Friday, September 30, 2011

ACL Rehab: Five Weeks Later

After the two week mark, things got progressively better. I went back to work three weeks after surgery and was glad I didn't try to go back any earlier. It's really difficult and frustrating to teach and coach on crutches. I was wiped out after the first couple of days, but it got better after that. The hardest part at this point is trying to balance my time. I go to physical therapy 3 times a week for 1 1/2 to 2 hours a shot. I have to do this during my planning period ( at the end of the day). Then go back and coach. Then go home and work in two more 30 minute workouts. And do all the work I didn't get done because I have no planning period. I am very lucky to have great students and another coach who has been filling in for me without complaint. Plus Tony who has taken excellent care of me.

My physical therapy has progressed steadily, adding more weight and reps, plus adding in some machine work. The hamstring curls are especially painful, but are getting better. Right at the four week mark, my PT measured me and I could bend my leg to 131 degrees and could flatten it to 0 degrees. My quad strength was 54% of the good one and most of the swelling was gone. The next day, the surgeon let me lose the crutches and my life improved instantly. My leg was a little shaky the first couple of days, but now feels pretty normal. We added in leg presses and balance boards to my PT, along with time on a stair climber.

Three days after I got off crutches, Tony took me up to Standing Indian for a walk on the only flat trail I know of. The leaves were changing nicely and it wasn't quite as important to be out there running as it was just being out there. I sure have missed that. I eeked out a painstakingly slow mile, but it was one of the best miles I have ever done.

Now, five weeks after surgery, I feel pretty good. I have a quad muscle again that keeps getting bigger. Yesterday, Tony and I went for a three mile walk on a forest road near the house and the knee felt pretty good. It will be awhile before I can run again, but I am very thankful that I can at least get outside.

And my PT thinks Old Dominion 100 2012 should be no problem for me.

The picture is yet another one of my random pretty pictures.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Two Weeks Down

Lessons learned from the first two weeks after ACL surgery:

1. The pain was not a problem. The only time I had anything intense was when I first woke up from surgery but the nurse made that go away. Sleeping in the brace was an annoying type of pain, but I don't have to do that anymore. What I didn't expect was the depth of the fatigue. During the first week, just getting to the kitchen wiped me out more than any ultra. No exaggeration.

2. My quad disappeared. I expected it to shrink, but not this much and this rapidly. I have a lot of excess strap on the brace they made for me before surgery.

3. Wal-Mart is not the best place to test-drive crutches.

4. Having strong legs and doing the pre-hab exercises make rehab easier. Five days after surgery, I was able to do sixty leg lifts. Today my workout, 3 times a day is: 8 x 10 front leg lifts with ankle weight, 3x10 side and back leg lifts, 50 quad sets, 30 seated leg raises, plus stretches. Plus I am on a stationary bike.

5. I am feeling better every day. Unfortunately, I feel like doing some things, so I get frustrated frequently and sometimes I forget that I have an injured leg. Fortunately, I have Tony to both spoil me and keep me in check. Plus I only have two more weeks on crutches and I can now wear my little custom brace rather than the gigantic one.

6. My attitude and outlook is a lot better than it was before surgery. Before I had a lot of apprehension, stress and a lot to consider. Now that I've had the surgery, there are no decisions to make. I do what I am told to do and there's nothing I can do besides that to make my leg heal any faster. It's more relaxing to resign yourself to simply follow directions.

The photo is just one of my random pretty pictures.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Welcome to Rehab

As I laid in pre-op Friday morning, watching the nurses and doctors hook wires, tubes and equipment to me, I thought to myself, "Really? It wasn't even that a good of a fall." Now, I've done some things that should have landed me here and I would have completely understood. And it would have made for a lot better blog post. How about bad mountain bike wrecks (like the time I toppled over the edge of a bank, tangled in my mountain bike and hitting a branch that gouged my back but caught the back of my sports bra stopping the fall)? What about stage two hypothermia or close encounters with copperheads, rattlers, and scary people in the middle of the wilderness? Or one of my more exciting scar-inducing falls or many really stupid decisions (like, I think I can crawl across the ice without sliding off the edge, because I'm miles in the middle of nowhere and if the fall doesn't kill me, the cold will)? But frisbee at cross country practice, really? I didn't even get to get carried off on a stretcher with thousands of adoring fans cheering me on. Sigh.

Anyway, my little blog will now document my adventures as an ultrarunner in rehab. It's pretty exciting. Today I get to take a shower. I actually shed a tear or two this afternoon because I could turn the pedals of the stationary bike one rotation. Hmm...okay, so maybe I won't spend a lot of time on the details, but I will pass along helpful hints and revelations from time to time because it seems like everyone expected me to understand what was going on. It's kind of scary when you don't know what to expect. So here is what I've learned thus far.

1. First, I need to vent. I've done this myself, and I know everyone meant well, but please never, ever, say to anyone, "It could be worse." Don't you think I know that? Yes, I could have lost my leg, my life, or someone I love. But that doesn't mean that losing something I love (running) for 6-9 months is not hard on me. I don't whine or complain, so please just say, "I understand." Let me cry a little about this without trying to make me feel guilty for being relatively lucky. Okay, I'm over that now.

2. Crutches. If you have the opportunity to try them out before you are in pain, weak, and on drugs, do it. There is definitely a learning curve. Especially if there are stairs involved. More upper body strength and more single leg squats would have helped, too. Expect major frustration.

3. I had general anesthesia and a femoral artery block. I felt like crap the first day and a half. By the end of day 2 of post-op, boredom set in. I don't think I've been this stationary for this long in years. I'm not sure what I am supposed to do with myself. Most all of my hobbies involve my legs. I should try to be a little more well-rounded.

4. I have to approach this like a 24 hour race. I can't think about all the time and miles I have left or I'll make myself crazy. I also can't think about how good I felt beforehand or it will take the fun out of celebrating little milestones, like being able to bend my leg 90 degrees today.

5. The week before surgery was weird. I had two legs that worked more or less. I was still running, even on trail, albeit cautiously. I knew that Friday morning everything would change for several months. I have no advice about dealing with that. It was just kind of difficult.

6. Say goodbye to being independent and self sufficient. Say hello to more frustration. Exactly how do you carry a glass of water on crutches? Hope you have an understanding and patient spouse who only cusses at trying to set the monstrous brace to zero.

So thus begins another ultra-journey. I'm bound to take some good out of this experience, right? In the meantime, crutch races, anyone?