Caroline's ACL Story

by Caroline
(Pennsylvania)

I tore my ACL and meniscus on November 14, 2008 and have my surgery tomorrow (well technically today) January 12, 2009. I have a mixed bag of emotions; anxious, worry, ready, nervous, prepared, scared, angry, the list just goes on and on. I'm also nervous about my reaction to the pain killers because I have never used them before. I'm hoping that its possible I won't need them.


When I reflect back on that night, I still can't believe it happened. I'm 17 and play for my varsity basketball team. My grade school coach had asked if I would like to play with some of the middle schoolers for service hours. I was happy to help, as our basketball team is a very big deal, and most of the team unknowingly becomes role models to the younger girls.

The second transition of the scrimmage, I went to stop a ball from going out of bounds, landed awkwardly (basically a hyperextension), hopped on my "good leg", tried to walk, and collapsed. I had never screamed in pain until that night, and it was the most painful thing that I had ever experienced in my entire life.

I think that in my head I knew that I had blown my knee out, that was my first reaction, but I kept telling myself that it is natural to assume the worst in this situation.

While waiting for the MRI results, everyone around me; coach, trainer, physician, had convinced me that it was minor meniscus damage and that I would be out for 2 weeks. They did manipulations with my knee and it was stable and passed every test. A few days later I was at practice icing when I got a call from the doctor, I had completely ruptured my ACL. I was immediately reduced to tears. Everything that had been secure in my life was shaken. My season that I had prepped so hard for, and more importantly my offers to play in college were dangling.

The doctor who did the diagnosis suggested that I could try and play without the ACL. I rehabbed for 2 weeks and gave it a go, but the constant clicking and discomfort lead me to seek another opinion. It turned out that I had also torn my meniscus as well, and the first doctor had missed it. We went to a third doctor to confirm, and I had in fact torn both. We scheduled the surgery with the 3rd doctor, and here we are.

I still go to our basketball games and practices, but I feel that doing this makes the situations even harder than they need to be. It is depressing to watch the other girls play without me, but I think that if I did not spend time with them it would be worse. I try to be positive about the situation, but I often find myself crying before I fall asleep. I know that I must stay strong during the rehab process and get back to my prior level. I have set my date to be cleared for basketball on May 27, 2009. Hopefully it all works out.

I'm ready to start working hard!

All comments and suggestions are encouraged!!!!
Until next time,
Caroline

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Jan 17, 2012
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AHHH. Stupid knee.
by: Anonymous

Wow, it's nice to hear all of your storys and to know that I am not the only one going through this. Let's see, I am 13 years old and I hurt my right knees ACL. I was just wondering if there is anyone as young as me with a bad ACL. I am really active and was also wondering if eventually a I will be able to do all of the sports I love and if it will effect my chances of getting onto a high school basketball or soccer team. Thanks.

Oct 29, 2009
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Hi!
by: Denise

Hi Caroline,

It's so good to hear from you. I'm glad to know you're doing well and have returned to sports. I still have a lot of work to do in terms of keeping up with physiotherapy at home, but as you've said, the worst is behind me now. I can't thank you enough for all the advice you gave me! This whole experience has made me appreciate health and mobility so much more. Best wishes for the long term strength and stability of your knee and for your future pursuits.

Denise

Oct 28, 2009
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Hi Denise
by: Caroline Lauer

I receive an e-mail every time someone comments, so I was able to read your comment right away. I'm so happy for you! Rehab is certainly a lot of work, but the worst is behind you at this point. In June I was officially cleared for all sports, and it was certainly one of the best days of my life. Knowing that all of your hard work has finally paid off is a great feeling! Yes, one grows used to the aches and pains associated with knee surgery, but eventually it goes away. Except for the occasional morning when I didn't stretch quite enough the night before, I am pain free and feel better than ever. I hope your recovery continues to progress, and you are eventually better than before the injury. Keep in touch!

