Friday, November 27, 2009

Knee Injury #3

I have made allusions to it in other recent posts, but if you haven't caught on, I had my third semi-serious (serious? I'm not sure what to call it, but it wasn't minor!) injury to my knee on October 1.

I used to do gymnastics. In March 2006, I tore my meniscus in my right knee while hurdling before a vault. I had surgery (just an arthroscopy- basically, they snipped off the piece of cartilage that had been torn) in late April 06, but it was a really fast recovery- I was walking without crutches the next day, and in physical therapy for only a month. I was able to dance in a recital less than a month after the surgery.

I went back to gymnastics in July 06. My third day back, I tore my meniscus and ACL in my left knee (landing a front handspring... on the Tumbl Trak). I had surgery (meniscus repair and ACL repair- they used a patellar tendon graft and now I have 2 screws in that knee) in September 06. I was in physical therapy for about 7 months, but it wasn't until about a year later- September 07- that I was 100% back to normal (before that, I had to wear a knee brace while dancing and doing other activities). July 06 was the end of my gymnastics "career", although since then I've been able to occasionally go on my backyard trampoline at home- wearing the knee brace, of course, and only doing what I'm confident I can do.

This fall, I joined my college's cheerleading team. I haven't been tumbling (I wanted to, but I knew it wasn't the best idea, at least until I spent a few months really focusing on getting my legs strong).

On October 1 at practice, I was front-spotting a liberty (if you don't speak cheer- click here for a pic) - basically, I was holding the wrists of the girls that were holding the foot of the girl on top). The flyer sort of wobbled, and came right at me. I tried to catch her... and my right knee just buckled. It twisted, or something, and it made a noise- I wanted to say it sounded (and felt) like something had shattered. I stood there shocked and then just collapsed to the floor, crying and in pain. My coach and another cheerleader helped me off the mat (I literally had to hop- my knee was so painful, and so incredibly unstable, that I couldn't put any weight on it at all).

I rode in the ambulance to the ER (which, luckily, was just down the block- literally). They did an xray, and nothing showed up wrong on the xray, so I'm supposed to see an orthopedist this week. But I knew from experience that "no broken bones" isn't always a good thing in terms of injury diagnosis.

But until I saw the orthopedist, I'm in a knee brace and on crutches. I hate being on crutches, but I really couldn't walk without them. The swelling has gone down, but the knee is still REALLY unstable. I couldn't bend my knee all the way, but I couldn't completely straighten it either (my knees normally hyperextend a lot, and I can't do that). The ER doctor prescribed Naprosyn, which helps with the pain and swelling, but by the time it started to wear off (I take it at breakfast and bedtime, so usually midafternoon/dinner) my knee starts to feel really, really sore. I hated being on crutches. I hated not being able to do anything for myself- when I go to the cafeteria, I had to get someone to carry my food for me; if I drop something on the floor, I often need someone else to pick it up for me. All of my classes are on my campus's main quad, which is almost a mile from my dorm. Luckily, I'm able to get rides from campus security (which I am amazingly thankful for), but it sucks having to wait for someone to pick me up and not being able to walk back with my friends.

I saw an orthopedist on October 6. She said my ACL felt "loose", but so did the ACL on my "good knee" (the left knee, which has been reconstructed in 2006). So, she ordered an MRI. I had the MRI on October 9. They weren't able to see anything right away, but there was a ridiculous amount of fluid, they said. On October 12, I got a call from the orthopedist, confirming that I had a torn ACL and (as if that wasn't enough) torn lateral meniscus. I was still on crutches and in the immoblizer, although a few days later I was allowed to exchange the immoblizer for a neoprene sleeve (which made my life SO much easier).

I went home that weekend, and saw my home orthopedist. He brought up the images from my MRI (which I had delivered on a CD), and let me look at them. We tentatively scheduled surgery for a few days after New Years. Oh, and he said I could get off crutches as soon as my quads were strong enough, which they were. So no more crutches, but I did bring them back with me when I went back to college. I also got a hinged knee brace- pretty darn fancy, haha.

Fast forward a week. I was at a club meeting, literally standing around, when I must've taken a bad step, or something, and I felt this sudden, horrible pain on the inside of my knee. I knew I wasn't okay, so my friend helped me get back to my dorm (we were able to get a ride, but she helped me get to the car and then to my room). I was on crutches for the rest of that evening, but was able to walk the next day. Of course, I was in so much pain that I called my parents multiple times, and eventually ended up with prescriptions for Tramadol and Naprosyn.

On Halloween, I took the Tramadol without food (BIG MISTAKE), and felt so sick I couldn't go out (unfortunate, but at least I had been able to go to a costume party the night before).

A few days later, on my way in to work, I slipped and fell, barely avoiding another visit to the ER (the police officer who I waived over to help me actually called an ambulance to come get me, but I didn't actually go to the hospital). I was on crutches the rest of that day, but felt a lot better by the next morning. After I told my home, we talked to my hometown orthopedist and the dean at my college, and decided that it would be best if I could get the surgery earlier, so I'm not scheduled for December 3.

