Saturday, December 27, 2008

Love

My wife loves my knee.

She said as much this week.

Well, she loves the rest of me, too, but my operative knee in particular comes in handy for Christmas shopping since it nets me a handicapped parking pass.

Notable milestones:

- 110° of flexion, -3° extension, and straight leg lifts with no noticeable lag.
- Beyond weight-bearing and walking without a limp, I was actually able to balance on the operative leg on a mini trampoline at PT!
- Stitches are out.
- Immobilizer brace and cane are gone. Amen.

Only noticeable ongoing issues are my leg coloring up (normal, but rather gruesome looking) and mild cramping in my quads. I'm strictly on Ibuprofen, and should be weaning off that soon.

This year we added a Wii to the household. With the addition of the Wii Fit, I hope to work a lot on balance as I work on strength and flexibility throughout my rehab.

As I reflect on the events of my 39th year, I realize that I am approaching 40 with 3 people and 4 screws inside me.

My resolution this year is simple; Start daily push-ups and sit-ups January 1st, adding more each week. Starting at 10 of each daily, in addition to my PT regimen, and add 1 each day. By my anticipated return date in 20 weeks, I should be at around 150 daily. Wish me luck!

What's your fitness resolution this year?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hack Shaft II: The Clone (Pictures!)

Welcome to the sequel.

Unlike many movie series, my second ACL reconstruction experience so far has exceeded expectations. Here's a few comparisons:

- Initial injury. No swelling vs. puffing up like a balloon. My ACL had somehow managed to fold over itself immediately after rupture, effectively choking off any hemorrhagic blood flow and preventing swelling. What a miracle and a blessing, it saved me from Pre-Op PT to restore Range Of Motion.
- Locating the femoral nerve. Got it the right away vs. needing a few minutes (and hitting some raw nerves in the knee joint.)
- Lower sedation levels. The spinal block injection didn't bother me any more than the prick from insertion of the I.V. catheter; last time they knocked me out for about 15 minutes. Since I was far less sedated, I was able to experience the whole surgical procedure without memory holes. Yes, I'm one of those sadists who watched his own surgery...Again!
- No nausea from pain meds. Since Vicodin made me constantly nauseous, I raised the issue this time. We ended up with good ol' Tylenol 3 (Tylenol + Codeine) and it worked like a charm. Vicodin and its analogs are powerful Codeine synthetics, and my pain threshold just didn't justify the side effects. I remembered tolerating Tylenol 3 in the past, so we combined that product with 800 mg doses of Ibuprofen and I was much more satisfied with the results. As of this morning I'm strictly on Ibuprofen since I had no significant pain when I woke up.

Some things weren't as positive. The spinal block began wearing off as they were closing up; last time it didn't begin wearing off until I was in Stage II recovery hanging out with Mrs. Shaft.

It didn't cause problems with any surgery-related pain since the femoral block was still active, but my posture on the table made things uncomfortable at that point.

My operative leg was strapped to an immobilizer board, and the end of it was digging into my left butt cheek. My right leg was dangling unsupported over the edge of the table at perhaps mid-thigh position.

The resulting dead (rapidly becoming live) weight pulled my lower back into an increasingly uncomfortable arch and began tweaking my lower back something fierce! I tolerated it to a point, and when it seemed like closure was still gonna take a bit I brought it to the attention of my nurse anesthetist. Since lumbar support wasn't available, and raising my torso to a higher angle just exaggerated the discomfort, I ended up with a shot of some narcotic (under protest.)

I felt it was overkill, and when the first dose didn't settle my lower back I got another. That settled things down, but made me a bit more woozy in recovery than I cared for. Leave it to an anesthetist to conclude the solution to any pain is more drugs.

My advice for anyone reading this and preparing for surgery: If you're awake, get lumbar support in place if possible!! My conclusion is they probably couldn't place anything there since it was the injection site for my spinal block, and perhaps they needed to watch it or something.

Once closing up was done, my cryo-cuff was installed as well as the immobilizer brace I'd brought in for re-use. This time, however, they installed a compression wrap along the length of my leg, rather than just gauze to hold dressings in place. Unfortunately this resulted in a lot of insulation between cryo-cuff and my knee, so it was pretty much ineffective until dressings were changed the following day and a few layers removed.

This morning was the 48-hour mark and so I removed the dressings to shower up. Things look pretty much as expected, but my leg as a whole seemed much more swollen than last time. I assume removing the compression wrap probably induced that, as well as a lack of proper cooling for the knee the day before.

The only thing out of the ordinary was a nickel-sized blister at the end of some of the steri-strips on my shin. I contacted a nurse at the clinic, and the conclusion is it was most likely the result of unusual rubbing at that spot. I trimmed back the steri-strips to better expose the blister, then padded the site with some larger gauze to protect it until it either drains or the fluid is re-absorbed. Fluid in it was clear, so I'm not too concerned unless it bursts and creates an opening for infection. Just something to watch over the next few days.

As for getting around, I'm on a cane at home already and crutches in public (for speed), so am able to bear weight well. Couldn't do a straight leg raise at PT yesterday, so I'm working on quad sets and assisted raises using my non-operative leg along with passive extension while icing and such. My numbers are +10° extension (should ultimately be around -10°) to about +75° flexion.

I got a looong way to go, baby!

For the gruesome of yousome, here's before and after pics of the ACL:


The tip of the probe is in front of the Posterior Cruciate Ligament, the ACL's partner. "Cruciate" refers to the crossing of the two ligaments working in concert to hold the shin in proper position relative to the thigh. The lower end of the ACL took some bone with it when it ruptured, and somehow folded over itself choking off blood flow that would have otherwise caused massive post-injury swelling.


Welcome the PCL (top-left to bottom-right) and it's new ACL partner (bottom-left to top-right.) May they perform their duet perfectly in concert until the day I die.

In closing this post, I want to take a moment to thank two anonymous people for their decision to be organ donors. Since my replacement ACL's are both allografts, (harvested from cadavers) I give my most heartfelt thanks to them both for checking that box on their state ID or driver's license forms. I hope you both enjoy the ride as I cruise into my 40's next month and continue my journey to black belt and beyond.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

For Daze

Saturday I went to cheer on 5 people from my school testing for black belt. All 5 were awarded thier black belts, and I'm very proud of their efforts!

I decided to hang out and catch the fights on Monday night. I was pleasantly surprised to see all 5 of our new black belts show up for their ritual beating (except one, who doesn't spar due to low back complications.)

Each fresh black belt faced off against everyone else present, from under-belts to 2nd degree's, finishing with our head instructor. That was a blast to watch!

I plan to make Monday nights a regular thing. It's karate-related activity that will keep my spirits elevated, I can keep connected with that particular group of folks regularly, and very importantly, I can study my opponents and plan strategy!

Now this all sounds somehow underhanded or sinister, but I'm a visual learner and will absorb anything I can while laid up and rehabilitating my knee. One guy in particular, John, has always been a wonderful partner and a particular challenge to me. He's an inside fighter, and I prefer to keep guys like that at a distance with kicks, which are my stronger weapon.

I hate when he gets inside my kicking range!!!

However, even in the short down time I've had I can see massive improvements in John's technique. He's putting more kicks out there, and is developing a wicked-sharp reflex for getting his head out of the way of punches. I'll have to keep an eye on him for certain, and really look forward to getting back in the ring with him in June.

Four more days; Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday.

To be honest, I'm ready for this. My left knee has gotten progressively weirder and unreliable, with more "tricks" than I care for. I want my predictability back.

Sing it with me, folks:

All I want for Christmas is my A-C-L,
My A-C-L, just my A-C-L
Gee, if I could only have my A-C-L,
Then I could wish you Merry Kicks-mas!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Nesting Instinct

Being a father, I've seen this sort of thing before but never experienced it quite as much as I have lately.

The Nesting Instinct.

It's a phenomenon which occurs among pregnant women nearing birth. They get this burst of energy and seem driven to 'get the nest ready' for the new arrival.

In my case, I've been tackling not only the necessary details for surgery (PT, pre-op physical, follow-up appointments, FSA funds) but also a number of other projects around the house. I had a trim job on the stairs that I've buttoned up before Winter arrived. Gotta re-organize the garage and swap the lawnmower for the snowblower so it's ready for Mrs. G when that first big storm arrives. Buying some comfy, large pillows for leg padding. Gift-wrapping my sparring gear and uniforms.

And very importantly, getting my studio cleaned up and organized so I can perhaps do some music writing while I'm laid up!

I have no other way to describe it other than a nesting instinct. I'm making sure all I'll need those first few weeks following surgery will be at-hand without any fuss.

On a side note, please welcome Wei who is in late stages of ACL reconstruction PT as of this writing. She's a student of Tae Kwon Do, and a worthy read. Plus, I discovered the cool new gadget for blog links you can now see!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Time, and time again.

