up and walk around to make sure the blood was circulating…watch here! 

 

A fabulous friend of mine just had ACL surgery as well, Anna, and I’ve learned so much from her journey.  She’s 21 days into her surgery and has been such an inspiration – plus she let me borrow her ice machine that circulates ice cold water on the knee. My surgeon’s PA was supposed to call and walk me through taking out the drain,  but after several hours, I wanted to get in my CPM machine and use my ice machine, so I went for it! Here’s a YouTube film of me pulling the drain out. Watch if you dare!

After the drain was pulled, Mike helped me hook up to the CPM and I was moving. The ROM is set for 70 degrees bent, 30 degrees straight and unfortunately I couldn’t get there today, but I will by hell or high water, get there by the end of the week!

So, that’s been the day of and day after surgery – it’s going to be a long road, but man I’m glad to be on it!