Saturday, October 24, 2015

My Season Ender ~ Completely Torn ACL and Oblique Medial Meniscus Tear

On 10-10-15, I was running in the Terrain Race 10K obstacle/mud run at Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City, NV. I was running it with my husband. It was my forth obstacle race and his first. We were in the first wave at 9:00 am. We started in a garbage bin filled with water. At the cannon boom, we were off. I jumped out of the bin and hit the ground running. The first obstacle was an over/under section of banners and rope. The next obstacle was a long section of large rocks that we had to run over. We then had to run up a steep hill. At the top of the hill, we had a bit of rolling terrain until we were directed to run down a steep hill. It was really steep and the ground was unstable. I slowed down a bit on this section because I was afraid of wiping out and tumbling the 100 yards down the hill. At the bottom of the hill, the course had brought us back to the main staging area so we were near the start line, the food vendors, and spectators. The next obstacle was a four foot wall. I ran to it and jumped so that I landed on the top sitting. I swung my legs over and jumped down. Then I heard it......POP!

My right knee let out a loud pop and it bent to the right at the knee. I immediately knew that I had done something bad. I was able to stay upright because I yelled to my husband who was instantly by my side. I told him that I broke something. I buried my face in his chest and began repeating "No, No, No". He led me to the side of the course where a vendor came over with a chair. I sat down and my husband asked the vendor to get the medics. (I never got to thank that vendor and I really wish I had.) I rolled my capris up and could see that my knee was already swelling. The medics arrived only a few minutes later. They asked me a few questions, looked at my knee, and strapped an ice pack to it. They said that I needed to go to the ER. We decided that we would drive ourselves so the medics drove me in the ambulance to our car. They took our timing chips to give back to the race directors.

We drove about thirty minutes to our hospital. For the first time, I cried. I had a lot of time to think about what had just happened and what it more than likely meant. We arrived at the ER and were able to be seen pretty quickly. They took me straight to get X-Rays. I had to set my leg in a few positions and that was pretty painful. They then sent me back to my exam room. After a while, the ER doctor came in to talk to me. He told me that I did not have any broken bones. The physical exam pointed to a soft tissue injury. He said that he was going to put me in for a referral to the orthopedic office. They then set me up with a full leg immobilizing knee brace and crutches and some pain medication.

So I was sent home to wait. Since it was a holiday weekend, the ortho office would not be open until Tuesday. My knee continued to swell. I had a friend loan me his Polar Care ice machine to help ice my knee. I spent many hours that weekend sitting on the couch with my leg elevated. 

Finally, Tuesday arrived and I called the ortho office. They said that the soonest they could see me would be November 4th. I could not believe that! How could I go that long without knowing what had happened? After explaining my case and the hardship it would cause to wait that long, they said that they would examine my case and call me on Wednesday with more information. The next morning, they called me with a new appointment date. They were going to be able to see me on Monday, October 19th. In the meantime, I was instructed to continue wearing the brace and icing it. 

At the one week point, the swelling was down some. I was able to place some weight on the leg and hobble around without the brace or crutches. 

Still a little swollen.

This is how straight I could get the knee.

This is how much I could bend the knee.

On Monday, I arrived at my appointment ready for answers. I was seen my a Physician's Assistant. He pulled and pushed on my leg/knee, had me try to straighten and bend the knee, and did all the normal exam stuff. He said that my knee was still really swollen and that he was concerned that I had damaged more than one thing in my knee. He put in a referral for me to get an ultrasound due to how much pain I was having in my calf. He was also going to try and get me an emergency MRI spot. He sent us over to the imagery department. As I was checking in, they told me that they were going to be able to do both that morning. My husband had taken the entire day off of work in hopes that they would be able to get me in for an MRI that day so we were really glad that it was working out that way. I was sent straight back for the ultrasound. It was a bit uncomfortable when they were looking at the underside of my knee but other than that, it was fine and they saw no issues with clots. I then was taken to the MRI waiting room. I filled out the questionnaire and had to mark that I have wires in my body due to an accident in 1986. I have several wires in my face that were used to set facial fractures. That raises red flags so they sent me to have additional X-Rays to see exactly where the wires were. Since they had been in my face for 29 years, they were not worried about them pulling out but more about them heating up. It was determined to be safe so I was set to have the MRI. I was in the machine for about 20 minutes as it did it's thing. They then sent me back to the orthopedic office to find out the results. I went back to an exam room and was shortly talking with the PA again. He told me that I had torn my ACL and meniscus. He told me to stop wearing the brace and to start walking on it. He wanted me to see the orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible so another appointment was set for Friday, October 23rd.

I still had several events and races scheduled for this year. I was going on a three day hike in Zion National Park, a sprint triathlon, a five day camping/hiking trip, a half marathon, a 5K color run, and a marathon (my first). The PA told me that I was not going to be able to do any of those. He said that I would be out of competition for 9-12 months. When I arrived home, I began contacting the friends and race directors with the sad information. I had also registered for a half iron distance triathlon on April 2, 2016. I had planned on racing in my first full distance race in Ironman Arizona in November 2016. I realized that I was not going to be able to do these races either. Friday night was hard when I began to think about all that I was losing due to this injury. After talking to my husband and some friends, I was able to pull myself together and realize that I needed to change my focus from race and competition to healing and recovery. 

On the 23rd, I was at my ortho appointment and met my surgeon. He confirmed that I had a complete ACL tear and an oblique medial meniscus tear. The ACL will require surgery to repair. They will harvest a replacement from my hamstring tendon. The meniscus tear can not be repaired. They will just go in and clean the damaged area out. They scheduled my surgery for December 29th. I will be in physical therapy for prehabilitation before the surgery and rehabilitation after the surgery. The surgeon wants me to regain my range of motion before they operate. 

The surgeon is a prior pro triathlete who trained six years for the Olympics so he understood me when I asked him about continuing any sort of exercise program. He said that I could walk on a treadmill, swim and water jog, and bike on a trainer or stationary bike. He said that the stronger my leg is before the surgery, the better it will be after the surgery. 

So, my season is over and next year is a bust as well. They said that I could probably plan on doing a sprint triathlon next fall. That's not exactly what I was hoping to be doing then but at least I should be able to return to the sport I love. 

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