On February 13, 2012, I had my ACL replaced, after a soccer injury left it shredded. I also had some meniscus damage repaired. This is an account of that experience. Note some of these photos are graphic.
(13 is my favorite number.)
I arrived at the hospital via taxi with my girlfriend, Carrie, along with crutches I already owned and a new Donjoy Iceman unit. I checked in and headed to the Ambulatory Surgical Unit.
I changed into a gown, which was surprisingly well isolated and warm. And I got an IV started. At this point, it was pretty mellow, with only one nurse attending to me, and only sometimes. I made sure they knew I was getting a cadaver graph and not my own hamstring as a replacement, as I was originally undecided.
More and more people started coming to see me. Every person I talk to asked which knee it was. The knee was shaved and the surgeon signed my knee, complete with smiley face. I was asked if I wanted a nerve block for my leg, which I could before the surgery, after the surgery, or not at all. I opted to hold off till after the surgery to see if I needed it.
They wheeled me into surgery. I remember giving some great description to the surgical team about what I do. I recall them thinking it was pretty cool. Then I was given general anesthetic. When asked to count down from 100 I made it to 97 before slipping into unconsciousness. During the surgery, they took photos, which they gave to me on a DVD afterward.
My shredded ACL.
Removing what was left.
And my replacement.
I woke to find my knee wrapped and elevated, with the ice machine already doing its work. When asked to rate my pain on a scale of one to 10, I said three. Ten minutes later I said five and was given morphine. I was asked if I wanted the nerve block for my left leg, which would last approximately 12 to 16 hours. I asked the doctor what the risks were and decided it wasn’t worth it.
I was wheeled out of recovery to another holding room. Carrie was allowed to join me and took these photos as I ate graham crackers and jello and drank apple juice. Carrie said I sounded just like these photos look.
I was allowed to leave after I went to the bathroom, which took three glasses of water and two apple juices. Apparently, the anesthesia messes with your system. I had difficulties, you might say, for the next few days.
Once ready to go, they dressed me. The ice machine pad was left wrapped up in my leg, where it stayed for several days.
I went home with Percocet and a stool softener to counteract the Percocet. Fun.
I was home and set up camp in my bedroom. We propped my leg up and continued to run the ice machine straight through to the second night. I say we because I was fortunate to have a girlfriend in between jobs who patiently did all the things I could not do for myself. She was awesome!
For the first week, my life looked a lot like this. I only traveled from the bed to the bathroom. I was allowed to put weight on my knee, but only when standing.
On the third day, I removed the bandage and gauze to see what was going on. The protective tape that was covering the largest incision was stuck to the gauze by dried blood, which is why you don’t see it below.
I stopped taking the Percocet 24/7 on the third day. I took it only a couple times the next few days.
On Saturday, I left the apartment for the first time to go to the sushi place on the corner. With jeans and a sweater, I looked relatively normal.
On Sunday, I didn’t take any Percocet at all. Instead, I had one of the chocolate maple porter beers I made before the surgery.
One Week Later
A week and a day later, I had my post op appointment, during which my stitches were removed. The surgery was a success. The meniscus tears were minor and cleaned up. All the cartilage around the knee looked healthy.
The largest incision had not fully closed up on the surface, so it was taped up for another week. I also learned during this visit that they cut a superficial nerve at the location of the large incision. Below my knee it feels like I got a novocaine shot. The nerve may grow back, but it will take a year.
I was encouraged to start walking with the aid of my crutches at this point. And I was given some exercises to get my knee to straighten out and bed.
Two Weeks After
I can hobble around the house without crutches. I walked 100 feet to my local coffee shop without crutches, too. I can stand and sit for a while before I need to ice and elevate my leg. I can drive my car, which is a stick. So far so good.
My next appointment is in five weeks. In the meantime, I need to keep wearing my brace when I’m out and about, and keep doing my exercises. When I can bend my knee 120 degrees (now I can bend it about 90), I can start cycling on a stationary bike.
I can’t wait to walk normally again, and run. But I’m glad I’m on my way.