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ACL reconstruction, recovery and depression

atomicRacer

Diva in Training
#1
Hi, I'm new to theskidiva as I was searching the web looking to find something reassuring about my recent injury and surgery. I've been a very hard core skier most of my life (about 40 years) and have skied many mountains and love everything about being on the snow, until now...

About a month ago, I had my first very big ski injury after hitting a huge patch of ice while my legs were locked in full extension trying to cut a turn and do a fast stop. I hyperextended my right knee and tore my ACL, Meniscus, MCL, PCL and bruised the tibial bone on my right knee. I went to the ER in Tahoe but it took about 2 weeks before I finally got in to see my OS and have the MRI back home. The MRI news was about as horrifying as I could ever imagine and I began the crying that day after getting the results. When I had the injury, I didn't know how bad this might be... call it ignorance and luck that I didn't know anyone in my ski life that ever had such a bad injury. Also, my knee barely swelled and I didn't even bruise.

Fast forward now almost a month since the injury and it's been 10 days since my ACL reconstruction and Meniscus repair. My OS said the MCL and PCL were not complete tears and they should heal on it's own. I chose the allograft (donor) ACL reconstruction surgery and the meniscus got cleaned up. Post-op Day 2, I was full of tears - and fears... I never felt SO much pain (and I've had a lot of surgeries, like rotator cuff repair, shoulder break pinned, etc, etc...). I feel like I will never walk again (normally) or enjoy the sports that I once did. In the 10 days now, my knee swelling has finally started to go down and getting close to a 80 degree bend, but I'm still far from any goals. My OS will have me start PT in 5 more weeks. He said he'll have me skiing in 9 months... BUT, the pains and limitations make me feel like I'll never get there AND I have so many hard emotions to deal with. I've never cried so much besides a death in my family. I am a mom and have 2 kids - and I feel I can't do anything for them still (and haven't been able for a month) although my husband has been really helpful and supportive taking on extra duties while trying to be sympathetic. The extent of my injury and how weak my leg has become, I think I won't be able to drive for another month. I've never been sidelined like this before and am so used to being on the go, that all this idle time has taken a toll on me emotionally. I'm not sure if I even want to ski again...

I'd love to hear from some of you women that have gone through this and if you dealt with sadness and depression. I'd also really like to know how some of your milestones went at 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 6 months, 1-2 years, etc... AND, are you feeling like your knee and leg is somewhat close to normal or are you still very far off (if so, did you do physical therapy)? I plan on tackling the PT as aggressively as I can. I want to ride my bike with my kids, hike, do yoga, play soccer, and not be afraid to use my leg like I did - but is that even realistic? I think docs always tell you the best case scenario so you are motivated to get there... but even then I was told that I will still lose 5-10 degrees of range with a lot of PT. I'm so depressed. Any guidance and experience would be helpful. I am hoping to hear some encouraging news.

Thanks in advance ladies!
 

ski diva

Administrator
Staff member
#2
Oh, man, I've never been through anything like this, but my heart goes out to you. When I saw you were a new member, I wanted to welcome you to the forum -- I still do -- but really, even more I want to wish you a fast and complete recovery. I'll get out of the way now. There are many women here who've had knee issues and surgeries, and hopefully, they'll be able to help.

BTW, we've had quite a few discussions about ACL issues and knee surgeries of all types. You might want to do a search to find some of these older threads. They might be useful.
 
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jellyflake

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#3
Hello atomicRacer,

what a bad story, I send all the best wishes for a quick and full recovery!!

I am lucky enough to never have gone through any real knee issues so I can't share *my* story. But a lot of my friends (including my better half) have gone through ACL stuff of all thinkable scenarios. I don't know one single person who has NOT been on ski again. Okay, to be fair, for some it took longer than for others. But after one or max two years everyone was back.
One of my best friend has even passed all the alpine exams for the highest ski instructor level here after the ACL reconstruction. I think the exams were about three years after surgery (but not too sure about the timeline).