Since then, my pain has been on and off. I do leg exercises a few times a day, after which I ice it. I can't take the stairs normally, but at least my dorm building has an elevator (that only breaks sometimes... ugh). Recently I've been having a lot of pain in my shin. I'm not sure why. Ice helps, though. Since the surgery is so near, I can't take anti-inflammatories (that is, Naprosyn or Advil) anymore. I've been having more pain than I had before, but it's only a few more days till I get it fixed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Things Worth Doing

So I've been at college for over 3 months now (okay, I went home for a long weekend in October, but that's it!). In that time, I've done a lot of things. Some of them, I never thought I'd do, or at least I never thought they'd be worth it. I'd like to share with you some things that I've done (some since I've been at college; some from before then) that I think are completely, 100% worth doing.
  1. Volunteering for a non-profit charity/ organization that means something to you. Volunteering for any non-profit is rewarding. Knowing that you're helping people- whether you're helping to organize a 5K to raise money for cancer research, or giving food to people that don't have any, or anything else- is amazing. You might not be doing everything, but you could be doing a lot, and you're making a difference. Really. But if you want to get the MOST out of volunteering, then try volunteering for an organization that means something to YOU, personally. What does that mean? That means that you find a cause or an issue that strikes YOU as something that needs to be "changed" or "fixed", and find an organization that does something to change or fix the issue. For me, one of the issues that strikes me as something important is the stigma of seeking help for mental illness, and the fact that because of that, many people don't seek help when they really need it. So that's why I'm getting involved with organizations like To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), The Jed Foundation, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), and MTV's social campaign Half of Us. Knowing that I'm helping a cause that means so much to me is such a good feeling.
  2. Going to class. Seriously. Once you're in college, especially if it's a big lecture (introductory math and science classes usually are), it's pretty easy to skip class. You can tell yourself it doesn't matter- you'll get the notes from a friend, or do the reading "later". But you (probably) won't. And your grades will, therefore, suffer. I know a lot of people in my introductory chemistry class that skip class a lot. A lot of people are also not doing well in the class- many are failing. Not surprisingly, a lot of the people that aren't doing well (not all, but a lot) are the ones not going to class. I go to class. I'm not doing spectacular, but I go to class, pay attention, take notes, and do the homework, and my grades are better than a lot of people's are. I'm thinking there might be a correlation. Seriously, if you go to class, you're forced to, you know, learn. Which is kind of the whole point of school.
  3. Doing your homework. In correlation with the above post, if you don't do your homework, you won't learn the material. It's true. Look at it this week- you might have piano lessons a few times a week, but in order to really get anywhere, you need to practice on your own outside of that. Math class may be a few times a week, and going to class is necessary, but you have to practice math outside of class- that is, do your homework- in order to really learn it.
  4. Taking Computer programming. Unless you're a computer science or engineering major, it probably has nothing to do with your actual major. However, computer programming really does teach you to think. A huge part of knowing how to program a computer is being able to think logically and come up with an algorithm to solve a problem. My computer programming class may or may not be related to my major, but I'm glad I'm taking it. An introductory class really doesn't involve much math (knowing some algebra is helpful- in most cases that's a prerequisite- but for "Java 101" or the like, advanced math shouldn't be necessary). For my computer programming class, our assignments consist of a "problem" or question- for example, write a program that takes a list of 100 randomly generated numbers between 10 and 100, and print out a numerically-ordered list of all even numbers. In order to do that, you have to break the problem down in to steps- first, determine which numbers are even, and then save them into a separate sub-list; then, determine the lowest number and place it at the beginning of the sub-list; then, determine the next-lowest number, etc. Or maybe it makes more sense to sort the list (determine the lowest number and place it first, then determine the next-lowest number, etc.) first, and after that take out the numbers that aren't even. Get the idea?
  5. Not tearing your ACL. I know, tearing your ACL sounds like fun (everyone's doing it these days... haha), but it's really not. First, the injury is painful, and you might not be able to walk afterwards (the first time I tore my ACL, I was able to walk- carefully- a few hours later, but the second time, I was on crutches for 19 days, on doctor's orders). Second, there's a good chance that if you tear your ACL, you'll get other injuries too (such as a torn PCL, MCL, LCL, medial or lateral meniscus, or a bruised bone)- most people get some kind of secondary injury with the torn ACL. Third, the recovery is pretty long- it's usually at least a month wait until surgery (you have to see an orthopedist to diagnose the injury, usually get an MRI to confirm, and wait for the swelling to go down and range of motion to come back)- often more; then you've got several months of physical therapy; and even after that, it's awhile until you're 100% back to the way you were before the injury. Seriously. Don't tear your ACL. Or your achilles tendon. Don't break a bone either. Injuries suck.
  6. Going to that toga/theme party. Just do it. Why? Because it's a toga party, and there might be more, but heck- why not? Go with a group of people (and stay with a group of people- it's just common sense; don't drink/eat anything that you didn't see opened and poured; you know the drill). Theme parties- any kind where you dress up, whether it be toga, luau, or a specific decade- are fun. Plus, even if the party isn't great, dressing up (at least for girls) is a lot of fun.
  7. Driving 3 hours to see a band that had previously been broken up for 4 years and which you had never seen live before. By this, I'm referring to the fact that I drove 3 hours with one of my best friends to see Blink-182 this summer. The tickets weren't cheap, and on top of that we had to pay for a hotel and gas and food. But every single cent was worth it. I had never seen Blink-182 pre-break-up, so getting to see them live this summer? Yeah. Amazing. They played all of their best songs, and Tom, Mark, and Travis are seriously awesome performers. They know how to work an audience. It rained pretty much the whole time they were on stage, but it was possibly the best concert I had ever been to.
  8. Learning how to cook and bake. Seriously. Once you can drive, if you can cook for yourself, then you're practically there on the way to independence. You don't have to be an expert chef, but if you can read and follow a recipe, you're good. Extra points if you can "throw something together" without a specific recipe, or write your own recipe. I've done it, and it's not as hard as you might think. Learn how to wash, peel, and chop fruits and vegetables. Learn how to make grilled cheese, pancakes, and scrambled eggs. Learn how to make cookies, brownies, and cupcakes (from mix; kudos if you can do it from scratch). I've been cooking for as long as I could remember, and it's so awesome to be able to not have to rely on someone else to do that for me.
Of course, there are other things that I've done that I think are worth doing. But more later.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pick Up The Phone

