Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Knee Saga

For those of you who may not know. I (Annie) took a fall skiing on the 2nd of January while training with June Mountain Ski School (where I was working). The rule at ski school is if you take a fall while training and especially if you 'yard sale' then you owe your co-workers a six pack. In my case, I think I may owe them a keg or two. Here's my story:

The Fall:
The way ski school works is that every morning you show up. If there is work available, you take it, and if there isn't, you get to train with the best. Inexplicably, on an embarrassingly easy run, while practicing a new drill, my edges caught and I went for it. I tumbled for long enough that I had time to think several things before coming to a stop: Am I ever going to stop falling? Why the fuck haven't my skis come off? This second thought, I believe, is the biggest factor in this saga. So, when I finally came to a stop my left ski was buried to my heel in the icy groomed slope. The front of my right ski had come to a stop behind the left ski, twisting my knee to the left. A co-worker had to pull my ski out of the snow. I tried skiing down since my knee didn't hurt too bad but every time I weighted it my femer would feel like it was slipping past my tib-fib. The last thing I wanted was to get a ride out of there since my boss (an owner of Sierra Mountain Guides) is also a ski patroller. But my co-worker Bob convinced me that it was the only way to go. Then the ski patrollers called Neil (my boss) and he convinced me that going the whole nine yards (splint, toboggan ride down, emergency room) was the only smart thing to do given workmans comp and what not. So there I was, sliding behind a snowmobile, leg immobilized, tied in, thinking I would be terrified of such a thing. Instead, I was oddly calm and loved the bit of spray that hit my face as I marvelled at the whispy clouds in an otherwise completely blue sky.

The ER:
The payroll girl from work was asked to drive me to the hospital since Jed was working and I couldn't get a hold of any friends. She is a no nonsense kind of girl that might not have cried since she was 7 or so. I , on the other hand, could not stop crying for the life of me. Everytime I saw or talked to someone I knew I would just lose it thinking that I had disapointed them. The ER doctor pulled on my leg and said I probably had a torn ACL. The x-ray didn't show anything and I wasn't in any pain. Right before I left I started noticing a little sensitivity in my tailbone but didn't think much of it.

Long story short since this is getting pretty long already. Saw the Doc (Dr. Karch), got an MRI. Both said that I had a blown out ACL (the MRI guy said very monotone when I asked how it looked: "I'm surprised your not in more pain") and probably a torn LCL as well as a broken tailbone. A few days after the results I slipped on the ice out front of my house in June Lake and my knee collapsed inward. My virtually pain free injury turned into a frusterating painful injury for several days which resulted in the first experience with injury related depression and a foul mood that my poor Bishop roomates and friends had to put up with. But soon it faded and I got back to exercising and feeling better as my range of motion increased again.

The Operation:
The battle plan was this: fix the ACL arthoscopically and deal with whatever miniscus tearage that might have happened in my secondary fall. When the ACL was fixed he would pull on my leg and then fix the LCL in a second surgery if it still felt loose. I received a cadavers ligament that was bolted and screwed and hammered in, doubled over, as my new ACL. An inconsequential amount of miniscus was repaired and there was no LCL damage. So this was probably the best case scenario. Plus, now I have a mans knee. Karch said he was probably a motorcycle rider. Once its healed, my new knee should be stronger than my old one.

I opted for a spinal tap for the operation since I learned that general anesthesia requires a machine to breathe for you and that just sounded wrong to me. So, my legs were supposed to be dead and I was supposed to be a awake. I dozed on and off but then it was discovered that I wasn't a very good patient when I woke up and realized I was having surgery and I wanted to see. So, according the the anesthesiologist, I was "ripping down the curtain wanting the see, and my other arm was hanging over the table," so he said "I just knocked you out after that." My doctor was kind enough to allow one of the nurses to take photos with my camera. I don't recall a single one being taken despite my smiles and thumbs up and torn open knee.

Best parts of the whole experience:
Workers Comp. Feeling like a real skier now because every skier tears up their knee at some point. Getting to have mom come and take care of me. The time to do crafts and write and be creative in general. The opportunity to at some point go visit family and friends. That I didn't do more damage.

Worst parts:
Missing out on powder skiing. Inevitably making Jed miss out of skiing and climbing. The numb HooHoo after my spinal tap that didn't allow me to pee unassisted (coughcathetercough). Missing one and maybe two AMGA courses.

The Future:
If I had to sum it up in one word? Cycling. Basically I am only allowed to do in-line sports (biking, rowing, um....biking) for 6 months. For all of my climbing partners reading this: From the 4-16 weeks mark I will be feeling the best but my knee will be at its absolute weakest. This is when all of you are going to tempt me to go out climbing or whatever- but I must resist if I am going to want a totally healthy knee in the future!! If anyone out there wants to go riding though- give me a call and I will love you forever.

I have come across many quotes since I've been hurt that never meant anything to me before. They now have significant meaning: ...'No one said it was going to be easy'... 'Adding insult to injury' ...'It is what it is and it ain't what it ain't'... 'One day at a time'.
Currently? I am in pain. I have found that if I take the heaviest dudiest meds my leg doesn't hurt but I barf everywhere. So now I am trying lighter duty stuff so I don't get nauseous just looking at a computer or talking on the phone but then my knee hurts more. Mom is here taking care of me, doing all the things I ask and even the ones I don't. I thought I would be doing crunches and legs lifts to stay in shape but its all I can do to move my leg to adjust or get up to go to the bathroom. I have been so happy and excited when I get calls and e-mails and texts- those are definitely the highlight of my day (no pressure -haha!). I think today my leg is less swollen than yesterday and I hope that the trend continues.