Thursday, June 30, 2005
12 MONTHS. THIS IS THE END...
Beautiful friend, the end. Yes, now that it's been a year, I'm officially bringing the Rockwood ACL Repair Fun Page to a close. For all intents and purposes, my life and my knee are pretty much back to normal. Pretty much. Here are the details...
1. My left leg is still slightly atrophied. I will confess this probably has to do with me not staying on the weight training. I'm still running, but that doesn't work the same muscles as lifting weights. It's like the difference between running on flat ground and running up stairs. It's coming back slowly, but I think it would be coming back more quickly if I was still lifting.
2. Stiffness in the joint. If I sit with my knee bent for a long time, it's hard to straighten my leg when I stand up. This goes away after about 20 seconds, but it's still annoying. This, too, is getting better, but it sure is taking its sweet time about it.
3. Decreased range-of-motion. Think about how a catcher crouches behind home plate. I can't do that. My right leg can take it, but the bad leg stops about two inches short. And that two inches makes a biiiiiig difference. It's close, but no cigar.
1. I'm back in taekwondo. Slowly. Right now, I'm not practicing for power, I'm practicing for technique. In a way, I suppose that's a good thing. Over years of training, you tend to pick up some bad habits. This is my chance to work on them. All while wearing the brace, of course.
2. If I didn't tell you I'd had knee surgery, you'd never know. My walking gait is perfectly normal, I can climb stairs without trouble (even two at a time!), and I walk on uneven ground without worrying about buckling my knee. At this time last year, all of these things were strictly fantasy.
How much does ACL reconstruction surgery cost? If you try to find an answer for this on the web, any doctor's web site will hem and haw about the actual cost, saying that each case is different. Legally, I suppose, this is true. However, there are some costs that are never going to change, and I personally think it would be a lot more honest of them to tell you what they were.
Whatever. Since they won't, I will. Here's a breakdown of my perfectly average ACL reconstruction surgery costs:
|$5,225.00||Arthro, Aided ACL Repair Knee|
|$395.00||Blue Artic Continuous Cold Therapy Unit|
|$3,150.00||Scope Knee, ACL Reconstruction|
|$225.00||Scope Knee, Chondro Loose Body 2nd|
|$1,055.00||Fascia Lata Graft by Stripper|
|$80.00||X-Ray Knee, One or Two views|
Now, just because that's the retail cost, it doesn't mean I actually paid that much. My insurance happens to be pretty good. And even if your insurance isn't, you could still probably get out for a lot less than that. For instance, even though my doctor charged $1,000 for that brace (most of it paid by my insurance), a quick Google search turns up a price that's about 40 percent cheaper. I suspect (although I have no proof) that doctor's prices are much like sticker prices at car lots. No one pays that much, except for the insurance companies.
On the other hand, even at 40 percent off, you'd still be talking about a good chunk of change ($8,697.80 to be exact) if you had to pay retail. My advice: Get some insurance before you blow your knee out.
So anyway, that's about it. I'm out of any more interesting things to say about my damaged-but-healing knee. If you've found any of this useful, please feel free to stop by my Mailbag page and drop me a line. After all, I'd hate to think I'd gone through all of this for nothing! Ha! See you in the funny papers!
Updated at 12:07 AM
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
It's been so long...
So, in the past four months since my last update, what have I been doing, knee-wise? Well, a little bit of slacking off, a little bit of hard work. First of all, the weightlifting.
When I last posted, I was pressing 260 pounds with both legs, or 180 with my right and 80 with my left. My main goal then was to get up to 300 pounds by the end of December. I actually managed that pretty easily. I was up to 310 by January 1st. Since then? Well... I kinda slacked off. Why? The funny thing is once you get about 75 percent of your strength back, you start to be able to do a lot of things you couldn't before. Stairs, hills, jogging... all of these are manageable, and as a consequence, you start to feel like you don't really need to be pressing quite so hard on the PT.
Now, this does NOT mean that I haven't been doing any kind of exercising at all. In fact, check out who's in 387th place in the 2005 Redbud Classic 5k run! Okay, so 387th out of 450 men isn't exactly burning up the course, but I wasn't really running to be competitive. It was more just to prove I could do it. Of course, NOW I have to show that I can get to a semi-competitive time (I say semi-competitive because I have no illusions about ever challenging the first place runner, a 24-year-old who finished 20 minutes faster than me).
