MPFL: Week 4

Week 4 (Jan 8-14)

I entered week four cautiously optimistic. I was feeling pretty good about where I was physical therapy wise and had been moving around the house without crutches like a champ hobbler. Everyone had told me it gets easier after about the 3rd week anyway, so I was hopeful that they were right.

At this point I had done every dumb instagram filter test thing from who am I going to marry to what’s your spirit animal and also had done my fair share of staring at the wall. I’m currently working on getting my personal training certified through NASM and had initially thought I would spend all of my time on the couch studying and finishing the modules. Aside from tinkering around a little bit with it during week three, I hadn’t touched it. A reoccurring theme here is me way underestimating the toll surgery takes on the body.

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At least my study buddy is cute. And yes, this is during “tummy time”

I think I’m a pretty resilient person, but I am definitely not the Wonder Woman of surgery recovery. It was killing me, but I had gathered up all of my patience and chilled out until I felt like I could learn something besides TikTok dances (lol sos help).During the fourth week post op, I finally threw my glasses on and found my groove with studying.

I decided to go with NASM over ACE because of my experience with my knee. From what I could tell in my research, NASM focused a little bit more on injury prevention and muscular imbalances. Right up my alley. It’s been really interesting to learn about certain aspects of training and then see it in action at physical therapy the next day. It helps me understand the why behind a lot of the exercises I’m doing and gives me a little more knowledge/ideas of things I can start adding in at home (safely). Plus, if I can help someone not have the same knee issues that I have dealt with, that would make me feel pretty dang good.

I think reading about being active kind of helped me find the confidence to start creating my own workouts…well I should say it  like this – “workouts” in air quotes. That is more like it. I had kind of started to toy around with some stuff the previous weeks but stayed mostly horizontal. I keep some dumbbells on the floor by the couch to would use during the day. I also made it a ritual to do some abs on the floor after I finished my 15 minutes of daily mandated tummy time (still gets me every time).

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The famed “pre-lunge”

My exercises at PT had picked up too. Rather than just the e-stim, leg raises, quad sets, and heel slides with a towel (putting a towel under my heel and sliding my heel back towards my butt), we threw in some standing exercises!!! I can’t even tell you how good it felt to support myself on two feet through a few exercises, no matter how simple they may have been. They added lunges…which should be called pre-lunges. Since I can only bend to about 65 degrees at this point, the lunges are more of a stretch to help make bending it further more possible. They had me step up on a platform with my bad leg and lean into it as far as I could tolerate. This one feels weird. I still have a lot of swelling inside my knee capsule so the feeling is reminiscent of what it used to feel like when I tried to return to activity after dislocating it. Good mems! The next exercise they added is resistance band work. I was pumped about this. I have a set of awesome resistance bands Perfect Peach Athletics sent me, so I was pretty excited to have a new “safe” exercise to add to my at home (and hopefully soon GYM) routine.

By Friday I was feeling like an all star but scrolling around on social media and seeing people taking the classes I used to regularly take in LA was starting to take a bit of a toll on me. While my at home workouts were at least making me feel less like a potato, I really was craving getting back into some sort of gym routine. Originally, I wanted to start off the new year doing gym days on my PT off days, but up until this point there was just no way I could have. It took a lot of self-talk to be okay with adjusting my lofty fitness resolution, but the mission was accomplished.Instead, I worked up to the gym for the first few weeks of and I set a new goal to hit the gym for the first time since surgery over the weekend. Gulp. But first, margaritas. I sat in the front seat (first photo on the left for proof) for the first time since surgery and that calls for celebration.

6e27cc00-71c7-4011-ba3a-92991e3958dbIt took literally zero convincing for my parents to agree to make my margarita dreams happen. They are practically best friends with the guy who owns one of the popular Mexican restaurants here in the big big city of Hampton. Crutches in tow, we were off and I was getting out of the house AGAIN!!! To be fair, It’s only like two blocks away from our house, so it’s not like I got very far but whatever. Crutches in a small restaurant are a tricky thing. I know I talked about this a little bit in my last one, but at least that time I didn’t know anybody. By this point I’ve been in Hampton so dang long, I knew damn near the whole restaurant. Not a bad thing, but definitely wonder what was going through their heads as I finished to large margaritas and proceeded to crutch out of there (in a straight line might I add). This made me feel human (and also a little tipsy).

