Training Interrupted (Part 2)

So how do you get from a fairly brutal knee injury diagnosis to on the verge of a trip to the South Pole 2.5 years later?  Overnight I had to deal with moving from being super active and in training for a dream trip to being unable to walk and my chances of going on the trip at all dependent on how I responded to the next year of surgery and treatment. 

Those of you who know me will know what an important role Chris Powell of Align Fitness has played in my training over the last 9 years and my rehab journey.  In fact, I had a training session with Chris in the morning before my first appointment with the consultant – no reason not to get a good upper body session in! I have trained with Chris since the start of 2011 and he has brilliantly supported me through training for mountain climbs, long treks and 100km challenge walks as well as getting me in shape for my polar training courses.  He had also torn his ACL a few years before and has a lot of friends involved in top flight football so without missing a beat I was lucky enough to be in front of the country’s top knee specialists fairly quickly after hobbling off the plane.

The Norwegian and London GPs had diagnosed a sprain but at my first appointment with Dr. Batty of Isokinetic I knew that was probably off the mark when 2 things happened:

  1. He didn’t even let me out of my chair in the waiting room before he went to find crutches
  2. I heard him tell reception to get me a same day MRI appointment and have me booked in for physio that day

Once the full diagnosis was in a few days later it was then off to the surgeon, Mr Oussedik of the Wellington Knee Clinic.  That is when the evil full leg brace turned up. 

At my first meeting with Dr Batty it became clear I was not going to be going to Antarctica that year.  That was hard to hear and a lot of those close to me kept waiting for the “meltdown” – it never came.  Of course I was disappointed but for whatever reason it was the last thing on my mind. My main focus was getting back to walking properly and being able to enjoy the outdoors- if they had told me I could go to the South Pole but risk not being able to hike again, I would have picked long term hiking every time!  And, compared to things I saw other people going through, it really wasn’t that big a deal….  That isn’t to say I didn’t have my moments.

So what did rehab look like?  Well, it wasn’t straight into surgery.  First there was a 3 month period of multiple 2 hour physio sessions a week (including in a pool) all designed to get the knee’s range of motion back and to get the swelling down whilst not losing too much strength in the leg.  I was expertly overseen by Ludovica of Isonkinetic for this bit – always cheery even when I would turn up having worked all night and really not with the energy required to even lie on my side on the physio bed and raise my left leg up and down 100 times (harder than it sounds even with a good knee). And of course, I was still in the gym with Chris twice a week!

My surgery was at the start of June 2017 and after some light-hearted relief of my mum asking the surgeon if he knew what he was doing and 5 hrs in the operating room, I had a repaired knee that was arguably stronger than it was before – time for more rehab, in 6 weeks’ time. Because of the meniscus repair I had to not put any weight on my leg at all for the first 6 weeks. 

During this phase, everywhere I travelled I was accompanied by four things:

  • My crutches
  • A wheelchair which my dad “adapted” so I could have my leg up
  • A gameready machine to ice and compress my leg; and
  • A lot of ice in margarine tubs!

The wheelchair was particularly special – great fun for me, not so much for those who had to push me around and chase after me when I decided to wheel myself off!  To be fair, I also did that on crutches as well – making a crutches sprint for the top at Ditchling Beacon when Hywel’s back was turned.   

Once the physical rehab started it was 3 times a week, 2 hrs each time at Isokinetic with Ludo, 2 gym sessions and an hour each week with Sophie Bowker at Evolution Osteopathy.   From the end of July until November I was in the main physio studio at Isokinetic and then over Christmas moved some of my sessions into the “Green Room” where I practiced movement patterns and everything was analysed on a big screen with pressure plates and video replay – disconcerting to see yourself so big on the screen!  At the start of 2018, I moved one session a week outside onto a football pitch to practice more movements and at the start of April 2018 I was discharged – good to go.  It was a lot of work and I had some phenomenal support from the specialists behind me, looking after my physical and mental wellbeing – not easy at times especially as this whole period fell at exactly the time we were breaking ETF Securities up into 4 and selling 3 of the parts!

Looking back on it now, it all seems such a blur and I can hardly believe it was not even 2 years ago that I was going through that gruelling schedule.  Of course there were times I wanted to curl up in a ball and pretend it wasn’t happening but with the support of my friends and family and with the perspective given by what my friend was going through with her breast cancer journey, I was able to persevere.

Special mention has to go to Hywel.  We had only been dating 6 weeks when he had to pick me up from the airport unable to walk- having met me on the side of a mountain I was not sure how he would react to his new girlfriend being quite so incapacitated.  I needn’t have worried – he was brilliant at looking after me and “kneemaggedon” featured prominently in his speech at our wedding earlier this year.