Hope all is well,
Caroline

Oct 28, 2009
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Very Late Update
by: Denise

Hi Caroline,

This update is so late I really don't know if you'll even read it. I had the ACL reconstruction surgery back in June and I 'graduated' from physiotherapy last Monday (26th October). My knee is now stable and incomparably better than how it was while walking around without an ACL. I still have aches and pains in the knee occasionally (but anyone who's been through this injury and subsequent surgery learns to accept pain as a minor inconvenience!). Of course the rehab doesn't stop there, and I still need to do physiotherapy exercises at home to strengthen the muscles around my knee. I just wanted to thank you and everyone else who encouraged me through this. I hope you're doing well.

Denise

Apr 09, 2009
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Re: Denise and Mother
by: Anonymous

Hi Denise,

Sorry it took me so long to return your post. I'm so excited to hear that you have a surgery date - I'm sure it will be a major success! My knee is doing great, I'm 12.5 weeks post-op and started running last week. Running was absolutely fantastic, and I can't wait to get more into basketball. It looks like I will have a clean bill of health around the same time you have your surgery. Hope all is well!

To the mother who also posted:

I know that my mother was honest with me. She assured me that the surgery would be a success, but that she was nervous at the same time. This surgery is a major deal, so don't be surprised if your son is more emotional than normal. Sometimes the mental effects of the injury do not sink in until after the surgery. After your son's surgery, make sure he starts rehab right away! I think this is crucial! I started my rehab the next morning, which was hell at the time, but it was much better than sitting around in pain, since I am a very active person. I think the fact I started rehab so early is a factor for why I am scheduled to be cleared 2 months ahead of time. If your son ever gets down, make sure to encourage him. My trainer always tells me that, "Everyday you spend sulking is one more day you are not going to feel better in the future." Hope everything improves!

If either of you ever need to contact me, feel free to e-mail me at VivaLaCare@aol.com

Mar 31, 2009
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acl surgery
by: Candy

My son is having his surgery on Friday 4/3/09. I am a nervous wreck, but not letting him know that. He asked me if I'm nervous about the surgery and I told him no because his doctor is a great surgeon. He is only 14 years old; will be 15 on 4/18. Any advice would be appreciated. thank you.

Mar 31, 2009
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Hi Caroline
by: Denise

Hi Caroline,
It's been a while since I posted and I just wanted to find out how your knee is doing. I finally got a date for my surgery and it will be in June. It's been a difficult wait but I'm glad to know that I can really start to work at getting better after that. Walking around without an ACL feels like I'm damaging my knee even further. I settled for the synthetic graft choice because of all the reassurance I got from my PT, Surgeon and Family doctor. There's still a part of me that wants the Patellar tendon graft but I'm not the one with the medical qualifications - it just feels so lonely not knowing anyone else who has had this graft choice. Maybe after my surgery I can write about my experience to help someone else who's faced with this prospect. Hope your rehab is going well.
Denise

Mar 15, 2009
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Re: Danny
by: Caroline

Hi Danny,

Yes, my knee did feel exactly that way. It seemed that even just the air hitting it was like a knife stabbing through it. It eventually goes away...I'd say after about 4-5 days, so you can see the light in the tunnel. I'm so sorry to hear about your knee, my heart goes out to anyone going through this. Best of luck with everything!

Caroline

Mar 14, 2009
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19yrs old, Left ACL torn
by: Danny

Thanks for sharing your story. Gives me hope/strength for I just got surgery on my left knee three days ago. The pain was pretty bad on the 2nd night, but since then the pain has tapered off. With pain meds, I can hardly feel the pain at all! I see you got the Patellar Tendon graft, I did too..but does it feel normal that my knee feels like splitting apart when I lift it to crutch somewhere?

Feb 26, 2009
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17 years old, 2 ACL surgeries
by: Kimberly

Hey Caroline,
I was just browsing different ACL surgeries and I came across yours. And boy do we have alot in common. I'm also 17 years old and I've had two ACL surgeries, one in each knee. I tore my acl on my left knee my freshman year when i was 15 and now i tore my right one my junior year. I play for my varsity school team as well. I had surgery on March 13, 2007 and January 5th, 2009. Like you, I'm constantly wondering about the future and if I can still earn a college scholarship. Even though I've gone through the process before and had a successful sophomore year, I still have a lot of doubts in my mind. And watching basketball when I can't play is always painful. I'd love to here about your progress because it helps by simply knowing I'm not going through it alone. Feel free to email me at k1mber1y_x@yahoo.com.