First day back at the gym

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Can I get a woop woop

The next day was a big one and I would end up paying for it just a bit, but I think if I had to pinpoint one single turning point in all of this it would be this Saturday. Like I mentioned earlier, I set a goal to try to make it to the gym. I wanted to get in the habit of going on my off PT days (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday). And luckily for me, the wellness center here in Hampton has an elevator HELL YEAH. Seemed a bit strange to me to use the elevator to get to a workout but at that point I hadn’t even attempted the stairs so ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

When the elevator doors open I had a flood of nerves rush over me. I realized how different this experience was going to be from the last time I was here. I had to work pretty hard to silence that thought as I looked at thee 50+ year olds on the treadmills and bikes. My options were limited and I knew that. I just had to be ok with where I was in that moment and not get caught up in how an hour at the gym looked pre-surgery.

So what did I do? I headed over to the Nu-Step machine at the gym. If I was going to beat those old ladies at PT in steps, I was gonna have to put in some extra work. When I use this machine at physical therapy, I take my brace off and ride away for 10 minutes. Since I was unsupervised (I mean my parents were there but they are not physical therapists), I kept my brace on but upped the time to 15 minutes. It’s impossible to get your heart rate up doing this thing but it at least gets my knee warmed up.

 

img_5985My mom helped me off and followed me from machine to machine as we rotated between upper body exercises. The arm stuff was fine, but getting off and back on the machines was…interesting. I was thankful I had my parents there to help when I got stuck. Felt like a turtle stuck on it’s back some of the time but hey, it’s fine we’re fine. Since I’m limited with what I can do with my legs and lower body, I brought my resistance bands so my mom and I could do a little booty circuit. Then the grand finale was some abs and stretching. This cute little workout took AN HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES. Partially because I am slow as fck right now and partially because I probably definitely way overdid it. Bu it felt so good to do something that is normally such a huge part of my day to day even if this gym session didn’t look the same as they did a month ago. Nevertheless, I freakin’ did it.

We kept it rolling by heading to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch some #sports. I decided that by this point I was pretty much invincible and definitely did not need to mess with my crutches inside the restaurant. Instead the whole restaurant got to watch me ever so slowly limp over to the booth on the complete opposite side of the entrance. What’s been interesting to notice during this recovery, is how little consideration others have for people who are impaired in some way. I’m sure I fell into that category before this surgery too, but boy have my eyes been opened WIDE.

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*Goes to sports bar wearing nothing sports related*

Most often, people have their nose in their phones and don’t even realize they are standing in the way or just walked in front of me. I have learned that being outspoken is the only way to get things accomplished when it comes to clearing a safe path. So, naturally, when there were two grown men and 4 children running around in the *only* walk way back to my booth, being who I am (and also being 3 white claws in), it was time to activate Hulk mode. I first gave him a few seconds to stop being so oblivious on his own. Quickly, I realized that that was not going to do the trick. On my next try I politely said “excuse me” with no response, movement or consideration from anyone else in the restaurant. So then for my third and final attempt  I said “EXCUSE ME!!!!!!!!!!!” and got not only his attention, but the entire restaurant. Mission accomplished, I guess! Hopefully I scared some spacial awareness into him.The rest of the evening was great and we also got free food at this restaurant. L O L. This time it wasn’t a pity prize though. Our food took over and hour and came out wrong so we more than deserved it.

EMOOOTIONSSS TAKING ME OVERRRRR

As fun as this day was, it fully wiped me out for about two days. Quite honestly, I felt like I had been hit by a train and I knew what was coming for me around the corner. At this point in the road to recovery, I have learned that some of my best days are closely followed by rough ones and this time was no exception. Recovery can be lonely. Especially when you can’t drive and it’s like 1000000 degrees below zero so hobbling somewhere to fulfill my basic human needs is out too.

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Homemade cauliflower curst margherita pizza also helped.

On Monday, my mom came home from work later than planned and for some reason I just kind of lost it. I was, and still am, so overwhelmed with where I am vs. where I need to be in order to go back home to California. I felt guilty for being so worn out from the things that used to be so mindless to me. I felt sorry for myself being home alone all day. I couldn’t focus on anything but the date on the calendar and how much further along I thought I should be at this point. And in response to all of this, I had isolated myself from pretty much everyone all day. So weird how we do that because I think all I needed was some support from my friends and still I refused to allow myself to get it. And since my mom is a wizard, she picked up on this. She called our fun neighbor friend and invited her over for a pre-bachelor Monday glass of wine and slowly but surely, the sads went away. All I needed was a little socialization and someone to listen to me ramble who didn’t have the same last name as me.

