Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Week 18. 4.5 months post-op.

The only times I think about my knee now are when I've been sitting down for 3 hours without a break during class and suddenly have to stand up (there's that feeling of instability when I first stand up); when I climb the stairs at the end of the day to my apartment and my knee just doesn't want to cooperate; and after I've been standing for 2 hours at my night job and my knee locks up.

I love that I can sit Indian-style again. I love that I can walk normally again.

My PT sessions have been cut short by my insurance company. I've been doing my exercises on my own at the gym anyway, which is helping to add muscle to my quad. In January I can get fitted for a brace for my knee to start doing cutting and pivoting exercises.

I also learned that I have patellar tendonitis (aka jumper's knee). My PT said that it was common in a lot of women recovering from ACL surgery since the kneecap moves around so much afterward. She also said that it will eventually disappear, as long as I keep rolling out my IT band and doing my stretches after my exercises.

This whole knee business has been a long trial for me. It's been a blessing in disguise, since I probably wouldn't have slowed my life down, which would have left me hitting a wall much harder than I did back in June. I've learned the nuances of dealing with hospital billing, insurance billing, and referrals. I've come to understand the rules my union stipulates about health insurance coverage, and I've learned to deal with various kinds of people.

I discovered that I only lose insurance coverage for a month (December). I could either choose to pay the $1,009 to maintain my health benefits under COBRA, or I could just wait it out and not incur any charges til January when I get reinstated. I chose the latter decision - as long as I don't get sick or hurt or need a doctor's appointment, I should be scot-free. However, the challenge is maintaining my health for 31 days . . . I think I can do it. :)

Every time I hear about someone else's knee pain, I have knee sympathy. I no longer feel invincible anymore - I knew that would come in time, but I never expected it this early in life.

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving holiday!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Week 14

I'm starting to lose track of the weeks at this point, which is a good thing, seeing as how I'm thinking less and less about my knee.

I had my three-month post-op check in with my doctor on Monday. He gave me the green light to run on the treadmill for now (until my knee doesn't feel sore from the impact, in which I can move onto concrete). I have another appointment with him in two months, just after Christmas.

My physical therapy routine has been pretty much static since I could start doing leg extensions. I did end up moving with my therapist to a new location (at NU). The only thing really different I'm doing now is jogging:

- heat on the knee: 10 min
- walk/jog on treadmill: 15 min
- leg press (two legs): 3 x 15 x 10th weight plate (193lb)
- leg press (one leg): 3 x 10 x 6th weight plate (93 lb)
- step ups on balancing disk: 3 x 15 x 8"
- lateral step downs: 3 x 15
- frontal step downs: 3 x 15
- squats on Bosu ball: 3 x 15
- squats: 3 x 15
- lunges: 5 x 10 (across the PT room)
- roll out IT band
- ice and stim: 15 min

My leg is definitely getting better every day. I have little trouble going up and down stairs at this point. The clicking is going away, especially since the swelling is going down. The only time I feel some pain is at the end of the day (usually after UPS), when I'm going up the stairs to my apartment, and that's because I'd been standing for two hours.

I'm hoping I can get some running in soon. I want to get on improving my cardio before I go back to TKD, and to get into shape again. I recall my doctor telling me that I'll be fitted for a brace by December to start doing cutting and pivoting movements, which is fantastic. I'm so excited for that!

I'm so glad I've been keeping up with exercising and whatnot. There are so many stories I've heard of people not staying with their rehab routines, and then they end up reinjuring themselves. I want to have my knee for the long term, even if it's a bit . . . replaced.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Week 11

Last Tuesday was the 11th week of post-op, and my leg is getting so much better.

When I wake up in the mornings, the knee is not as stiff. The swelling has gone WAY down and my range of movement is closer to normal. I only have soreness after walking for long periods of time, and leaving it in a bent position for too long and getting up immediately afterward leaves some soreness as well.

My PT session this past Thursday was the toughest yet. I woke up Friday morning feeling sore from muscle usage (which was nice since I hadn't really felt that in a long time).

The session:

- heat: 10 min
- massage: 5 min
- elliptical with resistance: 10 min
- squats: 3 x 15
- step ups at 8" with balancing disk: 3 x 15
- lateral step downs at 8": 3 x 15
- frontal step downs at 8": 3 x 15
- leg extensions: 3 x 15 x 1st weight plate
- leg press: 3 x 15 x 9th weight plate
- single-legged leg press: 3 x 15 x 5th weight plate
- single-legged squats on balancing disk: 3 x 8
- mini lunges: 3 x 15
- straight leg raise: 3 x 15 x 6lb
- hamstring curl: 3 x 15 x 2 lb
- IT band roll-out: 3 x 30 sec
- stretching
- Game Ready icing: 10 min

I felt the burn by the leg presses - those were the toughest. My muscles are definitely getting stronger; I can feel it when I walk now and I'm almost at the point where I can run. I am going to start doing calisthenics at home to keep myself in shape, since I rarely have time to make the hours at the gym. Working in the mornings before/after class and working nights is taking a toll on me now, and school is only getting tougher. So, it's back to the grind and the challenges that lay ahead.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Week 10

The limp's been gone for weeks. I barely struggle with going up and down stairs. I can carry a 25-lb book bag. I can drive my standard shift car with very little soreness. I can sit Indian-style. I can bring my knee up to my chin when I'm sitting. The swelling is almost gone and I have about 130 degrees of flexion.

This is progress. This makes me happy that I've come so far, and it hasn't even been three months yet.

I'll be going back to UPS on Monday night. I don't look forward to it, but I need to keep my health insurance somehow. I have to speak to my shop steward about the union terms of my insurance. I owe $200 in union dues for June through September, and god only knows how much I owe for insurance. I think I've accepted this insurance fate - expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when something really good happens!

