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Friday, January 15, 2016

ACL RECONSTRUCTION- THE PATIENT’S PERSPECTIVE BY JAYNE BLACKWELL (PROFESSIONAL TRAMPOLINE DODGEBALLER!?!)

I trawled the internet after I ruptured my ACL as I was keen to find some personal accounts of what surgery is like, how difficult the recovery is but I came up largely empty handed. The main stuff that I found was regarding what the ligament is, how it supports the knee and what the surgery involves. For anyone that is interested, this is what my experience has been like so far….

Energy levels were high when we arrived at Skyzone for Trampoline Dogdeball (and yes, that is an actual thing!) We were watching a trampoline exercise class while we were waiting for some of the others to arrive and we decided that was going to be our new fun way to keep fit. Little did I know that it would be quite some time before I stepped onto a trampoline again!!

Dramatics aside, my injury was a very uneventful one. I remember eying off my mate as I was about to hurl the dodgeball at her then I felt an excruciating pain in my left knee. To me it felt like something had stuck me on the side of the knee. I expected to look down and see that one of the other players had fallen into me but there was no one there. When I didn’t get to my feet, friends rushed over to help me up and I felt my leg give way under me again. That’s when I first thought that there was something seriously wrong with my knee. I sat the rest of the game out (obviously!) with an ice pack on my knee. My physio husband suspected an ACL rupture so told me to not put any weight through my left leg. I was carried out of skyzone in a throne-esque carry (not embarrassing at all.) I think the most interesting thing about this injury is that although I found it extremely painful when it occurred, the pain subsides very quickly. Quick enough for me to assume that after an hour after the injury and applying ice, it was ‘fixed!!’ Getting out of the car I decided that my physio husband knew nothing, I hadn’t ruptured my ACL as the pain had almost gone so I attempted to step up on to a curb with my bad leg first (to disastrous consequences of course!) The swelling of the knee joint meant that it gave way completely and I felt the clunk of bone on bone again. Not smart! I did recover quickly enough however for a beer and burger about 30 minutes later!! Friends being friends, the memes started pretty sharpish (see below)

An MRI the next day confirmed Mike’s suspicions of an ACL rupture. Not the best news but Mike talked me through what was ahead. It’s invaluable to get a good physio on board as soon as possible if you suspect that you’ve got a similar injury. They can give you sound advice – for example Mike knew that in order to be able to claim the MRI on Medicare, you require a referral from your GP. This meant the scan cost me a $90 gap payment, instead of $400. Tidy! I was also lucky that he knew the best surgeons to refer me to and guided me on how to best prepare and strengthen my knee ahead of the surgery. Bending and straightening my leg was uncomfortable and painful due to the swelling of the joint but it was so important to keep the joint mobile and strengthen the surrounding muscles as much as possible.

I found everything very frustrating after the injury (using crutches, navigating stairs, trying to find a comfortable position in bed.) As someone who has never injured themselves before, never even had an x-Ray, scan or a stay in hospital, I found the thought of surgery a very overwhelming one. I had to remind myself that it was a routine procedure and I was in the best possible hands. It was also interesting to discover just how many people this injury has happened to. Other people will notice the way you’re walking and will instantly guess at an ACL injury. It’s great to chat to them and hear their stories and to see how well they have recovered. Probably best at this stage not to ask too many questions about how they felt initially straight after the surgery!

Returning to work post injury was difficult but everyone was really accommodating. They provided a parking spot for me as close as possible and understood that I was going to feel tired and uncomfortable sat at my desk for long periods. I made myself as comfortable as possible and tried to keep whinging to a minimum, although my colleagues probably beg to differ.

As we had a dream holiday to Fiji planned for the end of December, we wanted to ensure that the surgery happened as quickly as possible so that I would have more recovery time before we flew. We had a lot of work to do to get the swelling down and make sure that my knee was ready to be operated on. As the appointment with the surgeon drew closer, my knee was feeling so much stronger. I then understood how a conservative management plan could be an option for people who chose not to have surgery. I assumed that the knee would continue to give way on me as it had straight after dodgeball.

The surgeon was happy that my knee was ready and I prepared myself mentally for the following week. As soon as I arrived at the hospital I felt calm. The staff at the Mater were amazing. Catherine my admissions nurse reminded me of one of my friend’s mum and she put me at ease straight away and was cracking jokes with me as she saved my hairy leg prepping me for surgery! It’s really important to keep the skin on the leg that’s going to be operated on healthy so you are less prone to infection. So, no shaving, picking, scratching of your surgery leg as it may delay your operation.

The surgery itself went really well and I was so well looked after and in the best possible hands. I did feel very sick from the anaesthetic but it affects people differently so that was just unlucky. I was on good form after leaving the hospital and had a hilarious chat with my mum on the car ride home which involved me slurring every word and telling her over and over how lovely all the staff were who took care of me. Getting out of the car and into our first floor apartment was a different story – every step was agony and I was in tears by the time I got to the front door. The next few days were much the same with lots of ups and downs. It’s so important to keep medicated for the first 5 days as if the pain meds wear off, you definitely know about it. It’s also so important to TAKE IT EASY!! It is so frustrating to go from being a busy person to someone who can’t leave the house on their own for a while but your body needs time to heal. Get Netflix on and binge watch your face off. When else can you do that totally guilt free. Afternoon snoozes are also THE BEST. It was really hard to get a restful night’s sleep as it’s so difficult to get comfortable so it is good to take your rest when you can.