Rehab, anyone?

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My newly refurbished left knee

First comes the accident – unexpected, chaotic and life changing in less than a minute. Then comes surgery – definitely expected, very controlled and over in a matter of hours. Last comes rehab – definitely expected, many, many variables and lasts a long, long time. The accident was like spinning a gigantic wheel of fate – could of have escaped entirely (like two of my friends did), could have easily died – ended up somewhere in the middle (major injury but nothing life threatening or overly traumatic). The surgery was brutal – 4 and a half hours, very complicated, total rebuild from scratch required but lucked out and got one of the best docs in the world to do it and went as well as it could. Rehab – just getting started down a very long road but finally I get to have some say in the matter and that feels good.

One of the major recurring themes for me of this whole experience has been the notion of luck. Never has the term “relative” meant so much. Definitely got unlucky that the cornice collapsed, lost again when I got caught in it, won the battle when I didn’t die, and could have done much better (as my two fellow tumblers did) or much worse (paralysis, brain injury, amputation – just to name a few) on the injury front. Every time I show my medical record to someone I go through the same process. First they take a look at the damage and are suitably impressed  – no run of the mill ACL tear here – and immediately ask how this happened. Then after I describe the scenario and maybe show them a picture, we’re in “you’re lucky to be alive territory”. And then, there’s there’s all the rest – what do we do now?

The first doc who saw me locally did me a major favor and quickly acknowledged that while he could fix me up, their were people close by who were a lot more experienced at this than he and I might be well suited to visit them. Like any athlete in Colorado, I was well aware of the Steadman Clinic in Vail where all the professional skiers and lots of other major athletes go to have surgery and rehab. And because I live in the state of Colorado, my insurance company considers them in network so no additional cost to use them over any other provider. This clearly falls on the good fortune side, yes?

So I call them on the phone, get a consult with surgery tentatively set and have my brother fly out to help me get there and get through the surgery. Only when I see the doc, it turns out I have a blood clot so have to have another procedure first where a valve gets installed in my stomach which means no knee surgery and another week of waiting – not the best of “luck” but not at all uncommon and once again a lot better than that clot getting loose before discovery and floating up to my heart and lungs and potentially killing me.

Finally we get to surgery – major, major damage to all ligaments and other attachments – nothing holding the leg together so they have to have three docs just hold the leg in place the whole time so main surgeon can work on it. Initially can’t find meniscus and are about to give up on that when it finally appears. All in all, surgery is a success but is that good luck that they were able to overcome some serious obstacles or bad luck that it was so screwed up in the first place?

In the end, obviously “good luck/bad luck” – none of it matters. It is what it is, gotta deal with the cards dealt, time to move on to something where I have some control over the outcome and that is rehab. Now my will and determination come in to play. Still a ton of variables (particularly how my body responds) but at least it’s no longer just a waiting game for me. Initially there’s not a lot I can do – since they had to rebuild everything from scratch there is no strengthening to be done until the new ligaments and graphs have set up. This means most of my day is comprised of short bouts of stretching mixed with long bouts of icing and seeing how far over my head (heart actually) I can get my leg without my hips and hamstring applying for amnesty. Now I was not a particularly limber guy before the accident – a yoga teacher used to refer to me as a “classic stiff white guy” (at least I hope she was referring to my flexibility) so this constant raising my leg as far as it can go is not only problematic but incredibly uncomfortable.

But once again I guess this is something that I should be “thankful” for – the biggest issues I face right now are being physically uncomfortable all the time and the resulting lack of sleep that follows. I’m not paralyzed, crippled or brain damaged (at least not permanently – in the short term the narcotics are definitely not making me smarter).  I’m making good progress so far in the mobility department – up to 65 degrees – and that is the biggest short term battle – getting as much mobility as I can before the scarring sets in.  So as I slowly evolve from glutenfreesnowboarder to ligamentfreesnowboarder to hopefully onceagainasnowboarder I’ll continue to ponder the concept of “lucky” and will let you know when I figure it out…

 


6 Responses to “Rehab, anyone?”

  • Geoffrey Gilbert Says:

    Great writing. I would say that you are lucky that the NBA playoffs are being broadcast during your initial months of rehab.

  • Gina Gruenberg Says:

    Hi Brad,
    How brave and insightful. I would recommend some massage to
    help the compensating muscles as long as your blood clot is resolved.
    That would help a lot and boost your immune system. Only sorry I am
    not there to help. Keep writing. Your writing is amazing.
    Love your cousin,
    Gina

  • Marcus Welby, M.D. Says:

    Maybe I should get some of those drugs to help me with my writing. Although not sure 3 AM is my ideal time to work. Hope you’ve trained Lola to get the milk and cookies. One day and one degree at a time.

  • Darcy Says:

    Sending love. Might even send some gluten free cookies!!!

  • Darcy Says:

    Sending love! Might even send some gluten free cookies!

  • Agharp Says:

    So here we are the walking wounded. Souls who recognized that life is for playing, experimenting, accomplishing, testing…Those of us with torn up knees, blown out hamstrings, broken ankles, collarbones, separated shoulders and anything else that comes from sliding down mountains understand that these are just momentary yellow lights, not stop signs…Cycling down a curved mountain road with the wind in your face and the burn in your quads, the ache in your lungs from the climb that allows such freedom, reminds us that we can heal and then go on to other endeavors, re-healing and then, eventually, we look down the face of a mountain with our sliders strapped on and once again…peace {grant}

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