Well… This post has been a long time coming, but now that I’m on the road to recovery, I thought I’d share what me and my knee have been through in the past few months..
So.. on Saturday, June 13th, I had one of the most fabulous baseball days of my illustrious baseball career — playing the inmates at San Quentin. And yes, had I gotten hurt at *that* game, maybe this story would be even more bad ass. But, unless I do some revisionist history, I came back from that game with everything intact.
Anyway, Sunday came along, and my regularly scheduled baseball game was on.. this time at the field in Oakland. It was a decent field, the sun was shining, another fabulous day for baseball. Midway through the 7th inning or so, I went up to bat.. no outs, men on 1st and 2nd, and we were up by 1, I think.. So I decided to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Little did I know it would be sacrifice in the truest sense of the word.
The pitch came, a slow curve falling in for a strike. I squared up, and laid down a beautiful bunt down the 3rd base line. I bolted for first, and put my head down, thinking that I might actually be able to reach first base safely.
The throw came into first high and outside, so the first baseman jumps up to get the ball, and just as I get to the base, he lands on the bag a split second before I get there. Seeing him right in front of me, I cut right, and as I cut right, I land on the bag with my right foot.
I don’t remember whether or not I actually collided with the first baseman or not, but what I do remember was looking down at my knee as I hit the base, and seeing it give way. And then hearing the noise. I hit the ground, more pissed off that (a) I was out, and (b) that I hurt myself again. Argh. Not again. Fecking hell.
I rolled around the ground for about 5 minutes in pain. And then.. the pain stopped. Hmm. awesome.. maybe I’m ok? Maybe my knee is fixed! And everything is ok? Knee doesn’t swell up, so that’s a good sign, right?
Anyway, I was carried off the field to the dugout, where I sat out the remaining part of the game. We lost in the bottom of the 9th inning, to a game-losing 2-out bloop single. That was the perfect ending to cap an already crappy day.
I went to see Dr. Wingfield the next day, and she confirmed my worst fears. Ruptured ACL, with possibly some damage to the meniscus. Great. The reason that my knee didn’t swell? I had wrenched my knee with such force such that I tore the knee capsule, which meant that all of the blood from the rupture was able to leak down the side of my leg. (Aha, that explains the bruising on my calf). Eww. Crap. Well, that sucks.
The next day, my new bat arrives in the mail. A slightly used Mizuno MZP55, just like what Matsui and Ichiro wield. Oh, the irony.
A few more days pass, and Dr. Wingfield schedules me for an MRI. Hmm.. will the hardware that I have in my ankle be a problem? The MRI technician assures me that it’s far enough away that it won’t affect the image. The MRI safety videos that I watched on YouTube the night before flash across my memory as the huge behemoth of a machine whirrs to life. I feel a slight tugging on my ankle’s hardware during the MRI — a little creepy and a little cool at the same time. Oooo.. Cool. Magnets.
I see the concerned look on Dr. Wingfield’s face as she reviews my MRI.
It looks like ham.
I don’t know if doctors sit at home in front of the mirror practicing that “I’m very concerned, yet trying not to absolutely freak you out so I’ll look a little hopeful” look, but I think she has it down pat. She points out on the MRI where my ACL *should* be and shows me what looks to be some damage to the lateral meniscus.. In addition, I had a non displaced fracture and a good deal of bone bruising.
“Are you sure you didn’t do this playing football?” she asks, “you did quite a number on your knee.”
Great. I’m an overachiever.
I get home, and since I can’t do much of anything anyway, commence a massive amount of internet research about knees and knee surgery.
With the broken ankle, I made ZERO decisions — I was rushed into surgery the morning after my injury, but with an ACL injury, you have to wait until the knee settles down until you decide whether or not to do the repair.. and even then, you don’t necessarily *need* an ACL to function. My dad tore his ACL (coincidentally, also at age 33, playing ball, at first base), and never got it repaired — and he’s been fine. Granted, he stopped doing a lot of sports and had to wear a big huge knee brace after that, but he’s been fine.
So I had to decide whether or not to get the surgery. But, since I do plan on continuing to be active at a high level (yes I intend to continue to play baseball) — and I do want to keep snowboarding, I decided to get the surgery.
And, since this time around, I have a PPO instead of Kaiser, I actually have physician choice. Is it better this way? Maybe in the long run, but man.. in the short term, I was faced with a TON of questions and stress. Which doctor should I use? When should I schedule my surgery? What kind of graft do I want? Ack! So many decisions!
Being that ACL reconstruction is the most common orthopedic surgery, there’s a TON of information out there on the internets. Man, what did people do before the internet? Go to the library? Make decisions without doing research ad nauseum? Scary. A little information is a good thing, right? KneeGuru was very helpful, and this YouTube animation of an ACL reconstruction was awesome in understanding what the surgery would entail.
I decided to go with Dr. Kenneth Akizuki at SOAR. Two of my close friends, Alan and Dana have seen him and highly recommend him. His Yelp reviews are stellar. although, frankly, that was a little off putting since I take all Yelp reviews with a grain of salt.. I chose an achilles allograft — Dr. Akizuki seemed to recommend that choice, and thinking about it practically, it seemed like a better idea to get a big tendon like the achilles rather than take one from my own patella or hamstring. And, since I already tore one of my own tendons, perhaps mine aren’t that great to begin with..
The surgery went well. Dr. A gives me the good news: I can weight bear, as tolerated. Crap. I know what that means as he delivers the bad news: he had to cut out about 1/3 of my lateral meniscus. I think I needed that.
I made a nice little video from the arthroscopic footage that Dr. A gave me. C’mon.. I know you want to watch it. I even set it to some nice, hopeful music.
After surgery, I was sent home with some pretty sexy looking leg wear, compression stockings to prevent swelling and embolisms. And, they gave me fancy machines that would keep my leg moving for 4-8 hours a day and nice and icy cold.
PT started a week after my surgery, and I’ve been going to Active Care on Geary. PT at Active Care is a chaotic melee of ballet dancers, weekend warriors, and old people, all running (or limping) around in various stages of repair. Lisa and Cort have been absolutely fantastic through this whole ordeal.
Apparently, when you hurt your knee, your quad degenerates very quickly — and even though I’d only been off it for about a month, my right quad was visibly smaller than my left. Furthermore, I wasn’t even using it when I walked, so PT is basically strengthening the quad, and then re-training you how to walk.
It’s a very strange thing to have to consciously *think* about every step you take.
Lift right leg. Swing it forward. Tense up the right quad. Step.
It’s a very deliberate thing, but after a few days of doing it, I started to remember how to walk again.
Are there any silver linings to hobbling myself?
The disabled placard is nice (don’t forget to ask your doctor for the signed form) — in addition to parking in the blue spots, you’re also able to park at meters in SF without having to pay for them. Although, I’d *much* rather just be able to bike where I’m going, obvs.
And, when you get hurt, your awesome friends and family are super nice to you and cook you things and bring you things. Thanks Everyone!!!!! You guys are the BEST.
And yes, Percocet is pleasant. But don’t forget to eat your prunes.
Today is my 19th day since surgery, and I’m finally walking without crutches. Albeit slowly, but it’s a start.
Here’s to running and hopping and dancing and playing on my new knee soon.