Lauren's ACL Journey
Hello everyone! My name is Lauren, I'm a senior in high school, and I'm a content creator at resilientHer! As mentioned before in my last blog post, I will talk about my experience with ACL Injuries. I put my heart, soul, and tears into this, so I hope this helps someone know that it's going to be ok. The ResilientHer team is always here for anyone and will support each and every one of you guys. I've included my advice at the end of the story, so read until the end! Without further or due, here's my story!
Throughout my life, I have always been an athletic kid. Out of the many sports I've played, I've always been the most passionate about soccer. Since I was 5, soccer has been my life, my true love, my everything. I have some pretty memorable and extraordinary stories with this sport, but also some challenging encounters and hardships I never expected.
February 14th, 2015, Valentine's day. Who would have thought the day of love would turn into full of pain and aching? I was ecstatic to compete in one of the biggest tournaments in Jurupa Valley, California. It was the second to last game of the match, and we were tied with 2 minutes before the whistle blew.
Suddenly, a forward from the other team took the ball and was moving towards the goal. I was in position as the last defender, the sweeper, and I ran full speed towards the player to try to get the ball. We were neck in neck, beside each other, trying to get in control of the ball.
Before I knew it, I was slowly falling towards the ground, as if time had slowed down. I didn't realize that I had blacked out for a couple of seconds, not knowing what was happening to me. When I came to, my team and coaches were all around me as I was on the ground, confused. What happened? What was wrong?
As I tried to stand up to look for the other player, a sharp and excruciating pain shot through my right knee. I winced and screamed, clutching my knee as I fell back onto the ground. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me, and when I tried to stretch out my knee, it made things worse. The referee ended the game right away, and my team helped me walk to my grandparents. They, along with my parents, thought nothing of the injury at the time.
When I woke up the next morning and tried to stand, the pain was 10 times worse, and I immediately fell back on my bed. My parents took me to Urgent Care to get X-rays, only to come back negative. I was in pain and tears all day, with no idea of what had happened.
Monday morning, I was with my father in the doctor's office. When the doctor tried to move my knee, I screamed and shouted in pain, on the verge of tears. Suddenly, there was this look on their face indicating to me something was gravely wrong. They ordered my father to not let me walk and to immediately get an MRI.
After 2 weeks of being stuck in my room and out of school, my MRI results came in. My mother came into my room, her eyes filled with worry and sadness. She took a deep breath and paused before uttering the fateful words: "You have a torn ACL."
Immediately, I was filled with panic and worried about my future for soccer. I started pelting my mother with questions while desperately fighting back the tears. She tried to sugarcoat it, but she said I had to get surgery and couldn't play soccer for a while.
For someone who has played soccer their whole life, it was as if my world had crumbled, been stomped on, and then burned down. Despair overwhelmed me as I feared that I would never return to soccer, that I would never be ok again. But the worst thing is, I thought I wasn't going to be myself, which was unfortunately right. At the time, I wasn't prepared physically or mentally for the grueling journey ahead.
The next few weeks were one of the most painful and challenging times I have ever experienced. From doctor's visits, getting fitted for a knee brace, organizing independent study with school, and trying to stay sane for the upcoming surgery, I was challenged in ways I could never imagine.
Finally, on April 10th, 2015, I underwent surgery for my ACL injury. At first, I was terrified to have surgery. Every second and minute I was in there, waiting for my name to be called was nerve-wracking. However, a fantastic nurse helped me get through the surgery, who inspired me to become a nurse. She helped me gain confidence and feel ready to face my future and start my recovery journey.
After I woke up from anesthesia, I saw I was alone. My knee was thickly wrapped in bandages, and I couldn't move it at all. I did it. I'm ok. I'm alive.
Later, the doctor went through with my parents and me on the ACL recovery process. The doctor instructed me to rest, reduce the swelling with an ice machine, and keep my knee elevated while trying not to baby it. After I got some range of motion back, I was to go to physical therapy to strengthen my knee. After they prescribed pain medications and other necessities, I finally got to go home. I thought I had overcome the worst of it, but oh boy, was I wrong.
The next few months were quite an experience for me. The first week was difficult since a constant twitch in my knee annoyed me and caused a little pain. From taking medications that made me tired and caused GI troubles to struggling to get out of bed and move without pain, I had to adjust to a new "normal."
I was starting to lose my mind, but my parents and relatives supported me through it all that they didn't even know it. They took care of me and encouraged me that this is only a setback and that I will get to play again on that field I love so dearly.
Eventually, I got the hang of things. I have to say the most challenging thing I had to do would be learning how to walk with crutches and with the knee brace. It's as if you're trying to learn how to walk again slowly, like newborns learning their first steps.
I started going to physical therapy twice a week for almost a month, the exercises intensifying each visit. I would also have to do these exercises at home and ice it afterward as well. I highly recommend listening and talking with your physical therapist to let them know how you're doing with the exercises and help you in your recovery process.
Finally, in May, the day came when I was cleared of my physical therapy and that I could take the field again. I still had on the brace and was hesitant to remove it from fear that my ACL would tear again. When I finally went back to school, I remember all my friends running up to me when they saw me return. It was challenging walking from class to class, but I eventually got used to it.
