Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Let It Go

In three weeks, it will be one year since my ACL reconstruction.

Please note: gloomy post to follow.

I want to “let it go” but I am not ready. The injury and subsequent recovery is a pervasive part of my daily life. I had hoped that at a year I would be done with it. It sounded so simple “Get it fixed”. I have had other surgeries. I had my gall bladder removed eight years ago and I do not think about it. The lack of a gall bladder has not changed my life.

I have been spending some time reading the Kneeguru bulletin board. They call themselves Kneegeeks. I found some long-time ACLr’s because I want to know what is next. Some state that their knee has never been the same while others say their knee is better than before. It is too soon for me to decide which category I fall in. There are so many stories of multiple injuries and surgeries. Many of their stories have a common thread … the return to the sport or activity they love.

When I first told my daughter about the ACL surgery, she was nervous about it. She wanted to go to the hospital with me and stay home from school. I told her that I wanted her to go to school and I promised that I would call her at school from the recovery room. I kept telling her “Don’t worry, it is just my knee. They will fix it and I will be fine.” The more I read, the more I realize that the knee is a complex but delicate joint. I will not use the phrase “it is just my knee” ever again.

Karate has changed, perhaps forever. I am much more introspective. It has become less about my physical ability and more about the search for deeper understanding. I have been focusing on weapons and open hand bunkai. I am grateful that I can continue practicing and teaching. I want the students to know that it is about the journey. I want them to enjoy their time in the dojo. I want them to take their time and not feel rushed because there is so much to learn.

The road to recovery has been a long one. I know that my new ACL is strong. I know how hard I worked to get here. I know that I will continue to work on strength and conditioning. Knee braces, glucosamine, leg lifts and lunges are all part of my daily life.

As I approach the one-year mark, I am not ready to “let it go”. I want my knee to be better than it was before.


Bob M said...

Michele, I don't think this was a gloomy post. I do think it is realistic. But reading that karate "has become less about my physical ability and more about the search for deeper understanding" sounds wise and rewarding to me, not gloomy.

Your post reminds me of the process of getting older. Doors close, and I scratch my head in a combination of thankfulness and regret. I wonder how good I could have gotten at martial arts had I begun earlier; I'm definitely aware of how much healthier and happier I am because I started martial arts.

Jed said...

Short Answer: Yes. Once I get this Pin out of my thumb from the UCL surgery I'm due for another blog post.

I just had my 14 week follow up yesterday. (And technically my 4th PT session). I got strapped into the big knee measurement device (BioDex)

Drumroll as the results were being printed.

For 60 deg/s (slow), in extension, my "bad" knee was -20%. As in, 20% BETTER than my non bad knee. (I'll say really 10% once you take into account that I maybe wasn't as prepared for my first sitting). I'm right leg dominant and I've been kicking a rugby ball since week 9. In flexion I was at 2% (nominal).

For 180 degrees/s (fast) I was at -5.8% for extension and 19% in flexion. Meaning as far as the machine is concerned strength is there (and then some). But endurance flexion (it was a 10 rep set) isn't quite there, but I think that will come from running.

It's all mental here on out. Now this may not be the 'best' advice, but injure something else and you'll forget about your knee as you baby the other parts of your body. (I would not suggest going to the extreme that I did of tearing another ligament.)

Steve said...

I think that philosophy is that way for most people as we age. We tend to figure out what is really important that we didn't see before, at least that's the way it's turning out for me!

BTW, I'm looking for martial arts opinions on my site - help!

Anonymous said...

Michele, I've been thinking about this post all day. Your ambivalence about where you are comes across very clearly. You want to trust that knee unthinkingly like you did before. You want to know that it will hold up, that something like this won't happen again. It's like PTSD in some ways.

But I'm noticing your fascination with the other, positive ways you've changed. Your new-found interest in sparring and your shift from the physicality of the art to the deeper understanding of it. We have a master instructor who started studying our style over 40 years ago in his late 20s. He doesn't kick high any longer. He doesn't jump. In fact, he doesn't move a whole lot. But when he does move, he times it so perfectly that he's to the side or behind his opponent before they can react, snapping in a couple of choice combinations along the way. Flying sidekicks are great, but to me what he does is the real karate.

Bobspar's right. Doors close. But other doors always open. From what you've been describing, it seems to me there's enough journey left in your knee to take you through a good number of them. Keep it up.

Michele said...

Thank you for your words of encouragement. This has been a tough knee week for me.

Bob: Thank you. Your comment made me feel better about the changes I see in my training.

Jed: Your knee results are great. Take care of your hand. My husband had a pin in his thumb for a few weeks. He could not wait for the pin to come out.

Steve: You are right. I view things differently at thirty-nine than I did ten years ago. The ability to know what is important became clearer for me when I had my daughter.

Chad: Thank you. It was good to be reminded that my knee has “enough journey left”.

Nonblond said...

Not only do you have "enough journey left", look at how far you've come! I can't wait to be at the point that you at now. Hang in there!

Melissa said...

I so appreciate your comments as I feel the same as you (although much less time into the process). It's very hard to think of my identity right now without my knee. I wear that badge externally with an ungraceful gait and internally with aches and pains and fears to the quality of return to the physical activity and sports that keeps me healthy and happy. It's hard to express to my husband, family and friends realize how deeply my thoughts have been affected without feeling like a crybaby.

Michele, congratulations on how far you've come and the courage to express your vulnerability! Your honesty does you and especially those who share the recovery journey service! Good luck on continuing your journey and thanks so much for sharing.

Michele said...

Nonblond, Melissa: Thank you for your encouraging comments. I only have a few days to go before I am officially at one year post-op. I am thankful for how far I have come. I believe my mistake was thinking that after surgery and rehab, I would no longer have to focus on my knee. I now know that keeping my knee strong, in order to prevent future injury, will be part of my daily routine for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Dear Michelle,

I am female, 53 and about 9 weeks out from ACL reconstruction with a little miniscus repair thrown in.

I am a an instructor in Okinawan Shuri-Ryu karate and I also study ju=jitsu and Tai Chi. I started when I was 45 after a traumatic brain injury sent may daughter into karate to recover motor function and balance.

I think your post is honest and perceptive. If we face and accept our experiences, we become better teachers and human beings. Tai Chi has been an immense help in my recovery and coming to terms with the injury because of the internal focus of that art.

With the experiences I have been through, I know my life will never be the same, in many ways, and it is that very change and adventure that brings me challenge and the opportunity for growth and spiritual wisdom.

You will be in my thoughts on your journey. Best wishes.

Lynn Donham

Michele said...

Lynn: Thank you for your kind words. This injury was difficult but I do believe I became stronger because of it.

Your comment..."the opportunity for growth and spiritual wisdom"...what an amazing outlook!

Good luck with your ACL recovery.