Busted: A Knee Saga

At the end of July, I did a proper number on my knee:

  1. Tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) completely
  2. Tore the medial cruciate ligament (MCL) completely
  3. Tore the meniscus slightly, and for good measure
  4. Sprained the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) too

I waited a month for surgery. Had surgery at the end of August to reconstruct my ACL, repair the MCL, and stitch up the meniscus.

I’m 8 weeks into post-surgery recovery as I write this. It’s been 12 weeks since the original injury.

I’ve lost a lot of muscle

I’ve been in a knee brace and on crutches for almost that entire time, only graduating to a tongkat (walking cane) in the last week or so.

Being on crutches for as long as I have, especially in the month leading up to surgery when I couldn’t use the injured leg at all, means that my muscles were woefully underused. And they shrunk. A photo I took 3 weeks after the original injury shows the left (injured) thigh significantly smaller smaller than the right:

Pre-surgery: my injured leg (left) got considerably smaller than the right from muscle wastage.

More than that though, because I haven’t moved for such a long time, all of my muscles have gone lembeh (soft). I’m basically a human-shaped structure of jelly at this point.

I can’t bend my knee

It was stiff pre-surgery, and it’s stiff post-surgery, for somewhat different reasons. Post-surgery though, it’s strong. It can carry my weight without collapsing. Now, I’m working on getting my range of movement back — starting with getting it to bend, aka one of the main points of having knees.

Everything is an event

Normal, inevitable activity, like sleeping, sitting, getting up from bed are a drama. Showering and getting dressed is a bloody circus. Being unable to put weight on the leg, and having to keep it dead straight for 4 weeks after surgery makes any movement, and simple things like putting pants on, something of a challenge.

I’ve lost confidence

Balance, control, ability. Like a lot of motor skills, you lose them if you don’t use them. I’ve been one legged for a while, and I find myself having to learn, consciously, to walk again. And build back the trust in my body’s ability to carry me, the only way: consistent practice.

Post-surgery: doing my physiotherapy exercises with and without brace, and household aids (luggage strap, towel etc)

It seems unthinkable, that 3 months ago I was running, cycling, skating, squatting, kneeling. Walking all day taking pictures. Heck, I was sitting. Sitting in a chair has been murder this whole time, as my back has suffered (see first point about losing muscle). Damn this getting older business. Can I return it for a full refund?

More on this to come

I’ve had an interesting time with recovery, these past few months. I’ll be writing more about the process of learning to walk again for a couple of reasons:

  1. I’ve been housebound for a long time, which means I haven’t been going out to shoot, which is killing me. So I’ve been shooting my daily recovery comedy. And believe you me, it has been a comedy!
  2. I am scattered about blogging. But this is the only thing I’ve had to write about lately in my own journal. So I’m going to give this consistent-writing-about-something business a go on the blog. That’s how blogging is supposed to be done after all right?

It’s going to take many months, but I expect to recovery fully. I tore the ACL in my other leg eight years ago, which was a simpler injury-surgery-recovery situation than my current one. I was off walking aids and leg brace reasonably quickly, but it still took more than a year before I could squat properly. The timeline for fully regaining mobility this time around is likely to be longer, because of the complexity of this injury, and also being older.

(Note to self: your body is no longer fifteen years old, even if your mind is. Behave accordingly)

(Damn this getting older business)

On the flip side, I’ve been cared for by an amazing surgeon and equally great physiotherapists, all of whom are committed to my full recovery. I’ve been lucky to have been referred to these specialists, because I have been able to afford health insurance. This story might unfold quite differently otherwise.

Stay tuned!

The view from my living room windows: the neighbours’ windows. In the foreground, my beautiful chrome bicycle waits for the day I can ride it again!

In August this year, I had surgery for a knee injury sustained the month before. I’m documenting my process of recovery, and learning to walk again. See all posts in this series.