Knee Surgery (Part III) - The Big Day
(Continued…) With my surgery scheduled for October, I headed into the summer not knowing what my athletic future would hold. So, I decided to try to get back into things. I will say, from an ego standpoint, it’s very difficult to sign up for events when you know you’re far away from being “in shape”. I’m just a little bit competitive! But, I figured that I had a built in “excuse”….I had a bad knee, including a torn ACL. So, in June I rode the B2VT ride, which is an organized 137 mile ride from Bedford, Massachusetts up to Okemo, Vermont (it’s a great event if you’ve never done it). All things considered, it went well. I finished it, despite minimal training. So, that got the juices flowing and I decided to sign up for the FIRM Old Colony Sprint Triathlon. Now a triathlon was definitely more of a stretch, as I literally hadn’t run in months…and I mean, not at all! The sprint is the secondary race to the Olympic distance race, which I’ve won a couple times. Knowing that most of the “competition” would be racing the longer race, I had a feeling that I could be in the lead going into the run….and that’s exactly what happened…and it’s something I’ll never forget! The first half mile went pretty well….second half mile less so….then I quickly realized this would likely be the longest 3 miles of my life! In the past, the run was always my strength, I was the “hunter” on the run. However, here, I was definitely the “hunted” and I ran scared the entire time, looking back every few minutes. AND, I was HURTING! My legs were concrete. But, I was able to hold the other guys off and win. And, to top it off, Hannah was able to run across the finish line with me (although I’m not sure that’s completely legal!). I’m not going to lie…I was pretty proud of myself. I know it wasn’t the strongest competition, but I was not in good shape, had a bad knee and tore my ACL 5 months earlier….so this was a victory in more ways than one! After Old Colony, I raced the (way more competitive) Pumpkinman Festival Sprint Triathlon in September (where I finished 13th Overall and won my age group)….then the FIRM TRI Douglas sprint, which I didn’t finish due to a pulled calf muscle. Oh well….too much of a good thing I guess! Honestly, it was quite liberating racing without the huge expectations I typically put on myself. However, now that my “race” season was over, it was time to start thinking about my date with Dr. Gomol on October 3rd.
I really tried not to think about the surgery leading into it. I actually had a wedding to go to in Providence the weekend before the surgery, and it was a good distraction. However, on Sunday morning, reality started to settle in (along with a nice hangover!). When we got back from Providence, we took the kids apple picking with my mom, who was visiting to help after the surgery. It sort of felt like I was cramming for a test….trying to do as many things in the last day or two…knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do them later, like WALK! My surgery wasn’t scheduled until early afternoon, so on Monday morning I did something I didn’t normally do….I walked my daughter to pre-school. It was a nice day and it’s something I still vividly remember to this day. I remember trying to explain to Hannah about what was about to happen to her daddy. I wasn’t sure she understood….but later found out that she spent the day playing with the “play” doctor kit at school….because she wanted to “fix daddy”. At home, before we headed to the hospital, I spotted a Preying Mantis on the porch outside of my bedroom. Little did I know, until my wife told me, that it was good luck (a symbol for patience). Maybe more so in that my porch is essentially on the third floor (I’ve never seen one that high up!). In retrospect, maybe it really was good luck!
Honestly, the worst part (well, maybe not the worst part!) about surgery is the No Eating requirement….especially when your procedure is scheduled after lunch! I can get very hangry! Jenn drove me to the hospital…Brigham and Women’s Hospital-Faulkner in Jamaica Plain. Funny, I literally lived around the corner from this place for a few years, but had never stepped foot in it. They admitted me as soon as I got there…no waiting. They talked me through pre-op and the anesthesia….and did the all-important thing…they marked the left knee with a Sharpie! It was nice that my friend, Courtney, was one of physician assistants for my surgery….it definitely helped calm my nerves. I said my goodbyes to Jenn and they wheeled me into the operating room. The anesthesia was kicking in at that point, and I don’t remember much after that.
Everything was pretty much a blur when I woke up….for obvious reasons. But, the surgery went well…..and I now had two screws in my relocated tibia and a new ACL. I was so “juiced” up with pain killers that nothing really hurt. I “think” I ate a little food…but I honestly don’t remember. They were pumping ice through the leg to keep the swelling down. Jenn was able to come in with me, and was there for the post-op instruction….thankfully! After a couple hours or so, I was on my way home. I wish I could talk more about the surgery, but I really don’t remember much. I guess that’s a good thing!
All I can say is that the next couple of weeks were just miserable. Absolutely miserable. I basically lived in my bed. I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow a Game Ready machine, which pumps ice cold water around the leg….and I would use this during the day, and sleep with it on at night….which usually meant that I would wake up at 2 AM trying to get the damn thing off me because it was so uncomfortable. My doctor also arranged for a CPM (continuous passive motion) machine to be dropped off at my house (see pic below). I was to use this multiple times per day. Apart from the obvious issues, I was also having trouble with the pain medication. I started with Oxycontin, then a few days later switched out to Ultram (because the Oxy was making me ill), then about 4 days out from surgery I went cold turkey on the narcotics and went with over-the-counter Tylenol (BIG, BIG MISTAKE)…..I went back on the narcotics about 2 days later as the pain was unbearable.
PART IV (The Initial Recovery…and a few bumps in the road!).