On May 30th 2015, a year ago today, I was playing in a basketball tournament, at the time I never knew that it was going to be one of the last times I’d be capable of playing basketball. When I found out about how serious my knee injury was, I suddenly realised how many things I take for granted in my life. I was only 17 at the time and finishing my final year at school.
I have seen so many people seriously hurt their knee’s, but I never really took time to think about how much it could affect someone and when you’re young, active and in reasonably good shape, you tend to get this feeling that nothing serious will ever really happen to you. Well, it happened to me anyway. For someone who has never had problems with injuries and has been playing sport for as long as they can remember, it was a pretty devastating time in my life, I must admit. This was just the very start of my journey and it has only got a lot tougher since this day. I continue to face adversity each and everyday but I know it won’t win.
Being misdiagnosed not once, not twice but three times was the start of my worries. “Good news, its just some soft tissue damage and there’s no breaks, use the crutches for a couple days and go see a doctor during the week if it still hasn’t improved” this is what I was told on the day of the injury by the doctor at the hospital. So I get to basketball the very same night and the physio wants to have a look and examine my knee. “I’ve done the ACL test and everything seems ok, no need to worry. You’ll be ok, just give it a couple days to settle down.” So here I am thinking. I was so relieved to know by two different people that it didn’t look like something serious.
Three days later, I knew something was definitely not right. My knee was so swollen, I couldn’t put any pressure on it and I could barely straighten it without being is serious discomfort and pain. I went to see a doctor that afternoon and the same thing happened again, unbelievable. She examined my knee and said nearly the exact same thing as the physio and the doctor at the hospital. “Everything seems to be intact, we wont do any scans just yet so give it a week of complete rest. Come back and see me in a week and things should have improved.” A week later, nothing had improved. She said to me “I don’t think you’ve torn your ACL. If anything, it might be a tear in your meniscus cartilage.” That’s when I got sent to get an MRI scan. It was at this point, I think I had convinced myself I was ok, I suppose I had been in denial, telling myself that it was nothing major, and that if there was any damage, it might just take a few more days.
However, that’s not what my scan revealed. After my MRI, the guy came up to me “you’re going to need to see a knee specialist as soon as you can.” and this is when I felt my heart just sink, I remember it like it was yesterday. I don’t know what’s worse being told by THREE different experts you haven’t done anything serious or finding out you have done something serious. It’s funny, though – when they tell you you’ve completely ruptured your ACL, torn both your menisci, and that you wont be able to play sport for more than 12 months, I guess they expect you to cry or something. It wasn’t like that though; I was so frustrated and angry by this point that I didn’t even care.
So the next lot of my troubles began. A knee reconstruction it was, however because I had been told to say off my knee for so long it had become really far too weak for me to have the surgery. That’s when I had to complete 6 weeks of physiotherapy to regain strength and movement back in my knee prior to surgery; the 7th of August 2015 was booked in. It got to about three weeks before my scheduled surgery date, when I had a really bad reaction on my foot. By this time it had been nearly 2 months since the original injury and I started becoming physically and mentally drained. I visited the doctor where it got treated but that meant the operation was postponed to the following week, so the 12th of August it was.
When I woke up from surgery I remember waking up in tears. I guess the thing that surprised me most was the level of pain after the operation. I don’t know if it was because I was still sleepy from the anesthetic or if I was just trying to deny the pain. It was a weird feeling I must say. The whole experience of unwrapping my leg after surgery was a little unreal. It just didn’t seem to be part of my body anymore, and it certainly didn’t seem like it was ever going to work normally again. After that first night, I began to feel better each and every day; there were plenty of ups and downs though. They had told me everything about the surgery and what to expect, and there weren’t really any big surprises,I just never fully understood what it would actually be like to recover from something like this. I mean I’ve heard stories all successful ones about how people return to sport after an ACL injury and I knew I would be able to tell one of those one day.
I think recovery from a procedure like this involves a lot of serious effort and dedication and I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been through something like this actually understands. While your physio is responsible for a large part of the recovery, you really have to work hard and do your part. You can see your physio everyday, but if you don’t put in the work nothing will change. If you don’t keep working on your strength and range of motion when they’re not there, you will never get back to full strength. In fact, it’s basically up to you to keep the motion that your physical therapist helps you achieve. You are responsible for yourself, and even though your surgeon and physio are there to provide their skills and expertise, I’ve leant that you can’t sit around and hope that after a knee reconstruction it will all just happen for you. I’ve learnt it doesn’t work like that.