It all started (or ended) with a fall, a twist and a “pop!”
I was playing on my co-ed rec. soccer team, an activity I did on a weekly basis. Just another game. Just another ball heading out-of-bounds that I chased. And another collision with another guy. I fell, skidded across scratchy turf, and hoped to come up with just a nasty strawberry bruise. Not the case.
On my graceful landing, my knee twisted in a way it hadn’t before, and I heard the sound that I hear when my chiropractor suddenly jerks my neck to one side–a symphony of snaps, crackles and pops that culminated into one loud snapcracklepop.
“What the hell just happened,?” I thought.
I tried to push myself up on my dominant, now-injured knee, but I couldn’t. I could only sub out and scoot on more scratchy turf to the sideline–a whopping one foot away. Moments later I got back on my feet and walked around with a limp. I wasn’t sure what to think. It felt as though someone kicked me in the shin and a numbing sensation captured my knee and simultaneously spread to my toes.
Did I just tear my ACL? But don’t people cry if that happens?
My lack of tears (none to be exact) and minimal complaints stunned me and my teammates.
Although no one could correctly diagnose the injury, I knew something was wrong when we left the field. Exiting a steamy fieldhouse, I stepped outside into the harsh, bitter cold of Chicago’s 8-month long winter. After calling, “shotgun” and carefully navigating around the black-ice-covered sidewalk, I tried hunch into the car.
Suddenly, I screamed.
My tibia (lower leg bone) slid past my femur (hip bone) in a twist that took my stomach with it in a nauseating pull. My lower leg went to the right. My upper leg went to the left. I couldn’t believe it–a circus-freak leg–so I did it again. Same deal. That’s when I realized that an ACL, which attaches your tibia to your femur, is so crucial to normal life. Actually, I was thinking how gross it was that my tibia floated (and twisted) freely as it disconnected from my tibia. Time to go to the ER!
Five hours later, I was released with a pair of cruthes, a leg brace and some good news–nothing was broken or torn. At this time, that was all hard to believe since my kneecap disappeared into the fluid-filled cushioning that expanded around my knee to the size of a 16-inch softball. You couldn’t even call it a knee anymore. More like a cankle times 10.
By now, the pain definitely settled in. So did the denial. I was five days away from my winter ski trip to Whistler, Canada.
I even bought new K2 skis and couldn’t wait to carve into the world’s best powder.
Now for some bad news: MRI results indeed revealed a complete ACL tear and meniscal damage. This meant surgery, recovery, the possibility of no more sports and, of course, no ski trip.
My knee may have been torn, but my spirit wasn’t broken. Did I go to Whistler? Yes (knee can).That trip was the beginning of my four-month pre-op recovery. I’ve learned you can do lots of things without an ACL. And I’m imagining the possibilities with a new one. If all goes well with post-op rehab, I’ll journey abroad again to bring my new knee to New Zealand in September. Until then, this is my ACL recovery story.