ACL recovery: Weeks 2 and 3.5

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ACL emails: Week 2

This is going to be the first in a whole series of email updates that I’ve sent out, detailing my diagnosis and hopefully my recovery from this latest injury. I’m still in the thick of things right now, without a real path forward or light at the end of the tunnel, so writing these out has helped me keep focused on what’s happening, and where I need to go.

The Story So Far: I went skiing. I fell, skiing. Went to the urgent care, and got the diagnosis that every athlete dreads: Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament. I went to a surgeon in Hood River, who doubled down on the diagnosis, telling me that I’d also torn my Lateral Cruciate Ligament, and tore my meniscus as well. Things were pretty bad, but the tunnel did get a bit lighter right at the beginning…

MRI is the news of the week; Sarah and I were out the door at 6:00 Tuesday morning for a 6:30 appointment… That we didn’t get called in for until 7:10.

But the MRI went fine, and we got the results on Friday during my two appointments; one for Dr. Burgoyne (a surgeon) and one with Ed Andree (a physical therapist).

The results are good! …Maybe.

First – the LCL. The good news. My LCL isn’t torn, and seems to be completely intact and undamaged.

Second – the Meniscus. Also good news. Undamaged, looking happy and healthy.

Last – the uncertain news. My ACL might not be torn. It appears to be an avulsion fracture; basically, the ACL was stretched, but didn’t tear. Instead, the bone at the Tibia cracked, but didn’t fully pull away from the tibia. They think. It’s not majorly displaced, but it is displaced. There’s also some damage to the tibial plateau, similar to the damage that drywall receives when you bump into it. Minor, in comparison to everything else.

But, the last news is uncertain. Since it’s not a full tear, treatment is less certain. And since it’s not completely displaced, or completely non-displaced, it’s even less certain. So the path forward is… wait and see. It’s also more scary, since the damage isn’t complete. Which means I have to be exceptionally careful with it, to avoid making it worse.

I started Physical Therapy, and have a whole list of exercises to do now. I’ll have at least one appt. per week, and for the next month will focus on regaining strength, mobility, and range of motion. Then, they’ll probably take another MRI, and see how well the tibia has healed.

And to confirm all of that, I’ve got two second-opinion consultations coming up this week. So maybe that other orthopedist will have a different opinion?

Slowly but surely. Depending on whether it heals (no surgery) or it doesn’t (probably surgery) recovery time could vary anywhere from 5 months, to over a year.

– Ben

 

 

ACL emails: Week 3.5

It’s been a tough one… Lots has been happening this past week, but unfortunately not much of it is good / actionable information. But recovery is going, which is all I can really ask for.

I’ve been focusing on Physical Therapy the best that I can – It’s a little tough not over-doing it though, since home-exercises always make me think that I should be doing more of them. But the quad contractions are getting a lot better, and standing is getting less and less painful, so the drills are definitely paying off. Now it’s just keeping it up, getting full extension back, and trying to reduce the swelling to normal levels.

From appointments, I got the frustrating news. We saw Dr. O’Shea on Friday – he was really impressive and pleasant to speak with, and explained everything really well to both Sarah and myself. He even did an objective test to measure knee displacement (my right knee is 8mm, my left is 12mm)… which definitely points back toward surgery. Which was his strong recommendation.

The real name of the game now is a split. Getting a third opinion to decide between the “wait and see” option, and the “wait and see… but schedule surgery anyways” option comes first. Second, comes convincing my insurance that getting care in Oregon is medically necessary.

So the battle rages on.

– Ben

Skiing Squaw Valley, and my newest injury

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Skiing Squaw Valley, and my newest injury

Saturday, 25-Feb-2017

 

I went skiing in California!

Sarah and I had started skiing earlier this year, and I’ll be honest – I’d gotten pretty good, and was really starting to enjoy myself. Combine that with my friend Mike telling me all about how great skiing in California is, and that I hadn’t seen Mike for a while… well, I bought tickets and flew out. Rented get in Hood River, of course, which just added to the fun of flying. Yay huge bags!

I actually flew into Sac on Friday night, after a day of climbing with Sarah at the gym… I felt bad about running off, but she’d mentioned a desire to stay in Portland and see some friends of hers, so I figured that this would be a good excuse for us to have some individual adventures, and then catch back up the following week.

 

So I flew into Sac. Stayed at Mike’s place Friday night, and then drove out to Squaw Valley the next morning.