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Lol this shirt says “feeling good” and I was ironically wearing it during my breakdown. Incredible.

On week four, I had some of my highest highs and lowest lows of this recovery process so far. And for that I will give this piece of advice. Next to doing your exercises, the most important thing to do is establish a support system. To anyone else planning on having surgery or anyone who is currently in their recovery process or literally *anyone* at all: DO NOT ISOLATE YOURSELF IN A TIME OF NEED. It is a self-destructive and sometimes subconscious action that does nothing but make you feel worse. Check on yo friends, you never know what’s going on in that little bean of theirs. I am so fortunate to have my family with me through this all to be that unwavering support system I need, even when I am feeling overly emotional and acting a bit ridiculous.

Any progress is still a step in the right direction no matter how small.

MPFL: Week 3

Week 3 (Jan 1-7)

On a typical New Years Day, I’d wake up (probably a little or a lot hungover), head straight to the gym and likely hit the grocery store on the way back to set myself up for a ~clean ~ start to the new year. Obviously this year looked a little bit different. 

By this point, I’m starting to get extremely bored of my new daily routine. Netflix is unappealing, I am out of good books to read and I can only stare at my computer screen for so long. I’ve found that staying busy and remaining patient are two of the most important parts of this recovery process. It’s when you run out of things to do that your mind starts to take you down a non-productive downward spiral. I think my parents had kind of picked up on the fact that I was still a little down in the dumps so, in an effort to think of something new for us to do, my mom whipped out aprons and said “WE ARE GOING TO MAKE  HOMEMADE PASTA.” It wasn’t the New Year’s Day ritual I was used to, but it was something out of ordinary and that was exactly what I needed. Cooking and baking with all of my new gadgets has been a HUGE relief of stress and passer of time. Did the pasta turn out? No. Does it matter? No.

Moment of silence for the pie that was supposed to be pasta.

Physical therapy on week three started to pick up a little bit. I was consistently using the Nu-step for about 10 minutes to warm up. I may have been still coming in at dead last next to all of the people quadruple my age in PT, but hey, gotta start somewhere. Did Lance Armstrong win his first race?? I do not know, but I would like to think not!!! My knee was getting a little bit of a deeper bend each session and I was pretty happy about that. I felt a little more human and felt like maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

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AND THEN I HAD A REALLY GOOD DAY. Santa was supposed to bring me new tennis shoes for Christmas, but he did not deliver, that stupid little fat man. He had left me a note under the tree saying that there has been delay but I do not know Santa personally, therefore I did not trust his promise. This may be the only time I admit this, but I was wrong. Santa pulled through in a big way. You the man, my dude. 

Last year around the holidays, I bought a pair of ON running shoes and let me tell you, I put some miles on those puppies. So much so, that I had worn holes in the toes and on the sides of my shoe. Since my gait has been so compromised since I started dislocating my right knee, that’s the shoe wore out first. The side started to wear out about halfway through the year and by this time, my toes were basically sticking out all directions possible. It was time to be less hole-y.The shoes arrived (not by sleigh as I expected, but via FedEx), and I couldn’t put them on fast enough. The gals at PT had been giving me shit about my holy shoes (of course I came back with ways “it’s not even Sunday!!!) so I was excited to let them know that Santa did not, in fact, forget about me!!! 

Once I got them on, I swear to you it was like they had super powers. This sounds so dumb, but when you are quarantined inside for weeks on end with the extent of my daily excitement being sitting on a different chair in the living room, you start to find joy in the most random things. These shoes gave me hope in a weird little way. I knew that I was not gong to be able to put them to use right away the way I used to, or even put them on without a little help, but just having them on my feet made me feel so excited for what’s to come. But for the time being, I was enjoying hobbling around the house and attempting PT exercises in them. I was even able to lift my leg off the ground unassisted for the first time! Things were looking up and I was looking much better in my new HOKA x OutdoorVoices Cloud tennies. LOOK OUT WORLD!

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Out and about

When the weekend rolled around, it was time for my favorite weekly activity: Let Holly out of her cave day!!!!!! I had mastered Trader Joe’s and Target. I was ready to level up. At this point I had started to feel pretty confident in my capability to get around and I was craving pizza like you would not believe. I was seeing it on every TV show, movie, commecial, Instagram story, twitter post, TikTok (I have become a TikToker out of boredom, it’s true), Snapchat and even in my dreams. It was a sign. You bet your ass I am bringing pizza with me in 2020. Lucky for me, there’s a cute little pizza place called Princess in Iowa Falls about 20 minutes away from us. I told my parents that my mental health depended on me getting out of this town and eating pizza. That’s a proposition they could not turn down because I think they understood that I would likely turn into the hulk if project pizza party did not happen.  