The date and time are set, the countdown reset.

December 15th, 8:30 am.

Saw Dr. K on Friday, he confirmed it is a complete ACL tear, and is just as baffled as I am as to the lack of swelling. He mentioned that sometimes it's the result of chronic ACL wear, but he saw no indication of that. Guess I'll just count my blessings I didn't have to go through the whole swelling-reduction program prior to surgery!

No indication of Meniscus damage, and signs of an MCL sprain which will resolve itself without surgical intervention.

As I head for my repeat, it's a reminder of all the things I had to do last time. Pre-op physical. PT appointments. Follow-up appointments. Work scheduling. Short-term disability. Allograft decision.

On.

And On.

And yes, I will be watching surgery again. That was cool the first time, gotta catch the sequel!

I will pack and gift wrap my uniforms and equipment this weekend. It was a ritual I used before, and one worth repeating. It symbolizes the pain of putting away my Karate for a while, with the promise of rebirth, restoration, and renewal in 27 weeks.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Really Weird.

I want to thank everyone who commented for your support. It may be a few words on a blog, but I'm glad to know I'm not taking the trip (again) alone!

Friday night's screening was really cool. I'm sure the 5 people from my school will fly on to the final exam with no problems! Lots of people were asking about me, whether what they'd heard was true.

I hadn't the assistant instructor from that night since the injury, and he took time to step off the mat and check in with me. Mr. Fab was, ironically, the only one present for both ACL ruptures.

Most impressive, however, was our 5th degree in charge of Black Belt screenings. Mr. War took a moment--right in the middle of screening--to give me his personal condolences. He himself has had both ACL's re-constructed, and stated "There is more after all this..."

So on to the "Really Weird" bit.

This time, my ACL tear emitted a 'pop' as one would expect. However, there was no swelling whatsoever! Now, I've no idea how that's even possible, unless some unusual situation--perhaps a bit of bone on the end--managed to immediately close off the blood vessels that typically run through the ACL. Normally these suckers swell like a balloon almost immediately from the hemmorhage, but not this time.

Weird, huh?

While Dr. W stated the MRI did confirm a torn ACL, I forgot to ask if it was partial or complete tear in his opinion. Hopefully Friday's visit with Dr. K will shed light on that particular mystery.

So tell me: Anyone reading this experience a partial tear only, or some level of injury where no swelling occured???

Friday, November 14, 2008

Details

For the creatively challenged trying to read last Tuesday's post, here's what happened on Election Night:

1. Obama won the Presidency.
2. Hack Shaft lost another ACL.

Oy. Well, it's been shocking to so many in my extended Karate community to hear the news, and everyone is surprised at how well I'm taking it.

Should I take it some other way?

Wednesday night I did some power-grieving with a few beers and a surprisingly large quantity of Jack Daniels. Understand, folks, I'm not a heavy drinker and don't recommend my blatantly juvenile, childish, alcohol-fueled reaction--but that night the reality of being out until June again hit me hard.

Why June? Primarily financial reasons. Like last time, I plan to use pre-tax money from an FSA at work to pay for surgery expenses, and the new funds aren't available until January 1st. The medical services have to occur in the same year as the FSA funds.

Then again, I may forgo the tax benefit if I can get surgery scheduled in early December. Guess I'll know more Friday after my visit with Dr. K.

Primary considerations are scheduling--such as carpools, time off from work, holiday parties--but maybe, just maybe, I can trim a month off the process...

Well, 'nuff for tonight. I'm heading out to support 5 friends from my school at their final Black Belt screening session.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Reset.

Folks, I am sorry to report that I'll be re-setting the clock at the top of my blog shortly.

Saturday I got the call from my doc, the MRI confirms I've torn the ACL in my left knee now as the result of a bad landing from a tornado kick on Election night.



At this point, looking at the second week of January for surgery for a variety of reasons, some financial, some just plain timing.

I mentioned to the staff at the clinic that I really didn't intend to make this an annual visit, and I'm not looking forward to the look on Dr. K's face next week.

On the plus side, it's almost time to plan for flexible spending accounts again, so I can set aside pre-tax money again for the next round. I also have all the specialty stuff, like an exercise bike and the all-important cryo-cuff.

And so another round begins.




Plbbbbbbtttttttt!!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Two Words.

Tuesday night.

Tornado kick.

Planted foot.

Left Knee.

Lachmann test.

Suspected rupture.

(Not again?!?!?)

Hurts bad.

No swelling...

Noon MRI.

Results Saturday.

Feeling hopeful!

Positive thoughts...

Pretty please?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fighting Fatigue

Good piece of advice: Don't Fight Fatigued!!!

October's tournament was a tough one for me this year. 13 guys in my division doing open hand form, and just as many fighting, too. On top of it all, my band had its CD release party the night before, and I ended up getting about 3 hours sleep. Not exactly a good set-up for competing in the top-ranked national tournament of the year!

I achieved Finalist status in open hand form, which means I was in the top 8, and I'm satisfied with that. At this belt level my school's open hand form is not as complex or difficult as some I've seen. The winner was from a Tang Soo Do school, and had an incredible form; very powerful and clean presentation, and most deserving of a top placing.

Going into fighting, I pretty much knew I'd be out after the first round. New rules extended fighting to 2 minutes or first to 7 points. While I lost 4-7 to the fighter who ended up in 2nd place, I did have one bright moment.

Forgetting that I fight best reactively, the first two clashes went to my opponent as I tried to take off from the line. 3rd clash I began moving around and finally popped in some points. We went back and forth trading punches, and while I landed a solid kick to his chest right in front of the center judge, neither corner judge saw it well enough to award me that particular point.

The last blow I delivered came as a complete surprise, and ended up being the most revealing and valuable lesson of the tournament.

I have this habit of turning away from my opponent. Bad idea, I know, but in this particular case I turned while pulling my head back out of range of his fist. 1/3rd of the way through turning, I thought to deliver a back fist with my left hand, which missed my opponent's head. However, my right hand, seemingly of its own accord, delivered a beautiful follow-through that delivered a solid blow to his chin! That moment is awfully fun to watch on video...

What exactly did that moment reveal??? Simple. I need to return to fighting conventional stance vs. southpaw.

See, my right (operative) leg is really good at delivering repeated, jabbing side kicks. However, when it comes to follow-up with my hands, my left fist is really slow. Sure, my right hand in front is fine for back fist work, but there's just not much else to back it up!

I began fighting southpaw when I returned, mostly because I wanted to guard my operative leg from too much sideways motion. Conventional stance put a lot of pressure on the knee, either taking off forward, or if I was retreating. Since that time, however, my knee has toughened up significantly, so it's now time to reconsider my stance to take advantage of my strong side.

I'm right-handed, and my right leg is the stronger one these days. My first sparring class back I forced myself back to a conventional stance, and it was weird...but very effective! At first it felt like I was exposed, but now I realize the true feeling: freedom. Suddenly I felt like my hands truly did have something to contribute to the party, and it's really liberating.

Two Monday's ago we did something unusual that forced fighters to keep constantly on the move; we fought 2-on-1. This forced me as a defender to constantly try to position myself so one opponent was between me and the other opponent, effectively blocking the second attacker.

It was nuts. It was insane. It was a blur of motion. It was exhausting.

It was...A BLAST!!!

Next opportunity for tournament fighting in 2 weeks. Hope to have better results to report afterwards.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Where is the love?

Inter-school sparring went so well, we're doing it once more this coming Monday night. We've got 3 other schools sending students over to mix things up in preparation for next weekend's big tournament, and it should be a blast.

Lately I've been challenged to find that certain joy in doing battle during sparring that keeps me focused. Last night it returned by the bucketful, and I came home with such a buzz, it was really surprising!

I stopped concentrating so hard on myself and took time to work with a new student, and celebrate developing skills in other fighters. A few suggestions here and there, couple of good knocks to the head, and I was in Heaven.

Now...to keep that going and find it again a week from Saturday...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Updates

Hi, there, faithful reader! It's been nearly a month since my last post, time for some quick updates.

I attended my first tournament since my injury in December 2007 and had a blast!

In open hand form I took first in my division by .01 point. Just goes to show that victory can be by the slimmest margins sometimes!

I was also very satisfied with my sparring performance, taking second in my division. We had some great competition, and I have some very useful video provided by one of the parents to study what worked and what didn't work. I can't stress enough how useful it is to study video of yourself, be it during class, rank testing, or tournament. No matter the outcome, you're always way ahead of the game with video documentation!

That being said, G-Shaft accompanied me to an inter-school event this evening and ran the camcorder.

4 schools gathered for a mass sparring class at what is likely the smallest school in the system. Fantastic turnout, we had fighters from yellow/green through multiple black belt degrees, 13 to 40-somethings, about 30 fighters in total.

