My teammates and I were playing tag after track practice one day during my senior year of high school, when I cut the wrong way, heard a loud pop, and fell to the ground. Since I had torn the ACL of my other leg when I was 13, I knew exactly what that sound meant. A local surgeon performed a reconstruction surgery on my right leg over the summer, and in August I headed to college for my freshman year, determined to still be on the varsity track and field team despite my injury. My teammates motivated me throughout my rehabilitation, and my coach encouraged me to compete 6 months post-operation, an overly-ambitious goal. I hit milestones early and was progressing well, but as I pushed myself harder, my knee began collapsing regularly. These episodes of instability occurred for several months, so finally I came to HSS for an evaluation.
Dr. Moira McCarthy discovered the cause of my collapsing: the screw that held my reconstructed ACL in place had slipped out of the canal and rubbed against my new ligament with every move I made. The micro-tears shredded my ACL, and eventually wore away at my meniscus. 360 days after my senior-year surgery, Dr. McCarthy performed a very successful ACL revision surgery and meniscectomy.
I learned the hard way to listen to my body and take rehabilitation slowly. As a Physical Therapy student, it was a good lesson to learn. I steadily progressed through my exercises and reached milestones. This time around, I vocalized my pains and soreness to my therapists and Dr. McCarthy because I now recognized that my body knows its limits and I must respect it. I reevaluated and modified my lifestyle so I would not put myself at risk of a fourth ACL injury. I now supplement running daily with cycling, walking, and yoga. Instead of beating myself up for not being able to physically perform the way I did in high school, I appreciate the fact that despite three surgeries, I am still able of living an active life.
I always joke saying you don't tear three ACLs, and not to fall in love with the field. I have wanted to be a physical therapist since I was in 8th grade, and my surgeries have only encouraged that dream. This process has not been as difficult as one would imagine, believe it or not. I have made great connections in orthopedic medicine, and I have developed a sense of empathy which will help me tremendously in my PT career. My surgeries have also inspired a research project I am leading this year!
Although I have had three ACL surgeries, I am pleased to say I have had a very positive experience. I am thankful for Dr. McCarthy, for HSS, and for all the support I have had throughout the years, and I am looking forward to giving back by helping athletes rehabilitate their own injuries and get back in the game.