I'm a huge supporter of the organization To Write Love On Her Arms (as you may have noticed from some of my recent posts). Their mission statement, if you're not familiar with it, is: "To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery." I really couldn't put it in any better words.

I've never had the chance to go to a TWLOHA event, so I was TOTALLY excited when I heard about the Pick Up The Phone tour, featuring Blue October with opener B.O.B. The Pick Up The Phone tour was dedicated to suicide prevention, with people from 1-800-SUICIDE, TWLOHA, and PostSecret scheduled to be at the events. The tour was going to come to the House of Blues- just a quick bus ride from campus- on November 15. I definitely wanted to go.

I didn't purchase a ticket right away. In fact, it turns out that TWLOHA needed volunteers (18 and over, and able to get to/from the event) to help out at the event! I don't think I could explain in words how excited I was. Naturally, I sent an email and filled out a volunteer application. I was so, so excited to actually volunteer for an organization that means so much to me. I have had previous non-profit experience, but it was "behind-the-scenes"; I was so ready for the opportunity to go "out there" and meet people and tell them about To Write Love on Her Arms. Going to the event and meeting members of the TWLOHA would've been cool, but actually volunteering and knowing how much I would've helped? Yeah, that would've been pretty much amazing.

However, not long after that, I found out that the Pick Up The Phone tour had been cancelled, due to Blue October's lead singer, Justin Furstenfeld, being hospitalized due to an extreme anxiety attack. I was definitely a little upset that the tour had been cancelled, because I had really been looking forward to volunteering. But having struggled with mental health issues myself (I won't go in to detail here), I know that you can't always control it, and sometimes the best thing to do really is to rest. It is so, so important to get treatment.

So that was awhile ago. Today (okay, yesterday, be technical) was the date the show was going to be. I wish it could've happened, but I really think Justin did the right thing, and I know that it is important for him to heal.

For anyone struggling with mental health issues- whether it is depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, recovering from abuse of any form, self-injury, anxiety, addiction, suicide, or anything else- please, get help. Reaching out can be the hardest thing in the world. But please, please, please do it. If you are struggling with any of these things, please be aware that you are not alone.
Recovery is not easy, but it is possible. I promise. I've held off on the cheesiness till now, but if you are in a crisis, please, please, please "pick up the phone" and call 1-800-SUICIDE (or any other hotline). Or talk to a friend, a parent, a teacher, a counselor. Just reach out.

"Presenting hope" to those dealing with mental illness may seem like a small thing, but it in no way is. I don't think it's possible to measure the impact of TWLOHA directly, but I think it's pretty clear that they've had a big impact. Friday was "To Write Love on Her Arms Day". I wrote "LOVE" on my arm, and if anyone questioned it, I'd planned to tell them all about the organization, and write "LOVE" on their arm. But I didn't get to write "LOVE" on anyone else's arm. Why? Because just about everyone I knew had already done it themselves.

I would like to add that you do NOT need to have personal experience dealing with any of the aforementioned issues in order to support TWLOHA, 1-800-Suicide, or any other organization. Writing "LOVE" on your arm, for example, does not mean you yourself have struggled with any type of depression, self-injury, or addiction. It means that you support the organization.