The purpose was to mix things up between schools, so that each person had an opportunity to work with unknown fighters. This helps to mentally prepare oneself for tournaments where you often meet fighters you've never been in the ring with, and it's an invaluable experience. I highly recommend it!

I came home having met some GREAT fighters, really nice people, and walked away with a nice Charlie Horse in my right thigh. Oh, well, any class you can walk away from...right?

G'night folks, and keep those hands up!!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Taking a break from getting high

In Thursday's core class we worked some drills to extend kicking height.

Round kicks went great, I'm easily at head height getting much higher than I thought possible at this relatively early stage in my journey to Black Belt.

Hook kicks went well, but...the last one or two had me extending a bit far and I suffered a minor hamstring pull in my left leg.

As my supporting leg at the time, it was pretty much under maximum tension as I stretched to reach the target; leaning slightly back, I felt it give right where the muscle meets my pelvis.

That's the closest thing I've ever felt to a broken butt. The pain was sharp and very localized, right near the bony bit of pelvis one sits on.

After talking with my instructor, I decided to take a week off to rest the leg, not wanting to chance more injury sparring tonight.

The pain has subsided, but I can still feel some tension with mild stretching. I should be fine, just have to watch that leg--and avoid high hook kicks for a month or two!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Monday's lesson: being seen

Sparring class on Monday was quite a blast this week.

An early lesson we had involved studying your opponent: If they make a move twice, expect them to keep doing it.

Warming up with some free sparring, I faked a hook kick to one side drawing my opponent's guard, then followed through with the same leg delivering a round kick to the opposite side of my opponent's head. He congratulated me with, "Wow, nice fake with that hook!"

Worked so well, I did it again with the same result. It was kind of funny, but just drives home the importance of not being predictable in the ring!

I also managed to go about 6-7 minutes with one of our top fighters before losing 5-4. Wow. My developing defenses and counter-attacks actually keep me from being a 30-second punching bag!

He said I deserved the win, actually, since one particularly well-landed kick was not seen by enough judges to award points with a majority decision.

Lesson learned. In point sparring, majority rules for judging an attack; therefore, try to position yourself where the center judge can see you score the most!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Opportunity

My Karate school is remodeling which presented me with a golden opportunity:

Purchase several 40" X 40" squares of interlocking floor mat squares for $5 each!



Since I have plans to add a major addition to the house, which includes a workout area for Karate, I snagged 25 tiles--enough to make a 16 X 16 sparring area. These premium mats usually go for $20-22 each, so it's an easy choice to make.

As for Karate, things are going fantastic. I'm still enjoying Monday night sparring, and look forward to my first tournament on September 14th. It'll be my first time sparring in a tournament, and first tournament since last November!

Also, my band will be performing an acoustic show in October that'll broadcast live over the Internet. I'll be sure to post a link.

Meanwhile the knee is holding up just great, and I pretty much give it no thought these days.

Be good. Keep smiling at those opponents!!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Anyone have time for sale???

If I could save time in a bottle...

Just a short note to let you all know that things are proceeding wonderfully.

It's been a fantastically busy summer, lots of great things happening at the moment:

- My band's CD recording is wrapping up, hopefully this week
- Spent a week camping hard-core, canoeing on the Canadian border
- Most significantly: Monday I accepted a new job at my company with a 20% salary increase!
- Loving the hell out of sparring, learning a lot and having a blast working out with so many great fighters.

Tournament season starts in September, so our classes will begin to intensify very soon in anticipation of the first event. I look forward to trying out my sparring skills against unknown opponents after hanging out with 13 or so of the same fighters all Spring and Summer.

Be good, and keep smiling at your opponents!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Well healed

Today's core class was quite a bit of fun. We worked on slow kick drills for side kicks, worked with body shields on a variety of side kicks, and finally grabbed hand pads and tried out 360 round kicks.

One of the drills was on a step-through side kick. From a fighting stance, the rear leg is brought up and cocked with a 90-degree bend (hip rotation is a BIG part of this one) while the front leg rotates 180 degrees to support you, then the kick is delivered like a typical side kick. Besides hip rotation, that supporting leg and foot MUST get full rotation to be effective.

My instructor related that this particular kick tore the ACL of the school's owner long ago when he failed to rotate his supporting leg! As we worked on them, he declared that if I could deliver step-through side kicks, I must be well-healed.

Later we added a combo of step-through side kick with a turning back kick. The result is that you almost pivot the kicking leg as it strikes your opponent, turning and swapping legs to deliver the second kick. An interesting and very challenging combo, but not practical in sparring except as a final shot since it eats up a lot of energy.

For fun we turned to 360 round kicks. Take a typical tornado kick, tilt your axis of rotation back maybe 30 degrees from vertical and add more hip rotation--presto, a 360 round kick. Being somewhat adept at tornado kicks, this came to me quickly after just a few tries. Man, did those pads make some nice, thunderous pops, quite fun to do!

My sister came to town for a Triathlon this Saturday that the family team is participating in. I invited her to watch sparring class back on Monday, and unknown to me she was shooting short videos with her digital still camera. We had fun later that night analyzing the clashes frame-by-frame. I was really happy to see Danny Longlegs get into using his hands much more, and I managed to best him 1-2-3 in our last clash by sneaking quick jabbing side kicks under his guard.

Tonight made me feel quite well healed, though not necessarily fully recovered. I'd put myself at, oh, 90% since I'm still a bit stiff in the mornings!

Here's a question for ACL recoverees: How did or how will you gauge your recovery?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Testing my study habits: Duck!

My posts lately have been about sparring and how much I'm really getting it now. Spending almost 7 months laid up, one has a lot of time to study things. In sparring, I believe that knowing your opponent's style and tendencies is of the utmost importance for you to have a chance of surviving a match, let alone victory.

We have a lot of 1st and 2nd degree black belts in my sparring class that are 18 or younger. The primary thing this gives them is SPEED, which at my (ahem) more advanced age is something still in development. My best defense until I gain speed is to anticipate what might be coming at me, and work on counter-attacks accordingly.

Two Mondays ago I was up against a zippy 13-year old 1st degree. I could hold him off or drive him out of the ring with repeated side kicks, but the very moment I turned away or otherwise took my eyes off of him, he'd nail me with a flying sort of blitz punch. It's a popular attack among the young black belts.

Guess what: I noticed.

In my head I reflected on it, and played out scenarios on how to deflect or avoid that particular attack. Watched a lot of WCL, checked out YouTube videos, and noted how advanced point fighters dealt with the attack.

Last Monday I was in the ring again with the same kid, but a different outcome. Anticipating the blitz, I ducked my head back out of range while delivering the last side kick in a combo attack. The result was an introduction of foot to chest--2 points!

Tuesday's core class was also a revelation. We worked on a lot of skip kicks, a long-range attack. That night I discovered my range is a lot longer than I thought. One more thing to note when gauging distance to my opponent.

Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Is it breaking with tradition?

In my down time, I enjoyed studying other interesting martial arts on You Tube, such as I Liq Chuan. ILC incorporates a lot of spiral movements and embraces the idea of coiled energy. Once in a while I'll find myself unconsciously trying out techniques in sparring I've seen but never practiced.

An example from my first sparring session after returning: Rather than meeting my opponent's jab with a hard block, once or twice my leading hand would move in a spiral motion like scooping ice cream. At the same time, I pivoted on my rear leg to angle back and outside of the attack.

The result was my opponent's hand would continue on its trajectory, but not in a straight line. The scooping, spiral motion caused my opponent's hand to angle down and cross their other hand, looking rather like someone tried to braid their arms together. It was weird, but effective.

So I suppose it leads naturally to the question of tradition. If I discover a move from a martial art other than the one I study, and it's not illegal to use, is it fair (and respectful) to incorporate it into sparring?

I think so. Until I develop more speed, I think it's OK to drop a few surprises now and then.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sparring #2: Hey, watch it!!!

Monday night sparring was quite sweet. Only 6 of us in class, so we all had ample opportunity to go a few minutes with each other.

The new knee isn't quite up to full strength when it comes to sideways forces, such as quick take-offs or retreating from an opponent (never in a straight line, right?) As a result, I've found it more comfortable to spar southpaw, with my right (operative) leg and hand forward. After almost 7 months of consideration, I've also adopted a fresh attitude about sparring.

Don't jump out of the gate like some hyperactive young buck; study your opponent, figure out their 'style' of attacks, then anticipate the attacks and go for the targets they leave. Above all, SMILE--it really seems to put an opponent off balance, especially if you compliment them when scoring a hit!

It seems so simple, but I have found it amazingly effective to enter the class with the right attitude. I'm not gonna best the energetic 13-18 year old black belts, but I can at least cover my butt. Sometimes I actually sneak in a good, clean shot, and can stretch out a matchup rather than simply be a punching bag for a 30-second, 5-0 bout.

