Baby Steps: I Woke Up Like This 1


 Pain is weakness leaving the body.

Six months ago, I awoke in a sweat in the pitch black of a January morning. A day I had planned for in a faraway future had hit me like a sack of bricks and I sat in the darkness coming to grips with my horrific reality: I was having ACL Reconstructive Surgery that day.

No matter how much I read (and what I read could’ve filled many books), I could not prepare for the ordeal before me.

ACL surgery

Scar barely visible under my Sasquatch-like fur

It was the other day, as I gasped for air from my exercise mat, a nightly routine as part of my rehab, that I asked my mom if she knew what it was like waking up in pain every day for a year and a half.

“No.”

And I smiled at her, because finally, I was starting to forget.

Usually I fill my ACL articles with helpful tips and motivation for those of you embarking on a similar journey, but I wanted this post to be a celebration instead. I hope you can draw on this anecdote as you go through the pain yourself.

I saw my surgeon today, six months after he operated on me. He beamed as he saw the skip in my step when he called my name. He had me lie flat and he poked and prodded at my now, almost fully healed leg. He bent it and pushed it awkwardly side to side, a maneuver that would have made me cringe as I felt the looseness of my ligament pre-surgery. But nothing. He looked over my knees and said it.

“Solid. ”

You can see my "good" quad is still more developed, but I'm countering the atrophy everyday!

You can see my “good” quad is still more developed, but I’m countering the atrophy everyday!

My assessment was short and I got dressed, but I stayed to talk. My doctor told me he couldn’t be more pleased that I followed his and my PT’s instructions over the past six months. He told me he was sure it was an ordeal but that all he could see were from my quarterly check ups, and from where he was sitting, I made it look easy.

He went on to say what almost brought me to tears. I could return to sports. I was already cleared for running, for the gym, and truthfully, my quality of life had returned to pre-surgery (though not quite pre-injury). But I’m in no hurry to get back. Let me rephrase: although I’d kill to play sports this very second at the level I was playing before my tear, I wouldn’t dare rush it.

I promised everyone in my life (those who took tireless care of me, who coached me, who begged me to play and begged me to never play again) a full year of recovery and that’s what I’ll do. For those of you furiously googling where I got the idea to wait a year – it’s based on the first hand experiences I read and on which I based this blog. It’s not scientifically proven as far as I know, I just see a strong correlation between the amount of time people spend strengthening and the re-injury rate.

But I sit here now, smiling, knowing the worst is past me. I wish each and every one of you going through something similar not a speedy recovery, but a full one. Thank you to those of you who have emailed and tweeted me to ask questions or offer encouragement – this success is for you.

As I reflect on that January morning a half-year later, the fear I remember feeling is as possessing now as it was then. But the pain is gone. And isn’t that the point? For whatever you’re facing in your life, take it in stride, take it in baby steps, take it together.

AR


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