As for taekwondo, I'm back, but only on a limited basis. Pivoting on my left leg feels funny, most likely because my muscle tone still isn't quite back yet. As a result, I can only do some of the kicks, and most of those can't be done at full power. Each week I get a little better, but I really need to get back in the gym and start lifting weights again to speed up the process.
The only other thing worth mentioning for now is knee stiffness. If I spend any amount of time sitting with my knee bent (like, say, working at my desk), it's hard to extend my leg fully for the first 10 or 20 steps. I actually asked Dr. Don about that and he told me that this stiffness was normal and would eventually go away. I don't want to say I like this condition, but it does keep me from leaping up and putting my knee in a precarious position, so for now it's okay. It doesn't hurt; it just feels weird.
So, that's the news at 10 months. It's funny to read back through the entries in this archive. I remember during a lot of those entries thinking that my knee would NEVER get better, and that three months was an eternity. Now it seems like it all just zipped by. Let those last two sentences sink in, future-ACL-surgery victims. You'll get verrrrry familiar with them.
Next update: oh... who knows? At the latest, I'll probably post something on the one-year anniversary in June. But if something notable happens between now and then, I'll let you know.
Updated at 11:14 PM
Monday, November 29, 2004
So, which will happen first? Will I completely recover from an ACL reconstruction surgery or will Ken Jennings finally lose on "Jeopardy!"? I'm betting someone will beat Ken first, but I can remember --in what seems like an eternity ago-- sitting on the physical therapist's table the week after surgery watching Jennings kick some major brain. At this point, I'm beginning to wonder.
Anyway, it's not quite six months yet, but it's close enough for Dr. Don. Actually, Dr. Don is going to be on vacation on December 10th, which would be the actual six month point, so he brought me in early. The verdict? Drum roll, please....
I'm good to go! Dr. Don said that my ACL is now stable enough where I can fully exercise my knee. There's just one problem: I can't.
See, for the first three months after surgery, the amount of weights I was allowed to lift was verrrry limited, and that really took a toll on my thighs. Or rather, on ONE of my thighs. I've been pretty regular about working out (I do miss the occasional day), but when you let one of your legs atrophy for three months there's only so much you can do. My left leg is CLEARLY smaller than my right, and it's just going to take some time to build it back up. The positive news is that it's stronger every day, but by comparison, I can leg press 180 pounds with my right leg, and only 80 with my left. I won't be winning any taekwondo trophies or, like some of Dr. Don's other patients, other kinds of trophies anytime soon.
But that's okay. I'm pretty optimistic about the results now. I thought I might lose motivation as I got further and further from my surgery date, but the closer I get to being fully recovered, the more excited I get. Obviously, I'm in no shape for taekwondo right now, and I don't plan on going back this year, but I could see starting up again in January, even if only on the simple, non-contact aspects of it. I think if I stay on my current schedule of two-days-running and two-days-lifting per week that I can be leg-pressing over 300 pounds by the end of the month (I'm doing 260, now). That should get me to the point where I can jump using only my left leg (wearing my brace, of course). I never thought I'd be so excited about being able to jump.
So, that's the news at six months. I'll probably have another update in a month or so. I don't have to report back to PT or to the doctor for follow-ups anymore, so I'm essentially on my own. This means I don't really know what my next big goal is. I'm sure it will strike me as odd at the time (like when I went up stairs two-at-a-time a week ago). I'll let you know when and what it is.
Updated at 11:42 PM
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
So a week ago, (week 16), I went to physical therapy for the last time! Yay! My PTist said that my therapy was going well enough that she didn't see any reason for me to keep coming back, so I'm free unless something weird happens now that I'm on my own.
However, this doesn't mean that I'm not still doing the therapy, it just means I don't have to pay someone to watch me do it. New exercises added at week 12 included...
1. Leg extensions
2. Hamstring curls
3. Leg presses
Currently, I'm doing all of these things at embarrassingly low weights. For example, after five weeks of doing the leg presses, I'm just now getting to the point where I can lift my own weight (3 sets of 10 times). However, that's a lot better than a few weeks ago when I was pressing 80 pounds less. I'm making good progress, but I started from such a low level that it's taking me a while to build up to normal.
