My ACL reconstruction surgery went well, but then…

Medical websites are to the world of health care what Donald Trump is to the world of politics – a source of mostly alternative facts and hyperbole that are far too often used to scare rather than to help.

ACL surgery picAnd yet, I still referred to a couple of those sites when I found out that I would need to have ACL reconstruction surgery to repair a torn ACL I suffered while playing basketball. Just as one would expect, the risks were first to pop up when I googled “ACL reconstruction surgery.” Things such as loss of motion, continuous knee pain, infection, and worst of all, blood clots.

My ACL reconstruction surgery was scheduled to take place on Friday, May 5, 2017 at 7:30 a.m. at the Cleveland Clinic Akron General Health & Wellness Center in Montrose with Dr. Jeffrey Yang performing the procedure. The surgery center called me on Thursday to ask me a few medical history questions and to go over some instructions for the following day.

One of the things they covered was that they wanted to give me a nerve block, which would keep the nerve in my leg numb and minimize the pain I felt as I came out of the anesthesia during the recovery process. Or at least that’s how it was supposed to work.

But for me? Yeah, that’s not what happened.

When I woke up after the surgery, I immediately felt an immense pain in my knee. The nurse told me that I did well throughout the surgery and then asked how bad the pain was on a scale of 1 to 10. I responded with “2,000.” She repeated it quizzically. “2,000?” I confirmed the answer with a nod and “yes, 2,000. It hurts a lot.”

She immediately had pain meds administered through my IV, which didn’t really seem to do the trick. After asking me again about my level of pain, she had them give me more pain meds. She was giving orders like one of those medical TV dramas where they are just spewing out names of meds and dosages. It was all happening so fast that something seemed wrong.

I asked when I would be able to see my wife, who along with my in-laws, had accompanied me to the surgery center that morning. I was told I could see her once they were able to get my pain under control. That seemed pretty normal, I thought.

And then it felt more serious.

Next thing I knew, the nurse was taking out an oxygen mask and putting it over my nose and mouth. I had still not 100% come out of the anesthesia so my mind was in a million different places, which made me start to freak me out a little bit over this latest development. While the nurse tried to keep me calm and explain that the oxygen mask was being used to counter all of the pain meds I had been given, my mind started to wander back to those risks I mentioned earlier, specifically the blot clots.

It started to hit me that I could not feel my right foot and I also couldn’t see it because of the blankets that were covering my body. That sent my mind into a dark place and I started wondering if maybe I had experienced blood clots during the surgery and the extent of them forced the surgery team to amputate my foot. I know it sounds crazy, but when you understand the history of blood clots that my father had, it seemed like a fair concern to me at the time.

Once I was convinced that my foot was indeed still attached, I wasn’t quite out of the woods. At the end of the day, it was a simple risk that is associated with anesthesia that made my day miserable, not one that came from the ACL surgery.

Three hours after telling my wife that I had come through the surgery without issues, they finally went out to get her and let her come see me. Once she got back to where I was in recovery, my heart had started racing and now I wasn’t feeling so good. I started to shake and sweat, while also feeling light-headed and dizzy. A few minutes later, I was throwing up.

I continued to throw up for about the next hour before they released me to go home. Despite still showing signs of not getting any better, I was granted my release from the surgery center. Once we returned home, I sat on a chair near the entrance of our bathroom, where I was still shaking and sweating. After throwing up a couple more times, I broke down and started crying. It was a couple of hours before I was finally back to some sort of normal where it didn’t feel like I was going to throw up every five minutes.

The entire ordeal was more than I was expecting and honestly, a little more than I was emotionally ready to handle. I have since tried to remind myself that those side effects were normal and have begun to wrap my mind around the upcoming obstacles I will face.

Now it’s on to what is supposed to be the most difficult part of the ACL reconstruction surgery – the physical therapy. I won’t be looking that one up online.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at ryanisley23@gmail.com. You can also connect with him on Twitter @isley23.

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