Susan's ACL surgery and slow, slow recovery

by Susan
(South Australia)

Being a registered nurse (in orthopaedics for a couple of years), I had a fair idea what I was in for when I ruptured my ACL playing a netball grand final in June. It was end of July before I had my surgery with the hamstring graft method. It has all been an awful experience, but in a way I wouldn't change any of it because I have learnt so much. It's probably a good experience for me to know what my patients go through!


I felt fine going into surgery, not nervous at all, but the moment of waking up in recovery was the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. I had huge amounts of nausea and vomiting for the first few days post-op, not sure whether that was from the anaesthesia or the opioids, but I was still being sick in the car on the way home. I found the pain bearable if I dosed up on panadeine forte regularly, the oxycodone just made me feel sick. It was almost two weeks before I could sleep through the night rather than waking up in pain.

My recovery in the weeks since has been agonisingly slow. I saw the surgeon 5 weeks post-op and he said I was below average in my recovery, probably because I had a quads lag. This upset me for a while because I'm not used to being below average and I had to remind myself that every person's recovery is different. It was 5-6 weeks before I was rid of my Zimmer splint. My range of motion is still quite limited, apparently it's not up to the usual.

Everything finally seemed to be getting better in the last four weeks (I'm 9 and a half weeks now), and it almost started to feel normal. I was so pleased, and looking forward to starting work again Oct 12. Yesterday I slipped over and ended up sitting on my reconstructed knee with it flexed at 180 degrees. It was awful, so painful, I was so scared I had torn the new ligament. I am staying with my grandparents in Hobart for a little while so I couldn't see my surgeon. I went to ED, and the doctor there reckoned it was ok, maybe what's left of my meniscus has been folded back on itself. My knee has swelled again, mostly over the lateral upper side, and it's still painful, plus I'm back in the brace for another week. The worst of it is that I have lost a lot of the range of motion that I've fought so hard for over the past few weeks. I'm so annoyed with myself for slipping over, although I know that's silly, and I'm beginning to get a little discouraged about the whole thing, especially considering I'm meant to be starting work in 10 days in one of Australia's busiest emergency departments.

Has anyone else out there had similar experiences or a really slow recovery? I know it's going to get better and I just need to be patient, but setbacks like yesterday are beginning to get a little discouraging. I know this all sounds negative, but I am usually very positive, I think I just needed to air my frustration from yesterday.

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