My routine at physical therapy has generally been the same these past two weeks:

- heat: 10 min
- massage: 5 min
- elliptical: 10 min
- squats: 3 x 15
- step ups: 3 x 15
- lateral step downs: 3 x 15
- frontal step downs: 3 x 15
- leg extensions: 3 x 15 x 1st weight plate
- leg press: 3 x 15 x 8th weight plate + 1/2 weight
- single-leg leg press: 3 x 15 x 4th weight plate + 1/2 weight
- mini-lunges: 3 x 15
- straight leg lifts: 3 x 15 x 5lb
- balancing on disk w/ playing catch: 3 x 30 second intervals
- stretching (hamstring, quad)
- ice w/ stim: 15 min

The weights in my exercises are going up, which is nice. It gives me a challenge and I am feeling the burn now the next day. I'm walking a hell of a lot more, too - at least 2 or 3 miles a day to and from school. My leg doesn't consume my thoughts anymore - I only think about it about 50% of the time now instead of 90%. Now I can't wait to start jumping and doing other sports. I don't feel as frustrated doing my exercises either, since I know I can start pushing myself more.

I know I should probably go to the gym more, given my love for working out/sports and using sports as a stress reliever, but school exhausts me. I just gotta keep pushing myself.

I started doing forms again a few days ago as well, and found that I can't do some of my lower level forms due to my lack of practice. I gotta get back into that, too, so I can get working on my second degree again. I can only push myself so far . . .

Friday, September 26, 2008

Week 9.5

Starting next week, I'll be cutting down my physical therapy visits from twice a week to once a week, partially because of school and partially because I just can. My therapist said that I'd be able to do so because I've been showing such great progress. That's a relief.

So the regimen yesterday was very similar to that of Tuesday's:

- elliptical: 10 min
- front step downs: 3 x 15 x 8"
- lateral step downs: 3 x 15 x 8"
- step ups: 3 x 15 x 8"
- leg press (both legs): 3 x 15 x 7th weight plate and 1/2 weight
- leg press (left leg): 3 x 15 x 4th weight plate
- squats: 3 x 15
- leg extensions: 3 x 15 x 1st weight plate
- straight leg lifts: 3 x 15 x 4lb
- hamstring curls: 3 x 15 x 2lb
- stretching (quad, hamstring)
- ice with stim: 10 min

I'll be able to work more on balancing stuff soon, and get back into running. By 5 months, I can start doing pivot sports again.

I can't wait to get over all of this mess! At least my recovery is going well.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Week 9

Yesterday was week 9. I visited my surgeon/doctor on Monday and yesterday was my 15th physical therapy visit.

My doctor was quite pleased with my progress and laid out a general schedule for me in terms of being able to run and start doing pivot sports again. At the three-month mark I can start really running again and by five months I have to get fitted for a knee brace to do pivoting. That's a relief that I can do all this.

My biggest worry at this point is that my benefits aren't going to cover me that far in. I'm still trying to get answers from my Union and from HR regarding what I'm going to have to do about that. I really can't afford $1,000-a-month payments under the COBRA stipulation - if it comes to that, I might as well quit school and go find a day job that offers me benefits. According to my Union records, it seems that my benefits are paid through until November, but I have no idea what that means for me in terms of how I will pay for coverage. I'm anxious and scared of what is to come and I have no way of controlling the future. I'm forcing myself to go back to my night job as early as next week if I can fit it. Major :-(

In other news, this was my regimen yesterday:

- heat (without stim!!!): 10 min
- massage
- elliptical: 10 min with resistance
- squats: 3 x 15
- front step downs: 3 x 15 at 8"
- lateral step downs: 3 x 15 at 8"
- front step ups: 3 x 15 x 8"
- leg extensions: 3 x 15 x 1st weight setting
- leg press: 3 x 15 x 7th weight setting
- leg press with left leg: 3 x 15 x 4th weight setting
- balancing exercise (one foot balancing while catching a ball): 2 x 30 seconds
- straight leg lifts: 3 x 15 x 4lb
- hamstring curls: 3 x 15 x 2lb
- stretching
- Game Ready icing (without stim!!!): 10 min

I've graduated from the stationary bike and the electric stimulation! It's so great to actually be able to do my exercises and know that my leg is much stronger.

I have a 3-month follow-up with my doctor in a few weeks, and I have to get another referral for more physical therapy. Oy, I hate health insurance stipulations, especially being a part of an HMO (despite how cheap they are).

Friday, September 19, 2008

More physical therapy.

Today was a really long day - five hours of quantitative analysis is enough to fry ANYONE's brain.

I went to physical therapy after class for 1.5 hours. I'm basically on autopilot now - just trying to get everything stronger before I move onto the pivoting exercises . . . eventually.

Regimen for today:

Knee warmup with stim: 10 min
Stationary bike: 10 min on strengthening
Leg extensions: 3 x 15 x 1st weight plate
- I extended with both legs, and went back down with only my left leg.
Frontal step downs at 6": 3 x 10
Lateral step downs at 8": 3 x 15
Step ups at 8": 3 x 15
Leg press: 3 x 15 x 6th weight plate
Unassisted squats: 3 x 15
Straight leg lifts: 3 x 15 x 3lb
Hamstring curls: 3 x 15 x 2lb
Mini lunges: 3 x 10
Ice with stim: 10 min

After the session (before icing), my therapist checked my strength levels and measured by degrees of flexion and extension. At this point, I'm missing about 1 degree of extension, and my flexion is at 124 degrees. Hamstring curls are the toughest out of all my exercises, particularly because I still have swelling in my knee that prevents me from bending up far enough. Walking is no longer a problem; I hope we can progress to running soon.

Driving my car (manual transmission) is still kind of tough as well, since the vibrations from my engine irritate my knee, and my clutch is relatively heavy. That I'll have to get used to with time as well.

