Thursday, March 28, 2013

One week update (ACL repair surgery healing/rehab)

So one week ago today, I got ACL reconstruction surgery. I was so worried and scared that morning when I woke up, but I knew I would be better off doing this now rather than putting it off any further.

The day of surgery, I went home and rested all day. People told me I might be nauseous or totally out of it all due after anesthesia but I was very fortunate; I felt fine those first two days.

 (Photos from my first couple days post op with my two best friends: pink crutches and my iPad)

In my surgery, they gave me a nerve block in the leg I was getting surgery on via an enormous needle into my femoral artery. Fortunately, they gave me my first dose of general anesthesia prior to that shot so I have no recollection of it. Those first two days post-op, your leg might still be numb if you get a nerve block. It's nothing to be concerned about. It's a weird feeling but it was blocking the lion's share of the pain, so combined with my pain killers, I felt fine... A little loopy, but fine.

Once that nerve block started to wear off, that's when I really started to get serious about taking the medicine on time. If I forgot to take my pain meds every 3-4 hours, I would get intense pain from my hamstring to my calf.

I am a very active person normally so sitting still for two days was absolutely horrible. My boyfriend got me out of the house as often as he could for happy hour (no booze though since I'm on painkillers), to the beach, over to his house to play with his dog, etc. which helped keep me sane... There's only so much daytime TV and Netflix one person can watch before they start losing their mind.

(I chose to not just sit around at home during my recovery... I took trips to the beach when it was nice out, had a game night with my friends (that's Cards Against Humanity, my favorite game) and to a local bar for pool!)

By the Saturday after surgery (I had surgery on Thursday so like 2 days later), I was able to hobble around a little bit on the leg. I also started some exercises, which at that time was only to try to straight my leg flat and moving my foot in circle a few times every hour to prevent blog clots. Walking was (and is) a struggle but it was easier than relying on crutches. The decision to walk or use crutches should be made with your doctor. I am young and very active so it was easy for me to get back to being physical but this might not be the case for everyone.

I had a doctors appointment on Monday to get my bandaids off and to get stitches taken out. The doctor said my knee was looking good and told me to get back to see my physical therapist. I was amazed when I saw my knee. I had anthroscopic surgery so they didn't need to split my knee open to perform surgery; instead they used small instruments, inserted through small holes in my knee. I will have absolutely minimal scarring, which is great.

(Left: photo four days post op (yup, THAT's it!) , right: standing four days post-op)

I had an appointment with my physical therapist on Wednesday that week. She mostly wanted to check in with me about how surgery went and where we would go from there for my post surgery rehab. I felt like I was basically starting from square one since I had made such huge strides in PT before my surgery. We started with my new exercises: 

1. 3 versions of leg lifts:

-10 lifts while lying on my back (she recommended I have someone there with me, "spotting" me while I do them).
-10 lifts while on my elbows
-10 lifts while on hands

2. Heel slides (starting to get my knee to bend again!) I only bend until I get uncomfortable pressure, not pain.

3. Hamstring and calf stretches (these will help to get my leg straighten again).

I'm hoping in the next two weeks to be back in the gym doing the stationary bike. That was the BEST thing I did in my pre-surgery rehab for getting my full range of motion back. I will be monitoring my process myself and with the help of my physical therapists and writing about it here!

If you have any questions about my experience or want any advice about what I've gone through thus far, feel free to comment!


Friday, March 22, 2013

My experience with a torn ACL... Part 1

Though my blog thus far has focused on my various culinary endeavors, I decided to switch gears a bit and talk about my experience of injuring my knee and getting surgery.

A little bit about me: I strive to be a healthy, active woman. I'm in my early twenties, I try to exercise several times a week doing a variety of activities. My diet isn't perfect but I'm always striving to make better (but still tasty) choices. I've played soccer at a variety of levels since I was in elementary school and have never had a serious injury (until now).

This all started in mid-February. I was playing on a co-Ed indoor soccer tram and while trying to stop from a sprint and switch directions, I fell sideways on my knee and it popped/started swelling up. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you hear a loud pop in a joint followed by immediate swelling, seek medical attention as soon as you can. I was carried off the field and sat with ice on my knee for a while before heading home (fortunately, my BF was there to help me out to my car and drive me home). That evening, I iced and elevated my knee and wrapped it up with an ACE bandaid.

The next morning, I took the day off work and headed to the local walk in clinic. I arrived right as they opened so my wait time was next to nothing. The doctor took a look at my knee, tried bending it a little (at this point it was more or less stuck at about a 135 degree angle as both the most flat and most bent I could manage). The doctor got me a knee brace and crutches and told me to stay off it as much as possible until my MRI. He also recommended I see an orthopedic specialistic. I rested that day and returned to work the next day. Fortunately, my boss/office mate lives by me so she was able to drive me to and from work while I was hurt. My injury was to my left knee so driving my stick shift was pretty tough with little ability to bend/straighten my leg.

That Friday, I had my MRI. This was my first one so I didn't know what to expect. I laid on a bed with a blanket on my upper bottom then the "bed" slid into the machine so only my head stuck out. It was VERY loud but they gave me head phones to listen to satellite radio!

