Tag Archives: surgery

Ride report: first post-ACL reconstruction ride

Today was one of the toughest bike rides of my life, and I only went about 8 blocks – my first post-surgery ride on a real bike. I’m not sure my surgeon or physiotherapist would approve, but I just couldn’t resist, especially after watching today’s Giro d’Italia highlights.

  

I took Violet because she has an upright, step-through frame. I thought that would make it easier. First obstacle: I couldn’t climb out of the parking garage, perhaps because she’s a single speed? Perhaps feeling the weight I’ve gained? I was wondering if I should have taken my 11-speed Brodie instead. (My road bike – Jon Snow – is completely out of the question for another several weeks – not sure I could even clip in/out properly…). 

Once on the road I felt fantastic. However even a small incline got me huffing and puffing, so I don’t think smaller gears would have helped. 

I felt like that was a big win for me. I needed that. I needed to feel like I’m making progress. I was so overjoyed, even with my eight-block ride, I was teary-eyed when we got back. 

This time next year I’ll be prepping for another metric century ride, no doubt about it!

Photo by Ken Jeffery. Taking photos while riding is a skill I have yet to master…

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Lost poster for season one

Weekly picks for April 6-12

I’ve been doing little else but – OK that’s not quite true – I’ve been doing a lot the last week. A team of superb health-care professionals knocked me out safely, grafted a piece of ligament from my shin onto my torn ACL, fixed the torn meniscus, and closed me back up. I was sent home that same morning.

Lost poster for season oneWhen my daughter couldn’t get there right away they seemed impatient to get me dressed and ready for when she did arrive to get my groggy butt out to the car. I guess they needed the bed for someone else? Anyway, still very loopy from the anaesthetic, my daughter and I stopped by a pharmacy to get my prescriptions filled. While we waited she took some (I imagine) hilarious video of me which she has promised not to share on any social network.

No worries, I recuperated at a friend’s place on the Island for a few days, then Ken drove me back home to Vancouver, where I’ve been trying to do my exercises and get rid of the need for medication that makes me foggy. Mission accomplished on both counts. No, I can’t bear all my weight yet, nor walk more than a few steps. But I’m working on it. And I’m onto Tramacet only, soon to be Tylenol only for pain relief.

Huzzah modern medicine.

While I’m on crutches, you’d think I’d be reading a lot, right? Well, yes. That and binge-watching Netflix. But here’s what I have been reading:

Frequently Asked Questions following Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Surgery (PDF), Rebalance MD. 

Here is the only motivation I need for doing my icky, painful exercises. According to the FAQ: “In general, between 80-90% of people are able to return to their pre-injury level of activity after a primary ACL reconstructive procedure.” And it’ll only take 6-9 months!

So I’ve graduated from the seemingly endless wait, despairing of ever being able to run again, to the work of learning now to walk again. I get stronger every day, and I expect to ditch the crutches in another week or two. Hoo. Ray.

The Psychopath Inside, by James Fallon.

A funny thing happened when Dr. Fallon, a brain researcher, compared a bunch of brain scans as a favour for a colleague. He asked the colleague, who was studying Alzheimer’s disease, to mix in scans from Dr. Fallon’s own family, and make all the scans anonymous (Because science!). Fallon found the scan of a psychopath mixed in with all the others. Odd, because he thought all his psychopath brain scans were in another study, another pile. Turns out (spoiler alert!) the scan was his own, shaking his idea of what makes a psychopath, what makes people violent criminals, and the role of nurture versus nature in socialization and personality development. It’s a pretty interesting read, but gets a little bogged down in self-aggrandizing detail at times. But then, what did you expect from a narcissistic scientist with psychopathic tendencies?

Prepare to be Shocked! What happens when you click on one of those “One Weird Trick” ads? Alex Kaufman, Slate.com

I’m just endlessly fascinated with what makes people do what they do, and make the choices they make; or rather how others get people to make the choices they make. I guess it’s part and parcel of my profession. The One Weird Trick marketers know their audience, is what it comes down to. And it isn’t you or I.

Here’s what I’ve been listening to, watching:

LOST 

OK I admit it. I’ve listened to no podcasts in the last week. Ken and his daughter urged me to watch LOST so I could share in their fandom. (No, I never did jump on the bandwagon while it originally aired.)

So, still on pain meds and drugged up the wazoo, I started watching. Now I can’t stop. Sayid, what were you doing with Shannon in the first place? You like ‘em shallow and dumb? I expected more from you. Kate, get over your daddy issues and go for the good guy for once, will ya? Jack, you can’t save everyone, and quit running off into the jungle and leaving a settlement of 40 people behind, you’re their only doctor for crying out loud! Michael, you should have drowned Sawyer when you had a chance, and I’m sorry about your boy.

And Locke. John Locke. The very first episode sent me running for my old philosophy textbooks (oh right, individualism, natural rights, no absolute monarchy, we’re all free, etc). By the third episode, Tabula Rasa (!), I was thoroughly hooked. I imagine there have been graduate papers written already about the significance of this character and what he represents in the human political psyche. I’d look them up, but I have several seasons to get through first …

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Physiotherapist taping up someone's knee

Under the knife – coping with major sports injury

What happens when a triathlete suddenly can’t be a triathlete?