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Banksy was very happy to be back in the bag :’)

Getting dressed and putting on makeup for the first time in forever (which by the way, my skin is loving me for this break) did wonders for my human-meter, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bit overwhelming. Since my brace is so bulky, and they need access to skin at PT for the e-stim, I have basically been living in shorts since my surgery…in the winter….in Iowa. Nice. Obviously, that’s not the look I wanted to go for to wear to Princess, but because I couldn’t quite wear jeans yet (mostly due to the swelling of my knee and rigidity of the denim), my options were pretty limited. 

I own two jumpsuits. One of which I wore to my Trader Joe’s field trip and the other that is cheetah print head to toe and now my only option left for my big Saturday outing. Subtle! Aside from being a bit obnoxious, this thing is DANG comfy. AND it was $7.99 on sale at Target. Very easy to put on and my brace fits over it like a charm. Problem solved. I was ready to go and feeling semi-cute brace and all.

Luckily we got front row parking, because it had just snowed and iced over a bit the night before. My dad grabbed one of our doormats from home to put it on the icy ground outside the car- God bless that man. Once I got inside, there was no hiding. As if my cheetah girl style jumpsuit wasn’t enough in small town Iowa, the clank clank clank of my crutches against the hardwood floor did the trick!!!!! I stared at the ground the entire walk in. Half because I didn’t want to fall and half because I was afraid I would have to answer the same questions everyone asks. I only had enough energy to do that one time today…for our server. And it paid off cause I think we got free dessert because of it. Ain’t nothing that a little pizza, wine and homemade ice cream can’t fix. I should add that by this point, I can handle a drink or two here and there. More human points for me! And thank god I had gotten my liver primed because Bachelor Monday was around the corner and I will not be caught watching without a glass of Pinot Noir in my hand.

Week three went down as my best week since my surgery. I started to make strides in PT, was off the pain medicine completely (save Tylenol), and got out of the house. I even finally stopped being a bit of a recluse and reconnected with some people who make me feel whole via FaceTime. It can be so easy to isolate yourself during a period of change and recovery, especially when you can’t get behind the wheel. I still am not cleared to drive, I am not even able to sit in the front seat. Obviously that puts a dent in making the rounds to see friends. For that reason, I’ve been so so appreciative of the support that I have received from friends, family and people I have connected with online who have read this or found me on Instagram because of similar surgeries. It’s been a big relief to have such a support system behind me and that I can be on the other side of the support system for some of the fellow MPFLers I’ve met along the way. 

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP. I set a goal for the next week to start to ease my way back in the gym and harass my parents for more field trip time. At this rate, I’m going to have to invest in some more jumpsuits.

Read about week 4 here!

MPFL: Week 2

Week 2 (December 24 – 31)

Christmas was quickly approaching and I had BIG dreams of leaving the four walls of house. I felt like I was going literally insane. We made plans to have our family Christmas in the morning and then *fingers crossed* go see family and friends in the afternoon. As I woke up and crutched myself down the hallway to check out what Santa had brought, I had one request. BARF BAG PLZ. I hadn’t been nauseous since my surgery day but damn was I feeling like I slept on a rollercoaster all night.

Since I had run out of my Percocet prescription, they gave me a new one for Tramadol. I took one in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve and I’m pretty sure that was to blame for the wave of nausea. Thankfully it passed and there was no pukestravaganza round two. CHRISTMAS WAS SAVED!!! We set up a stool for me to rest my leg on while I opened my presents. Things felt *almost* normal. Next step: gtfo of Hampton.

Prior to surgery, I hadn’t even thought about how difficult it would be to get in and out of a car or that fact that I wouldn’t be able to drive. That was the big hang up with traveling any where besides 2 minutes down the road to physical therapy. My parents live in the middle of no where so to get anywhere we need to go, it takes at least an hour and a half. We headed towards Pella (where I grew up) to see family and friends with the instruction from the doctor to stop about half way and get out to crush around as a precaution against blood clots.

img_3269-1This wasn’t too big of a concern for me because I had already gotten blood work done to test me for a genetic predisposition to blot clotting and I was in the clear.