I hope I can eventually get back to my night job - I need to repay my union dues and earn some hours to cover my health insurance for the next quarter.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Week 8

Thanks to everyone who's been reading and keeping up with my recovery. It's so great to have such support. :)

Today is 8 weeks post-operation. I think that roughly equals two months, give or take a few days. The best thing about today is that I'm thinking less about the knee and more about other things. Don't get me wrong - my knee still occupies my mind at times, but lately, it just hasn't been as prominent as say, working on a case study for school.

Tangent 1: School's been in session for three weeks now and I'm finding myself intellectually challenged by the material, which is nice. Some courses are more challenging than others - that's a fact of life, but I know that I'll have to give my all if I want to do well in what I'm taking (Marketing Management, Financial Reporting, and Quantitative Analysis). I'm thankful that I got out of Economic Analysis for Managers, and I took Leading Individuals and Groups last year as an undergraduate. And I finished Communications Strategies before everything else started, which was my first graduate course (as an MBA student) out of the way. :)

Tangent 2: Work hasn't been so busy, now that the first few weeks are over. I'm dealing with an average of five to ten students per shift now, instead of 20-25. It'll be nice to work on other projects besides registration, too. Today, I found two student workers doing their homework in the back room, and being a peer of them myself, I couldn't just tell them to put their homework away (otherwise, they'd look at me like a boss, rather than a peer). I had to grab a full-timer to control the situation (homework is a no-no at work, at least in my office) . . . that was a tough decision to make. At least I'm learning what not to do in my communication skills . . .

Tangent 3: I'm no longer taking long naps after I get home from work/school now. It's been nice to have more energy lately, although physical therapy still exhausts me.

I went to my physical therapy session this evening and discovered that my routine changed a bit. Now that I am at the 8-week mark, I have to start working harder to get back to normal:

Knee warmup with stim: 10 min
Stationary bike: 10 min on strengthening
Squats: 3 x 15
Step ups (front): 3 x 15
Step ups (side): 3 x 15
Leg extensions: 3 x 15 x 1st weight plate
Leg lifts: 3 x 15 x 3lb
Short arcs: 3 x 15 x 2lb
Game Ready icing with stim: 15 min

I graduated from the wall squats with the exercise ball, and my therapist got rid of my hip strengthening exercises all together. She was really surprised to see that I could do leg extensions so well, despite it being the first time I had done them in so long. The leg extension exercise was the most difficult; my form was off and I had very little strength in my left leg; my right leg carried on the work. The strength will come with time, but I'm happy that all the walking I've been doing has been helping my knee. Go recovery!

Funny note: everyone who knows me who saw Tom Brady's injury instantly thought, "Wei had the same injury!" Boy, do we ACL veterans know how he feels.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Week 7

I woke up this morning and was pleasantly surprised to find that shuffling to the bathroom wasn't as painful. The knee itself is still stiff when I first try moving it after being stuck in the same position all night, and it still feels like there's a weight on the calf part of my leg, but overall it seems to be doing a lot better. The swelling has gone down a great deal since the last time I posted a photo, too (which I don't have for now).

I had my 12th PT session since the injury today - my therapist upped some of the weights for the exercises I do:

Knee warmup with stim: 10 min
Stationary bike: 10 min on strength training
Leg press: 3 x 15 x 6th weight setting
Short arcs: 3 x 15 x 2lb
Leg lifts: 3 x 15 x 3lb
Hip abductions: 3 x 15 x 4lb
Prone hip abductions: 3 x 15 x 4lb
Hip adductions: 3 x 15 x 4lb
Hamstring curls: 3 x 15 x 2lb
Wall squat with exercise ball: 3 x 15 at almost 90 degrees
Heel raises: 3 x 15
Step ups (front): 3 x 15
Step ups (side): 3 x 15
Calf/hamstring stretches
Game Ready icing with stim: 15 min

My physical therapy sessions are lasting about 1.5 hours at this point if I do my exercises at a relatively quick pace. It's been helping a lot and compared to when I first started PT up again after surgery, I've come a long way. Apparently I'm able to walk normally now, too - sometimes I have a limp after sitting for too long, but that usually goes away when I "warm up" and walk for a little bit.

In the meantime, school has been draining me daily, and work is exhausting, especially when you deal with an average of 10-15 students a day. But, I'm slowly getting back on track with what my schedule was before the injury, so we'll see how I fare.

It's motivating to hear that things are getting better, and to compare the results to a point in the past. I hope that I can progress more by this time next week.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tom Brady potentially out for the season?!

I can't believe it - another heavily-followed athlete with a torn ACL. The Patriots are going to have a hard time playing this season without Tom Brady if the diagnosis is what it seems . . .

Boy, do I know how that feels. At least mine wasn't AS painful as Brady's sounds (and looks).

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Week 6

Six weeks and everything seems pretty much the same since last Thursday.

Regimen for yesterday:

Knee heating with stim: 10 min
Massage: 5 min
Stationary bike for strengthening: 10 min
Leg press: 3 x 15 on 4th weight setting
Leg lifts: 3 x 15 x 1lb
Hip abduction: 3 x 15 x 3lb
Hip adduction: 3 x 15 x 3lb
Step ups: 3 x 15 x 2nd setting
Side step ups: 3 x 15
Wall squats with exercise ball: 3 x 15
Heel raises: 3 x 15
Hamstring curl: 3 x 15
Hamstring stretch, quad stretch, etc.: 10 min
Ice with stim and weight on knee (for getting full extension back): 10 min

I'm having a lot of trouble with the hamstring curls and hip adductions. For some reason my leg just doesn't respond the way it should. I'm not too happy about that.

The good thing is is that everything else doesn't give me that much trouble. I get tired doing leg lifts, but I think that's because my quad just isn't there yet. I compared my quads the other day and my left quad is at least an inch or two smaller than my right one. I don't even fill in my pants the same way! It's so strange.

This month has been rough scheduling my physical therapy sessions. I can only do one a week, and I'm starting to get worried about how long my disability lasts. I think I need to contact HR about that. I don't want to go back to work if I'm not okay to do so, but I really need to work so I can have that extra cash.

