Dave’s ACL Diary: Doing it Solo [Part 9]

Monday, 2/14/2000 – My Return to Gainful Employment

Well, I spent my weekend mainly flat on my back, thoroughly medicated, with a heating pad for good measure, in hopes that I could put the kibosh on the back pain that’s made everything rotten lately (I mean, even a sneeze makes my back tense and my muscles tight!). While it seemed that I might just’ve gotten rid of the back problem for good this morning, it was not to be.

It’s really strange, I can lie down and be comfortable, I can stand and be comfortable, but sit anywhere, or sneeze and I’m in agony. The whole ACL rebuild/rehab would be more of an adventure than an ordeal, if only my back didn’t hurt so. Will hit up the OS on my next follow-up (Wednesday) for anything he can do to relieve it.

I’ve about decided that the pain comes from sitting in strange positions, due to having a leg that’s restrained from bending more than 30 degrees, having extra weight on that leg from the brace, and poor posture from compensating for the brace and one-foot weight bearing.

Anyway, I spent the weekend on my back, doing mostly nothing. Got a lot of sleep, etc. I DID manage to do a couple loads of clothes, and have managed to do some of the things I thought would be impossible: I’ve picked up the dropped coins from the floor, opened the unopenable drawer (used the handgrip end of the REI treking pole to lever inside the recessed handle), even retrieved the empty trash can from the street!

There was dangerous weather in Georgia last night. Southern and Western Georgia apparently got the worst of it. 22 people dead last I heard. Part of the line of storms rolled through here around 2 AM, and woke me from sound sleep with one very, very close lightening strike. Hurt like sneezing (but probably not as much as losing your life or a loved one to a storm).

This morning I slapped the alarm into SLEEP mode from 7 to 9:30 (up much of the night listening to thunder), then hauled my carcass out of bed. I don’t think I’ve described the procedure I’m using for a shower, so here goes:

I bought a big roll of Saran Wrap from the drug store last time I was in there. I wrap the brace with Saran Wrap as far down as I can reach, then for good measure, I stick my leg into a plastic garbage bag and tape the top closed tight. I have a plastic chair in the shower, on which I can sit (I usually do sit) and a flex-hose shower head, so I can reach just about everything that should get wet.

Unfortunately, this morning the levee broke and I got the back of the ACE bandage which covers my dressing wet. It didn’t get to the dressing, but I did have to remove the bandage, hike to the dryer and dry it (meanwhile trying to dry the brace with the hair dryer). This ordeal added at least 45-minutes to an hour to my trip in to work.

I realized after a couple of days on crutches that going back to work was gonna be difficult – I can get around with the crutches, but how do I carry a bowl of soup or a sports bottle full of drink or my laptop computer with me (at least, without aggravating the back problems)?

I made the decision not to bring the laptop, and then my colleague Craig was kind enough to run down and get me lunch and the first of several sodas. Still, things were kinda difficult. No sooner had I gotten into my office and shed my daypack than I decided to go pick up my mail. And carry it…how?

Here’s a tip you might be able to use: put your security badge on before you leave home, or at least before you get out of the car. That way, you won’t have to dig through your backpack to get it while in line near the entry door at work…

I spent a good bit of the day catching up, working on basic research for the next couple of projects I’ve got planned, and fighting with my back, trying to keep the pain down to a dull ache. I had permission to go home early, but really wanted to get as much of a full day in as I could. I stayed ’till it was time to leave for my evening PT session.

I actually reached some kind of accommodation with my office chair before leaving. I found some way of sitting which didn’t hurt my back too bad. Then, as I crutched out to the car, marveled at how the back pain had lifted. Then sat down in the car and felt it all come back!

I am sorry to go on and on about the back pain, but it’s currently the central factor in my life. The ACL rebuild is hurting me very little in comparison. I think after going through this, I’d recommend that if you have back trouble, you try to get it handled before surgery, maybe even hold off on getting cut until you’re better.

Physical Therapy this evening goes pretty OK. They’re doing electrical stimulation with my quadriceps (like Luigi Galvani and the jumping frog’s legs…) to slow down the atrophy that will take place. I’d like to think that PT will eventually get more involved than this – so far it doesn’t seem like anything I can’t do well at home.

I’ve got my next followup with the OS, on Wednesday. I’m hoping against hope that I get to have the brace set to 90 degrees of flexion and maybe even that I can go to partial weight-bearing. Will definitely address the back pain with the Doc. Meantime, I’m running out of a few crucial food items, and will have to find a way to get shopping handled.