So I am also going to be covering my knee rehab, and (eventually) my training for my black belt test. Which means I should tell the whole story.

My knee and I haven’t been on good terms for a long time. When I started tae kwon do as an adult in the fall of 2008, I sprained the knee not long before my yellow stripe test on a hopping roundhouse kick (which I then gritted my teeth through, took the test, and then took a month off). MRI showed that I had a cranky IT band, and a miniscule (1-2 mm) tear in the ACL. Barry, my wonderful muscular therapist (at Muscular Solutions who is AWESOME) was of the opinion that the ACL would go at some point if I insisted on sticking with the taekwondo.

I did, and sure enough, it did. I was working on Choong Moo, the red belt form. In that form is a 360 jump spin, which I’ve been having trouble with. I don’t really get enough height on jumps, so I decided to try jumping and then pulling my knees up to my chest. And completely fucked up the landing. My knee crunched and POPPED really loud and it hurt like a bitch.

So they hauled me off to the side with some ice and continued on with the rest of the class, where I made some suggestions to people working on their forms (….what else was I going to do?) I managed to hobble home (the neat thing about ACL injuries is they don’t hurt much until the next day), made some contingency plans because I was leaving for London the next day, and that was that.

So I got back, had Barry check me out, he said “You tore your ACL!” went to the ortho, who said “Yup, sure looks like a torn ACL to me!” and sent me off for an MRI, and then I scheduled the surgery. My surgeon is DR. Lars Richardson, at Meeks and Zilberfaub, and I liked him very much. He speaks my language.

So given that this was my first surgery, and I would be more or less pathetically helpless, my parents came out from Minnesota. I was told to be at the hospital at 5:30 am, two hours before my surgery, and we got there at 5:35, and no one was there until 6.

I really can’t say enough good things about the team at Beth Israel’s Shapiro Surgery center. I was really scared, and also really not awake, and hadn’t put my contacts in, which is internal code for “I’m not taking this day seriously.” They were professional, and really nice, and made sure I had warmed blankets.

I got changed into the hospital gown and the first nurse came by and asked what we were doing and set up the checklist of things I needed to have done. Anethesiologist (who I swear, looked like she wouldn’t be allowed to buy beer) came by and put in the IV (which Mama Red poitned out I hadn’t had one since I was five) and looked down my throat, and then her supervisor came by and bluntly taked about the tube they were gonna put down my throat (which I knew about, because a) I watch Grey’s Anatomy and b) I read up on general anethesia before I went in) and then I had to sign the consent form.

Dr. Richardson came by, and signed my left knee so they wouldn’t operate on the wrong one (I’d been considering writing “THIS IS THE WRONG KNEE” on my right leg) and assured me and my parents that he could do the surgery paperwork in his sleep and that he does 100 ACL reconstructions a year, so it would be fine. And then I officially picked my graft. I went with the hamstring, instead of the much more D-Movie plot worthy cadaver graft.

I picked the hamstring graft because they have a slightly lower failure rate, and that’s what he recommends for his professional athlete patients, (Did I mention he does knees for the Boston Bruins?) even though the healing is a bit more painful. There were a couple of days I regretted that decision, because you use your hamstrings for EVERYTHING. But that healed up pretty fast.

So they gave me a shot of something in my IV (As I have woken up enough to ask questions) and take away my glasses and wheel me into the OR. I remember going into the OR, and I remember there was some conversation there, but I don’t remember what it was. The next thing I know I’m being wheeled into recovery. My leg HURT and felt VERY swollen. I didn’t have my glasses and I was pretty disoriented.

At some point fairly quickly they asked if it hurt, and I said yes, and they gave me something intense in the IV, and asked how painful it was on the 1-10 pain scale. I said I couldn’t really quantify it (I think the pain scale is not that useful- if 10 is the worst pain I can imagine, well, I have a pretty damn good imagination. Also I was not all THERE). So it hurt, and they brought some percoset, and I said “NO NO NO please not percoset, I don’t like it it makes my heart race and that’s scary.” The nurse said “Okay, well, that’s bad, and that counts as a drug allergy. So you should tell people about that.” Then they got the vicodin (I remember a bunch of stuff about changing the orders for the vicodin) and that was nice.

Then a guy came over to put on my brace, which is in many parts and gets assembled on the leg. And at some point he was fussing and I was like “OH MY GOD AREN’T YOU DONE YET” and they had an oxygen mask on my face and all the wires and everything. They took away the oxygen mask and then the nurse said “And do you have any drug allergies?” and I said “OH I KNOW THIS ONE IT IS PERCOSET” and she said “Good girl!” and let me have a drink of water.

So then they notice that my oxygen stat was down around 90, when it needed to be more like 94 before they’d take me into recovery 2. They put the thingies in my nose (cannula?) and said take deep breaths. Because apparently heavy pain medication makes you forget to breathe. WEIRD. Even though they gave me the vicodin like over an hour before. It did not seem like that much time. Somewhere in there Dr. Richardson came by and said everything went well.

I also hadn’t gotten my glasses back, so I finally asked “I’m really sorry to bother somebody, but I can’t see, can someone please go get my glasses?” And then they brought me into recovery 2 where my parents and my stuff, including my glasses, were waiting. I got some crackers, and then crutches, and then took a very slow, painful trek to the bathroom (with the orderly walking behind me holding my hospital gown closed and also there in case I fell over). I posted to facebook that I was out of surgery (“Out of surgery thkngs went el thank did for vicodin.”) We waited a bit more until I was discharged with instructions, and then we loaded me into the car.

Getting home was lots of fun, because even though we’d done a dry run the day before, it’s Boston. So I was sort of giving directions from the back seat. We got home, got me out of the car, and up to my apartment and to the couch, where I mostly stayed for a week. Mom and dad ran out to fill the vicodin rx, while I waited impatiently and posted to twitter whining about my lack of pain management. And also I took a nap. I took lots of naps.

I used a Continuous passive motion machine for two weeks, which wasn’t bad at all-it moved my leg, so my muscles didn’t lose all definition (just mostly- seriously it’s pathetic) and I got it up to 100 degrees flex. I start real PT tomorrow, with the goal of being able to be back at taekwondon by the end of february, and back into training for my black belt test. I’m shooting for testing in a year- fall 2011. I’ll have been out for over 8 months at that point, so there will be a lot of relearning to do.

So that’s the story of the surgery.