Rough times are ahead . . .

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Week 5.5

I started classes on Saturday for my Master's program, so I had to force myself to walk about 15 minutes in the morning from the bus stop to the SOM campus, and 20 minutes to the bus stop to get home in the afternoon. That's a lot of walking, while carrying a relatively heavy bag. I gave myself a lot of time in case I had to stop and rest for a bit, but I was able to get to and from each location without too much trouble. Monday through Wednesday were easier days to walk, as my leg got used to the extension and touching heel-toe. I'm losing some of the limp, which my physical therapist noticed when I went in for a session today.

I'm finding that my schedule is only allowing me to have one session a week now. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it saves me $15 in copay.

So today's session consisted of the following:

Knee warmup with stim: 15 min
Stationary bike with resistance: 10 min
Leg press: 3 x 10 x 3rd weight setting (I need to find out what that is)
Step-ups: 3 x 20 with 2nd setting
Leg lifts: 3 x 15 x 1 lb
Side lying hip abduction: 3 x 15 x 3lb
Side lying hip adduction: 3 x 15 x 3lb
Passive knee/hip flexion: 3 x 15
Heel raises: 3 x 15
Wall squats with exercise ball: 3 x 15
Icing with stim: 15 min with 5 lb weight on knee

I ended up walking 15 minutes to lunch, 20 minutes to the bus stop, and another 20 minutes uphill back to my apartment after physical therapy. All that physical activity exhausted me (despite my high threshold for pushing myself), and I crashed at home for about 5-6 hours. It's a lot to do just a month and a bit after surgery, and while I knew I was pushing my limits, I just wanted to be "normal" again.

It is getting easier day by day to get up and walk - I'm able to go up stairs again (albeit with a bit of difficulty). I still can't go down stairs without throwing out part of my hip, since my knee doesn't like to cooperate. The mornings are hard, too - I wake up really stiff, and I have to take 5-10 minutes to stretch before I can shuffle to the bathroom.

Some days I just want to sit and do nothing, but looking at my knee reminds me that I can't just stop.

Friday, August 22, 2008

It keeps on getting better, but the light at the end of the tunnel is a long way off.

I had the monthly doctor's appointment yesterday at the hospital. They ordered X-rays to see how the screws in my knee are holding up, and I was given the okay to do even more at PT. My doctor also made me bend my knee more than I normally do, which resulted in surprise (woo I can bend!) and pain (ow, too much scar tissue and swelling). It's nice to know my body is healing well.

I was able to go to PT by myself yesterday - took the bus and walked the 10 minutes on my own.

At PT, we upped the exercises a bit and the session was somewhat more intense:

Knee heating with stim: 15 min
Massage: 5 min
Stationary bike: 10 min
Side-lying hi abduction: 3 x 15 x 3lb
Side-lying hip adduction: 3 x 15 x 3lb
Leg lifts: 3 x 10 x 1lb (I still have quad lag here)
Wall squats with exercise ball: 3 x 15
Heel raises: 3 x 15
One-legged balancing on an aerobic step: 3 x 15
Icing with weight on knee and stim: 15 min

I was pretty sore after this session, especially after having to walk. But overall I'm feeling more confident about walking (with less of a limp) and regaining strength in my leg.

I know it takes time, too, and it's been frustrating listening to my friends talk about all the great thing they've been doing with their summers while I've been immobile. I also know that I can do it all next year (provided I don't get hurt again, knock on wood), but it still seems like I missed out on a lot of fun. What bothers me most is that this was the summer that I could actually do stuff - meaning that I didn't have an internship to work, and I had just graduated from undergrad. Instead, I stayed inside much of the time and hoped my knee was getting better.

Sigh. I don't want to sound depressed but sometimes I feel like no matter how far I've come, there's so much more work to do.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Week 4

One month since surgery.

About two-and-a-half months since the injury.

I think I'm healing pretty well.

My physical therapist has me walking (albeit a bit strained) without crutches now. Today's regimen was a bit tougher:

Knee warm-up with stim: 10 min
Massage: 10 min
Stationary bike: 10 min
Leg lifts with stim: 7 min
Short arcs with stim: 7 min
Passive knee flexion: 3 x 15
Side-lying hip abduction: 3 x 15 x 3lb
Side-lying hip adduction: 3 x 15 x 3lb
Wall squats (1/4 way down) with exercise ball: 3 x 10
Game Ready icing with stim: 15 min

My therapist had me walking back and forth during the first half of the session and the second half. I had to remind myself not to walk with a limp since I can bend the leg now. It's hard when the knee is so stiff, and it's first instinct to lock everything up and swing from the hip instead of walking heel-toe.

While I was on the bike, however, I discovered I could bend my knee far enough to rotate forward, so I was able to cycle for 10 minutes. That was a complete surprise to me, since the last session I had I couldn't go backwards without pain, let alone forwards. I hope I can make it to my school gym at least twice a week to cycle.

I'm icing with the Cryo-Cuff now since my knee is totally swollen from the activity I put it through today. Recovery sure is exhausting.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I <3 physical therapy.

This is what my knee looks like three weeks later. The swelling has gone down significantly and I can somewhat see my kneecap again!

Seriously, I'm so glad I ended up going to Sports and Physical Therapy Associates instead of the hospital's physical therapy clinic. My therapist is so knowledgeable, understanding, and just plain amazing. And the people who work there are incredibly nice, not rushed and unhappy sounding, like at the other clinic I was going to go to originally.

My therapist decided to push me a bit today, since she felt that I was ready to get a move on my strengthening and range of motion. This is what we ended up doing:

Knee warm-up (heating and electro-stimulation): 10 min
Massage: 5 min
Quad sets with stim: 10 min
Leg lifts with 2 lb weights and stim: 10 min
Rotation movement on stationary bike (as much as I could do - I ended up doing about 15 rotations backwards since forwards isn't possible yet): 10 min
Side-lying hip abduction with 2 lb weights: 3 x 15
Side-lying hip adduction with 2 lb weights: 3 x 15
Knee arcs with stim: 10 min
Hamstring stretch
Icing with Game Ready and stim: 10 min

Today was a really good session and my therapist was pleased with my progress. I was quite pleased to see that my knee was responding so positively.