Feb 26, 2009
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17 years old, 2 ACL surgeries
by: Kimberly

Hey Caroline,
I was just browsing different ACL surgeries and I came across yours. And boy do we have alot in common. I'm also 17 years old and I've had two ACL surgeries, one in each knee. I tore my acl on my left knee my freshman year when i was 15 and now i tore my right one my junior year. I play for my varsity school team as well. I had surgery on March 13, 2007 and January 5th, 2009. Like you, I'm constantly wondering about the future and if I can still earn a college scholarship. Even though I've gone through the process before and had a successful sophomore year, I still have a lot of doubts in my mind. And watching basketball when I can't play is always painful. I'd love to here about your progress because it helps by simply knowing I'm not going through it alone. Feel free to email me at k1mber1y_x@yahoo.com.

Feb 22, 2009
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Recommended
by: Brooke

Caroline I am very sorry to hear about your ACL,I am the same age and have done the same thing! Although I went with the hamstring graft and so far it is holding up well.

To Denise, I would recommend the surgery. It is a rough on but definitely worth it. I have had a partially torn ACL for six years and severed mine in the first game of our basketball season during november. I tried to play without it, but my knee would swell a lot and I dislocated it so many times it just became torture to try to do anything, later it got to the so bad that if I would ride my bike to hard with too much resistance it would dislocate. Now I am eight weeks out and looking to be back to riding horses in two months and possibly back to sports in four! Good luck with your decision.

Feb 16, 2009
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Hi!
by: Denise

Hi Caroline!
It's great to hear from you. How is your knee progressing? I read somewhere that synthetic grafts were banned in the USA because there is not enough evidence to suggest they are beneficial. I just wanted to ask if you knew of anyone in the USA who has had a synthetic graft. My doctor who is one of the best knee specialists in London, is convinced that it is the best option for me (and he reassures me that in Europe they are used frequently). I am still slightly freaked out at the idea. It's times like this where being short really sucks - apparently I have really short hamstrings and my patellar tendon would not yield a long enough strip for a graft. Did you start to get a little nervous about the surgery as the date draws closer? My knee instability has reduced on its own but that's probably due to the ACL scarring onto another structure in my knee lending temporary stability - still it makes me wonder if I made a mistake opting for surgery. It's probably a huge gamble to take by not having surgery though as the ACL could re-rupture further down the line. I guess I'm just looking for reassurance that surgery is the right choice. All the best with rehab.

Denise

Feb 10, 2009
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D
by: Anonymous

Hi D,

That's great that you are going to get the surgery! I don't know much about the allographs so I won't even try to offer advice. If you need anything, I'm here. Hope all is well!

Caroline

Feb 10, 2009
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Hi
by: Denise

Hi Caroline (and everyone else), I have no idea if you still check these comments but I just thought I'd let you know that I'm finally on the waiting list for an ACL reconstruction (which in England means a couple of months). I was hoping for the patellar tendon graft but my surgeon flat out told me that for my height and build, harvesting my own tissue would be complicated and he thinks a synthetic graft would be a better choice. I will try to get a second opinion but I'm tentatively trusting my doctor, until I do some more research on synthetic grafts. I don't know whether I'm disappointed or not. I guess I'm just relieved that I will eventually have the surgery. Hope your rehab is going well.
D

Feb 09, 2009
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acl comments
by: Ali

Hi, kinda late in this convo but I just found this site! I am 7 weeks post-op, had the hamstring graft. I just have a couple of comments...I've been told different things about the patellar vs hamstring grafts and basically with the patellar tendon graft there is a higher risk for chronic knee pain (which my cousin has in one of her knees - she had both done that way), but recovery time is apparently shorter. I feel good about my hamstring graft - I worked my legs hard in the gym to try and grow my muscles so I wouldn't lose too much mass. My hamstrings are pretty weak for now but that's what physio's for!
2nd comment: I think any young person with a torn ACL should push for surgery - you have a way higher risk of developing arthritis in the knee if you don't because the ACL pulls your shin back, so without it your leg bones aren't sitting together properly so there's unnatural rubbing and stuff - could need a knee replacement later in life.