With regards to emotions and depressions: I send warm thoughts. Mr Jellyflake is scheduled for ACL reconstruction and meniscus for last week of Feb. And he currently is nothing but a big black whole. Full of tears and depression. It really breaks my heart. I try to be nice but not treat him as a baby - so we are now concentrating on next steps, planning PT and rehab, planning activities for the summer that *might* be possible depending on healing.
His first ACL knee (the other) took pretty long to be fully recovered, but we both now think that he has overdone it with PT and training and exercises back then. The PT and doctors should not have told him "the more the better" when he asked about cycling.

Stay focused, allow yourself to be sad for a while but also concentrate on the things you can do now and in the next weeks. Make sure you have your family support you and look after youself!

Best wishes!!!
 

contesstant

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#4
While my injury ultimately wasn't as bad as yours, I WAS you exactly 1 year ago, when I fell after hitting a big patch of slush and fractured my tibial plateau and tore my meniscus. I also have a younger child, and I had a horse to care for who was 25 miles away and I couldn't drive! I relied on my friends and barn mates to help out. I hated not being able to vacuum, hated not being able to cook dinner (although that lasted less than a week, I hobbled around using the counters as a crutch.) Obviously hated not being able to ski. But, it DOES GET BETTER!

You have to take it one day at a time, and accept that this is your new reality, but it is temporary. Your focus on recovery is good--I was the same way and went to PT faithfully, and started cycling at home on a trainer, then out on my mountain bike on easy trails with some hills, where I had to push through some pain but listened to my knee, which never complained when I was done so I kept at it. Once you can start driving here in a few weeks, you will start to feel more normal, I promise.

That bone bruise is probably the one that will cause you the most lingering pain! And your knee may never feel the same again, but you'll adapt. I know mine is probably 90%??? and I can tell the meniscus is not happy when I ski hard. Some days are worse than others but it never stops me.

Rely on your friends and family, but especially your friends because they'll have lots of energy to deal with it in small doses, whereas your family is dealing with it daily. I promise you, it WILL get easier! I was miserable for about the first month, then kind of settled in and counted the days until I could walk without crutches. And if you don't cycle, start! It's the best knee therapy there is.

I went to Ikea with 3 friends while I was still on crutches and wearing a brace. We made it fun! They put me on one of the flat carts and pushed me all over the store. Try to find the fun out there, because it's still there, and again, this is temporary and you'll be OK!

I actually competed in a mountain bike race over the summer, and I would never have believed you if you had told me last January that I'd be doing that!
So, lots of hugs to you, and HANG IN THERE.
 

atomicRacer

Diva in Training
#5
Oh, man, I've never been through anything like this, but my heart goes out to you. When I saw you were a new member, I wanted to welcome you to the forum -- I still do -- but really, even more I want to wish you a fast and complete recovery. I'll get out of the way now. There are many women here who've had knee issues and surgeries, and hopefully, they'll be able to help.

BTW, we've had quite a few discussions about ACL issues and knee surgeries of all types. You might want to do a search to find some of these older threads. They might be useful.
Hi,
Thanks for the welcome message. It's nice to feel welcome here. I'm hoping the feedback I get and posts that I find and read will help me through my recovery.
Thanks again!
 

atomicRacer

Diva in Training
#6
Hello atomicRacer,

what a bad story, I send all the best wishes for a quick and full recovery!!

I am lucky enough to never have gone through any real knee issues so I can't share *my* story. But a lot of my friends (including my better half) have gone through ACL stuff of all thinkable scenarios. I don't know one single person who has NOT been on ski again. Okay, to be fair, for some it took longer than for others. But after one or max two years everyone was back.
One of my best friend has even passed all the alpine exams for the highest ski instructor level here after the ACL reconstruction. I think the exams were about three years after surgery (but not too sure about the timeline).

With regards to emotions and depressions: I send warm thoughts. Mr Jellyflake is scheduled for ACL reconstruction and meniscus for last week of Feb. And he currently is nothing but a big black whole. Full of tears and depression. It really breaks my heart. I try to be nice but not treat him as a baby - so we are now concentrating on next steps, planning PT and rehab, planning activities for the summer that *might* be possible depending on healing.
His first ACL knee (the other) took pretty long to be fully recovered, but we both now think that he has overdone it with PT and training and exercises back then. The PT and doctors should not have told him "the more the better" when he asked about cycling.