There were a few dicey moments, however.

Fireball G, a non-blackbelt 13-year old with a killer blitz punch combo, didn't anticipate that I'd follow up a side kick with a second one. He lept for a blitz attempt, and caught my right foot squarely in the ribs as though he'd just run into a fence. I felt horrible, but found out later I'd simply got him squarely in the spot tenderized earlier that evening from sparring with another 13-year old.

Danny Longlegs, a fellow ACL tear recoveree and second degree blackbelt in TKD and Hapkido working through the curriculum at my school, had a tendency to go for spinning kicks without any punches or other combos to follow up. Telegraphing the spins, I was often able to parry his effort by stepping in for a jam, or a side kick to the waist to unbalance him when he was halfway around.

It was using my operative leg as a shield that gave me pause to think.

Danny executed a turning side kick that went off early. Rather than striking my torso, the early side-kick nailed my knee while I had it up for shielding, jolting it uncomfortably sideways. It's fine, no damage done, but his kick did smack me right where the lower screw is installed in the shin. Ouch!

A good bit of icing and things are just fine as far as I can tell, and now I know what NOT to shield against with that leg.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Batting .333

First sparring class in November, 2007: Rolled my foot, re-spraining an ankle.
Second sparring class in December, 2007: Tore my ACL trying to recover from a fall.
Third sparring class in June, 2008: No injuries.

Injury-free sparring class stats: a solid .333. Not bad, eh?

After last Friday's green light from Dr. K, I made a point to feel my way through full contact pad hits at Saturday's morning class. Everything was fantastic, no soreness in the knee, so I decided to attend sparring class Monday night.

I had a blast!

I made my instructor a bit nervous, kicking away at the punching bag while he finished teaching the beginner belt class, but assured him that my goal was to survive injury-free and I'd go easy. We warmed up with hopping drills, working on slide kicks and blitz punches for point sparring. So far, so good, and the operative knee was holding up just fine.

As we drilled on specific techniques with partners, I concluded that while it's the stronger one, my right leg didn't care to be in back. Throughout the evening I switched up stances, and it felt more comfortable with my right leg in front. If it stays that way, I may have an advantage in future matches, since my back would be towards most people's kicking leg--not a legitimate target in point sparring. We'll see.

It wasn't really until Tuesday's class that I felt any soreness at all, though I've been faithfully spending time with the cryo-cuff after classes. Things were just dandy yesterday and today, so I think I'm at a good pace right now.

The next challenge: Summer goals! Here's what I need to achieve between now and August 31st:

- Attend at least 12 regular classes
- 1000 push-ups
- 1500 slow kicks
- Minimum 150 times going through form
- 45 minutes of aerobic activity per week

Keep in mind that any of this activity done in class does NOT count. Should be easy, and the master of our school system will be presenting patches at the end of the summer for those who make their goals.

A little 5-7-5 of thanks to all you readers:

"Pop" went the weasel
My fighting spirit, broken
Your spirit heals me

Friday, June 6, 2008

Surgeon's Report: 3 Lovely Words

I had my final visit with Dr. K this morning.

His exact words:

WELCOME TO GRADUATION!

No more restrictions--even if I played football, he'd have OK'ed me for full contact.

The sky doesn't get any bluer, nor the light any greener than that. AMEN.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Just for fun!

Here's a Karate demo video of my school I created from the local main street art festival a few weeks ago.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Everybody hurts sometimes

So. My first report since returning to karate.

I gotta say, things are going fantastic!

I am resigned to non-contact exercise until I speak with Dr. K Friday morning, but that doesn't mean I can't have fun!

My first class last Friday with new students and lower belts went well. We worked on punches and elbow strikes a ton, with no leg movement save for shifting weight and proper hip rotation to put force into any given strike.

Saturday morning was an all-belt class, and in deference to my non-contact status, we worked with X-Ray paper. It makes effective targets, is durable, and offers a great snapping sound when you smack it! That class incorporated not just round kicks and hook kicks, but combinations and spin kicks as well. I proceeded cautiously, and by the end of class my knee gave no signs of trouble whatsoever delivering moderate effort kicks. It handled being the support leg on spin kicks just fine.

Monday I opted again for a lower belt class in lieu of sparring, which occurs immediately after class. Black Belt Lindsay brought birthday treats of killer cake and homemade ice cream, and we worked our stances.

Tonight's class was form work, and we ironed the wrinkles out of the middle section of the form where there's some odd front-back-front stance moves that challenge your thinking a bit! Class finished with body pad kicks, and I took that time to do my favorite slow-count kick drills. I'm impressed that most of my flexibility remained after slacking off of stretches the past 6 months.

So there's the first report since returning, folks.

Everything is far better than expected, and I'm much more relaxed since getting back into the swing of things. As my PT pointed out, I have some good experiences to use as feedback Friday morning when I meet with Dr. K.

And the knee? Haven't given it a second thought except to remember the all-important post-workout ice down. Truth be told, my knee is the one part of my body that isn't sore, and that's a good thing.

To quote R.E.M., "Everybody hurts, sometimes..."

Friday, May 30, 2008

To Be Continued...

Ever watch a great show, only to be smacked by a To Be Continued... credit at the end?

Well, here's another one.

I thought my appointment was at 9, turns out it was at 8:30! And of course, the surgeon was leaving early today, so no possibility to wait for an opening later on. Now I'm scheduled to see him next Friday at 10:30...


AAAUGH!


Well, here's my deal. I'm already OK to work on my own with moderate tempo Karate per my PT. I will return to the mat tonight, with a self-imposed limitation of moderate tempo, non-contact kicking until I see Dr. K next Friday.

At this point I've just got to be out there with my peers, and I find no risk in doing what I'm already approved to do.



I'll just be doing it in uniform.

***UPDATE***
I spoke with my PT this afternoon, and she agrees with my limitations until I see Dr. K. That is, moderate tempo, non-contact activity on the operative leg. It's the same training I've been doing, just in a different venue and with friends. Yay!!!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The final countdown.

Wow, less than 24 hours to go. I can't believe how this is impacting my life!

Speaking to my school's manager, tomorrow night will be plenty quiet for my test drive.
Unfortunately he's fighting in an out-of-town tournament and won't be there for my first class back, but he wished me lots of luck.

In an eerie coincidence, my knee hasn't bothered me one bit this week. Usually first thing in the morning there's some soreness at the top of my shin, but this week there's been nothing.

Nothing.

I spent 6 hours Sunday squatting and kneeling while replacing a strut on Mrs. Shaft's car.

Nothing.

I spent 7 hours Monday up and down ladders, renovating the band's rehearsal studio.

Still nothing.

It's about time.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Final week, and it's killing me!

One more week.

I'm dying here, folks, I really am. This week is going to feel as long as the prior 5 or so months unless I keep myself busy!

I'll admit, I have totally slacked off lately. However, I think I have the reason pinned down.

As I mentioned in my last post, I used to train for Triathlons, but the solitary nature of the training just wasn't my bag anymore.



Helloooo???



I'm training in solitude again!!! Geez, no wonder I'm going ape-shit.

I'm grateful for the long weekend and shortened work week. I'm finally getting a handle on some new responsibilities at work, and not stressing out nearly as much.

I plan to attend the evening class Friday, normally for beginning adults. At this time of year, however, it's sparsely attended if at all. I thought it'd be good to go for a gentle test drive during a quieter class. One of the younger students has been keeping tabs on me and is pledged to be at that class when I return.

I ran into one of our black belts at the store late Monday night (adult sparring night), and he shared how 'intense' sparring has gotten. They're even trying tag-team matches! Depending on my surgeon's opinion, I think I'll take the same tack that Bobspar did, and work sparring strictly on an upper-body basis until I've worked the knee a while in core classes.

My ultimate goal? To finish a sparring class injury-free. See, I've only ever made it to two classes; The first one, I rolled my ankle, aggravating an existing sprain that wasn't properly braced. The second one, I popped my ACL.

Besides running up to 4 miles, jumping rope, and doing some nutso hopping exercises, I have been doing moderate karate, primarily forms and my favorite slow-count kicks. There's a summer goals program that I look forward to, since it involves committing to and documenting additional aerobic exercise outside of class, push-ups and sit-ups. This much I can handle in solitude, given regular core classes to work out 'socially.'

I'm not going to go crazy when I'm back to karate, really I'm not.

But I am willing to learn how...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Three weeks: A Genesis Story

In the beginning, there was Tri.
The Tri was with me
I was in the Tri
It was, you know, good.

It began with one Sister.
Then two.
Then three and four joined in, and numbers swelled to 9 of us doing Triathlons.
Crazy, good-natured, trash-talking, family relationship-building fun. That's 6 siblings, a brother-in-law, mid 70's mother, and a blind friend who is still inspiring to watch in competition.

