New year, new ACL: the joys of surgery, Part One

December 30, 2016 was the day. The day of all days I’d been counting down to for a few weeks. The day I WANTED and NEEDED to arrive since seeing my ripped-almost-in-half ACL on the MRI.



YES and yes both legs are getting carved into…



I refer to it as ACL day. Hamstring tendon harvest day. Knives drills hammers screwdrivers day. Did I mention my legs were the carpentry project for these tools, Master Carpenter, renowned surgeon Dr.Heard and the workshop, Banff Mineral Springs Hospital? I even got to watch it all on TV. Reality TV in the Operating Room. Me and my knees playing bit parts to the Masters of the Surgical Domain.


Ha. Never thought it’d be me in there getting this done. Oh well.


My poor legs. These legs that have been so very good and strong for me. For sport. For Canada. And now…so…nothing. So damaged and weak. Reality is however they will be strong again. In time. Good time.



Peace out I’m ready for the OR.



Surgery is a profoundly bizarre experience. There’s a good vibe with tunes playing in the OR. Everyone is nice. Welcoming. Caring. Patient and calm. All of which make me feel the same even though I’m a little nervous inside.


What puts the experience over the top is the presence, by chance, of Matt Jordan. The same Matt Jordan who was my strength trainer for the decade I speed skated. The same Matt Jordan who commentated the Olympic races I did in 2002 and 2006, at the rink, for the crowd. The same Matt Jordan who always believed in me and made me feel strong even when I was not. So Matt being there randomly as a viewer of the ACL Master Dr.Heard in preparation for his PHD thesis on ACL’s made me somehow believe I was stronger and braver than I should have been.


Sedative? Nah. Who needs that? Watch on the tv as your leg gets drilled hammered and screwed? Sure, where’s the popcorn?!


Dr.Irving my anastheisiologist sits to my left above my shoulder talking calmly smiling widely making like it’s no big deal to have just done a ‘spinal’ and temporarily paralyzed me from the waste down. Dr.Heard Dr.McIsaac and the team prep me like a turkey for the oven: I am basted with germ killing syrups; my legs are twisted and put in place. A tendon is ‘harvested’ from the opposite legs hamstring. Dr.Heard comes around with it hanging like something you’d cut off the chicken because it would be too tough to chew ‘see your new ACL!’. He’s genuinely excited. This man is a fighter in the ring, fully focussed and committed to get shit done in the best of ways. He’s passionate and I’m grateful he loves what he does. He wants my new ACL to be the best ever. How cool is that.


‘Ummm…nice, I guess?’ is all I can say to the human tendon hanging like spaghetti noodles from his surgical gloves. My human tendon that will become  my human ligament when sewn up and prepped for the other knee.


Kinda gross kinda cool all at once.


‘Let me know if you need that sedative anytime, Clara’. I’m okay, Dr.Irving. I’m okay, I think, but don’t say.


It’s all so…weird…


I start feeling some pain in the drilled screwed hammered knee towards the end and I get a shot of fentanyl (which slightly terrifies me) into the IV. Did I mention I’ve never had an IV in my life before this? Nor have I taken pain killers beyond regular Tylenol?! I’m suddenly feeling kinda giddy as I look up over my left shoulder at Dr.Irving. He’s upside down and his eyes shine so bright with kindness, his eyebrows dance above those eyes and the mask he wears topped with surgical hat makes him seem like a cartoon. I know I’m stoned and stare in wonder. Trying not to laugh. I know I have a shower cap shaped hat on my messy red haired head and wonder how ridiculous I look.


So…weird…is this really me in here?


To be continued….


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