As I got to work that day, I got a call from a nurse with my MRI results... I tore my anterior cruciatr ligament, had some bone bruising and also a small tear to my meniscus. I was pretty upset to hear this since I've known many people who have gone through this and it did not seem like much fun. By the time I saw my ortho specialist, I was back to walking without crutches in my brace and driving myself around. He spoke with me about the procedure he wanted to do (arthroscopic ACL replacement using my own hamstring tendons and possibly repair my torn meniscus). He showed me the images of my knee from the MRI and I could see where my ACL should have been and also where my meniscus tear is. Here's what it looked like, though this is not my MRI.


From there, I went to the physical therapy department (I really lucked out that my local clinic has all these facilities in the same building) to schedule my sessions. Before getting surgery, you really have to focus on being able to bend your knee and being able to straighten it completely. 

These are the exercises I started out with for the first four weeks of physical therapy. I tried to do the exercises at work and in the evening each day. I also continued to go to the gym during this time. I rode a stationary bike for 30 minutes two times a week and 10 minutes at the start of PT each time. I chose to wear my brace as I did that and it seemed to prevent any swelling. Using the cross trainer caused my knee to swell up the one time I attempted it so I wouldn't recommend that to others with a knee injury.

The week before my surgery, I started a more intense pre-hab set of exercises (as seen above) since my leg was able to be almost totally flat (my right leg, when straightened, was 0 degrees and my left could flatten to 4) and could bend back to less than 90 without significant discomfort. These exercises felt a lot more like my usual level of working out so that was a nice change. I did these at the gym or at home each day in addition to biking a few days a week.

Surgery Day

The night before my surgery, I tried to hydrate as much as possible and eat a good meal earlier in the evening. I had to stop eating and drinking by 12 am and then I had to get to the surgery center by 615 am. I did my surgery as an outpatient procedure meaning I didn't stay the night there. I was pretty worried when I got there but all the nurses and doctors were really nice and made me feel really safe and gave me plenty of information to keep my mind at ease.

I got an IV of a saline solution for a while then they moved me to the recovery area to administer my nerve blocker, which numbed my leg via my femeral artery. They gave me the first of my anesthesia after explaining how they did the nerve blocker and after speaking to my surgeon and the last time I remember is the nurse getting the ultra sound ready to find the artery they needed to put the leg numbing medicine in. It was about 7:05 am.

Next thing I remember, it's 9:55 am and I'm in the recovery area with an enormous brace on my leg. I was very fortunate that I woke up easily and without any nausea or discomfort. It was weird have a heavy numb leg but I'd prefer that to pain. When the nurse came by to ask me how I was feeling, I responded, "like a million bucks," and I meant it. I was so happy to be done with that phase of my recovery and ready to start getting my strength back. They gave me a snack, got me dressed and allowed my parents to come see me. By 11 am, they were preparing to discharge me. My parents got my prescriptions and the nurse wheeled me out to our car and I went home.

I am very fortunate that I'm able to stay with my parents and they are able to care for me while I'm going through this. Definitely try to find someone to stay with you or visit you at least those first few days after the surgery. You have to have someone to drive you there and back and monitor you that first day but I'm now on day two and am still very dependent on my parents for help getting food and drinks since its hard to carry things while on crutches.

Another piece of advice I'd give someone else going through a similar surgery/recovery time is to remember you had an intense surgery. The medicine you are prescribed will help to alleviate some of the pain but it won't get rid of all of it. I'm focusing on resting and being as active as possible, within reason, and just remembering to take my medication on time. As I move through my recovery, I'll update my blog on my status and talk about my experiences.


What I have been up to since my last post...

Haven't had much time lately to blog about my baking due to the holidays then I tore my ACL playing soccer and have gotten really into home brewing beer and wine (post to come!)

Here are some pictures of things I did manage to make over the last few months:

Chicken kabobs with peppers, onions and pineapple. (Chicken was marinated for about 6 hrs in a lemon pepper marinade from Safeway, then BBQ about 2 minutes per side).

English style fish and chips. (I used this recipe for my batter without soda water though, and I prefer to bake my French fries on a cookie rack after soaking them in water for about an hr. and tossing them in olive oil. this yields some wonderfully crisp fries.)

Chocolate turtle cupcakes (my deliciously moist chocolate cupcakes filled with homemade caramel and topped with caramel butter cream, more caramel and a walnut. These babies won me second place in our office bake off!)

Shrimp pasta with tomatoes and lemon (my bf's new favorite dish. We've made it several times and its always good. I used this recipe but omitted the spinach. We made some red pepper olive oil, shown in the photo, that we tossed the shrimp in as they cooked that added a wonderful kick of spice. The bruschetta is just a slice baguette, topped with a mixture of diced Roma tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sliced fresh basil with Parmesan or mozzarella cheese, then baked at 425 for about 5 minutes).

Quick mini cheesecakes (I used a mini cupcake tray and mini cupcake liners. I put on Nilla Wafer cookie at the bottom of each and topped it with a cream cheese mixture found in this recipe. If you haven't heard of Bakerella, I would highly recommend you look at her site; she has tons of wonderful recipes. I deviated slightly from her mini cheese cakes and topped mini with diced and sweetened strawberries instead).

Please, feel free to comment below if you want more info on any of those recipes!