While I no longer compete, training did establish comfort and familiarity with the core Triathlon elements of swimming, biking, and running.

While biking, I would watch my odometer and note mileposts to use for gaging distances when I was running. This morning I reached one of those well-used mileposts, the one marking a turn-around point 1.5 miles from my house.

I made 3 miles today...And it was good.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Four weeks to go:Time for some numbers.

I had it in my head that a 6 month rehab program = 26 weeks. From my surgery on January 2nd, this works out to July 2nd.

However...the rehab program is actually 24 weeks, or June 18th!

I'm going with my PT's opinion and my gut at this time (and it's still pretty sizable), that my visit with Dr. K on the 30th will result in my returning to Karate. Updated my countdown to reflect this.

I am exhausted this week. I'm trying to wrap up mixing my band's CD so we can publish it this month (www.oceansmusic.net), and only get time late at night at the rehearsal studio. Combine that with the early morning regimen to prepare for returning to Karate at the end of the month, and I'm burning the candle at both ends!

To fit everything in, I created two alternating day schedules, with a lighter "rest" day on Sunday.

M-W-F: Running and Karate

- Run 20 minutes, increasing to 30 by month end.
- 15 minutes of figure-8 running, starting long and wide, shrinking to sharp turns by month end
- 5 minutes of backwards running uphill, increasing as I'm able
- 15-20 minutes of slow tempo Karate form, stance marches, slow-count kicks, increasing to moderate tempo by month end

T-Th-Sa: Jump, Hop, Strength and Balance

- 5 minutes of jump rope, working up to 10 minutes by month end (great for sparring footwork endurance)
- 20 minutes of hop exercises: box, diagonal, straight line, zig-zag line, working up to one-leg by month end
- Strength exercises working up to 10 lbs. of ankle weight, various squats, hamstring curls, planks, core, pushups and situps
- Closed eye balance and stances with G-Shaft gently pushing or pulling to challenge proprioception

Sunday: Light 20 minute jog with extensive stretching

It's aggressive, but I truly want to stage a decent comeback. So far I've got no unusual pain or aches from all this stuff. I also have it written out so I don't have to think so hard in the morning!

Time to shop for cross-trainers...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Two words: Five weeks?

PT Visit on Friday went very well. At this time I am in the final phase of my program, and my homework for the next five weeks is:

- Increase running to 3-4 days per week, adding more distance by the 4th week
- Jumping rope with a target of 4 days per week, 5-10 minute sessions (good for sparring endurance)
- Continue strengthening exercises 3 times per week with emphasis on the hamstrings
- One leg bridges (Lie on my back, bend knees about 50-60 degrees and lift the hips up with one leg raised)
- Reverse Planks (Like bridges, except propped up on my elbows)
- Box jumps by the 4th week
- Moderate effort karate (lots of deep stance transitions and slow kicks)

My PT is betting that when I see Dr. K at the end of May, he might allow me an early return if I bust my butt a little bit between now and then! My goal is to set up a calendar with daily routines (including a rest day) so I don't have to think too hard at that time of day.

I can get up early in the morning just fine, it's always deciding what to do that breaks my routine!!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

If I could save time in a bottle...

Hey, everyone. Send a special welcome to Chad.

While I'd never wish the pain and suffering of ACL injury, reconstruction, and recovery on anyone, I do sincerely welcome him to this growing circle of Martial Artists blogging about their experiences. While Chad found my blog first, I still have to tip my hat to BobSpar for being the blogger I first found!

My usual posting time at work has been consumed with, well, lots of actual work lately! I never did post the milestone at PT back on April 9th: I am cleared for exercise with no restrictions.

Does this mean I'm back at Karate? Not at all. But it does mean I can go beyond linear motion and really dig in to my final phase of rehab.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am now slow-count kicking on both legs, and it feels great! It's amazing how what once was a dreaded class drill in strength, balance, and muscle memory is now something I embrace with gusto. I feel a lot of pride in being able to stick a leg out there and hold it rock steady again.

I've pushed my running to a strong 2 miles, typically 7-10 minute bursts with a minute or two of walking to give the knee a break. I mix up the walking segment with backwards walking, and do some drills running in all sorts of ways.

Working myself around in a circle:
- Running forward for a 10-count (1-2-3-4, 2-2-3-4, etc.)
- Grapevine sideways, left (good) leg leading for a 10-count
- Running backwards for a 10-count
- Grapevine sideways, right (operative) knee leading for a 10-count
- Back to regular running

If you're a regular runner, give this sequence a shot to break up your routine. Just one of these gave me the muscle burn of an extra 1/4 mile sprint!

I tried skipping rope for about 2 minutes before I had to give up. The one I bought is plastic, which is rather stiff in the cold morning air. Not only does it tend to trip me up just as I'm getting into a rhythm, it also whistles really loud, and I don't wanna wake the neighbors!

I plan to buy a spool of cotton clothesline that's heavy enough to be effective. My hope is to work up to about 5 minute jumping sessions, mixing up alternating feet with one-foot hops. I really want to be light on my feet when I return to sparring, and this is the best exercise I can think up.

Coming soon: visits to the local park for some more interesting drills such as running figure-8's, walk/run uphill backwards (there's a variety of slopes available at the park), and the occasional break for forms / kata.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Happy Half-Way Day!

And so Wednesday, April the 2nd arrives, and along with it the end of week 13. The official halfway point of my 26-week rehab program.

Assuming they're on similar programs, I want to send a belated "Happy Half-Way Day" to Black Belt Mama and Michelle. Jed is on his third (owie!) reconstruction, and given his aggressive-sounding program, I've no idea where he is in his current rehab!

To celebrate, I'm bringing treats tomorrow to G-Shaft's sparring class. It's well attended (typically 17 or more kids), and I've received so many positive comments from the parents and some of the kids that I just had to say 'thanks' in one of my special ways--my infamous "bribe" cookies. Two of these have bought me into many events at no charge in the past...

Here's a few photos I took on my running path a few days after snow melt last week.

Whose woods these are, I think I know,
His house is in the village, though.



He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow



While beautiful, this is also a somewhat treacherous time of year. I had to keep switching sides of the trail to find good traction. See, the snow melted the day before, but re-froze overnight with a hard, slick glaze on top!

Here's a tribute to the boys of summer, may they bring it soon:



This is a baseball field at my turnaround point, lying in wait for the grass and baseball players to return. It's very quiet and peaceful at this time of morning!

This one I call Dawn of Health:




That's the shell of the new L.A. Fitness going up, just steps from the running trail. If membership is as reasonable as I've heard, and they have a pool, I'm all over it!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

...But my morning run Tuesday was delightful!

I awoke to this sight:



32 degrees and heavy, sticky, new fallen Spring snow was on everything.

I really debated going for a run in that muck, but as it turned out the snow was only an inch deep. I geared up and headed out to my usual running path.

The path was perfectly undisturbed. Not even as much as a rabbit had left its mark, leaving me first to plod through the snow.

With trees arching overhead forming a sort of roof, it was a very Robert Frost moment.

Wednesday I had a brief visit with my PT to review exercises and status. You want numbers? My final ROM is 138 degrees flexion, probably -10 extension. This is identical to my good knee, and further flexion limited by the bulk of my thighs. All is well, except she wants me to concentrate more effort on hamstring development, which she states is quite important.

I see Molly again in 3 weeks when I pass into the final phase of rehab--weeks 13 through 26--and begin hopping, tons more balancing, figure-8, square hops, and finally running with cutting motions.

12 more days and I'm halfway home. New countdown clock to celebrate!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

An analogue

There's an LA Fitness along my running route being built, opening this summer just a measly 4 blocks from my house. It's so close I can see it walking a half block North, then looking West.

I thought it'd make a nice analogue to my recovery. They broke ground about the time I was injured, and will be open for business right about the time I return to Karate. I'll post occasional pictures.

For those who celebrate the season, hope you had a nice Palm Sunday!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hitting the ground running!

Today I celebrate day 2 of my return to the PT bandwagon.

It was simple, yet profound; my first early-morning run in perhaps 6 months. Granted, it was walking 4 minutes, run one, for 20 minutes total, but what a gorgeous time of year to do it.

If the weather outside is at least 20 degrees, I'm very comfortable running. I don't own a treadmill, and haven't had a health club membership in over a year. Better than all that, I have a packed-gravel bike path that is flat and straight for miles, located a scant block from my front door.

It's also kept clear of snow throughout the season!

I ventured down this path, in the prescribed walk-4-run-1 fashion, and was just enthralled by the sheer beauty of the sky at 7 am, and the peaceful silence that wrapped itself around me. It's a great time to mentally walk through the form I'm learning, too.

Ahhhhhhh...

This is where I am meant to be.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Keeping the dream alive!

