It was February of 2009 at the Washington State Mat Classic and the final tournament of my high school wrestling career. I was in the second round of the semi-finals, up by a few points. My opponent shot in, getting a single-leg hold. I countered with a whizzer as he dropped and swung away from me, taking my knee with him. "POP!" Just like that, I completely ruptured my ACL and my high school wrestling career came to a close. Within a few weeks, a surgeon reconstructed my ACL with a cadaver.
At the beginning of this month, February 7th of 2020, I tore the same ACL along with my meniscus in a training accident at work. It was the exact same twisting motion as the first time that caused it. As soon as I felt and heard the familiar pop, I knew in my gut I tore my ACL again. I was able to get in to see a reputable surgeon within two weeks. On February 25, I had my second ACL reconstruction surgery. This time, the surgeon used an autograft, in this case, my quadriceps. The surgeon also took out 40 percent of my meniscus that was damaged and sewed back together what was left.
At the time of writing this, I have just over six months to recover and get back in elk shape for September. A quality physical therapist (PT) is just as important as a quality surgeon. After a few referrals and an interview, I found who I believe to be a great PT, Josh. Josh informed me, if all goes well, I should be able to start hiking by the end of May or beginning of June. However, it would be a push for me to be ready to haul an elk out of the backcountry in six months. I should be able to hunt, but I may need help to get one out. Either way, I have a realistic goal of being in the elk woods this fall. I'll figure out how to get one out when I cross that bridge. One step at a time.
My goal is to share my recovery over the next six months. Hopefully, someone else will find the articles useful as encouragement or what to expect for recovery. One thing to keep in mind, there are many variables to surgery recovery. These variables include your age, what type of graft you choose, the quality of and your commitment to physical therapy, diet, how fit you are going into surgery, etc.
I have stressed the importance of physical fitness previously in this blog. Your fitness level plays a huge role in injury recovery. That statement could easily be an entire blog article in itself. I'll just say this, I was able to get into surgery faster due to being fit and I have a great base already in place to build my PT off of.
Whatever you do, research as best you can. Research the type of grafts available, surgeons, and physical therapists. I found good research supporting the quad autograft and my surgeon spoke highly of it as well. In short, this autograft can take longer to recover from, however, it has shown quality long-term results.
Currently, I am four days post-operation. So far, it has been much more painful than the last surgery as this one was much more extensive. Last time I used an allograft--a graft from another person (a cadaver). This time I used an autograft. An autograft comes from your own body, in this case, my quadriceps. This requires further initial trauma to your body and another incision. I also had meniscus damage this go around.
The first 48 hours consisted of me elevating and icing my knee. My nerve block wore off the beginning of day three. That was the most painful time so far. I upped my intake of Oxycodone within the prescribed limitations. By the end of day three, I decided I did not care how bad it hurt, I was going to stick with Ibuprofen from here on out. I have no idea how people get hooked on Oxys. That stuff is absolutely terrible and made me feel like was losing my mind.
On day three, I had my first PT appointment and received exercises to do at home. So far, pretty painful! However, the first week is the worst and it will get easier as swelling and inflammation decrease. I know I am right on track so far. However, I did notice fluid buildup under the skin above the incision point for my quad. I was massaging my quad as instructed when I noticed a squishing sound in my skin. This gave me the creeps and I contacted my PT about it. My PT informed me this was uncommon but not abnormal. Basically, my body would slowly get rid of the fluid buildup and I just needed to keep an eye on it for now. Still… gross. I'll update on this later.
My final thought for this article: I will always be a physically active person. I would rather get injured living life than playing it safe on the side lines. My point is, as I get older, I think more and more about if the activities I partake in are worth the risk to the things I truly love doing. I love to hunt, backpack, and enjoy creation. I am starting to evaluate every activity that threatens those loves.
I can say the first time I got injured was doing something I truly loved; it was worth it. I can't say the same for this training accident. Sometimes there are things we just can't control, no matter how much we prepare or try. It's a character building opportunity and I know I will come out better on the back end. It's never just physical. It's mental and spiritual too.
That's it so far. Thanks for any prayers and I will update as it goes.
- Jess Patrick