Happy Re-construction Day, Right Knee!

Knee 2.0

Two years ago today I had ACL re-construction surgery on my right knee. In addition I also had my medial meniscus sutured. My surgery was an autograph (donor tissue was me, not a cadaver) of the semitendinosus (hamstring) tendon in my right leg.

Since then I’ve had over eight months of physical therapy and rehab (using the hamstring has donor tissue for the surgery has a longer recovery time than the patella-donor-type surgery plus I really didn’t want to rush), six months of prehab (injury preventative exercises) and over seven months of strength training before I started up jiu-jitsu again. Oh, I forgot to mention I even had a second surgery on my knee to remove the screws and anchors that held my “new” ACL in place while everything healed up neat and tidy.

Bionic Man for 1.7 years

Damn, my knee has come a long way.

Over the course of my two year journey I’ve picked up a lot of things, gained a great deal of experience and information in regards to knee injuries, rehab and prehab exercises, lower body – especially the posterior chain – strength training, leg mobility and flexibility, and soft tissue work, which of course includes massages. It’s led me to rediscover my passion for learning all about the human body and what it’s capable of (I was studying to be a paramedic before I found out I was coming to Japan, while I almost finished the program, I never knew how much I enjoyed learning about biology and human physiology until then).

Out of everything, there are a few important lessons I would have never received if I never got injured in the first place.

If you have any choice in the matter, never get to a point where you have surgery
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I had surgery on my knee. Now I have a better chance of being active for a longer time in my life than I would have if I didn’t get the surgery. The surgery was elective. The knee doesn’t need an ACL to properly function (bend, support weight). But I had the surgery because I still want to run around and play with my kids when I have them, and still be active and still do jiu-jitsu when I’m in my 50s.

However, the experience sucked.

The starving before and the lack of sleep the night after the surgery. The many, many tubes and needles stuck and trapped in flesh. The pain, jeez, the pain. The feeling of helplessness the weeks following the surgery. The frustration of being severely immobile. The Hulk-smash like anger at Japanese people with their lack of spatial awareness and access points for the handicapped. Oh, the list could go on.

For the most part surgery = sucky time + pain + potential for a bad outlook on life.

I had surgery twice, icky stuff doesn’t phase me
As bad as surgery was the idea of surgery was worse, incredibly scary and fearsome, but after going through it twice I’ve found I’m much more sturdier than I thought I was. That and going through a long period of self doubt and depression after surgery, and coming out of it for the better, really did wonders for my self-confidence.

I hated getting my blood drawn and would squirm in my seat. I’ve had countless checkups where my blood was drawn each time, now I’ve gotten so used to it I’ll actually be bored and start trying to talk to the nurse trying to take my blood. I’ve been in situations where I’m extremely uncomfortable and stressful, so now if I’ll feel that I’ll move pass it quickly and immediately focus on what I have to do next.

I suppose in that sense surgery was a good thing.

I am stronger, better equipped, and ready to deal. Bring it.
Today marks the cumulation of all the experiences I’ve had, all the training I’ve done to reach this point, all the hardships and trials I’ve overcome, and all the crap I’ve gone through just so that I could continue training jiu-jitsu for as long as I can.

I can squat my bodyweight easy and looking to move on. I’ve got my sights on deadlifting 100 kilos. I’m dealing with spazzy strength only white belts and overweight idiot can’t-drill-for-shit members of my school.

Most of all I haven’t found the joy in training jiu-jitsu yet. It’s there though. I’ll find it.

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