Boy, oh, boy, have I been just horribly busy lately! Unfortunately, I've totally been slacking on my PT. It's a horrible thing when you hit these doldrums, here in good ol' week 9 going on 10.

I mean, I'm grateful for having full ROM back. I'm thankful for not having put on extra pounds (well, one too many buffets this weekend, but other than that...)

Most of all, I loved the look on Dr. K's face two Fridays ago!!! At the beginning of that visit, the nurse strapped me in to a KT1000 Arthrometer and measured both knees' laxity--the displacement of the shin relative to the knee joint. This is essentially a carefully measured version of the Lachmann Test for ACL injury. the KT1000 gives 3 different tones throughout its range corresponding to three amounts of force the clinician is pulling on it with.

So...what were my results? At the three different pulling forces, my good knee was 4, 5, and 7mm of displacement. My operative knee was 4, 5, and 6mm! Technically tighter than the non-operative knee, but for all intents and purposes they are about even. Cool.

Dr. K said I can start the slow kicks planting on my good leg, including ankle weights, but nothing involving planting my operative leg right now. Apparently at this phase, the ACL will be at its weakest, about 20% of final strength. Ah, well, I'll take what I can get!

The weather has finally broken with a threat of springtime, and I'm really looking forward to it. This morning I got back on the PT wagon and strapped on the ol' ankle weights for some 5-pound lifts of fury. Gotta work up to 30 reps @ 10 pounds!

I am resolved to alternate days of running, ab core and pushups with days of exercise bike warmups, leg lifts, various tugs and squats, and lots of stretching everywhere.

Oh, and here's a relatively current photo. No, the fuzziness isn't my camera out of focus, it's my hairy-ass legs:



Speaking of which, a piece of advice for men getting ready for ACL reconstruction: Shave the surgical area. I had a particular knob of scab that didn't want to let go--turns out it was tethered by hair that was sewn into the wound...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Can you hear the drums?

I can. My knees are back to talking with each other in bed in the morning, setting up an interesting rhythm sometimes. Mind you, these are normal sounds, nothing painful or out of the ordinary, but most certainly entertaining:

"Crick?" "Snick..."
"Pip?" "Pop!"
"Crock?" "Pip-crack-snick!!!!!"

As remarked on once by Black Belt Mama, I am most definitely in the Doldrums phase of recovery.

No huge exciting leaps of progress, though I am by many accounts far ahead of the typical person recovering from ACL reconstruction. I still attribute my accelerated recovery to rapid response to the injury more than anything else; I simply didn't have time to atrophy or cause collateral joint damage prior to surgery. We're talking almost exactly 1 month from injury to surgery here folks, and that's unusually short by so many accounts.

It's been colder than blazes since I was OK'ed to start power-walking in anticipation of running. I have no treadmill, so the only walking I've been doing is daily stuff around the office and shopping. I did put in a good dose this past Saturday, walking 6 or so blocks to the Karate school to video tape record belt promotion testing instead of driving. Felt absolutely fine afterwards.

This morning I had every intention of getting out and power-walking for 20 - 30 minutes, but alas I went to bed way too late last night and couldn't rouse myself in time.

You see, I was glued to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows until just past 1 am when I finished the book.

So...as long as I get to bed at a decent hour tonight, I should be good to go for power walking tomorrow. My plan is to alternate walking (eventually running) with the usual squats, leg lifts with weights, and Sloooooooowwwww kicks--quite possibly my favorite Karate-related exercise.
Plenty of stretching will accompany all of this, along with getting around to doing push ups and some cool core muscle stuff with an exercise ball.

I got a treat last Wednesday night at G-Shaft's sparring class. With a tournament coming up, the instructors wanted to maximize ring time for the kids, so they called me out to referee a 3rd ring. I was nervous, having never really called points during sparring, but put on a confident face--and promptly forgot ALL the kids names! Things were just fine, though, and I held my own.

It was cute when the kids would make an exchange, but I either didn't see it clearly, or it wasn't clean enough technique to stop the match and call for a point. They would each stop and look at me to say something, and I'd remind them to keep on going until I called a halt. Do that in a tournament, and your opponent is likely to plant one square in your torso while your eyes are turned away, snagging an easy point.

Don't ever take your eyes off your opponent, kids!!!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

6 Weeks: What's going on???

To you reading this latest post, thanks SO much for waiting! It's just over 3 weeks since my last post, and I've been busy as hell. My usually relaxed afternoons and evenings have been just so jam packed I haven't taken time to keep you all updated.

So here's the poop: I am at full ROM. My visits to PT and Dr. K have shown my progress to be excellent; quoting Dr. K, I'm "Way ahead of the game!!!"

So what does that all add up to?

Here's what.
  • Exercise bike - forward pedaling with resistance set as tolerated; right now it's the lowest, since I have to troubleshoot wiring of the brake motor!
  • Range of motion - Molly wants me to do some extension work, but the difference between good knee and operative is negligible; We've stopped measuring. Just consider me back to full range.
  • Stairs - I'm not even thinking when taking steps currently. I can lead equally well with my good leg or my operative leg going up or down, no handholds to balance or anything. Granted, my operative knee still likes to remind me that I have a remanfuactured body part, but I expect that'll last the rest of my life in some form or another!
  • Running - With jam packed days full of work, bitter sub-zero temperatures, transporting G-shaft around, Videotape and DVD production, as well as recording with the band, I just haven't had time to start my speed walking program. The exception was today, when I took my parents dog for a walk. Good ol' Maggie was testing me!
  • PT - I've been cleared to add ankle weights as tolerated on my straight leg lifts and hamstring curls. I've also been working both legs, since the strength is pretty much equal at the moment and I don't want the good one falling behind. Stair stepping, two leg mini-squats, and one leg mini-squats are the movements of the day. Add exercise ball work for stabilizing core muscles and interesting stuff like one-leg balancing on a mini trampoline, and I've got a big menu of stuff to choose from any given morning!
  • Surgery - On my visit with Dr. K February 29th, I heard he'll be strapping me into a machine--I assume something like a KT1000 Arthrometer--to quantify just how good my operative knee is doing. Based on those results, I may be approved to start a favorite Karate exercise, the slow-count kick.
  • Running - Yeah, right! Not quite yet, but hopefully this week's weather won't deter me from getting outside to do some power walking, working up to running within the next week or two.
So...I'm feeling great, getting a bit lax on PT--but that's not to say I've been sedentary at all! I'm able to sleep in MY choice of position now, and nightly cramping is pretty much non-existent.

Well, off to watch another episode of Torchwood. Ice those knees, and good night!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

That old feeling...again!

It may seem a mundane thing, but a sweet little event happened this afternoon...my operative knee gave just a teensy "crack" as I got up from my office chair late this afternoon. Ahh, what a nice thing to hear again.

It echoes some progress I noted today, such as dimples in my knee when flexing the quads. Just a bit of persistent (but not painful) swelling remains below the knee cap.

At PT today, the big news is that I hit 126 degrees of flexion here on day number 22!

Next Friday when I go to see Miss Molly at PT, We'll begin "Closed-Chain" movements, if I recall the term correctly. That means one-legged knee bends, essentially, and taking stairs normally without guarding the operative knee. Later that same morning I have my 4-week follow-up with Dr. K.

In the meantime, I picked up an ankle weight, adjustable from 1/2 to 10 pounds in 1/2 pound increments. Was going with just 1 pound of weight for most leg lifts last week, and 3 pounds for prone and standing hamstring curls. This week I graduated to 2 and 4 pounds, respectively.

I'm gonna have to start exercising both legs at this point, or risk my operative knee and leg becoming stronger than the other!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Day 18: A day almost like any other day.

Today was a nice change. Went to church, and comments varied widely from noticing I was walking so well and without a cane, to "Gee, your surgery is soon isn't it?" and "Didn't you just have surgery?"

It was nice to start being "normal" getting around. Yes, the daily life does have that background hum of soreness in the knee, but really things are smoothing out.

I figured out a way of using my arms and good leg to go two steps up or down at a time, so I don't have to take so much time navigating stairs until week 4 rolls around. Thats when I can officially start using my operative leg on steps, although I've already had it out for a test drive.

Gotta find some ankle weights for PT around 1 and 3 pounds, hoping that local sporting goods stores offer a wide enough variety. I'll be surfing the web to see who has what, or if online prices are good. Any suggestions from ACL/PCL tear rehabees reading this?

Other than continuing to improve on swelling and range of motion, the most annoying thing I deal with daily is cramping in the quads. Re-learning how to walk, as far as I can tell, is going to largely be a matter of getting my quads to back off a bit. Right know they seem to be in "guard" mode, and are hyper-reactive to any command my brain sends them to contract. As a result, by bedtime I have wicked cramps in my thigh!

Mrs. Shaft recently remembered where the heated massager was stored. That now provides me with most excellent relief from cramping at the end of the day.

