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Saturday, August 03, 2013

The Road to Recovery

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Hobbling by the Lake

It’s going to take a while for my knee to heal. I don’t intend to be inactive while that happens.

I promise not to bore you in future with post after post about how difficult recovery is. I just thought it would be good to record my experience of this injury now while the memory is fresh.

Next article is about an adventure involving Mountain Bikes in the Connondale Range – just not with me on the bike :)

Day 1.

The emeergency department sent me home with pair of crutches, a compression bandage and some powerful pain killers. They told me to take it easy until they find out exactly what’s damaged in my knee from the MRI that I’m due to have in a couple of days.

I tried taking one pain killer before bed. It worked really well, knocked me out, but I woke up as soon as it wore off after six hours. I decided since they’re addictive I wouldn’t take more than one per day. I sill managed to get back to sleep, but I have to sleep on my back. It’s impossible to lay on my side because of the pain. Any sideways pressure on my knee is excruciating. I get around on two crutches holding my bad leg off the ground, which is really clumsy – especially on stairs, and especially going down.

Getting around with two crutches is frustrating because I can’t carry anything. When I prepared my breakfast, I couldn’t get it to the table, so I grabbed a chair, put my bowl, cup, glass and coffee on the chair, and dragged it the table. It worked well – nice to know my brain still works :)

Selfie in the Grass

BugLilly and Jade

I was determined not to feel sorry for myself, and arranged with Lilly to go on a short photography expedition in our garden. We both had a great time! It’s great experience the fact that it doesn’t matter where we are, we can still discover fascinating things. It’s all how we look at the world.

Day 2.

Long Road to Recovery

I took one more pain killer before bed as directed. The same thing happened as the night before. Blissful sleep for 5 or 6 hours and then wide awake. I’ve decided I’ll give the pain killers a miss. I think I can sleep without them, and I’d rather not get hooked on them.

I didn’t want to sit around all day so I decided to go for a hobble round the block on the crutches. Lilly decided to come with me. This was much harder than it seems. Using crutches requires a whole lot of different muscles which I don’t have. Lilly took it really slowly with me, and I managed to do 1.5km but it took me mover an hour. I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got back home. At one stage, Lilly stood by the side of the road and clapped as I went by. She made me feel like a giant.

Day 3.

Knee MRI

My first night without pain killers went really well. I actually slept better. I found that I didn’t dream while I was on the drugs. When I stopped taking the pain killers, the vivid dreams came flooding back – like there was a deficit of dreams that needed to be made up.

Liz drove me in to get my MRI today, and the diagnosis is pretty bad. I’ve torn all the ligaments in my knee. The ones on either side (which should heal in a month or two) and my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) which holds my knee together. That won’t repair. I’ll need reconstructive surgery to fix it. The doctor arranged for me to see an orthopedic surgeon the same day. Liz kindly drove me into the city in rush-hour to see him. She’s amazing. I have no idea how I could organize all this without her help.

The orthopedic surgeon told me that I’ll need to wait a month or two to let the lateral ligaments (the ones on the side of my knee) to heal. After that they’ll do surgery to reconstuct my knee. It’s a really clever operation where they harvest part of my hamstring, thread it through artificially drilled holes in my thigh and shin, then screw the new artificial ligament to my bones. If all goes well it should be stronger than before, but will take at least 6 months to heal after the operation.

The specialist arranged for me to get a knee brace. It prevents my knee from flexing or extending too far, and (importantly) protects my knee from sideways pressure.

He also arranged for me to see a physio. I was really keen to find out what physical activities I could do while injured, and the physio is supposed to be the person who can advise on that sort of thing.

Day 4.

Long Road to Recovery

The knee brace is amazing. It actually allowed me to put my bad leg on the ground and let it take some pressure without any pain.

I tried going for another stroll around the block, and what took me over an hour last time took me less than 45 minutes today.

I still managed to keep a positive outlook on everything, and even spoke with a friend who’s into Kayaking about the possibility of going for a paddle on the river with him at some stage.

Day 5.

Liz drove me down to see the physio today. He gave me some exercises to increase the range of motion in my knee. I spoke to him about the whole recovery process.

I enthusiastically asked him “What can I do to maintain the muscle tone in my injured leg?”

That’s when it hit me:

“You can’t” he said. “You’re going to go backwards before you can start going forwards. You’ll lose most of the muscle mass in your leg. AFter the operation you can slowly work on rebuilding it, but it will take a long time.”

This was really bad news.

One of the great joys in my life has been improving the strength in my legs, and to use that strength to take me to wonderful places on my bike – up hills, on day-long adventures to far away spots. It was really difficult to think that I’d lose that.

That night I my optimistic veneer started to crumble. I was a difficult person to be around at home. And for the first time since I can remember I cried like a baby when I went to bed.

Day 6.

A few years ago, one of my kids gave me Paul de Gelder’s book “No Time for Fear” as a Christmas present. He lost his leg and hand in a shark attack. I decided that perhaps now was a good time to start reading the book, and thought to myself – if he recovered from losing a leg and hand, who am I to complain about a temporary setback?

It helps to get things in perspective :)

Day 7.

New wheels

Liz and I drive manual transmission cars. I can’t operate a clutch while my knee is in this condition, so my neighbor, Mike, kindly agreed to swap cars with me. I’ve got his automatic Holden Ute for a couple of weeks while he drives my manual Toyota Hiace Van. I’m mobile again :)

Neil by the Lake

I decided to go for a walk along one of the tracks I’d normally ride my bike along, and today I chose to walk by the shoreline of the dam.

It was slow going – this was the first time I’d tried walking on an uneven rocky surface. But I managed it fine, and was able to take a few photos as well.


The world is still beautiful – I’m just learning to see that beauty in new ways :)

All up, I walked 4km this week about 3 hours. That must be a world record in slowness!

No tough-o-meter for this weeks activities!

I’ll have a real mountain-biking story for you in the next day or so.


Sandie Derouin said...

“The world is still beautiful – I’m just learning to see that beauty in new ways.” - You're such an inspiration! What you've been through is not easy. It's like the worst adventure you ever had. But I guess with your positive attitude plus, lovely family and friends at your side, and right treatment/therapy, you'll surely recover fast. *Sandie Derouin* @

Neil Ennis said...

Hi Sandie
Thanks for the encouragement.
Yes - I suppose this is another adventure - just a bit tougher than usual, and one that I'll be glad to return from :)