After PT, I went to visit my office and show everyone the scars and whatnot. It seemed pretty quiet for the most part, and everyone was happy to see me. I do want to go back, but not just yet. The front desk chairs aren't fit for my leg, and there isn't any other place I can sit just yet. So we'll see when I will actually go back.

A week till my first "class." I can't believe how fast this summer has flown by.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Week 3

I can't believe it's already been three weeks since I had my surgery. I can bend my knee to sit down now, and I've regained some strength in my quad. I still have to walk around with one crutch to support myself, but at least it's not two crutches. I've been going to PT twice a week as well.

What bothers me now is my health insurance. I've been constantly watching my claims on my insurance website to make sure they go through. One of them was already denied because my PCP hadn't sent in a referral. I spoke to them today about it after I saw that the referral had popped up, and they asked me to get ANOTHER referral for that same exact day, despite the fact that it was already in their system. If the claim still stays denied, I might end up having to pay for it . . . which wouldn't be good since I just bought my books for the fall semester (some of them anyway - cost me about $300). I'm deathly afraid that my other claims for my surgery won't be covered, despite the fact that my plan states that all surgeries will be covered as long as a referral is sent to the doctor. I had that done, but it's been several weeks now that those claims remained "In Process." That happened to the denied claim and I know that I can't afford to pay the other claims.

I hate uncertainty. I also hate how my health insurance is confusing, and while it is a good program, I can't say that the customer service is that great either. This insurance fiasco is stressing me out unnecessarily, and it's making me feel real uncomfortable about going to the doctor's again.

As for PT, I've moved up to some new exercises. This is my routine every other day now:

Heel slides: 3 x 15
Quad sets: 3 x 15
Ankle pumps: 3 x 15
Passive knee extension/flexion: 3 x 15
Side-lying abduction: 3 x 10
Prone hip extension: 3 x 10
Side-lying hip adduction: 3 x 10
Hamstring stretching

Of course, I ice and elevate every day, too, but the need to elevate is becoming less. I also massage each day to decrease the swelling. It's been helping a lot . . . the only thing I'm worried about now is the random clicking I get inside the knee. It's hard to do complete heel slides as well, since there is still some swelling there.

Things to look after now:

- New PT referral
- Continuously check on insurance claims

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Week 2

It's only been two weeks since the surgery but I feel like it's been forever. I remember when I first tore my ACL and was waiting for it to "heal" so I could walk normally again, and now I'm back where I started about two months ago (perhaps even worse off).

The first week was difficult. Everything just hurt - even attempting to move my leg caused me unnecessary pain. But after I was allowed to remove my dressings and really start the icing, the swelling came down a lot and I started to bend again.

I think I'm at 95 degrees; I know I can do 5 degrees with an almost straight leg (which I couldn't do before). Last night I discovered I could lift my leg (with my knee stabilizer on), which means that my quad does remember what to do. The only problem with that is that once the stabilizer is off, my quad forgets everything again and I'm stuck trying to move my leg around with the aid of my arm.

I started PT up again today (and twice a week for the next three weeks) per doctor's orders to get more range of movement in the knee. I had electro-stimulation before and after my session. I could only do quad sets and heel slides (with a band to assist), but that's the regimen until my leg remembers its flexion. The next session is on Thursday - we'll see how the muscle feels then.

I've picked up crutch walking at a very quick pace - I can race people now, haha.

I hope I can at least limp by next week. We'll see.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Week 1 - Fever?!

I woke up with a fever of 100.4 yesterday of no known causes. It was 7AM and my mother had just gone to work, so I had my brother cover me in an attempt to sweat it out (I know, bad judgment on my and his part, but it was all I could do without wanting to knock myself out). I threw two percocet down my throat and didn't wake up again until 2PM.

At 2PM, I sat there shivering and sweating at the same time. Took my temperature again and it had dropped to 100.1. My sister brought home some chicken noodle soup and gave me some apple juice and bread to go with my meal. I ate 3/4 of it all and then attempted to pass out again.

I woke up at 7 feeling sweaty and disgusting. The good thing was, it seemed that my fever had broken. The bad thing was that the sore throat was still there. I had called my surgeon earlier to tell him of my bodily developments and he said to just get rest and take the percocet to counter the fever effects (Tylenol is a component of perc). And to drink lots of fluids, as long as the incisions weren't puffy, swollen, or red (which they weren't).

I finally recovered around 8PM, and was able to eat the whole of my dinner. It was an okay feeling, finally being full after a week or so of being unable to really eat. I've been taking Colace with every meal, since it seems that percocet doesn't allow me the luxury of bowel movement (yeah, gross).

I woke up this morning with a horribly dry and sore throat, and an achy body. I really hope that fever doesn't come back. It doesn't help that I accidentally allowed my knee to bend when it wasn't ready for it. I was moving off an ottoman and forgot to grip my shin to support it and the knee came buckling down into a 90 degree angle. At least I know I can bend, but not without certain pain.

I discovered that I could do quad tightening sets today, so I'm adding that to my three times a day regimen.

I wish I felt like eating. Instead I just feel like throwing up, even though I know there's nothing in my stomach to do so. I have a bowl of peach oatmeal and OJ for breakfast, and I haven't even gotten through 1/4 of it.

I know it's only been a week since my surgery. It seems like so much yet so little time has passed by. The knee isn't so sore anymore; I'm just afraid of hurting it with any attempted walking.

I just wish that my bodily soreness would go away.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Not for the squeamish.

I finally took a shower today after almost a week of sponge baths. It was the most liberating feeling! Luckily, I had a stool to sit on in the shower and washing with a flexible showerhead made life much easier.