Running is going very well. I'm up to six laps around the track now (about a mile and a half), and I'm starting to get a little speed back. The first day I ran, it took me 3:45 to finish a lap (a pokey 15-minute mile). On Monday, I was averaging 2:25, and even did the last two laps in 2:05. It's still pretty slow compared to all of the people who keep lapping me at the track, but again, I'm getting better and faster.
I've also started some agility training. No, not that kind of agility. Basically, agility training is used to improve lateral cutting-type motions. The first motion is called side shuffling, which is pretty much self-descriptive. The second motion is crossover (or, as I'm finding on the net, carioca) and no matter how many pictures (scroll halfway down) I find of it, it still doesn't make any sense until you actually do it. Trust me, though, it works. And like everything else I've been doing, it feels very awkward at first, but I pick up the rhthym pretty fast. It's just been so long since I did any motions like these that it still feels unstable.
So basically, everything's going very well. I'm not setting any records for recovery time, but that's okay. I'd pretty much resigned myself to not doing anything particularly athletic until 2005 anyway, and I think I'm easily on track for that. In fact, I'm even a little optimistic now. Technically speaking, I should be cleared to go back to taekwondo, football, etc. on December 10, six months after my surgery. At this point, I'm thinking that I might be ready before that. Not much before that, and I'm certainly not declaring myself a medical expert, but now I think it's realistic to think that Dr. Don might give me the go ahead when I follow-up with him at the end of November. But that's still another six weeks of PT from now, so we'll see. Heck, maybe I'll even have the surgery paid off by then! Because, you know, once I've stopped giving them money, they're not going to want to see me anymore. Heh.
Updated at 11:04 PM
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Yeeee-haa! I'm now three months out. And since I haven't posted for the last three weeks, here's a list of everything I've been doing that's different...
...so, THAT was pretty boring, wasn't it? As I stated last time, my PT got cut down from once every week to once every two weeks. This all meant that I didn't get any kind of input from either my PTist or Dr. Don, so all of my PT remained pretty much unchanged. The only real difference is that I upped the number of repetitions on some of the exercises. Essentially, I did all of the same things, just more of them.
That is, up until last Wednesday, when I had my 3-month follow-up visit with Dr. Don. Doc told me that now that I've healed some more, it's safe to start putting more weight on the knee. So now, instead of upping my reps, I'll be upping the weight of each rep. That and...
I get to run again. Finally! Although, Dr. Don said, there are restrictions. He had a plan for me. Go to the track. Walk a lap. Jog a lap. Walk a lap. Do this three days a week, and then following week, add another lap to the jogging phase. Add a jogging lap every week for the next three months, and by my next follow-up with him at the end of November (6 months), I should be up to three miles of running.
"No problem," I thought! "I've just been waiting for the go-ahead! Let's go running!" So that night I did.
My first lap--the walking lap--went very smoothly. As I've said before, my walking stride now looks almost completely normal. I have a slight limp when I'm walking on bumpy ground, but on a perfectly flat track, nothing. The old man jogging slowly around the track probably wondered what I was doing. Until he saw me start to jog.
As I finished the first lap, I was reminding myself to take it easy, since I hadn't run a step since I injured myself in March. It turns out that reminding myself was unnecessary. I couldn't go fast if I tried. I broke into the world's slowest jog. I'm not even sure if my jogging was faster than my walking. When Dr. Don had told me to only do one jogging lap, I was thinking he was just being overcautious, not wanting me to get injured again. But by the time I was midway through the first turn--about 100 meters into a 400 meter lap--I was beginning to think he was crazy for having me do so much. I honestly had doubts that I was going to make it around. I did, but I was breathless by the end. Meanwhile, Mr. Old Jogger had lapped me TWICE. I'll just use the excuse that he was in the inside lane. Yeah, that's it.
Another activity that's been okayed is golfing. However, Dr. Don put restrictions on that, too. I can golf, but I'll need to wear my knee brace (I don't need to wear it while running). This is so I don't injure myself if I end up on rough ground or in a trap. Obviously, Dr. Don has seen me golf before. Also, I can't swing full strength, as this would put a lot of stress on my knee. Although I haven't been golfing yet, I now imagine that this will be obvious--much like trying to run--once I actually do it.
But all in all, Dr. Don thinks I'm doing well, which is good. I go back to PT this Thursday, and my PTist has already said that once I reached the 12-week mark she was going to introduce some exciting, new, painful weightlifting-type things to my therapy. So I guess I have THAT to look forward to this week. Oh joy. I'm sure I'll have another update then about whatever new device they put me in. Probably the Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden? Excellent! (sound)
Updated at 11:06 PM
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Wait, I didn't tell you about what happened on Week 8, did I? Well, let's go back to that then...
