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199 Days to Freedom

Oh my, re-reading that last post, the foreshadowing, the irony, I couldn’t have planned it better if I tried.

So, today is day 95 since my Oct 10th post where I shared my love of soccer and fear of a torn MCL, and stated I would do whatever it took to return to the field. Well, I was correct regarding the MCL, but I also decided to take it a step further and truly test my love of the game.

Let me first state that I did play that Friday after my Sunday injury. I made it through the first half. My knee was a little stiff but all felt good. Then about 10 minutes into the second half, I turned my body to start jogging back towards our goal and my knee just…seized up? I froze, whimpered a few times, then attempted to walk towards the bench, only I couldn’t put any weight on my right leg. Zero. Zip. None. A few more whimpers as I stood there staring at the distance I needed to trek before a guy from the other team asked if I was okay. I told him no and that I needed his help. He put his arm around my shoulders and his teammate took the other side, and they escorted me off the field.

I heard my teammate behind me state, “Hey, Hey, we got her”, but my focus was on that door leading to our bench. Once step at a time. The guys told me to slow down, to take my time, but I just wanted to be off the field, to escape what was happening to me. So I hobbled as fast as my left leg could go.

I made it to our bench and sat down. I immediately realized my knee would not straighten. More whimpers as I tried to make it straight. I stood up to see if the pain felt better that way. Nope. I was asked by various teammates what happened, was I okay, and any time I opened my mouth, my voice shook. Tears filled my eyes. Oh, this was bad. I knew this was bad. I sat down and concentrated on my breathing, trying to calm myself. Again I tried to straighten my knee. Massaged. Stretched. More questions.

The game somehow ended and while I couldn’t straighten my leg, I was feeling calmer and more in control. I stood up and tried to walk out of the bench area, but quickly realized I still couldn’t put any weight on my leg. It was the strangest feeling. I’ve never not being able to put my foot down. What was happening?

I borrowed a friends crutches to get home that night, and by Saturday night, I was able to put some weight on my right leg. It was more of a hunchback wobble, but I could get around my house without the crutches. By Monday, I was walking upright, but still with an obvious limp. Luckily, the pain had dissipated by Saturday as well. Mostly.

My doctor’s office squeezed me in Monday afternoon and I went in expecting him to tell me I tore my MCL and was out for 8 weeks (ha – if only). He maneuvered my leg into different positions, testing the various ligaments, then told me to sit up. He said that I most likely tore my meniscus and a piece split off and that broken piece is what locked up my knee. Then came the chokehold. He suspected that I tore my ACL as well and wanted to schedule an MRI to confirm.

He kept talking, but my mind was numb. I interrupted him and asked for clarification. You suspect I tore my ACL? How confident? 10%, 50%, 100%? He looked me in the eye and told me that I tore my ACL.

Again.

I went through the motions of answering his questions, of scheduling my MRI, of holding myself outwardly together, but inside my numbness had turned to shock, to denial, to fear.

By the time I made it to the parking lot, tears were falling down my cheeks. I sat in my car for 20 minutes, sobbing, and asking why. Why my ACL? It couldn’t be my ACL. I couldn’t go through that again.

Emergency surgery was set for November 2nd. Something about the locked knee causing lasting damage if I waited too long. He was able to save the meniscus (thankfully!) but it meant a longer recovery. No weight bearing for two weeks. 50% for two more weeks. No driving. Brace in locked position. I couldn’t sleep. Crutching was exhausting. The pain was intense. More intense than I remembered.

He said that there is no way of knowing why an ACL graft fails. Is it the doctor’s technique? Weak glutes? Hereditary? A freak accident? It had been roughly 4 years since my last surgery, and here I was, going through the same thing again, only a more intense scenario. He cut new holes into my femur for a different (and hopefully better) angle, and added support beams across each side of the graft to anchor it more into place. Essentially, the graft looked like a Z.

I’m 10 weeks post op and feeling good. He used a cadaver Achilles tendon graft, so the recovery is longer. March 16th before I can run, August 2nd before I can play sports. Last time, I think it was easier because everything happened so much faster. Two more months before I can run? Seven more months before I can dance? Play soccer or softball? Play golf? It’s more frustrating that I have to be so careful. I can’t even go walk in the woods right now for fear of uneven ground.

I've never been the type to live fearfully or sit on the sidelines, but this surgery is forcing me to stay on even ground and watch others. It’s been rough.

And boring.

August 2nd.

199 days to freedom.

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