Saturday, November 1, 2014

From Ligament Tears to Tearing Up The Ice: My ACL Journey and Recovery.

"The best way out is always through." - Robert Frost

I don't like to ask God to take me out of tough situations. What good is that going to do me in the long run? How will that help me grow as an individual? How will that help strengthen me as a whole? I truly believe that the whole "point" of trials are to strengthen us as people. If we constantly asked God to remove us from trying times, and he did, then how would we ever grow? 

March 2014. I'm having the time of my life playing hockey in a pick-up league on Monday nights. Nothing fancy. Just a group of people hitting the ice for a one our practice followed by a one hour scrimmage. Two hours of ice time every week. Love it. 

There was a two-on-one coming towards my way down the ice. I remember it like it was yesterday. As a shot came at me, I extended my right leg out so quickly, I heard a pop. I felt a pop. I felt a tear. I knew exactly what it was. As one of the players came in quickly for the rebound, he fell over my leg and my leg drug under his body on the ice. At that moment in time, I knew I was done for a long time. 

I didn't know the extent of my injury, but I knew that there was something very wrong. The next day, I called my orthopedic surgeon (who did a meniscus repair on me 7 years ago. He is absolutely brilliant and was my grandfather's medical student.. and I'll never trust anyone else to hold a scalpel to any of my joints) to set up an appointment. He saw me right away. He suspected a meniscus tear.

How could Dr. Rockett ever be wrong? He ordered an MRI and sure enough, it was my second medial meniscus tear. (The first one was 7 years ago after a lacrosse injury.) When I picked up the MRI results from the hospital, I sat in the car and cried. I don't like to cry, because I'm all for the "I'M AN ATHLETE, A WARRIOR" mentality.. but it was emotional. I knew I couldn't play hockey for a while. Hockey is everything to me. My outlet, my passion. It's all I've ever known for 17 years. It's who I am. At that moment in time, I felt like it had been taken from me. How could the thing that I love the most actually hurt me? Crazy. 

Before I knew it, I blinked my eye and I was awake from my meniscus surgery. What we hoped would be a meniscus repair turned into a menisectomy (partial removal of the meniscus) because the tear didn't have a good enough blood supply to do the repair. More bad news. While Dr. Rockett was doing the arthroscopic meniscus surgery, he inspected the joint and saw that my ACL was completely torn. More bad news: I had to have a second surgery, because I only signed consent for the meniscus surgery. Yay!

Side note: When I got hurt: I saved the puck.. the other team didn't score. So I went through all of this for a good cause, right? ;)

June 2nd, 2014: It's the crack of dawn and I'm headed to the hospital for the surgery. I'm so nervous, because I have no idea what to expect. After I get checked in and brought up to pre-op, I asked who my anesthesiologist was going to be (yes, I know who the anesthesiologists at this hospital are) and they told me that it was Dr. B. I was SO excited, because Dr. B is my pain doctor that I see on a regular basis! I knew that God was looking out for me. She came in and was so glad to see that she would be taking care of me that morning. I'm telling ya... it's the little things in life. Just knowing that I had TWO doctors that knew me so well in the operating room with me gave me such comfort. I felt so thankful.

I woke up from surgery in agonizing pain. I don't remember much, except asking Dr. Rockett how long it would be until I could play hockey again.. HA!! (I actually asked him that while coming off of anesthesia... It takes a lot to get him to laugh. Mission accomplished).. They kept me in recovery all day because I went into SVT while under anesthesia. (I've had problems with 
Supraventricular Tachycardia for 6 years now and seem also always to go into it when I am under anesthesia) .. It was a long day. 

The first two nights were the worst. Pain like I have never felt before and like I could have never imagined. Every time I stood up, the pain would rush down my entire leg. It's hard for me to describe how I actually felt the first few weeks after surgery. Nothing like I've ever felt before. The most frustrating thing was not being able to do anything for myself. I'm an independent person and having other people do everything for me isn't easy. I was and am still extremely thankful that I had such great help from my family and friends. I couldn't have made it through this without them. I can't say it enough.

Physical therapy was great. I had worked with my physical therapist a few weeks before my surgeries, so we already had a little bit of a treatment plan going. After my ACL surgery, we worked on range of motion. I CRINGED every time she worked on bending my knee. Just by typing this and thinking about the pain, I am cringing. We don't have to get into that anymore.

I really just kept pushing myself and pushing myself through physical therapy. Whatever my physical therapist told me to do, I would strive to do just a little bit more. I knew that it would be painful. I knew that it would hurt. I knew that it would suck, but I knew that I HAD to do it. I knew that the pain wouldn't last forever. It's so cliche, but pain truly is temporary, and quitting truly does last forever.

When you're an athlete, you see SO many people get hurt and you never think it's going to happen to you. When it does, it changes your mentality completely. It changes YOU. As an athlete and as a person. You not only become stronger physically, but you become stronger mentally. To me, that mental strength is everything. You learn to overcome challenges. Challenges in your game AND life challenges. As much physical and emotional pain that tearing my ACL brought me, I'm glad happened. Why? Because it helped me grow. It made me stronger. It taught me how to overcome. It taught me how to help others overcome injury. It's a blessing to be able to talk others through injury and other challenges that they go through. I had the honor of helping a really sweet friend through an ACL tear and surgery this summer. We both had the hamstring graft done, so I knew exactly what pain she was going through, and I was able to talk her through it. We were able to be there for each other and help each other. 

Looking back at my injuries, my surgeries, my pain, my tears, my struggles, my ups, my downs and my recovery.. I truly can't believe I made it.. it doesn't feel real. I skated last night. For the first time since my injury and surgeries. Tomorrow marks exactly 5 months post-op, and I skated. I can't believe it. As I type this, I'm shaking my head, because it just doesn't feel real to me. 

Getting back on the ice was like nothing I could have ever imagined. For 7 months I tried to picture what that moment would be like. What the cold, crisp wind in my face would feel like again as I skate. What my lungs would feel like breathing the thin, cold air in again. What the scraping sound of my skates digging into the ice would sound like again. The second that my skates touched the ice, I smiled so big. At that moment in time, I knew that I had made it. That I was okay and that God got me through it. Everything in the world seemed to be okay again. I felt so thankful. Last night was a night that I will remember for the rest of my life. One step closer to playing hockey again!
Two days post-op vs. Last night :)

I just want to encourage anyone who is going through a rough time right now. Always remember that you are so much stronger than you are think. One day you will look back and realize how strong you really are. Even if you feel like you're hanging on by a thread, just keep hanging on. There were times where I truly didn't think that I was going to get through my injury and I did. You can do it too.

Other health updates: I see Dr. Rockett on Monday to hopefully officially get cleared to skate! I am going to be helping out with coaching a hockey team this winter and I'll be on the ice 4 days a week, so I really am hoping that he clears me. 

I also see the surgeon who took out my gallbladder a year ago. I'm still having severe pain on my right side, and I've seen several different doctors who are all colliding with each other about it. I'm hoping that he gives me an answer on Monday as to why I'm still having this pain and I'm hoping that I don't need more surgery. He's a great surgeon, but he's been difficult to deal with in the past, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Much love to y'all. Thanks for taking the time to read about my journey!

1 comment:

  1. An injury is something everyone would like to avoid, especially for an athlete like you. It's a good thing you have trusted specialists on your side who take good care of you. And you must be particularly thankful to your anesthesiologist, for making everything bearable during surgery. Anyway, this must be one of the hardest things you had to go through in your life. But I’m glad that you’re still in high spirits. Take care!

    Helen Barnett @ Atlanta Spine and Anesthesia