It wasn't until around October/November that I started playing again. I was filled with fears of reinjuring it and whether I still had that passion in me that I lost. When I returned to the field, though, I could feel my senses coming back to me. The grass on the bottom of my cleats sent my heart pounding with excitement and nervousness. The stadium lights shone brightly upon me and the #10 on my jersey, and I felt like I was on the top of the world.
My parents, grandparents, coach, and team on the sidelines cheered and smiled at me. Suddenly the whistle blew, and that's when I knew I made it. I had finally crossed the finish line of the seemingly endless race that was my recovery. 3 years passed by, and I was able to play soccer while staying healthy. But what I thought was the end was only the remainder of my journey.
January 4th, 2018, 12:27pm. Five minutes into my game, the ball was suddenly upon my feet. When someone tried to steal the ball, I did a simple trick but failed to realize that the grass was muddy.
Suddenly, my foot was stuck in the mud, and my knee went the other way with an audible tear. Everyone's eyes were on me while I was struggling to hold in the pain and tears. At that moment, all the memories filled with pain, worry, doubt, and sadness came upon me. What was wrong with me? Is this happening again? Am I going to be ok? Is my world going to be taken away again, and if so, would it be gone forever this time?
This time, it didn't take long to get my diagnosis. When my mother told me I had torn my other ACL, I was on the verge of throwing up and could feel every inch of my body tense. I could feel my throat close while tears fell down my face, and my heart tightened as if I was gasping for air. I couldn't believe it had happened again.
I didn't know how to react at that moment, and frankly, I don't remember it. It was a dark time for me and one I didn't know how to overcome again. I didn't have the strength I had before. I genuinely thought at the time that this was the end.
My 2nd ACL journey was a whole lot different from my first one. As I was dealing with my preoperative physical therapy, I had to use crutches to walk around my high school. Usually, people would mind their own business and go on about their day, but high school was a different story.
There was a group of 4 people that were right beside me. Every day when I came into the class, they would point out how I was walking with crutches and snickered among themselves. They called me a fake, a liar, and even asked ridiculous and inquisitive questions about my injury. Every time I passed by them, they would yell at me to stop walking with crutches because I "didn't need them," that I was a "robot leg," or my favorite, "attention seeker."
It may not seem that bad, but for me, it was soul-crushing. I didn't want to be reminded of my injury, and I couldn't make the bullies understand how I was suffering, physically and mentally.
As this progressed, my mental health was slowly deteriorating. One day, when I nearly fell in front of the class, I could hear laughter from behind me, and I knew who it was. My chest tightened as panic arose in me. I couldn't take it anymore. The name-calling, the accusations, the ridiculing; I was over it. I ran to the restroom, crying softly in the stall, alone and at my lowest.
I was stressed, tired, in pain, furious, heartbroken, and miserable. I wanted to be happy, to be ok, to play soccer again. It was my only distraction from my crazy life, my escape where I could release all my emotions and stress through an activity I loved. It was the only place where I could be free.
Later that day, I finally mustered the courage to speak up. During lunch, I told my friend about the bullying, fear welling in my chest. She didn't say anything at first, but then she hugged me, and my tears flowed uncontrollably. I didn't care how I looked; I finally started to overcome this and learn my way back.
A few weeks went by, and I told some of my closest friends what was happening. They all repeated the same thing: "Why didn't you tell us something before?" I felt stupid because right in front of me was these amazing friends I could ever ask for. With their help, the group finally stopped bullying me. Valeria, Jasmine, Camila, Abby, and many others, thank you guys so much for being there. I couldn't have done this without you.
March 1st, 2018: the day of my surgery. Before I entered through the big metal doors to the operation room, I got a call from my friend Jeff. He told me that I was going to be ok and that he and my friends missed me. I still remember how overjoyed I felt with them and to be as strong as I could.
As I was led through the doors, I could feel my heart racing, and slowly as the doors were closing, I took one last look out where my parents were and smiled at them. I told them that I'm going to be ok, that I'm going to come back stronger than ever, and telling them not to worry.
When the doors shut, I turned around and was wheeled into the operation room with my head held high while tears were running down my face. I knew I had a marathon of a journey ahead, likely even harder than the first time, but this time, I was ready for anything that was to be thrown at me.
My advice for anyone going through an injury is to hold on to the motivations that inspire you. Right now, it may seem everything is falling apart and nothing is going right. But believe me when I say this; It will get better. The future is bright and it has many opportunities for you! You will come back from this stronger than ever! I believe you can do this and if anyone needs someone to talk to then the resilient team and I are always here!
I would like to thank Yurika for inspiring and helping me through this process of telling my story. I honestly couldn’t have done it without her and thank you Yurika for helping me find a place to express my voice and courage.
I also like to thank my family and friends for never giving up on me. When I was going through writing this, I remembered how I felt back then and realized I made it and everything happens for a reason. I was told I would never be the same again and that I would have to quit soccer. I have changed a lot but I still have my passion for soccer even though I lost it for a while. I am here for anyone who is going through this tough process or needs someone to talk to. The resilient team organization is amazing and I am in full gratitude for what they have done for me and for others. Thank you! :)