Stay focused, allow yourself to be sad for a while but also concentrate on the things you can do now and in the next weeks. Make sure you have your family support you and look after youself!

Best wishes!!!

Thanks for your feedback and the encouragement. I really feel for your husband and that I understand that Black Hole. It's just being there for him and giving some small words of encouragement are helpful even though he may not say it. My husband is being careful to not push me too hard on what I should try to do right now as he sees my many limitations and sees the sadness looming over me.

I plan on listening to your advice about not overdoing it. I have so many ligaments to heal, and the bone bruise, I just have no idea which part hurts when I move the knee. I think this is why my OS has me waiting until the full 6 weeks post surgery to start PT. I've read other people saying that they needed to take it slow and listen to their knee. The feedback is really helpful to give me some better insight into what might lie ahead and it really does help me not feel so alone in this awful journey!

Thank you and good luck to Mr. Jellyflake too! Tell him he's not alone...
 

atomicRacer

Diva in Training
#7
While my injury ultimately wasn't as bad as yours, I WAS you exactly 1 year ago, when I fell after hitting a big patch of slush and fractured my tibial plateau and tore my meniscus. I also have a younger child, and I had a horse to care for who was 25 miles away and I couldn't drive! I relied on my friends and barn mates to help out. I hated not being able to vacuum, hated not being able to cook dinner (although that lasted less than a week, I hobbled around using the counters as a crutch.) Obviously hated not being able to ski. But, it DOES GET BETTER!

You have to take it one day at a time, and accept that this is your new reality, but it is temporary. Your focus on recovery is good--I was the same way and went to PT faithfully, and started cycling at home on a trainer, then out on my mountain bike on easy trails with some hills, where I had to push through some pain but listened to my knee, which never complained when I was done so I kept at it. Once you can start driving here in a few weeks, you will start to feel more normal, I promise.

That bone bruise is probably the one that will cause you the most lingering pain! And your knee may never feel the same again, but you'll adapt. I know mine is probably 90%??? and I can tell the meniscus is not happy when I ski hard. Some days are worse than others but it never stops me.

Rely on your friends and family, but especially your friends because they'll have lots of energy to deal with it in small doses, whereas your family is dealing with it daily. I promise you, it WILL get easier! I was miserable for about the first month, then kind of settled in and counted the days until I could walk without crutches. And if you don't cycle, start! It's the best knee therapy there is.

I went to Ikea with 3 friends while I was still on crutches and wearing a brace. We made it fun! They put me on one of the flat carts and pushed me all over the store. Try to find the fun out there, because it's still there, and again, this is temporary and you'll be OK!

I actually competed in a mountain bike race over the summer, and I would never have believed you if you had told me last January that I'd be doing that!
So, lots of hugs to you, and HANG IN THERE.
Thank you for telling me about your experience and recovery! That's awesome to see a picture of you riding a bike in a race. Getting some other people's experience with their injury and recovery is helping to fill in some of the blanks. One of the big ones is to know that feeling sad and miserable is ok. I can't believe the doctors don't really say much about that and that it had to take me looking on the web for "ACL reconstruction and depression" to see that most people suffered from the mental aspect of this injury too.

Even you mentioning the bone bruise, is really helpful. Some of the pains I just don't know what's causing it and I need to be careful of that one too and that might be why I have so much more pain. I tore so many things, that I almost forgot about that part of it.

I liked your advice and again the insight of what I could expect. One day at a time for now. I'm trying. Thank you so much for your reply! So glad to see you are trudging on!
 

contesstant

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#8
Thank you for telling me about your experience and recovery! That's awesome to see a picture of you riding a bike in a race. Getting some other people's experience with their injury and recovery is helping to fill in some of the blanks. One of the big ones is to know that feeling sad and miserable is ok. I can't believe the doctors don't really say much about that and that it had to take me looking on the web for "ACL reconstruction and depression" to see that most people suffered from the mental aspect of this injury too.

Even you mentioning the bone bruise, is really helpful. Some of the pains I just don't know what's causing it and I need to be careful of that one too and that might be why I have so much more pain. I tore so many things, that I almost forgot about that part of it.

