Despite a job that has, over the years, involved everything from water ski jumping to backpacking and mountain biking, I’d never really injured myself – at least not badly – until I detached my ACL last spring.
Then, on the Ides of March, just two weeks after skiing through waist-deep powder during a back country cat-skiing trip in the San Juan Mountains, I fell while skiing a groomed run at a tiny ski resort in Idaho called Lookout Pass.
The name of the place alone should have given me warning.
I fell awkwardly and got a ride down the mountain on the back of a snowmobile. There, a patroller wrapped my leg in bubble wrap and cardboard like a Fed X package and sent me to a hospital. A doctor in Coeur d’Alene gave me a brace and a pair of crutches and told me to see an orthopedic surgeon back in Austin.
It turns out I’d detached my ACL, torn the meniscus and fractured the bone. The surgeon installed an ACL from a cadaver in early May, and I’ve been on the mend ever since.
Today, nearly six months into my ACL recovery, my doctor told me I might be able to ski again by February.
When I look down at my right quad, the one that’s injured, it still looks puny compared to the good one. “Like a hotdog,” someone joked the other day. But my physical therapist, who I’ve gotten to know well over the past six months of twice-a-week visits, promises it’ll return to normal. It just takes time – a year or more. Friends who have had the same surgery say they’ve come back stronger than before.
I hope they’re right.
I’m terrible at sitting still, and I’ve had to learn a lot through the recovery process. Four months on crutches tested my patience.
I wasn’t allowed to swim for three weeks after surgery, and even when I got back in the pool I still couldn’t kick for a few more months. I’ve only recently started biking again. I can’t run yet, and I missed water skiing all summer. My leg feels stiff, like someone stuffed a towel in the joint.
But the idea of skiing at the end of this season makes me giddy. Sure, it’ll be scary, latching on my ski boots and pointing my skis down the hill that very first time. I won’t be jumping into the moguls right away. I’ll have to remind myself I can’t do the things I used to do.
People ask me all the time during tthis ACL recovery if I’ll ski again, and that seems so strange to me.
Of course I will. That’s why I got the surgery – because I love skiing and backpacking and pushing my body to its limits. You can live a perfectly normal life without an ACL, but you need a fully functioning knee to do the things I love.
And I’m not ready to give those things up just yet.