It was a drive. Mike and I hadn’t caught up in a while, and this drive definitely gave us time to catch up. What was normally a 2.5hour drive quickly turned into a 5 hour one, what with having to pull over to put on chains, be told that we couldn’t put chains on where we were (we were <5ft past one sign, but 10ft in front of another…), turn around, sit in more traffic, put on chains, then sit in more traffic, then get caught in some more traffic.

 

Then, after the traffic, we found out that the parking lot was full. So Mike, being amazing, dropped me off out front, and then went to get lunch while I got a few runs in.

By the time he got back, I’d done maybe half a dozen runs throughout the easy area, and was starting to feel pretty okay about Squaw. It was steep, and carved out, but definitely fun… and I was really looking forward to learning some tips and tricks from the ski extraordinaire hanging out with me.

Once Mike got a parking spot, we hit up the far side of the mountain, a lift run called Shirley. And that’s where I should have turned tail and run… it was all blues, but much steeper and more carved out than I was used to. In fact, the runs were mostly moguls… not something I’d ever dealt with before. But I gave it a shot, and our first run went pretty well.

 

Our second run didn’t.

 

I did the first half of the run well, and stopped for a quick breather about 70% the way down the run… before starting into that mogul field again. But this time, I didn’t hit them right. This time, I caught a ski, and went down.

My knee went another way. I screamed.

By the time I got down to Mike, shock was setting in. I couldn’t press down with my heel, and I was confident that I couldn’t ski out.

We asked a lift operator for a hand, and he quickly proved his incompetance by suggesting that I ski out… even going so far as to say that I needed to wait in line, and then ski down a green to get back to the lodge. Honestly, I’m like 90% certain that he was stoned… which I wouldn’t normally mind, but… you know… shock. Pain. Injured skier asking for help. Screw that guy.

 

So I walked away, and asked the next lift operator if he could help.

“Ohh god! Yeah man, get on this next chair, I’ll hold some folks back for you. What’s your name? I’ll call up, and ski patrol will be waiting for you”. THAT is how you react to someone saying that they’re in shock, and unable to ski out.

One snowmobile ride later I can’t put any weight on the knee at all, and I’m on a tram down to the urgent care area. Then two hours of waiting (1.5 hours of that in the outside waiting room), and then meeting a nurse for x-rays, and a doctor for a diagnosis.

 

Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament.

 

The four words that every skiier, soccer player, footballer, or really any athlete fears. I was told that I was now a member of that club, and that I should go see an orthopedist for an MRI within two weeks. That I wouldn’t be able to walk for a month, and that recovery could take anywhere from six months to a year.

The rest of the night was blurred. I called loved ones, then ate a huge plate of nachos. Mike helped me carry my gear into the motel room, and I settled myself into the bed, trying to learn how to hold myself to keep the knee elevated, but not painful.

I guess I’ve got time to learn, though… we’ll see how recovery goes.

12-Feb – First trip to Smith, 2017

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First trip to Smith, 2017

Saturday, 12-Feb-2017

 

The nice thing about Oregon is how varied the climate can be, based on where in the State you are. Sarah and I took advantage of this in the best way possible today, by being completely crazy and doing a day trip down to Smith Rock.

That’s right. Smith. Two and a half hour drive each way… if the weather and traffic hold easy. Longer, if there’s snow or ice or something.

The plan was pretty simple: leave mid-morning, to give the rock a few hours to warm up in the sun, climb a few good routes to remind us what real rock is like, and then drive back home. Simple, and easy.

And honestly… it went pretty easy. The late morning was a nice change from our usual hectic mornings. The drive down was clean, without much ice or snow on the passes around Mt. Hood. Smith was more crowded than we’d expected, but that didn’t really affect us too much… the only real issue with the crowds was that Ollie was a bit more barky than normal. The drive home was long… especially due to the ice and one incident with Ollie, but it wasn’t the worst thing Sarah and I have dealt with, so we were still pretty good.

So, details, right?

Climbing was simple and easy – we didn’t push ourselves too hard, and really only stuck to fun and short routes, with easy approaches. We stayed in the dihedrals, starting out on the ever-popular 5 gallon buckets (5.8, Sport). Then we climbed around a little, did a Trad line called Cinnamon Slab (5.6, Trad) (Sarah did it twice, since she loved it so much), and I did a super easy sport line called Easy Reader (5.6, Sport).

Like I said, simple and easy, but still really pleasant. Sun on our arms, gear on our harnesses, and rock in our hands. Amazing, and a whole winter with only shovels and snow for hand holds.