I liked your advice and again the insight of what I could expect. One day at a time for now. I'm trying. Thank you so much for your reply! So glad to see you are trudging on!
I'm so glad it helped you! I was a total depressed MESS afterward but it really did get better--I adjusted to my "new" but temporary normal and just kept focusing on getting better.

:hug:

And yes, bone bruises are very painful and take a long time to heal. My husband bruised his tibial plateau a few years ago (skiing) and it hurt him quite a lot for months afterward. Take this time to allow your body to rest and heal. (I wasn't very good about this, admittedly. I was on my horse before I was even off crutches!)
 
#9
Welcome @atomicRacer. I'm so sorry to hear about your injury. I also don't have first-hand experience, but I have a LOT of friends who have been through surgery of all types (a couple of hip replacements, a couple of knee replacements, and 2 ACLs--can you tell I hang with an older crowd, LOL). They have ALL gotten back to skiing, in fact a friend had his knee replaced, and he still teles. So it is possible, and you will get there.

I'm also sorry you are feeling so depressed. You are in the thick of it, so it's not surprising that you are feeling low. But it if keeps up, and especially if your mood gets in the way of doing what you need to do to heal and recover, then I'd talk with your doctor. Be gentle with yourself and do things that make you feel good. That should help you move past the fear and anxiety. It was a smart move to reach out to others with a similar experience too--that will be reassuring and help you realize that you will make it back to doing what you love.

Best to you, and I look forward to hearing how your recovery goes. The vibe here is really supportive, so I think you'll get a lot from reading the site.
 

VickiK

Angel Diva
#10
:welcome: and best wishes for a smooth recovery. Have faith, you will "be baaaack"
 

Little Lightning

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#11
Welcome. ACL 10 years ago in March. Also cadaver. I also had a bone bruise and strained MCL. My dr waited for 6 weeks before he did surgery. His theory was recovery and healing would be better if the MCL was strong. He encouraged me to ride my bike. I have an indoor trainer for my road bike and I spent a lot of time on it and also lots of PT. My doc was very happy with my ROM when I went into surgery. I don't remember a lot of pain from the surgery which is good because I don't tolerate pain meds. I was off the crutches by the time I had my post op appointment and back on the bike/trainer as soon as I felt ready. By May I was riding outdoors, rode Vail Pass in early June, did 3 week long bicycle tours that summer but freaked out when I started the ski season. I was so afraid I'd hurt myself skiing. I joined a weekly women's clinic and my instructor wouldn't let me wimp out. Still skiing, leg works just fine and is as strong as ever. Good luck, you'll heal just fine. This will pass and you'll end up stronger than ever. Oh, I also discovered foam rollers. Still use mine and still love it.
 

Little Lightning

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#12
Welcome. ACL 10 years ago in March. Also cadaver. I also had a bone bruise and strained MCL. My dr waited for 6 weeks before he did surgery. His theory was recovery and healing would be better if the MCL was strong. He encouraged me to ride my bike. I have an indoor trainer for my road bike and I spent a lot of time on it and also lots of PT. My doc was very happy with my ROM when I went into surgery. I don't remember a lot of pain from the surgery which is good because I don't tolerate pain meds. I was off the crutches by the time I had my post op appointment and back on the bike/trainer as soon as I felt ready. By May I was riding outdoors, rode Vail Pass in early June, did 3 week long bicycle tours that summer but freaked out when I started the ski season. I was so afraid I'd hurt myself skiing. I joined a weekly women's clinic and my instructor wouldn't let me wimp out. Still skiing, leg works just fine and is as strong as ever. Good luck, you'll heal just fine. This will pass and you'll end up stronger than ever. Oh, I also discovered foam rollers. Still use mine and still love it.
I forgot to mention I was 57 at the time.
 

ling

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#13
I never felt SO much pain (and I've had a lot of surgeries, like rotator cuff repair, shoulder break pinned, etc, etc...).
Did you take any pain meds? It might help you feeling better, which will help the healing. Positive attitudes is the best medicine. Trick the brain into a better mood. They body will be better too.

