I am 6 days out of ACL reconstructive surgery on my right knee. I will tell you that the process was not as simple as I expected. The surgery was a success and went through with no problems, but post-op recovery has not been so smooth.
I was given some morphine after surgery on Wednesday, so I was feeling pretty good at home. I was able to get up (with crutches) and go to the bathroom with no issue. I had a cold compression unit to help bring cold and compress my knee to get circulation flowing and prevent blood clots. All seemed to be fine.
Except that once the morphine wore off, the pain started to become a problem. Towards night time that same day, my knee swelled up, pain was constant, and the oxycodone I was given didn’t seem to have much effect. It reminded me how I felt like after getting me knee torn. So I was a bit thrown off as I expected with pain medication it would be easier. I eventually fell asleep, but I had napped a lot throughout the day so I think I had enough rest.
Thursday (Thanksgiving) was not fun at all. I kept taking the pain meds in the prescribed dosage, using ice to manage swelling, would do ankle exercises on the foot, keep my leg fully extended, and elevated my leg the whole time. I got up once to go to the bathroom and nearly threw up from the strain. After that, I started using urine bottles so I could pee in bed. But I was drinking a ton of water, so I had to use some kombucha bottles as well lol. Sleep was harder to come by though. I had a hard time getting a nap and when I did it was for less than an hour. I probably got about 4 hours in overall, which isn’t all that bad, but with the constant pain it was like Chinese water torture.
Friday was an improvement. I reached out to the doctor and he changed up the medication dosage, which made a huge difference. I was able to feel little to no pain for the most part, which made things a heck of a lot easier. Swelling was the most bothersome issue of the day, but I was doing everything possible to mitigate it. Getting up and moving around in crutches was still not a good idea, as I got really light headed and felt like throwing up again. But with less pain, this day was much better. But sleep became even more difficult. I got in 1 or 2 naps that lasted less than an hour, and at night, I didn’t dose off. My heart rate was low, mind still, and eye lids heavy – everything seemed perfect for sleep. But I would just hang out in “limbo” so to speak – just on the verge of sleeping but never crossing over.
Saturday was more of the same. But Sunday I was able to get up and move around on crutches with only minor stress. So that was promising, as Monday I had my first Physical Therapy session. But lack of sleep had yet to resolve. I decided to stop taking the pain pills to see if sleep would come. That ended up creating a long and painful night. Monday came as I stared at the back of my eye lids for what seems to be an eternity.
I hadn’t gotten up much (3 times in 4 days). Ideally, they want you getting up and moving around to help avoid health issues from laying flat too long. But, each time I got up it was a disaster. So knowing I had PT on Monday, I had no idea what to expect. Just getting into the car and getting out of it to walk in to PT was more work than I had done in 4 days, lol. The whole time I was light headed and my knee was very sensitive to shakes, so I was actually walking and using the crutches to reduce the amount of weight I posted on it.
Gareth, my physical therapist, was a nice guy. To my surprise, I was capable of doing a lot more than I anticipated. I was able to do assisted squats (holding on to a table for balance) to about 80 degrees (they shoot for 90 as the first week’s goal), so I felt pretty good about that. I was very reassured by the whole experience, as my main concern was tearing out my graft. But Gareth had told me that unless I was being very wreckless, that was very unlikely.
My leg was quite swollen after that. Thanks to a new knee sleeve though i got from the PT, I didn’t feel nearly as much discomfort. After a home cooked meal, some cold compression therapy, and another round of medication – I finally felt something I had been missing for some time – sleepy.
So as you can imagine I had plenty of time to reflect as I laid on my bed over the past few days. While the temptation to feel pity for myself is there, it’s not something I want to do. My goal is to be 100% as quickly as possible. So even though the first few days of post op recovery were not ideal, I still managed to put together a great sale and got a bunch of work done on my computer.
I am grateful for everything. The good times and the bad. The joy and the suffering. Each has a big role to play in shaping me, and while I may prefer sunshine and rainbows over rain and lightning – those hard times help me learn how to better prepare for the inevitable return of such conditions.
For example, even through all of these sleepless nights and pain, I am grateful. Since I am getting a second knee surgery in about 4-6 weeks time, I now have a much better idea of what to expect and can be much better prepared for it. Next time around, I will do better and be better for it. I also have much more gratitude for sleep. I have done my share of all-nighters for college, and some serious grinds for business, but those were all voluntary. This was the longest (that I can recall) that I had gone without having significant sleep while in constant pain. It definitely can wear on you, but I’m thankful that I have built up enough resilience and discipline through the martial arts to make it through without too much fuss.
These are just a few examples, but there are a ton more. You just have to open up and be real with yourself. Looking back at myself, this whole situation is not even a big deal. I am fortunate that I am able to do 90% of my work online and don’t have to worry about making ends meet. So really, this is just a first world problem for me, where I know most people could be seriously set back. And I’m fortunate I have plenty of people around me, especially my girlfriend, who can look after me while I’m recovering.
Being thankful is a great way of building deeper friendships too. Sharing your gratitude with those that help you will only reinforce your friendships, and hopefully you get the opportunity to return the good deed done on your behalf.
Speaking of that, in the martial arts, being grateful is one way of not letting your hype and fame blow up your ego. I have seen a fair share of athletes that shined quickly and where once they showed gratitude now showed a open hand demanding for more. Don’t be that person. It is toxic and a friendship destroyer. Pretty much every instructor you will ever meet has had this happen to them. It is part of the risk of opening yourself up and sharing your skills, time, money, and passion to help a talent realize their dreams. I love seeing fighters that stay in the same camp their whole careers. That type of loyalty is hard to find, and I respect the hell out of it in this game especially.
Comment with your take on this.