WEEK 8 (belatedly)
So, on Week 8 I went to both the doctor and the PTist. Doctor first.
Dr. Don did his checkup and said that everything looked pretty good about my knee except for the swelling. So for that, I got more drugs (prescription Naproxen--essentially, an expensive version of Aleve). He also said that although my knee feels strong, it's really at its weakest point right now. This is because there are blood vessels in knee that are growing back into the cellular matrix of my bone density mitochondria blah blah blah...
Okay, he actually had a pretty good explanation of it, but I can't remember what he said. Suffice it to say, at eight weeks the knee is weak, and it will only get better. I know this is true because he drew me a chart. It looked something like this. And if that isn't scientific, what is?
He also told me no golf until 12 weeks. Grrr. What's worse is that although August is usually full of 100-degree days in Oklahoma, this year has had NO 100-degree-plus days. It was even in the mid-70s earlier this week. The weather is mocking me. CURSE YOU, WEATHER!!
Anyway, on to PT. I mentioned casually to my PTist that I could go up stairs fairly easily, but going down stairs was still tough. Never mention anything "casually" to a physical therapist. Last week's new exercise was "step-downs," where you stand on a box with the bad leg and lower yourself down until your good leg alllllllmost touches the floor. Three sets of 10, and by the end, my leg felt very, very wobbly. It's always a bit humbling to see just how much of your muscle tone has gone away.
So, now that we've taken care of last week, on to...
Hey, whaddya know! It turns out those step-downs are actually pretty effective! I'm not running down stairs yet, but I can go down them at a reasonable speed now. In fact, if I'm on level ground with no obstructions, I don't even limp that much anymore. I can now meet people I haven't seen in a while and they don't realize I've had knee surgery until we get to a staircase. And I can sit in a chair comfortably. Or sit in a theater without having to have my leg stick out in the aisle. Why, you'd almost think I was healing or something!
To quantify that, I got my range-of-motion measured again this week. 139 degrees! Woo-hoo! By comparison, the good leg is 147 degrees. There are still some differences, though. For instance, I need to pull on the bad leg to get it to 139, whereas I can flex the good leg unaided to about 145. In fact, my PTist told me that I'd probably get past 147 on the bad leg in the short term simply because my muscles have atrophied so much that there would be less mass to get in the way of flexion. Blah. I'm just happy to be able to sit in a chair again.
And the best news of the week, I now only have to go to PT once every two weeks instead of weekly. That also means I probably won't post again for another couple of weeks. And that should be 11 weeks out, tantalizingly close to the magical 12 week limit where the collective health professionals will let me run again. See you then!
Updated at 10:12 PM
Monday, August 02, 2004
WEEK 7, DAY 4.
I don't really have a whole lot to add today. I did ask my PTist last week about swimming laps and she said "only if you don't use your legs to kick." Arms-only swimming? I'll pass. I'd be thinking about it so much I'd probably sink.
My flexion is now at 120 degrees. I was pleasantly surprised by that. I was worried I wasn't making any progress at all, so having quantified another 10 degrees of progress was a good thing.
I did add two new exercises this past week. Now instead of just going over the hurdles forwards, I'm also going over them sideways (I should also add here that this was the first week I went over the hurdles forwards without my hamstring hurting--so, hamstring pain stops at 7 weeks). Also, I'm now doing leg presses, three sets of 10, lifting 70 pounds. And 70 pounds seemed pretty easy, so I'm sure that will be jacked up next week.
I'm almost able to go down stairs now. I mean, I'm thiiiiiiiis close. I don't know if I'll be there by Thursday, like I thought I would last week, but it'll be close.
I meet both my doctor and my PTist on Friday (not together--one in the morning, one in the afternoon). I'm hoping Dr. Don will tell me I can play golf, but at this point I'm betting golf, along with running and swimming, will be approved at 12 weeks. I'd just like to be able to do some other physical activity other than the PT exercises I do for 90 minutes every night. Although, I guess if I added another form of exercise, I wouldn't have time to do anything else (really...try adding 90 minutes of exercising every day to your normal schedule and see what it does to your ability to get anything accomplished). Maybe doctor DOES know best.
Updated at 11:42 PM