Physiotherapist taping up someone's kneeFifteen months ago, I tore up my left knee after a fall while hiking: meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament. Since last August I’ve been waiting for reconstructive surgery. I haven’t run a step since January 2014 when the injury happened, and it took several weeks to gingerly get in the pool, and several months to be able to get on my bike.

It’s been tough, especially since I was a runner first, and running is my main stress-reliever. It’s been my go-to for blowing off steam for as long as I can remember, because it’s so easy. No bike tires to pump up, no open pool lanes to find. Just lace up shoes and exit the front door.

“With people coming to sports as a way of moderating depression or stress, warding off illnesses like heart disease or cancer, or to lose weight, the stakes are higher. When injured, they not only have to deal with the pain and stress of being injured, but they have lost a primary coping strategy,” said one article I read (Tarkan 2000), and that has been very much my experience.

Last season I did a couple of relays, but it wasn’t the same. Triathlon is a sport in itself, because when you’re doing one leg, you’re always thinking of transition, and how the next phase of the race is going to be affected by what you’re doing now. That’s what I loved about both rock climbing and triathlon: the problem-solving.

And I haven’t been able to do it for more than a year. Once surgery comes, I will be in recovery for months more.

“It’s often said that being a triathlete is a life-style rather than a reflection of having raced in a triathlon. It is a cornerstone of a person’s identity and self-esteem … The unspeakable fear is, “What happens if full recovery never comes?” Serious injury can rattle the very foundation of one’s identity,” says a guy named, I kid you not, Dr. Charlie Brown in a blog post from 2000. As a result, many athletes can get clinically depressed after injury: “Research has shown that some of the more common psychological responses to injury (ie, depression, anger, anxiety) are amplified in cases of more severe injury, such as a traumatic ACL injury,” (McCardle 2010).

I have many friends who had major injuries requiring surgery, so I turned to some of them for this post, asking how they coped. Not surprisingly, the friends least prone to depression were the ones who immediately responded to my request.

My triathlete friend Connie has had two major surgeries in the last several years: to repair a hamstring avulsion (it was torn right off her sit-bone), and then a broken wrist.

My climbing friend Dave has had several surgeries: one resulting from a dislocated shoulder as a result of a fall, another a ripped biceps from a particularly strenuous move at a gym, and more recently some foot surgeries to deal with arthritis.

“There was a 7-day delay for the hamstring surgery because the first surgeon who was on call didn’t know how to do it,” said Connie in a text message. “This was June 2010, two weeks before the first Half Iron I was supposed to do …. I was in a specially constructed brace … I sat on the front porch for 8 weeks. Peter [her husband] would make me a pot of coffee, put cream and sugar in it and leave it in a thermos for me …. I was already signed up for the October Half Marathon. I shed exactly three tears, then started wondering from whom I could borrow a racing wheelchair. LOL. I didn’t get depressed but I did worry it’d never be normal again. I don’t think I realized how worried I was until my first “run,” which was about 8 minutes per K. I kind of lurched along.”

Let me just add here that Connie is one of the sunniest, friendliest, most fun-loving people I know, and I wasn’t surprised at all to hear that she coped well with this injury, which happened before I knew her. However, I did know her when she broke her wrist a couple of years later, and that was a little harder to deal with.

“The wrist was more debilitating than that. I had never been in so much pain and I completely underestimated the recovery that would be necessary. I knew I’d be in a cast for at least 6 weeks after surgery. And I was; that was all fine. I couldn’t cycle, even on the trainer, because I couldn’t hold myself up. I couldn’t run/walk because it swelled. I couldn’t do anything for myself,” she said.

It was when the second surgery to remove the pins happened that finally threw Connie into a funk. “I TOTALLY underestimated how that was ‘like another break’ because of the space left by the pin. Was in the cast 8 weeks and then 6 more weeks of recovery.

I lost 40% of my range of motion. For example, I can’t pull myself out of the pool by putting my hands on the side and hoisting myself up. I have only just gone down on the drops [while cycling]; it hurt for a long time and I think I was a bit depressed because I couldn’t even cycle. …. [But now] I am back to training … and it feels good!!!”

As for Dave (a retired teacher who lives in the Kootenays), after the second injury in 2001-2002, he never did technical rock climbing again, “I figured maybe it was time to quit. I started that stuff late in life, so it wasn’t a big deal. I realized I couldn’t climb the way I could before – but I never could climb very well. I was always uneasy about technical rock climbing. I learned a lot about movement of body and rope management though. For me it was almost a minor relief that I didn’t have to do that anymore. I got more into mountaineering.”

What has been more difficult for Dave is recovering from foot surgeries to correct the effects of osteoarthritis: “My feet have caused me big problems. They would be so painful after spending a day in the mountaineering boots.” Dave has had joints fused in three toes on one foot, and big toe surgery in the other one. “I’m just finished the recovery process and I’m still hiking and bushwhacking – but long days on rough terrain is becoming too hard. Although we trekked for three weeks in Nepal last year … as long as I can still hike it’s OK.”

Dave has never been the type of guy to let little things like injuries get in the way of doing what he loves – being out in the mountains. Both he and Connie are inspirations to me as I wait for my ACL reconstruction surgery. I can still walk a bit, and I can still cycle and swim. It’s an adjustment, but humans are adaptable.

Or, as Dave says: “If you get out and do anything, stuff happens. And then you get older, and different stuff happens. You just deal with it.”

Further reading:

Image: “Sports Injuries and Physiotherapy” by Durrah Ramli, used under Creative Commons License

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