Jan 26, 2009
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happens to the best of us!
by: Helen

i no exactly how you feel. i think you've basically just said my story. except i'l switch basketball for netball. I did mine when I was 15, now i'm 17. at the time it was obviously doing gcse p.e so it screwed tht up. i was serious like you with my own team in leagues and winning everything. it was great. and im guessing sport for you feels like the best place to be to unwind and just play.
unlike u i wasnt planning on taking sport seriously past the age of 18 so we may be a little different there.
crying pretty much every night sounds like me. i thought i was making way to big a deal of it and although my friends were great and sympathetic, i dont think they could rly appreciate the gravity of actually how badly it had it me. felt like the world was over and that i was crap at everything. sport was like the only thing that i was good at and recognized for, and now i was nothing!
you seem like the kind of person who will work rly hard no matter how bad it gets so i think that you will be absolutely fine. i gave up! dont do that. rly bad. a friend who also did her ACL was back doing sport in bout 7mnths i think. took me 10. i kinda lost my competitiveness so i didnt work hard which i now rly regret. i thought that there was no sport for me to go back to because i wud be crap and unfit. not true. dont forget how much you enjoy sport. it rly motivates you to get better.
iv now snapped it again, but thts only because i did some insane skiing over xmas, shuda worn a knee brace or stuck to red runs!
hope this is helpful.

Jan 18, 2009
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To Lori And Caroline
by: D

Lori and Caroline,
Thank you both for all your insight into the surgery (and life post-op). I hope both of your recoveries continue to go well. It seems like such a long road back to a normal life but I guess there's no other direction but forward left to go. I'm having one of my bad days today, where the whole thing is making me feel a little down, but tomorrow is another day.
Best Wishes For The Future!
D

Jan 18, 2009
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post-surgery scarring, etc
by: Lori

To D: I had the hamstring graft, but what Caroline describes about bruising, the incision, etc., is similar to my experience. I am 1 month post-op, and the incisions look pretty good now. In the first couple of days after surgery, they looked far worse. In fact, my surgery leg didn't even look like it belonged to me...you'll notice that the leg looks much slimmer than the other one, and the difference is pretty strange. It's taken up until now for my legs to look the same (building up muscle in the surgery leg!).

Good luck to each of you! Candy, I hope you find some good answers for your son!

Jan 18, 2009
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14 year boy with complete acl tear
by: Candy

Thank you D for your concern. I have found an orthopedic surgeon who treats high school students in staten island, new york for many sports releated injuries such as acl tear. He has over 25 years experience. After looking at his MRI, he said he wants to wait a year, but he wanted to see his regular x-ray to see the growth plate more clearly. Upon looking at the x-ray of the growth plate, he said he wants to do the surgery sooner. I went for another opinion and the doctor said he wouldn't do the surgery, he thinks I should wait a year. The downside to waiting is that (1) he cannot play like a normal 14 year old (he was very active) and (2) there is a big chance he will damage other part of the knee. If anyone can enlighten me if they know of someone this young with an acl tear (complete), please inform me. ty

Jan 18, 2009
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Re: Denise
by: Caroline

Hello again,

As for the pain associated with the surgery, I was told by a friend who had this procedure done that the patellar tendon pain is more of an "achey" feeling that you have for about 6-8 months, maximum a year. I have not come to this part of the recovery process where this is the pain I face. From what I understand this will start to take place once the incision has healed. I'm not sure if this is the case for all ACL reconstruction procedures, or just every type of surgery in general, but my leg is bruised pretty badly. I expected bruising around my knee, but I have bruises down my calf as well. This is actually my main source of pain, as the bruises are very sensitive. Still, this pain is completely manageable and I haven't taken pain medicine since 60 hours after my surgery. The scarring at this point looks a lot worse than it will be over time. I still have the staples in my knee, and the blood is dried around it, giving it a gruesome hue. The scar is about 4 inches long in a capital T shape. The top of the T is at about the bottom of my knee cap, and it is about 2 inches long. The incision is probably about 1/3 of an inch wide. The friend I mentioned before's scar has healed and it isn't very gross. I have been told that as long as you use Vitamin E cream over it, it will heal smoothly. I haven't been able to do this yet because it has yet to heal. From what I can tell, the shape of my knee has not changed, but it is very swollen (to be expected of course) and the swelling will not leave entirely until about the 6-8 week mark. I hope I can calm your fears by saying in no uncertain terms that there is no feeling of, "Oh, I feel my screw right HERE in my knee." None of that. I promise. Also, when they take part of the bone with the graft, they fill the bone with some type of filling to prevent weakness later on in life. It has been great talking to you and keeping in touch, because I also feel like no one really understands. My teammates and friends try to comfort and talk to me, but they really have no frame of reference. I feel very thankful to be able to talk to someone about it who is all the way across the pond! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask. I promise to keep you updated.