Aside from the pain, why do you feel so much worse than the other injuries? My understanding, rotator cuff repair isn't simple either. Or any shoulder related injuries for that matter. The recovery is typically quite long too. Is the ACL surgery that much worse?
 

Little Lightning

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#14
In my case, my rotator cuff surgery was much more difficult. By the time I had surgery I had lost most of my ROM and strength. I had surgery in April, after I returned from a ski trip. It took all summer to be able to raise my arm over my head. I had lots of scar tissue and there was talk of a frozen shoulder. I noticed off and on pain for several years afterwards.
One of the things I thought funny was I had to relearn to walk down stairs. I spent a lot of time practicing as my house has lots of steps. I remember doing a lot of icing too.
 

COchick

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#15
Welcome! I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. As has been mentioned, there are lots of us here that have been through various and sundry injuries and surgeries. Four years ago I had surgery for meniscus repair when I injured it slacklining, of all things. As I understand it, when they choose to repair vs. scope/clean out, the recovery time is much longer. I was non-load bearing for 6 full weeks and it was misery. My guy was good for about 7 days of care-taking then after that he was over it, so having a guy that is still so considerate and helpful after a month is no small thing! :smile:

I went ahead and bought a recumbent bike and to this day I credit that for a huge part of my recovery. It's much easier to motivate when your PT tools are convenient. I made sure to follow instructions for exercise to a T, and to not skip days. It really makes a difference. I had that surgery in June and I was skiing by January.

Fast forward two years and then I ended up fracturing my tibial plateau while skiing at Vail. My one and only ski injury. (Hey if you're going to get hurt on the mountain, that's the place to do it!) It was pretty bad, but ended up not having surgery and letting it heal naturally. There are a few minor tears as well but I didn't do anything with those either. Nevertheless, the recovery time was about the same (bike came in handy again!). After working hard and getting stronger, I was again back on skis the following season and last year I was skiing better and at the highest levels than I ever have before - seriously. It seems hopeless in the beginning, but you WILL recover and feel strong again!

I can't really recall specifically my milestones but I do know that going from non-load bearing to partial-load bearing was the biggest and most uplifting part of the progression. It's amazing how much more you can do with even just a little more ability to bear weight. Until that time, roller chairs and plastic bags were my best friends. Taking my first mini-hike post-surgery was also a huge thing for me. It was only a half a mile on level ground but just getting outside and DOING something was huge. Making those small, realistic goals kept me going throughout the process. Like when I could go from 10 wall ball squats to 25, it was awesome and made me feel really strong and good about myself. Just keep your eye on the prize and establish what your next goal will be, whether it's doing 15 leg raises instead of 5, or adding 2 lbs, or whatever.

I'm giving you the Reader's Digest version here (wouldn't you hate to read the long version! ha) but some of the biggest lessons learned for me were:

*As soon as you feel pain, during whatever it is you are doing (yoga,hiking, biking, skiing, etc.) - STOP. It's easy sometimes to just push through the pain thinking it will get you stronger in the end, but it really is just your body telling you you're overdoing it. No shame in stopping early or not getting your full exercise session in, just keep those knees healthy and listen to yourself.
*Be honest with your physical therapist. If something hurts, say so. If you have questions, ask.
*Bike. Bike, bike, and more bike.
*Brace. Especially in the earlier stages of load bearing after recovery... while hiking, ALWAYS while skiing.
*After you are recovered, still baby that knee. Take ibuprofen before and after any strenuous activity and apply ice. The best medicine is preventative. Sometimes I feel silly icing my knee down after something when it feels perfectly fine but in my experiments with NOT doing so, it's clear that the icing is the best preventative to swelling and pain.
*It's ok to cry and be sad. Don't beat yourself up over this. For those of us that live an active life, having to take time off is REALLY hard. It's depressing. Try not to wallow in it, but also give yourself the permission to acknowledge and feel those things... it's OK, really.
*Watch a lot of ski porn and buy some new gear. Really... it will keep you motivated. :smile:

OK so this turned out a long longer than I intended so if you made it this far, congratulations. You have a great community of folks here for support through this process, so if you need to vent or ask questions or whatever, definitely feel free. You CAN do this, and you WILL do this! And last, you are not alone!
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#16
So sorry you are going through this!

