Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tearing my ACL

At this point, I have not run for eight days - the most consecutive days since 2011.

This has been a really tough week for me - I tore my ACL last Tuesday.  I was playing a simple kickball game and without going into the gruesome details, the top of my leg went one way and the bottom went another.  After I heard the pop, I immediately went down and I knew something was wrong.  I couldn't cry - the pain was so excruciating, it made me gasp for air - I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.  In a fog, I watched the rest of the game from the bench as my knee swelled.  The instability I felt, and still feel, is indescribable.  

I drove myself home after the game and the husband drove me to the ER.  The pain was nauseating, and the ER doctor suspected a knee sprain and a recommendation to meet with an ortho doctor.  Even as we went home that night, I knew in my heart this was no simple sprain.  I went to work the next day on my crutches with a knee brace.  As runners, we know when something is not right in our bodies.  I received a recommendation from a coworker/runner for a sports orthopedist who is the team doctor for one of the professional basketball teams in Milwaukee.  His amazing nurse was able to squeeze me in because of a cancellation the next day.  I met with him, he said it was likely an MCL or ACL tear but we would do an MRI to be sure.  My MRI was on Friday and he called me personally on Monday to give me the results.  Complete ACL tear.  

For the first time in this whole experience, I broke down crying.  I had convinced myself that it was only an MCL tear, which would be just a few weeks recovery.  A complete ACL tear for me as a runner was, and still is, devastating.  A complete ACL tear means that my ACL is currently floating around me knee waiting to be absorbed by my body and to replace it means they have to cut into my patellar tendon and use a piece of that instead.  It means that I have weeks of pain and months of recovery ahead of me.  It terrifies me that I will never have a real ACL in my left leg again.  When I actually stop to think about all of this, it takes my breath away.

I am signed up for three PT sessions to increase my range of motion before the ACL reconstruction surgery in a couple weeks (as of right now, my leg is able to do a 70 deg. bend, and 20 deg. straight).  My doctor asked me what my goals are and I told him that my main goal is to be able to get back to running half marathons and eventually run a full.  He said my goals are attainable but I have a lot of work and pain to go through.  I was told I may be able to start pool running approximately ten weeks after surgery.  I was also told that I won't be able to run outside, on pavement, for at least six months.  Enter more tears.  I am trying to remain positive and think of the silver linings, such as it's my left knee, so I can still drive.  Such as at least this didn't happen before Ragnar, my wedding and honeymoon.  If everything goes well, I can start "jogging" outside again in six months, but only a couple miles to begin.

My heart hurts because fall is my favorite running season, and also because I have spent the last couple years building up my endurance and once this is all over I will have to start from scratch.  I am frustrated because I can't do simple activities like go down to the basement and do laundry.  I am angry because running makes me feel good about myself and it is my outlet and I can't do that for a few months.  I really dislike that I have to rely on my husband to do some of the simplest tasks for me.  I feel bad that I can't walk my dog even when he stands by his leash and wags his tail at me.  I am a very independent person and I have never been injured for more than a couple days so this is all new for me.

All that being said, I am going to continue to blog through this experience because I searched for bloggers with ACL tears and didn't find much.  Once I get through this and am stronger for it, I want anyone with this injury to be able to know what they're in for without all the scary medical terminology like "complete tear" or "cadaver tendon."  I will be real and as positive as I can be but I will not sugarcoat things.  From the day I started this blog, I promised to be as real as possible because it is my way of keeping myself in check as well.  What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?

This injury will not define me - it is my hope that it will redefine me.  In 2015, I will run another half marathon, and I will crush it with a huge PR.

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