Good Luck!

Caroline

Jan 18, 2009
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RE: ACL Tear in 14 yr old
by: D

Hello,
Although I don't know much about ACL tears in the very young I just wanted to tell you that I'm sorry to hear about your son's injury. I hope you find the information you're looking for. All I would say is that you should find a good orthopaedic doctor and he/she should be able to help you decide what the best course of action would be. I think physiotherapy may help a little but I know how difficult it must be for a boy of his age to stay away from sport.
Best Wishes,
D

Jan 18, 2009
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Patellar Tendon Graft
by: D

Hi Caroline,
In my previous comment I forgot to ask you about two issues that really worry me about the surgery. I know it's a little vain of me, but is the scarring really bad? And secondly, I have this irrational fear about having metal screws that aren't absorbed over time in my knee (I'm pretty sure the type of screws used will be down to the surgeon and probably depends on the graft type). Would you say that your knee still looks the same shape as it was before the surgery (apart from swelling, of course)? I only ask this because I know that pieces of bone are removed along with the section of the patellar tendon that's used as the graft. Thank you for all the advice you've given me so far. No matter how much I read about the surgery I think the best insight comes from someone who has actually experienced it. I hope your knee is getting stronger and closer to 100%.
D

Jan 17, 2009
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Hi!
by: Anonymous

Hi Again. I also think that the patellar tendon is the best graft choice. Since my injury I've done so much reading about ACL reconstruction that I could probably write a book on the subject! I'm thinking about getting a second opinion but I do trust my doctor, he has a good reputation and years of experience behind him. The only problem is the long waiting times we have here in England - I won't see him again until February. I'll hear what he has to say and make sure he understands that I want surgery and if I'm not satisfied after that then I'll have to go elsewhere. The pain associated with the patellar graft choice does worry me a little, would you say it was worth it? I can handle pain, it's the current instability in my knee that I can't handle - I just can't imagine going through life like this. I feel so lucky that I'm able to talk to you about your experience since it's so similar to mine. I used to feel like no one really understood what I was going through. I also had a period where I would cry everyday, worrying about whether I'd have to go through life with a less than perfect knee. It just feels surreal doesn't it? I hope your recovery is going well!
Denise (D)

Jan 17, 2009
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Re: D
by: Caroline

D:

I had the patellar tendon graft and chose it after extensive research. My doctor informed me that women's hamstrings are usually very small, and he might not be able to get a good graft if he tried to use it. Also, some new research was just released that the hamstring graft may be more likely to rupture again because of a delayed reaction (we are talking micro seconds, but still). The only down side of the patella is a little bit of soreness near the knee cap for a couple of months post op. All 3 doctors that I saw were against the donor because of my youth and my own feelings of uneasiness about it. If your doctor doesn't listen to your feelings, you really should go elsewhere. It is the patient's call and I had to go to 3 doctors before I was satisfied. The original doctor actually missed the meniscus tear, so I feel very fortunate that I listened to the advice of others to seek a second opinion. The third doctor also saw the tear, and because of his availability we chose him.