I decided to fast on pain meds so that I could enjoy a glass of wine at our family friends’ house. Getting REALLY crazy over here. Once the long awaited moment had come, it took me over an hour to get through one glass and after two I couldn’t words. I felt like my brain was mush and when we tried to play What do you Meme, I struggled to read the cards without stuttering or fumbling over my words in some way. Maybe I was tired or maybe I really was ~tipsy~ after 2 glasses of wine. Whatever it was, wasn’t really worth it. If there’s anything worse than being on crutches, it’s being drunk on crutches and I was NOT about to go there. Cut off: party of one!

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Me *feeling* it

And for my next trick I will attempt to go up the stairs!!!! This was a three person job and unless I wanted to sleep on the couch (again) it was unavoidable. The bedrooms at our friends’ house are all up stairs. Basically I just sat down backwards and walked up the stairs with my arms while my dad held my legs and our friend Laura followed behind us with my overnight bag. Shoutout to everyone who made this journey possible.

The next day I had the pleasure of navigating a grocery store. Trader Joe’s. God, I missed my California friend Joe, the Trader. I got a Vitamix for Christmas (God bless you Santa) so I had all sorts of things that I wanted to pick up there. Now that I was more comfortable standing, I planned to spend some time in the kitchen whipping up whatever I could to pass the time.

TJ.jpgHummus, almond butter, smoothies, juices- WHERE DO I START?! I also talk non-stop about TJ’s cauliflower gnocchi, so that was also a must on the list (especially since I also got an air fryer). Very eager to do something that reminded me of LA, I think I was a bit overzealous to start my first public outing because not only did it take way longer than necessary, I was totally exhausted by the end of it. It felt good to get out and about, but I was beyond ready to go home and lay down.

I stayed that way for a few days. Although the pain had subsided, PT started to get more challenging. I was down to taking medication pretty much only before therapy sessions and sometimes at night. My mobility really hadn’t changed too much, but I had beed cleared to roll over on my stomach for “tummy time” like a god damn baby.

I laughed at it at first but it quickly became one of my favorite parts of rehabilitation. I had developed a horribly tight and extremely sore hip flexor and sore as fack left butt cheek from picking up the slack that my right leg had checked in a the OR door. Laying on my stomach gave my hip flexor a second to stretch and chill out. Plus, I’m such a stomach sleeper and was starting to get pretty sick of being on my back 24/7.

Follow up appointment img_4469-1

On December 30th, I had my follow up appointment at Iowa Ortho. It’s a weird thing, walking into an orthopedic center. Everyonethere has crutches or a brace or has some sort of apparatus they are using just to get around. It’s like a car repair shop but for humans and I was next on the tune up list.

I saw the PA this time and this is where I bombarded him with questions. Most of those, I’ve already detailed previously. I will spare you the details of bringing up the giant metal rod that was through my entire leg again. He cleared me to begin to ween myself off of my crutches starting with one and going to none. This was GREAT news. He said the more I force myself to hobble around on it with my brace locked, the more it will stimulate my quad muscles to WAKE THE F UP.

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This is where I learned more about my cartilage deterioration. He said that had they known it was as bad as it is prior to surgery (it’s stage 4), they would have discussed other cartilage regeneration options prior to surgery. They could have taken my cells and sent them off to a lab to regenerate and then place them back behind my knee cap, but this process often isn’t covered by insurance and when it is, it takes a long time. I found out that day that the micro-fractures were unplanned and likely the source of a lot of the extra pain that I am having. I am hopeful this method works, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a fear that the cartilage loss will cause the same pain and discomfort I img_4496-1was having prior to surgery. But, during the recovery process, you absolutely cannot let yourself get caught up in the what ifs.

We ended this outing at Target. I was having moments of feeling sorry for myself as friends talked about they NYE plans back home in LA so my mom and I decided some cute pajamas and a nice bottle of champagne would help at least a little bit. I am not one to get caught up in Holidays (unless it’s my birthday that’s a different story) so I was kind of upset with myself that I was feeling low as NYE approached. I think it was just a culmination of all of the post surgery feelings. Like I’ve said a thousand times, it has not been easy. I miss dancing, I miss going on walks, I miss being able to drive anywhere and crank up the music and I miss holding my four-legged child in her dog bag OK?!?! I miss walking to the kitchen to grab a snack and being able to carry it back by myself. I miss showering without my mom having to sit in the bathroom to help me out. I miss my life back in California. I miss a lot ofthings. And I think I just got hit with a wave of it on New Years Eve. It is extremely difficult to go from feely moving and being active 7 days a week to nothing at all. It will get better, and that is what keeps my spirits high. But sometimes, the now is gnarly.