I finally had the guts to take off my dressings and bandages today (even though I could have removed them last week). I took them off and this is what I found:

I had to compare both legs. The swelling is pretty substantial in my left leg, but I thought it would be worse.

I still haven't gained any movement in my leg - I've been icing and elevating like crazy. My doc said that I could bear 50% of my weight on it, but I don't trust the leg just yet. Much of my day is spent doing ankle pumps, ankle circles, and attempting quad sets. (That is, when I'm not out like a light due to the percocet.) Leg lifts are out of the picture for now.

I have an appointment on Thursday morning with my surgeon for a progress checkup. I hope he gives me good news.

Friday, July 25, 2008


My first major challenge since graduating college -

Washing my hair in a cramped bathroom with a leg brace on.

It'd been three days since I last washed my hair. I'd been sponge bathing myself so that hasn't been too much of an issue. Unfortunately, my bathroom is TINY so there was very little room for me to maneuver to get my hair under the shower head without drowning myself. I finally managed to do so - I contorted myself so that my leg was resting on the toilet seat cover while the bathtub supported my back. I used my abs to hold myself up as I scrubbed my head and rinsed.

It's been the hardest thing I've had to do. What's worse is that my long hair prevented me from scrubbing it thoroughly, but despite my half-assed job, at least I feel cleaner. I tried hard not to get frustrated, but between the shampooing and conditioning, I lost it and just cursed my way through the rest of the cleaning session.

I'm never doing this by myself ever again, not within my recovery period anyway. Not until I can bend my knee comfortably and without contortion.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

SUCCESS! Surgery and the day after.

Tuesday, July 22nd, 9:30AM:

I was supposed to be at the hospital by 9AM, but I didn't expect the traffic going into Boston to be especially ridiculous. We left at 8:15AM and didn't get there till 9:30AM - I was driving since my sister was eating her breakfast in the car. (Ha, I drove myself to my surgery.) We pulled into the valet parking area and ran to the Ambulatory Surgery floor in the South Building.

I got there and immediately recognized the area. It was where my father had eye surgery about 2-3 years earlier.

I got all the paperwork done and the PT lady saw me first. She was going to speak to me after the surgery but she knew the anesthesia and medication I'd be full of would make me forget everything she told me post-op, so she was there beforehand. She told me about having to keep the leg brace on for 72 hours (and not being able to shower until afterward), and to refer to my post-op sheet for reminders. She also told me the simpler exercises I should be doing (ankle pumps, quad sets, quad lifts) for the first two weeks to regain strength in my leg. I asked her some questions about icing (frozen peas will do the trick!), how my sister can help me from the car (support from the waist and NOT the arms while going up and down stairs), and dietary restrictions (of which I have none - WHOO!). Then I was off to be changed into my johnnie and slippers and to sign a bunch of consent forms and answer more of the same questions.

After changing, I headed to the surgery room to get set up - the nursing student I talked to guided me to that room and I learned that one of her friends is in the nursing program at Simmons. Pretty small world . . .

I was put on a stretcher and given an IV. I met with one orthopedic doctor who works with my surgeon (who drew on my knee), and I met with the anesthesiologists who IV'd me and drugged me up. I had to sign another consent form to get a femoral block going (which turned out to be an amazing addition) with my anesthesia. My surgeon also met with me quickly. I was given something that made me loopy but kept me conscious as I was wheeled to the operating area. Then I laid there and was given an oxygen mask to breathe in. I think I was out within 15 seconds (and luckily, I didn't wake up at all during the surgery).


As I was being wheeled back to the post-op resting room, I came into consciousness shivering. I remember hearing a nurse telling someone to put an extra blanket on me and I stopped shaking, but I couldn't open my eyes yet. I think I was having some sort of dream before I really came to . . . I awoke to the thoughts of, "Where am I?" "What am I doing here?" "Why can't I move my knee?" Everything was groggy as I came out of the anesthesia. The nurse (Janet, I think her name was) came by to check up on me and gave me a dosage of painkiller that knocked me right back out. Before she did that, she told me that the surgery went well, and that my surgeon only had to repair my ACL (everything else in my knee was well intact, thankfully).


My sister and second oldest aunt came by to visit. I finally awoke, but my lightheadedness from the anesthesia and medication made it hard for me to articulate the words that were in my head. I think we just talked about what my sister did while I was in surgery and at one point, my mom was on the phone speaking to me. I do recall that a patient under arrest was put in the waiting area across from me - there were two cops watching him and the sheets were closed. Very strange recovery time indeed . . .


I was given more percocet and graduated from the bed to the recliner chair. After I could finally be conscious for more than 10 minutes, my sister was told to get the car while I was wheeled downstairs in a wheelchair.

[Side note: my aunt gave my siblings and me money for the whole surgery - money for them to care for me and money for me to cover some of my medical bill costs (in case insurance doesn't cover the other two expenses I had incurred). How nice . . . a strange gesture since we don't get that kind of treatment during new year's and other major holidays.]

Once downstairs, my aunt and sister helped me climb into the car, and my aunt said goodbye to us. We then proceeded to get food for dinner and grab some necessities from my apartment before going back home.


We got home and I was too exhausted to eat, so I went to sleep instead. My bed was already set up with pillows and a blanket to prop my leg up, and once I laid down, I was out. I remember having some strange dreams before waking up again, starving.


My brother woke me up to get me some dinner, and I ended up attempting to drink some soup and eat rice. Instead, I was so dizzy from the percocet and anesthesia that the food just came back up. My mouth and throat also hurt quite a bit so I drank some juice, ate some bread, took some more percocet and passed out again.

Wednesday, July 23rd, 3:30AM:

OH THE PAIN. I woke up just as my brother was getting in from some work at the haunted house. My stomach was empty, I was no longer dizzy, and I need more painkillers. I had him make me some ramen so I could coat my stomach before taking more percocet. I couldn't sleep after that, so I've been up reading and hanging out on my bed.