Hope all goes well with your doctor,

Caroline

Jan 17, 2009
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Thank You For The Advice
by: D

Hi Caroline. Thank you for the advice. I do really want to have the surgery but it's my doctor's call. The next time I see him I will tell him about all the discomfort I'm in and hopefully he will realise that I'm one of those people that can't function well without an ACL. It's good to hear that you're feeling stronger post-op. Do you mind me asking what graft you had for the surgery? Donor, hamstring or patellar? My doctor said I'm really short so my hamstring may be unsuitable if he were to attempt a reconstruction. I'm unsure about the idea of a donor graft so patellar tendon is looking like my best option. Keep up the hard work in rehab!
D

Jan 16, 2009
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Same here.
by: Aussie

Hey sorry to hear your story. I'm from Australia and am 17 as well. I done my ACL and lateral meniscus on the 26th of October and had surgery on the December 8th. I know your pain. I done my knee playing football (soccer). Last game of the season as well:( I am currently like 5 weeks post op. Its been pretty good, except my knee got infected:( The good thing was that we got to it just in time and the anti-biotics were enough and i didnt have to go back into hospital. Ive had to stop PT for the time being and in total I think im going to have to stop for 3 weeks which is a set back. Its all good but, I must admit i was abit bummed at the start because i had a contract lined up for next season, but hence cant take it up anymore. But anyway, hopefully going to make it through without anymore setbacks, wish you all the best and dont worry you are not alone :)

Jan 16, 2009
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To D:
by: Anonymous

D:

I could not encourage you more to have surgery as soon as your schedule permits. I went two months with out an ACL and also experienced everything you described. The first 60 hours after surgery were extremely hard, but now, just 4 days after my surgery, I feel strong and can see my improvement. Is rehab hard? Of course. Is rehab rewarding? YES. I love working every day toward a goal and seeing myself improve day to day.

I know it must be hard to take advice from a stranger, but I really think you should have the reconstruction surgery. The active lifestyle that you spoke of is impossible without it.

I completely understand being young and suffering from this injury, as I am only 17. If you need someone to talk to, I am here.

It will get better!

Caroline

Jan 16, 2009
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Speedy Recovery Wishes
by: D

Hi Caroline. One day I'll muster up the courage to write about my own ACL rupture experience but for now I'm just reading the stories of other people. I completely understand how you feel. I'm 21 years old and when I first got my MRI results, I was pretty much stone faced in front of the doctor, but as soon as my mom and I went back to the waiting room I broke down in tears. Your entire life just seems to be on hold and you can't help but worry about the future. My knee is constantly buckling and it feels like it's clicking out then back in again. Just like the first doctor you described, my doctor is trying out a conservative approach to treatment, but for the active lifestyle I want to live, I really think surgery is the best option. I hope your recovery goes well and I will keep you in my prayers. When I first heard that I tore my ACL, I kept thinking that I'm too young to go through something like this, but you know, that's life and it could happen to anyone. Just know you're not alone in this experience.
D

Jan 15, 2009
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Feeling Good after 3 days
by: Caroline

Thank you for the well wishes. I am recovering well and am off of my pain medication. The first 48 hours were hard as my doctor had warned me, but I don't think that mentally I realized how serious this surgery is. I am very thankful and happy with my decision to have the surgery, and even though every rehab session is a challenge, I look forward to it everyday because I know it is one step closer to a better day.

Jan 14, 2009
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Good luck!
by: Lori

I hope your surgery went well, and that you're resting comfortably! I had ACL surgery 4 weeks ago, and I'm so glad I did it. The clicking/discomfort you talk about is not something I could have lived with for much longer.

You're right, you have to really dedicate yourself to rehab, and you can do it! Stay focused on your goal, and I hope that being around your teammates helps motivate you in 100% positive ways :)

I had my own crying meltdown when I got the MRI results, but things start to improve so quickly after the surgery that you'll soon be on your feet and feeling pretty good!

Take care!

Jan 14, 2009
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My thoughts
by: Candy Kahany

Hi, First of all, I hope you are doing well. If you have the attitude that you will get better and go back to original state, you will do it. Work hard and persist. My son is waiting for the acl surgery, as he is only 14 years old and the growth plates are still open. He is not that miserable yet only because it is freezing where we live and no one is outside playing, but he will miss baseball season in little league and is very upset about that. He tore his acl riding his bike with his feet on the handlebars and trying to pop a wheelie. (DUH). Let me know how the surgery went.


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