What has been cool to see, is a huge shift in what makes me happy. Before my surgery, I took a lot of what my body was capable of for granted. I would mindlessly walk into a spin class or HIIT workout and not even think about how cool it is that my body is able to do what I could do. Often times, I would even leave disappointed because I didn’t burn a certain amount of calories or beat my score from last time.

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On the morning of New Years Eve, I was asked to warm up on the “bike” at physical therapy. I kind of laughed at Kristin, my PT. I’m like dude, listen. I can’t even get off the couch by myself and you want me to ride this thing? She helped me onto it by lifting up my “dead leg” (as I like to call it) and explained that it’s called a Nustep and isn’t quite what I had been riding on during a spin class. It’s closer to a stair stepper machine, only sitting. Regardless, it was a step in the right direction that would challenge my leg to start bending more. I was served a slice of humble pie as the silver hairs to my left and right were taking laps around me on their machine while I had a whopping ZERO STEPS PER MINUTE. Rather than this being discouraging to me, I could not wipe the smile off of my face. This small amount of movement that I could manage, gave me a glimpse of hope for the weeks to come.

I am thankful for the support of my family and friends and my physical therapy team. I’m thankful that I have this as an outlet to share my experience, if for no one else’s benefit, for my own. It feels good to be candid about the ups and downs of this journey. I’ve been told that it gets a lot easier after about the 3rd week and writing this from a future perspective, I can say that is true.

Check out week 3 here!

MPFL: Week 1

Week 1

My first week post op was filled with lots of surprises, humbling moments and pain medication.  I was on a regimen of 2 percocet every 6 hours as needed, and trust me it was. I had told my mom that my pain score was about a 7 at the most all through the first week, but now that I am on the other side I can confidently say I was floating around a 9 nearly the entire time. I had steri strips with a compression/ice sleeve over it, covered by an ace wrap with a bulky brace around all of that. My leg was HUGE and I wasn’t sure how much of it was swelling and how much of it was bandaging. Quite honestly, I was scared to find out.

 

The worst task of the first few days (besides PT), was getting up to use the restroom. It often times took both my mom and my dad to help me off the couch and down the hallway, not to mention the extreme pain that came with shifting from horizontal to vertical. My mom had to stay in the bathroom with me to hold my leg up just so I could sit down. My right leg was unbendable and I had no control over it no matter how hard I focused to bend or move it . Why??

I learned at physical therapy the day after my surgery (yes, I started PT not even 24 hours after my surgery) that waking up my quadriceps would be one of the toughest hurdles I would have to jump. What I didn’t realize prior to the operation, is that the trauma of surgery would completely shut off my thigh muscles. And not just for the day, but for damn near a month. That became very clear to me during my first PT session.  No control over my quads means a lot of things physically, but on a larger scale it means no autonomy whatsoever. Putting on socks? Forget it. Getting off the couch? Forget it. Showering? You don’t even want to know.

But in case you do…I was allowed to shower on Thursday (2 days post op). That meant I got to take off my bandages and brace and that I was excited about. I had no idea what it looked like up in there. So that was about the only highlight of the experience.

 

My shower involved a chair from the dining room in my shower, a small step stool and my mom literally hosing me down like an animal and it was the most humiliating experience ever. Honestly I’m not sure how much of it was tears and how much of it was shower water. Aside from the pain, there was fear of slipping and a whole heap of realization falling down on me. Damn, this recovery is going to be vastly different than I thought it would be. 

Maybe I was overly optimistic or maybe I just had no freaking clue what to expect, but I for real thought I would be walking in a week or two and definitely behind the wheel and back in the gym. As a dancer and someone who is extremely active, watching my left leg soar through the exercises that my physical therapists guided me through, while my right leg is unable to leave the ground was tough to take. Still is. I have had several moments of sheer hopelessness and discouragement and, on the complete other end of the spectrum, moments of accomplishment that come from the slightest movements that I never thought I would consider a success.

By the end of the first week, I was running out on my pain medication and we had failed to taper off gradually. On Sunday, I had only Tylenol and was feeling great. I was up and about more than I had been, my at-home PT exercises went great and I even showered standing up and without much assistance (thank fcking god).

~iTs ThE lItTlE tHiNgS~

By this point, I had found that doing little things like doing my hair or wearing matching pajamas during the day helped me feel more put together and less miserable. So my mom picked up a cute little set for me to put on. I felt on top of the world…until Monday. I woke up in the middle of the night Monday in excruciating pain and struggled to get back to sleep. I think what happened was that when I was feeling good and “not even on pain meds!” I definitely was still on meds. Although I didn’t take any that day, I had an entire prescription bottle of oxycodone in my system still from throughout the week and once that had pretty much left my system I was in for it. 