It's now about 10:30AM and I still haven't gone to sleep yet. The percocet no longer makes me ridiculously sick, as long as I eat something small beforehand. My leg is sore and uncomfortable, and for some reason I just want to bend it (perhaps because I was bending it just yesterday). Propping it up is the best way for it to rest so far - when I have to crutch around the house, I can feel the soreness more acutely. I can't take my dressings off for another 2.5 days, so I guess I'm going to be sitting here this way for awhile.

Thanks to all who wished me well for the surgery - it helped me get through the mental struggles. :)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Insurance company, surgery, and post-op worries.

I discovered from my insurance company that my referral from my PCP to my surgeon granting permission for me to get surgery hadn't been done yet, despite my call to them weeks earlier. It also turns out that I was denied coverage for two visits to the specialist's office, even though they had submitted a referral already. Both my PCP and insurance company's offices are incompetent (to some extent); I mean, I like that both are convenient, but the service level has not been up to par. The secretaries at my doctor's office seem frustrated at my constant calling, and while my insurance company is informative, a lot of the stuff I do has to be within their protocol.

So, tomorrow I have to call every office to make sure everything is set. I'm not going to pay a ridiculous amount of money for services that are supposed to be covered under my plan. I guess I'll have to break out the harder side of me if people don't cooperate.

It's not like I wanted this injury. I just wanted to do my own thing with no worries, and now I'm at a place where I don't know whether laughing or crying (or both) are sufficient enough to let out the emotional stress I've been under. And it's hard to talk to others who haven't had the surgery about it - they don't understand the mental anguish and most of the time I feel like I'm burdening them about my personal problems and/or I'm becoming egocentric about my knee.

It's the anticipation that's also killing me. I know I'll be getting the reconstruction done on Tuesday. I know that I won't be able to walk. But what's worse is knowing that I can walk and sort of do normal activities now, and that it'll be taken away again in two days.

Then there's the recovery. I know it's a long process, but I also know that I have a limited amount of time to get to the level of "up and walking", especially with school around the corner. Boston isn't exactly the most walking-friendly city, particularly with streets that aren't paved correctly and potholes galore. I could fall in one of those and never get out! And the Marlborough campus location isn't easy to get to on crutches - the MBTA is barely handicapped friendly, and with crowded trains and buses due to high gas prices, I could get knocked over on the subway.

I should try to relax.

I've been telling myself that for a few days now.

Frankly, at this point, I'm quite afraid.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Doctor's Visit + PT Session 2.

I feel like an experiment sometimes, especially with this injury. I'm always being tested, no matter what I do or where I go.

For instance, on Monday when I met with my surgeon to make sure everything was set for the surgery, they brought in a med student just to see how appointments were done. I was sitting on the bench and my doctor did some flex testing in my leg to see my range of motion, and I had his assistant and the student staring at me the entire time. Awkward.

At my PT session last week, my therapist brought in one of her co-op students to show her what a torn ACL injury feels like in the knee. So, I let her pull and push at my leg with no complaints.

Part of me understands that living in a city where 90% of the hospitals are teaching schools will result in my being tested somehow. I just didn't expect it for this particular injury.

Anyway, my doctor's visit went fine. He was happy with the results I had gotten from my PT, and answered some questions I had about the surgery. My new ACL is going to come from my hamstring, and if that isn't long enough, they'll have an allograft on the side just in case. The expected time for me to get off crutches is going to be about four weeks (although I'm aiming for two), and then formal PT will start up again afterwards. I wonder if I'm missing anything in my inquiry . . .

My therapist has upped my PT; she's letting me do my quad sets, lifts, ankle pumps, and heel raises with 5 lb weights around my ankle. It was getting too easy for me to do it without resistance. I warmed up with heating on my knee, then a quick massage on it, 10 minutes on the stationary bike, and my exercises with weights. The session ended with icing and electro-stimulation.

I have another session tomorrow and then I'm off to surgery in six days. I can't believe how soon it is. I have doubts of getting it done, but if I don't get it done, I won't be able to do sports (or anything that requires twisting). I hate anxiety.

At this point I'm just hoping for the best and quickest recovery.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

PT session 1.

My first pre-op PT session was yesterday.

It turns out I'd only lost an estimated 25% of my quad strength after my ACL injury, so that isn't too bad. I also seem to have a good degree of ROM (but I can't remember what the figure was).

My therapist taught me some other exercises to do till the next session on Tuesday. This is now my regiment every day (at least twice a day):

Quad sets: 3 x 20 (hold for 5 seconds)
Ankle pumps: 3 x 15
Quarter depth wall slides: 3 x 15
Hamstring curls with rubber stretch band: 3 x 15
Proximal rectus stretch: 3 x 30 seconds
Straight leg raises: 3 x 15
Proximal hamstring stretch: 3 x 30 seconds

It gives me confidence to be able to do each of these exercises fully, but I still wonder if I'll ever get my full ROM back again, and if I'll be back to 100% eventually, if not soon.

Monday, July 7, 2008


I find it pretty crazy that kids these days are getting torn ACLs from intense competition. The problem with doing ACL reconstruction in their knees, however, is the fact that they're not done growing yet.

I shudder to think what would have happened if I had torn my a few years earlier playing volleyball or tennis.

Today I took a step backwards from the progress I had been making. All of it was accidental, of course.

I had been reaching for something that I had dropped on the floor by my desk, and had to squat to reach it in the process. Forgetting that I had torn my ACL and that I didn't have the ability to bend at the angle that I did, I immediately shot back up in pain. When I got home, my knee had swollen to the size it was when I had first hurt it. Immediately, I R.I.C.E.'d it, but I don't know how long these effects will last. With the increased swelling in my knee, I can't bend it completely; to even bend it partially takes more effort than I'd like.

I hope some sleep will take care of this. Funny thing is, I think this is the first real amount of pain I've felt since I got hurt.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A month and soon to be under the knife.