I would push to start physical therapy now, if at all possible. I have always started within a day to a week of surgery. Yes, you are limited in what you can do, but it helps.

Second, don't let negative thoughts take over. Focus on what you CAN do right now. I got my real estate license during one knee surgery rehab. I learned about anatomy. You can catch up with friends, watch movies or read books you've been meaning to get to. Draw, paint, write... take online classes. Frame it as an opportunity to do things you wouldn't normally have time to do.
 

volklgirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#17
My ACL recovery was fairly quick and simple - torn 3/17, running by August, back on skis in December, but my cracked pelvis was a whole different story, and I can totally relate to the pain, sadness, depression, loneliness, and frustration. Had I not been totally motivated to get back on skis, and fully connected to this incredibly supportive group, I would have gone stark raving mad (there were days when all I could do is sob. All. Day.). Many of us "have been there", and there are lots very wise Divas here.

Welcome, and please feel free to hang out and stay awhile. Wishing you a complete and speedy recovery!!
 

Pequenita

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#18
This injury sucks.

The second time I tore my ACL, I (1) knew immediately that I'd torn it and (2) was in so much denial about it that I didn't tell a number of people. The grief is, unfortunately, a process, but you will get through it. I had a subpar experience with my first surgery, which was 12 years before the second, so going in, I knew that I was going to be as aggressive as possible. We all heal differently and at different paces, so other than knowing that we all got through it, I wouldn't put too much stock in how quickly it took one person or another to get to 100%. It's when our expectations aren't met that we experience even more disappointment. And, there is great value in listening to our bodies and letting ourselves wallow when needed.

I echo altagirl regarding starting PT sooner rather than later. Allografts have their own cautions -- because the graft isn't harvested from yourself, you start to feel better faster than people who had autografts, but the graft may still be weak. At the very least, you can probably wrangle some massage from the PT session, which imho is invaluable for breaking up scar tissue. Plus, it's nice to feel like you're doing something.
 

atomicRacer

Diva in Training
#19
Did you take any pain meds? It might help you feeling better, which will help the healing. Positive attitudes is the best medicine. Trick the brain into a better mood. They body will be better too.

Aside from the pain, why do you feel so much worse than the other injuries? My understanding, rotator cuff repair isn't simple either. Or any shoulder related injuries for that matter. The recovery is typically quite long too. Is the ACL surgery that much worse?
I like the idea of trying to trick my brain into a better mood... just need to try it. I'm just totally out of my element being sidelined.

So, I think the pain is from having ALL of the ligaments torn and the bone bruise. I think the combination is making the recovery harder than it could be, but even my OS wouldn't sugar coat it and said the ACL reconstruction is harder. I've known him for over a decade now (bad luck) and besides the first week of pain, it was less painful than the ACL reconstruction overall. I won't say that the rotator cuff surgery was easy in the least, it was brutal, but the ACL surgery was so horrifyingly painful I thought I would die from the pain. And that was being drugged up with Percocet! To give you another idea of the level of pain, it felt like I had my leg cut off at the knee and then re-attached! It was really THAT bad. It's now been about 10 days post surgery and I will say the pain is starting to diminish. I only take Advil and ice it still, so it is starting to improve!
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#20
Pain levels vary a lot, but the other thing I found personally is that REALLY elevating my leg all day (well above my heart) makes a massive difference. My first torn ACL, they didn't explain that to me. I spent the night in the hospital and they had me sitting up in bed with my leg just on a single pillow. So I went home and did the same and it swelled ENORMOUSLY and was ridiculously painful. The entire back side of my leg and calf were one enormous bruise. It wasn't until weeks later when I was at PT that they were trying to figure out why it was still so swollen that they figured out I wasn't elevating above my heart. Well - how would I know that until someone tells me??

Second torn ACL, I knew better and elevated above my heart right from the start and it barely hurt at all. I've had partially torn MCLs as well and think that was more painful than the ACL.

Anyway - make sure you're icing and elevating religiously. I like lying flat on my back with my heel propped up on pillows stacked on the sofa arm. Or just lying on the floor with my heel up on the sofa.
 

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