 

 

Week one was a hazy blur filled with tears, pain meds and hard realizations. I had weird dreams almost nightly and had to sleep on the couch because I was unable to get myself on the bed, even with help. It took us 3 hours to figure out how to adjust the brace once we took out all of the stuff wrapped around my knee off and over an hour to navigate the first shower experience. I woke my mom up one night to ask her if she had enough zucchinis (???) for the zucchini bread that she wasn’t making and hasn’t made in maybe a decade. Thank you, narcotics. I couldn’t activate my quad and had to come to terms with the fact that this was going to be a long haul. I knew after week one that I would never take movement for granted again.

Check out week 2 here!

New year, new knee

If you would have asked me on New Years Eve 2009 to predict how I would end this decade, I probably wouldn’t have said in my finest pair of pajamas and bulky knee brace on a couch with my parents in Hampton, IA. But hey, here we are. 

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On December 17, I had a very long anticipated surgery done on my right knee. After nearly a decade of dislocations and pain that increased with each passing year, I had my medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) reconstructed using a cadaver ligament and micro-fractures done on the back side my knee cap to generate cartilage growth. If you’re thinking “what the hell does that mean,” here is the Reader’s Digest version. One of the ligaments that keeps my knee tracking properly was stretched out like an overused hair-tie due to chronic dislocations. To fix this, they went in and took out that useless thing and strung a dead person’s Gracilis from the inside of my leg through my knee cap and back to the inside in a hope to keep that knee cap tracking straight and not out to the side. Once they got in there, they were disappointed to find that I have virtually no cartilage left on the backside of my patella. Enter the micro-fractures. Hopefully, these will trigger my body to generate more cartilage on its own.

Ok, so I’m sure at this point you are very impressed with the amount of knowledge I have about this. I am too as I proofread this but I’ll admit, I wasn’t super well-informed about what the recovery looked like for this surgery. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, but I am most often the type that over analyze and over research things. So the fact that I did little to no extra digging around prior to D-day is very uncharacteristic. 

All of my research came while I was stuck on the couch, loaded on pain meds and feeling helpless. Sounds like a great time to circle the drain!!!! I scoured the internet for blogs or articles about other patient’s personal stories with recovery, but failed to find anything that gave me all of the answers that I wanted. In fact, most of what I found were horrible scar photos and people celebrating finally bending their knee after 3 months…..and that was not the kind of progress I was ok with having.

SO. I am not only writing this as another attempt at a new years resolution to write more consistently and as a little bit of therapy for myself, but also for people who may be in the same position that I was before I harassed the PA at my follow up appointment for answers. Which, by the way, some of those answers I think I may have been better off not knowing. He told me they literally had a metal rod in one side of my leg, through my knee cap and out the other side so that they could get to the bottom of my knee cap. Nice!

Alright, here we go. I am extremely happy to have a clear mind and finally feel myself enough to write again. I’m going to kind of chunk it up in different aspects of the recovery process because (no surprise here) I have a lot to say. Welcome to part one of my recovery story. 

Pre-op

My surgery was scheduled for December 10. I had just driven back from California with my dad mid-November and jumped right into a busy schedule back home. I had several choreography and teaching jobs lined up and worked the social media side of the ISDTA dance competition. During any downtime, it felt like I had an appointment of some kind. Dentist, doctor, gyno, orthopedic surgeon and the list goes on and on. My family lives in The Middle of Nowhere, IA, so trust me when I say I put some MILES on my car getting from point A to point B and back again. Before I knew it it was the day before surgery…and I was run down in all caps and also italicized. Also maybe underlined.

At first I wasn’t too mad at that. I knew I was about to have several weeks of downtime and sometimes it’s better for me to stay busy so that I don’t overthink the details. But once I started feeling nauseas and buried myself under about 4 blankets, I knew I was more than just run down. Yes, you guessed it. I was blessed with the flu the night before my original surgery date! I am not kidding when I tell you I haven’t been sick since like my sophomore year of college. WHY NOW. 

The flu came on hard and fast (hehe) with a dead sprint to the bathroom and a very glamorous projectile vomit as I tried my darnedest to hit the porcelain god. So close. So, so close.

