Posts Tagged ‘Traveling after ACL surgery’

I’ve been back from New Zealand for a week now, but then I jetted off to exotic Iowa for a few days. That said, I have to apologize for the lack of blog activity. For the record, New Zealand is an amazing and inspiring place. (It was well worth pushing myself through extra PT for.) I could easily sit here and type about the shire-esque landscapes and mountains meeting the sea, but this is my knee blog, not my travel blog. So while my eyes relished the moments abroad, my knee got to see a lot, too. For starters, New Zealand is a very active place–a true haven for those seeking adventure sports especially.

While I was there, I could easily sit on an Air Zealand flight  for 12+ hours without complaining (just get up and walkabout a lot), hike through trails, climb on smaller mountains, climb into caves, do a TON of stairs, trampoline, swim and, of course, wine taste. So my trip wasn’t the adventure-filled one that most imagine, but that just leaves room to come back.

When I underwent my surgery, I had New Zealand in the back of my mind as my pure motivator to get through it all. When I finally got there and ventured through the North and South Islands, I found the active people and enticing activities inspiring me to keep at my PT so one day I could possibly return and go skiing, surfing, bungee jumping, skydiving and many other adventurous Kiwi hobbies. Although I’m reaching more positive points in my therapy, I know I still have more to do and a few more mountains to move. But what’s the fun of life if we aren’t constantly trying to better ourselves?

I hope your knee is getting better every day.

New Zealand

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In a few hours, I will finally be going on my New Zealand trip. What this really means is my declaration to getting back to living a normal life. Knee surgery takes it out of you. Confides you. Isolates you. Frustrates you. Confuses you. Puts weight on you. And changes you. While your knee may be snapped, it’s really how you choose to deal with it that makes or breaks you. When I was doing PT in Chicago, they had pictures of people–famous athletes, average Joes and kids–who signed their pics with inspirational messages for recovery. I’ll never forget this marathon runner who signed his with this message: “Bones may break, but nothing can shatter the human spirit.”  It might be a famous quote, but it’s so true. I gotta throw in one of my favorite baseball quotes, too. From the great Jack Buck, “Things turn out the best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.” 

Your recovery is entirely up to you. Somedays you can’t crawl out of bed–and somedays you don’t want to. Sometimes you skip excercises and stop after a few squats. And somedays you really feel hopeless, but it gets better. Your knee finally starts bending, your gait starts looking normal and people stop telling you they feel sorry for you. Keep your mind strong, your excercise schedule strict, and before you know it, your knee won’t even bother you. I’m three months, two weeks post-op and can go through the normal day just fine. No running or contact sports yet, but that’s just another goal to reach for. My first goal was getting back to normal life, and that officially starts today.

I wish the same for you–and in an even speedy manner. If you have stories of what, or who, got you through rehab, please share them! We can learn from each other and grow stronger for it! Brighter days are certainly ahead.


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My solution is simple:

“Make no little plans…” Daniel Burnham, Chicago architect. (1864-1912)

1. Think about your passions/hobbies pre-ACL surgery.

2. Make a plans to return to one thing a few months out, when you are mostly recovered.

3. Start an envelope/savings jar and start stashing away the money you would be spending at restaurants, bars, clubs, sports or traveling. Since you are confined to the couch and a brace, think of it as a nice savings plan for your big “welcome back to civilation” celebration.

For me, I love to travel and play sports. So much so, that I tore my ACL five days before my ski trip to Whistler. (Ouch!) Since my tear and surgery, I haven’t been able to travel or play sports. But, no worries, mate. My ACL plan I made to help my mentally get through this process was to plan a trip to New Zealand. I get my travel fix and my adventure sports fix in whatever level I choose to participate, even if it is just watching an All Blacks game or my friends zorbing down hills. After this rehab process, I’ll certainly need some new adventures in my life–we all will. Sorry I encourage you to make plans. Back to my opening quote,  “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work…”


Pic from breakaway.co.nz I found this wonderful photgrapher, Kenny Muir, on Flikr. Maybe some of his travel photography can inspire you to make no little plans when your ACL is back and kicking. 

The rehab thing is definetly physical, but we all know it’s so much of mind game, too. As if being couped up on your couch for weeks isn’t enough, good luck trying to retrain your leg how to bend and walk again. Forget about that for now, go make your plans. I’ll be leaving for New Zealand in three weeks, almost three months after my surgery. I’m sure it’s worth the wait, that’s why you gotta plan big.


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So I recently moved to a new city, San Francisco, where I don’t know a lot of people. That alone can be a little tough, but even worse when you are trying to find a new physical therapist and fellow ACL friends to share stories with each other. Lucky for me, my boyfriend’s cousin’s sister-in-law lives out here, and she recently tore her ACL. So we decided to meet over drinks to talk about our busted knees. I had my surgery (patellar tendon reconstruction/lateral meniscus repair) on May 20. She had her surgery (cadaver graft) at the end of June.

So here’s how two different sugeries and two different graphs are doing at two different points in their recoveries:

Cadaver Graft, 6 weeks out…Kate, my friend, walked into the bar like it was nothing. No crutches, no brace. Not even a gimp. If you didn’t know she had surgery, you couldn’t tell anything. Prior to her surgery, Kate enjoyed an active lifestyle of hiking, biking and skiing. (She tore her ACL skiing in Tahoe.) Now, she isn’t quite running just yet, but she uses the excercise bike and is building her strenght back up. She will be back on the slopes in no time for the season. She took off work for three weeks.

Me…still not running, but moving around just fine. I don’t even think about me knee anymore. I can sit cross-legged again, do light yoga and kneel on my knees. The scar hasn’t gone clear yet, but it is certainly starting to fade into oblivion. It will be gone in no time. I, too, plan to hit the slopes this season–that’s my current goal. Perhaps Kate and I will do an ACL ski trip, and this time she will conquer Tahoe, no fear at all. Details to come….

Any other ACL skiers out there? Perhaps we can all plan a ski trip together–a celebration of progress, if you will. 

Pic from tahoesbest.com

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This past weekend I was in San Francisco. I’m actually moving there for work next weekend. When the work opportunity first presented itself, I was about one month post-op and still in a knee brace. I went to visit and couldn’t walk around because the hills in that city are just so impossible. Well, after this weekend, I am happy to report that at two months post-op, I had no problem traversing up and down the hilliest hills of San Fran–Pacific Heights, Nob Hill, Telegraph Hill, Alamo Square, Chinatown and all little neighborhoods in between. For the record, the knee didn’t hurt the next day, even after a hilly 4 mile climb.

Yes Knee Can! Picture from http://members.cox.net/travelreflections2/sf/SFHillsViews.htm


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I love to travel, but I knew with surgery it would take a while before I could travel again. One, because of my mobility and ability to get through security/terminals. Oh, and something about zero leg room didn’t sound appetizing.

So where did my first trip with the new ACL land me? Right in the middle of downtown San Francisco with its impossible hills. Good thing it’s a business trip and I can expense my cabs. But it is kinda of disappointing to be in SF and not do as much sightseeing as I would like to.  But I will see what the knee can do and let you know. As of now, I can let you know what the knee could do.

First Day of the Trip:

Three cabs. Four states. Two planes. Way too many hours in airplane cabin pressure…yes knee can! Just like an overseas flight, be sure to get up, walk around, stretch and pump your ankles. Gotta love budget travel. Time for some serious ice, maybe a few excercises and a whole lot of sleep.

P.S. I took my brace, just in case, and left the crutches. If you want some serious attention/VIP treatment,by way of wheelchair service, pre-boarding and your choice of seat, bring the crutches.

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