Next weekend is going to be a busy one for video work. Friday night is the wife's choral concert, and Saturday is belt promotion testing at my Karate school. Then I have to dump and edit everything!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Day 15: It's about time.

Sorry if I kept anyone hanging in suspense, it's just been a durned busy week.

Sunday: Ditched the crutches over the weekend, down to just a cane. Wasn't thinking, and stepped up with my operative knee. Hmm. Didn't hurt, but seems too early to even consider doing that by all accounts!

Monday: Back to work. Got caught up, so no stresses there now! Spent lots of time at my desk working that flexion range, and icing down the knee with a large gel pack.

Oh, and stepped down leading with my good knee. Again, it didn't hurt to bend the operative knee, but doesn't seem right I should be able to do that. Another hmm.

Monday night brought another episode of American Gladiators, and another contestant gets awarded a torn ACL. This time it's Adam "The Hebrew Hammer" Levin, taking a sideways tackle during Power Ball in a classic ACL-ripping moment. As typical, he shakes it off for a moment and collapses a few seconds later. They're going to have to seriously train these gladiators to watch what they're doing, it's getting a bit too aggressive out there!

Tuesday: Work decided to catch up with me this day! It's also the last day I used a cane walking. I'm taking things carefully, looking for the non-icy walking paths wherever I go, and will keep the cane at-hand in icy situations, but I'm bearing weight on the operative leg just fine now and walking well.

Wednesday: Took much of the afternoon off to go to PT and do a few things at home.

PT can only be described as amazing. To begin, we measured 120 degrees of flexion.

Oh. My. God.

Am I really progressing this well only two weeks post-op? I thought it a good sign to lose the immobilizer last Friday, but this--this feels HUGE!

We added ankle weights to the 4 directions of leg exercises (straight lifts, adduction, abduction, and hamstring curls), and did an easy 5 minutes backwards pedaling on the exercise bike without resistance.

I talked to my PT about leading with the operative leg going up steps, and leading with the good leg going down. I've read a few times that even months post-op, many people with ACL reconstruction unconsciously guard their knee by leading with the operative leg when stepping down. She put it kindly--bad news, but in a good way. Protocol says not to do those particular movements prior to at least week 4 post-op. Wow.

I'm not sure quite how to take that, except now I have to force myself to guard the operative knee until I'm "officially" allowed to use it in that manner.

Protocol also says 2 visits per week through next week, but my PT exclaimed that she had no further exercises to work with me until we hit week 4. She'd simply be watching me work while drinking tea. Things seem to be going well enough that we canceled tomorrow's session, and the first session next week. Barring anything unusual, I'll only check in with her late next week.

Oh. My. God.

The day later continued watching G-Shaft sparring with a dozen intermediate belt boys. Yes, she's the only girl in her class, and 2nd tallest. This serves her an advantage in 2 ways - she's got reach with punches (once she gets a bit more hip rotation to properly deliver the blow), and being a girl, many of the boys seem intimidated to attack! Just needs a little more work on throwing a punch with conviction, and she'll be a potent point-sparring student.

After all that excitement, I capped off the evening with a vocal recording session. My band has been working on a 6-song "EP" since Spring, and we finally have a lead vocalist to record. Overall, an amazing day--I'll link to the band's web site when we post some music for y'all to listen to.

Thursday: Finally we come to today. I caught up with the staggering blow work delivered me on Tuesday, and maybe I'll have a bit of time to slack off tomorrow afternoon at the office.

Tonight I volunteered at the Karate school's Winter Carnival, the biggest event for recruiting new students each year. I managed the balloon hop race, and that was a blast seeing all the kids enjoying themselves. The last half-hour of the evening was demonstrations by the students, and the ones who brought guests got the opportunity to break boards. G-Shaft was bummed none of her invites came through, but she still has 2 weeks to get a friend in for a trial class--and another chance to bust up wood.

So I sit here in shock and awe. I read about Black Belt Mama's struggles and feel bad she's still in an immobilizer brace, even though she's 4 weeks post-op at this point. I feel somewhat guilty for my progress, but need to remind myself constantly that people are all unique in how they respond to surgery.

So, Hack Shaft old boy, knock off the guilt trip.

Oh, and get on with the push-ups and crunches already!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Day 9: Antici..................................................

...pation!

I was just perusing the protocol for rehabilitation from knee surgery. Looking at weeks 13-24, about 4 to 6 months post-op, I'm shocked at the hopping exercises. I mean, my knee is giving me sympathy twinges thinking about square, diagonal, zig-zag, single-leg, and straight-line hopping! YIKES!

Still, I have to trust that my surgeon and PT know what they're doing. Based on costs, they'd darn well better!

For the martial artist reading this, think back to that very first class, when your uniform and white belt were both creased and stiff, still reeking of the plastic bag you just pulled them from.
Remember how far away your current belt seemed then!

The sick irony is that it will be longer for me to return than I've been taking classes. 7 months from injury until I expect to return, and I was just entering into month number 5 of classes. (I've studied the Arts previously, albeit quite some years ago!)

However, I realize that I can still fill time with Karate:
- Work on core.
- Do Form in a chair or in my head. Limp through it when I can, walking through the motions without actually kicking.
- Get familiar with that new Bo, so it becomes an extension of my arms when I return.
- Improve my upper body and core strength while getting the knee back in condition.
- Figure out exercises to use as a sub for some boring PT--like 4-count slow kicks vs. side leg raises to work abductors and hip flexors.
- Continue to record belt tests on DVD for the school--then review and learn from them, using the "best in class" as a visual aid for Bo and open hand Forms.

On a side note, I've taken notice of ACL injuries in the media all of a sudden. It's contagious, I swear! Previously I mentioned Jason Chambers' poorly executed tornado kick. Then comes the return of American Gladiators, where Jesse Foster tears her knee up during Power Ball. Looks like yet another one bites the dust!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Day 8: Lots of excitement

Lots of exciting milestones today, far more than I expected this early in the game!

Was able to stand in the shower this morning comfortably, no more showering on a bench.

Saw Dr. K this afternoon. Stitches are out, immobilizer brace is gone, and he agreed I could drive after demonstrating good weight bearing and a solid straight leg lift.

Got a first measurement of post-op flexion at PT, 113 degrees. Woo-hoo! Jumped on an exercise bike for 5 minutes pedaling backwards with no resistance, and was introduced to more exercises for the hamstring and adductor muscles. Ouch!

Forward pedaling on the bike won't start until 4 weeks post-op.

After PT I went to watch my daughter's Karate class as they worked on beginning Bo forms and movements.

Auto-chill option showed up 2 days ago, that's some serious cold on the knee now. I love having the cryo-cuff cycling with gentle compression pulses, and staying wicked-cold the whole time.

Losing the brace also means I can start wearing regular pants. No more lounging around the house (and around town) in baggy sweats!

Things aren't all completely rosy, however. Once I've posted this blog, it's down the stairs to the basement--carefully--to take care of some overdue litter boxes. Man, I thought I could scam out of at least one cleaning cycle!

I also really gotta think a bit harder when going up steps. I stubbed my big toe when I had a momentary lapse of reason and tried to lead with my bad right leg. It didn't clear the step, leaving me a painful reminder to take it easy, stupid!

So...all in all, a phenomenal day. New freedoms, returning obligations, and the constant task of reminding myself to proceed carefully as I go forward.

The journey back from surgery is well underway, but there are still potholes to avoid on the road.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Day 6: On the cusp

Things went tremendously well at PT this afternoon. I've a challenge to work on straight leg raises now--initially it was only 9 in sets of 3, 4 times a day. Today I found out the goal is 300 in a day, which I don't intend to do right away!!!

Flexion is improving, and the auto-chill accessory showed up today. That'll be fun to try out this evening.

Took my first full-fledged shower on the loaned shower bench, and it was mahvelous, dahlink! I've been keeping clean and all, but ya just can't beat a good shower--except with a nice long, hot bath. The Steri-strips fell off, so I put a large band-aid in place to hold two clear nylon sutures that were poking out, looking rather important.

Oh, and looks like some extra blood is pooling around various places in my leg now, most notably on the instep of my foot. Not painful, not swollen, just a pretty shade of purple down there.

Been walking real well today, even with the brace. Hoping I'll get permission to drive Friday from Dr. K, as I'm doing well bearing weight on the new knee.

Tomorrow I'm 39, so today is the cusp-of-the-cusp, if you will, of turning 40. Aw, it's just another plateau in life's uphill climb anyway, may as well pause to enjoy the view!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Day 5 post-op: Progress and accessories

Ahh, my first day home alone. Nice and quiet, good opportunity to catch up on home office things like tidying up the room a bit!

G-Shaft and Mrs. Shaft are back at school and work respectively. I'll be waiting until at least next Monday before I head back to the office, want to see if I can return without the immobilizer brace.