It is a month today that I first tore my ACL (and didn't realize it, thinking it was only a knee sprain - the pop in my knee should have warned me).

In hindsight, this injury has given me a lot to think about, from facing an opponent in sparring to managing life. Had I gotten this injury while I was still in undergrad, I would have been quite screwed, with my hectic schedule and all. I can't remember a time that I'd slowed down during all four years. During the school year, I'd be involved in ASA, taking between four to five courses, and working two to three jobs. In the summer, I would be working at an internship or at the R.O. and at UPS at night.

I went back to the R.O. this past Tuesday since I felt good enough to get there and back (and be comfortable throughout the day). I haven't been able to go to UPS because of the lifting involved, and my inability to actually put strength behind my core without my knee. It's been nice to work only one job, but I know that after I recover from surgery, I'll be going nuts again with my crazy schedule.

This injury was life telling me to slow down for once, think about everything that's going on in life, and take everything one step at a time. I was so busy thinking about how to get ahead that I didn't give enough regard to the things that were happening to me NOW. My attention was always divided; I couldn't truly give my 100% in whatever I did, whether it was taking class at TKD or organizing an event. Being forced to stay still and ponder has opened my eyes a bit.

After I got hurt, I also made a promise to myself to put my all into my training at TKD for my second dan. I can't go into a test with sloppy form, nor should I be going to class and only performing 60%. If I don't give my all, then what's the point? I need to take care of my body in the process as well (better than I have been doing).

My surgery has been scheduled for the 22nd, and I have to call the hospital to confirm. I can't believe it's coming so soon - in just three weeks I will be on an operating table with my knee open and a new ACL screwed on (from my hamstring). I can't even fathom that at this point.

I just have to take it a day at a time.

Happy Independence Day!

Monday, June 30, 2008


I was delighted to discover that I had almost all movement back in my knee this morning. The exercises I had been doing to improve my range of movement were working. I was even more surprised that I had walked down the stairs to let my aunt into the apartment and back up the stairs without a second thought. (Granted, I was half awake, but still, this cannot go unnoticed.)

I was so happy to be able to walk the stairs again that I did it a few more times today. I worked on some quad exercises to improve its strength before the surgery as well. For now, I can only revel in the fact that my knee has recovered without an ACL. I know that in a few weeks, this ability to walk will be taken away from me again, so I'm taking advantage of it as much as I can.

Now that I think about it, it was relatively easy for me to tear my ACL. The day I had done it, I was practicing a 360 roundhouse kick at TKD. I had done several off of my left leg (kicking with the right), and my tiredness probably played a part in the tear. I can see myself getting lazy and not retracting my left leg all the way, so when I put it down, it wasn't lined up properly with my body. Then, POP, and I was down. In theory, my foot could have gotten stuck on the mat, but it was most likely my improper landing that did my leg in.

I'm hoping that I can start driving my car again (it's a standard shift with a relatively heavy clutch). I know that I'll be either walking or taking the bus to work tomorrow afternoon, depending on how my knee feels. I'm hoping I can walk to save the $1.70 ride.

I just need to keep up with my quad exercises till the surgery date. I can't forget to do them.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Almost a month.

It's been almost a month since I tore my ACL, and I haven't done any physical exercise since then. I can feel myself atrophying, but the problem is is that I have little to no motivation to attempt to do anything (which is really bad).

I've decided that walking is out of the question, considering my inability to actually utilize my left leg. But I think I need to start doing some weights with my upper body to maintain my physical shape. I did discover I can go up and down stairs now with less trouble than I've been having these past few weeks.

I've read a lot of posts of others' experiences with a torn ACL, and I'm frankly afraid of my own experience.

What concerns me most at this point is whether or not I'd be able to start my MBA program by August 23rd. The campus is really out of the way from public transportation, and it's not like I can get someone to drive me around. In fact, it's really not disabled people-friendly.

I need to start planning to incorporate recovery into my life after the surgery.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Update on the knee.

I went to my appointment with my surgeon/orthopedics doctor today. Basically, I was told that the best option for me is to get ACL reconstruction, since I'm young and will continue to be active in sports. I was also told that the recovery is going to be painful and long. The tendon replacement is going to come out of my hamstring.

I was then prescribed a physical therapy routine and have to start that ASAP so that I can get some movement back in my leg and strengthen my quad that seems to be incredibly weak. My next appointment is July 14th (a Monday) and my surgery date has been tentatively set at July 22nd, which gives me 4 weeks on crutches - just in time to recover enough movement to go to class on August 23rd.

Fantastic summer this is turning out to be.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Second opinion.

My relatives have been bombarding me with phone calls about this potential surgery that I'm getting, and would rather I go get a second opinion.

I'm not opposed to that, but I have no idea what my insurance limits are, and this just takes more time out of my life. If anything, I'd opt not to have surgery, if I can still do my sports, but I have a feeling I can't compromise my sports for lack of surgery.

Besides, living without an ACL means that I would have arthritis early on, along with meniscus problems and far too much reliability on my other ligaments.

All I can do at this point is wait to speak with the surgeon and see what my options are. I will get a second opinion too - perhaps someone who can read MRIs well and not quickly.

ACL reconstruction is a painful and long process. I don't want to have to get it unless absolutely necessary . . .

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

June 4, 2008: Left knee ACL injury

On June 4th, I twisted my knee and had to go to the ER. Melissa convinced me to go, after I had felt that I'd be okay to go to work that night. It turns out that there was a lot of swelling, and since then, I haven't been able to walk/stand/drive.

A week later I went to orthopedics and they couldn't make a confirmed diagnosis on my knee. They knew something was torn, but couldn't tell me what. So, I had to get an MRI done.

I went to the doctor again and they informed me that I had indeed torn my ACL, and that I would need reconstructive surgery if I wanted to play any sports that required pivoting quickly.

I have an appointment with a surgeon next Thursday to discuss my options.

We'll see how it goes.