I’ll spare you the rest of the gory details. But after spending a night half asleep on the bathroom floor, we got ahold of the surgery center and rescheduled. The new D-day was December 17, a week from the original date.

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Last workout for God knows how long, adios MPFL!

This was good for me. It gave me a week to decompress from my previous schedule, load up on nutrients and really soak up my last few days of being able to move freely. From the other side, that last part is something I am so grateful I was able to do.

Alright. Let’s try this again. Round 2. I had to get this stuff called hibiclens to wash my leg with the night before to disinfect. So I got that done (during what I didn’t know would be my last normal shower for a while…RIP) and headed to bed feeling rested and ready for my knee to get annihilated. Yeehaw!

Day of

HELLO NERVES!!!! I’m going to be honest, my memory of the morning before surgery is pretty hazy. I woke up at about 5:45, got dressed, said goodbye to my dog and got down the road on the way to Iowa Ortho in Des Moines with pretty much no idea what to expect and nothing to calm me down. And also a very empty and dry stomach. You aren’t allowed to eat or drink anything from midnight before your surgery date until after the procedure. My throat was dry as the Sahara and I couldn’t load up on coffee like I normally would with a 5:45 am wake up call. HInd-sight, that’s probably a good thing because my anxiety was through the roof without any caffeine.

After I got there, I filled out some paper work and then they took me back to put on a fancy shmancy hospital gown and pee in a cup to make sure I’m not pregnant. Which I can assure you, I am not. On another comical note and notice to my future surgery-havers, wear full butt underwear if you are going to be putting on a hospital gown…they are pretty open in the back and unless you wanna give the staff a show it is in your best interest. I did not do this. Tickets were free to the booty show on December 17, 2019. 

Then they put me in a reclining hospital chair and covered me up with a weird heated blanket. Once I was all settled, they let my parents come back. In this small area closed off by a curtain, the anesthesiologist came back and talked to me about what was about to happen. I had never been put under so I had a lot of questions. Most of them centered around “what the heck are you about to put in me?” The answer was propofol, lidocaine and fentanyl with another antibiotic for my penicillin allergy, just in case. During my time in the prep area, I met several extremely kind people that would be in the operating room with me. I was too nervous to think of any questions to ask, but felt comfortable and as ready as I could.

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Shortly after that, they wheeled me back to the OR and stuff started happening right away. All of the people that I had met during my short time in the prep area were resurfacing and beginning to get me set up on the table. It felt like a million people saying hello at different times and stating what they were going to be doing to me- “l’m going to help you on the table,” “I’m going to put in this IV,” “lift up your gown so I can attach heart rate monitors to you,”, “do you want to move your pony tail so you aren’t laying on your scrunchie?” You get the gist. 

And then I woke up.

Post-op

No, I did not skip anything. I didn’t even see Dr. Vinyard come into the OR and no one counted me down to “sleep” like I expected. I’m not even sure I knew they had started the drip before I was out cold. I learned later that my body reacted pretty significantly to the fentanyl. My blood pressure dropped more quickly and lower than anticipated, so they had to give me something to reverse the effects a bit. That probably has something to do with the fact that low blood pressure is already a norm for me. 

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Help me

Anyway, all went well and I woke up groaning on a hospital bed super dizzy with a straw in my mouth. WATER. Finally. They gave me a few more pills in some applesauce and my mom said they probably fed me toast too but I don’t remember at all. The only thing I remember is being incredible dizzy and disoriented. Like I had been asleep in a dark cave that had been spinning in circles for like 2320 years and I had just woken up for the first time. What day is it and what century am I in?? To help with the nausea for the car ride home, they put some sort of patch behind my left ear and once I started to feel a little bit better, they moved me to a different room where my parents and our family friend could come see me looking like a wet noodle.

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Next up they fit me for crutches and I insisted that I was fine and could do the adjusting on my own if I needed. This is classic me not wanting to admit that I am in fact not doing fine and have no idea how to set up crutches. My parents thought that was pretty funny cause I’ve been queen of “I’m fine!!!” since I was old enough to talk.

They put me in a wheelchair eventually and I asked for some more water. I also spotted some saltine crackers which I requested and then suffered through trying to eat them as the cracker stuck

to the inside of my mouth because it was so dry. I think I cracked a joke about the food here being gourmet! And that’s about the extent of my memory. That and I requested a green juice as soon as possible because I felt like I “needed some greens in my system” l o l. Green juice in one hand and puke bag in another, we were on our way back to Hampton and I was on my way to sleep. Right on!

It ain’t over, folks. Check out week 1 here.