Yesterday and today I've been able to move around the house without a walking stick. The brace is a necessary evil, yes, but it's close to the point of getting in my way walking! I also hope after my visit with Dr. K on Friday to remove stitches that I can at least lose the brace while sleeping.

Last night I returned to the 2nd floor bedroom as well. It was awesome sleeping on the adjustable firmness mattress again, away from the squeak of the hamster wheels.

My auto-chill feature should show up via UPS this afternoon. That'll make my ice sessions so much more convenient after PT. And speaking of PT, I go tomorrow afternoon--we'll see how things sit at that time. I also have a shower bench showing up that a friend is loaning me this evening, that'll be nice--along with the new hand-held shower that Mrs. Shaft installed Saturday!

A few of my favorite recovery accessories:


Useful for PT, for calf muscle stretching, for a neck roll.


This one keeps me entertained!


Several of these kept me company while sleeping on the couch downstairs.


These keep my crutches from taking flight in the land of ice and snow I live in.
First pic is the ice grip retracted, second is engaged.
Had to modify them slightly as well as notch the rubber foot of my crutch, but they work like a charm!

Wishing continued healing and progress to Black Belt Mama who had a bit of a setback last week..

Saturday, January 5, 2008

PT and Pics

My first PT session yesterday was quite an eye-opener.

My first attempt at a straight leg raise was futile-the quads simply did not want to acknowledge my command to lift! That gave me quite a chuckle.

My PT then spent a good 15 minutes with gentle massage on the quads to loosen and wake them up, then the usual heel slides and quad sets with towels rolled under the knee or the ankle.

I had full extension, which was not surprising since the immobilizer holds my leg almost all the way in extension. My PT picked up the leg and I was astonished to see very close to 90 degrees flexion with the PT bearing the weight of the leg. No official numbers, but that's a helluva start.

Once we got the quads wakened up, we did some straight leg raises, making sure to engage the quads first to wake them up. Just 10 of those was enough to get my hip flexor complaining!

Finally, we strapped the immobilizer back on, and he took a check of me walking. I had a pair of crutches, but was able to bear weight on the reconstructed knee quite well--another shocker.

Since then, I've set aside the crutches except when traveling out of the house. Protocol asks to bear weight on the leg right away, so I'm using the walking stick around the house. We'll see how I feel tonight, and maybe I'll carefully ascend (with lots of supervision, and backwards) to the second floor and sleep in my bed tonight. Though the couch is mighty comfortable, the hamsters running in their cage keep me up at night!

I continue to be narcotic-free, eating well, and am strictly on ibuprofen at this time. Overall I'm feeling much better than I expected, except for just a general sense of tiredness which I attribute to my body's response to surgery.

OK, picture time!

Does this make my leg look fat?


Cryo Cuff: your best friend post-PT!
Button at the top connects to the hose for chilled water.


3 days post-op, swelling's not too bad:


The "OK" is Dr. K making sure he works on the correct knee!
Sorry for the mess, I plan to wash up that leg later today.



Arthroscopic pics below:
skip this part if you get queasy about medical pics.






Nice, clean meniscus:



Good cartilage, too:


Torn ACL stump, no wonder it felt like a wrench in the works:


New ACL (kinda pretty and glimmery!):

Friday, January 4, 2008

Surgery: Let me introduce you to my good friend, Annie...

Folks, let me tell you. When having ACL reconstruction, you've got to meet Annie.

Her full name is Anne S. Tease-Ya, and she loves playing mind games! (Annie is a man actually, but humor me for the sake of word-play.)

I met Annie the morning of surgery, and she wore many labels that day:
- Femoral Nerve block
- Spinal block
- Monitored sedation

I was firmly against meeting her military aspect, the General, having seen the aftereffects in my daughter G-Shaft many times over the years.

The fun began with the Femoral Nerve block. Annie gave me a shot of something to bend all the straight lines on the ceiling. While I admired the interesting patterns forming overhead, Annie got busy with a probe making my right thigh jump in various ways. One location made my patella jump quite uncomfortably, so I warned Annie not to go there again with the probe! After a short time, she was satisfied with the location and shot me up with a long-term agent to shut down feeling in my thigh and knee for the next 12 hours.

Next was the Spinal Block. This one I remember nothing about after sitting up and leaning forward on a pillow in the operating room, so Annie must've slipped me a Mickey to make me forget those 10 minutes.

From that point on I was nicely mellowed out as I watched the team set up for surgery.

I felt just fine, no anxiety or anything while watching video of the procedure on a nice flat screen monitor. Once the scope portion was done, the nurse asked me if I wanted to watch the rest. I agreed, and she angled the monitor like a mirror for me to watch in fascination as the crew closed things up.

Rolling into recovery I felt just great, and was SO glad not to have general anesthesia when they shortly offered me coffee and a granola bar to snack on while Mrs. Shaft and I discussed lunch.
Once the tingling in my legs went away and I could differentiate between a rub and a scratch from the nurse's fingernail, I checked out and we headed for home.

For cryotherapy options, I went with the gold standard of a Cryo/Cuff Cooler. However, the system offered by my orthopaedic clinic was a manually cycled system, as opposed to the AutoChill system that many other people mention in their blogs about ACL reconstruction. The manual cycle isn't bad, just far less convenient than the autochill system (and only 50% of the price.) For a manual cycle, you connect the cuff around the leg to the cooler with a hose, open the air valve, and let gravity drain the warm water out of the cuff. Then you close the valve, swish the water to mix it with ice water in the cooler, open the valve, and hold the cooler above the level of the cuff. Gravity pushes chilled water into the cuff.

As you might imagine, this is a PITA to keep doing, and the chilled water in the cuff only stays effectively cold for perhaps 5 minutes, requiring another manual drain/chill/fill cycle.

So Mrs. Shaft and I did some digging and found a local sales rep to order the AutoChill add-on. It's a simple air compressor that connects to the top of the cooler, creating alternating vacuum and pressure to force chilled water in and out of the cuff automatically. It should arrive Monday.

So if you're reading this for research, my advice is to plan for the extra cost and get a cryo cuff with the auto chiller system, or plan to do a lot of 10 pound arm raises to cycle your chilled water manually.

Back to our story...once arriving home, I was blissfully pain-free and enjoyed my lunch and a couple of Vicodin, relaxing with the Mrs. and generally enjoying the afternoon.

In the evening, young G-Shaft went to her first sparring class--reluctantly--and I was very proud to hear she survived intact, winning two of three rounds against her fellow students. I heard one other student really wanted to wail on her and was reprimanded several times for swinging wildly. G-Shaft scored all her points with punches, which is pretty cool considering her slender build doesn't look like it packs much of a punch. However, the night before surgery I had her put on her gear and throw a few punches at my palms with sparring gloves on--that kid has a lot more power than I thought!!!

About 10pm, the femoral nerve block began wearing off, as evidenced by my leg broadcasting a moderate burning sensation to any nerves that were tuned in. Fortunately it was just in time for my next dose of Vicodin, so things settled down about an hour later.

That first night I tried just a half dose to keep my stomach settled, realizing that I'll need a full dose for a while longer and will just need to tolerate the slight nausea that accompanies it. Toughest challenge was finding a comfortable position that didn't push, pull, twist, or squeeze the leg in its immobilizer brace. I didn't really find a good position.


DAY TWO

The second day was filled with me tackling the near impossible task of finding a comfortable position to recline in, along with a post-up visit with the surgeon and a bit of running around at the local Target store for some odds-n-ends.

Dr. K was very happy with surgery results, and the good news is that I have no tears in the meniscus. Yay!!! I'd been using a walking stick regularly until surgery to avoid further injury to the soft tissues, looks like my vigilance paid off. I'll post a picture of the good and reconstructed knees once I download them from Mrs. Shaft's cell phone.

Target was fun as I toodled around in one of those electric shopping carts they make available to customers. That thing had the most obnoxious backup alarm, people must've thought I was a semi trailer backing up in the aisles!

A side note here to BobSpar--I bought a urinal at a local store, but haven't needed it yet since I'm currently recuperating on the couch within 20 feet of the bathroom. However, based on the sound of my voice this morning, I need to push fluids a bit more, so we'll see if anything "urgent" comes up! The urinal comes with a cap, and is probably a bit easier to use than a pickle jar. Also doesn't flavor the pickles...

DAY THREE

So we finally arrive to today, day number 3 post-op. The good sign I had this morning was that my leg had no pain in it while lying passively, so that's a major improvement. I go to my first PT session in about 2 hours, we'll see just what's what at that time and report back tomorrow.

(yawn)

I think I'll stop here, grab a quick bite to eat, and nap until PT.

Thanks to everyone for their advice, positive thoughts, and prayers. They're helping me tremendously!!!