Today is the 12 month anniversary of my knee reconstruction. If this is the worst thing that ever happens to me, I am OK, however, the whole knee thing changed my life for the best part of a year, starting from when I ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in March 2009. The reason that the surgery did not take place sooner was because we had just booked a trip to America for June 2009 and had not taken out travel insurance when the incident occurred 3 days later. This turned out to be a very good thing in the end because I started rehab work as soon as I could so that when we got back from the trip, I virtually went straight in to hospital for the reconstruction, with my quads in great shape. This aided my recovery immensely, but it was still a long slow process. Sixteen months later, life is back to normal, or will be when I go back to competition squash in a couple of weeks.
I have learnt a lot over the last 16 months. As someone who has never had a serious medical issue (knock on wood) nor has ever been in hospital (other than casualty), this whole process has been a real eye opener. I thought I'd share a few lessons: some of this probably sounds naive but was honestly news to me.
1/. If it doesn't hurt, it's serious. My own GP laughed when I told him I wasn't in any pain - that meant I had really stuffed it up. If you read about footballers coming off the field with knee injuries, you'll note that it's a good sign when they are in pain. This is the sort of thing you notice after the event.
2/. A two and a half week wait to see an orthopaedic surgeon isn't long. In fact it's pretty quick and usually because your injury in serious (see above).
3/. Being on crutches is not fun. But it gives you a tiny glimpse into the world of people with real disabilities. Not only is catching public transport a nightmare, but simple things like managing a hand bag and carrying food from the kitchen bench to the table are so hard. Experiencing things like this is the best cure for a tendency to feel sorry for yourself - and makes you grateful to be in this world for only a short time. It makes you more conscious of the everyday difficulties other people face and supportive of schemes to make facilities accessible to all.
4/. Expect the unexpected. I was prepared; a bit scared but prepared, for discomfort after surgery and didn't plan on feeling the best but I did not know that morphine would make me sick. Very sick. Knowing that this was my prescribed painkiller after discharge made me very determined to get by on anti inflammatories and paracetamol. And I did.
5/. Hospitals are awful places. Even top private hospitals. You can't get to sleep (especially in a shared ward) and people wake you up to change drips and things during the night. Where I was, the discharge process was basically non existant; I had to ask all the questions and I was not even offered a wheelchair to get out to the car. Fortunately the hospital physio saw me struggling on my crutches and found one for me. You don't feel like being assertive when you have had no sleep, feel awful and just want to go home. Stos thought I would have to stay another day when he saw me post op and very sick - I'm pleased he didn't tell me that because I would have been beside myself if I thought I couldn't go home the next day. Getting home to my own bed was the biggest initial step on the road to recovery.
6/. There are people who have reconstructive surgery, then don't follow their surgeon's orders. Or they go to a physio and don't do the prescribed exercises. It's true - ask my physio. People are always telling me how lucky I am to have recovered so well and while luck might have a bit to do with it, most of it is due to the fact that I did exactly as I was told even when the exercises made me cry. You start your rehab the day you get home from hospital and you don't stop.
I know this is a bit of a rant, but I've got it out of my system now and look forward to a successful return to squash to close this whole episode.