12 weeks and counting

It's been 12 weeks since I crashed my motorcycle, 12 weeks minus 1 day since I had surgery to put my knee back together, and 4 weeks since I last wrote anything about it.  For over 10 weeks I wore a leg brace, meaning I've been free from it for almost 2 weeks.  Eight weeks ago I started physical therapy, 5 weeks ago I started driving, 1 week ago I started boxing again.

Kneecap at T-minus 1 day of surgery and 12 weeks later
In a strange, Stockholm-syndrome kind of twist, I kind of miss my leg brace.  Not in the sense of the support it gave me, but for the physical reminder it sent to me and to others that everything wasn't A-ok in the general vicinity of my right knee.  Now I'm asked more often than not "So is your knee all healed up?"  And 12 weeks ago when I was told I'd be in a leg brace for 10 weeks, my reaction was the same: once it's off, I'll be 100% again.

But no.

My knee is still larger than my thigh because the soft tissue that was ripped apart is still swollen as it continues to heal itself.  I've come to understand this could last for up to a year.  My thigh is still smaller than my knee because my muscles atrophied (quickly) when I was be-braced and couldn't use them.  I've come to understand this can take 4–6 months to reach 80% to 90%, and up to a full year to get back to 100%.  While I used to be able to hang out at the bottom of a squat for minutes at a time, my knee currently doesn't bend far enough for me to do so, and I don't have the strength to get back up.  I have a 6-inch jagged scar running the width of my knee, I can feel knots under my skin where the surgeon tied off the plastic sutures she used to hold the 2 pieces of my kneecap together, and some skin and facia are still stuck to my kneecap where they adhered while my leg was stuck inside of its cage.

Be-scarred knee and atrophied leg
So no, my knee is not all healed up. And it won't be for a while.

I seem to cycle between good weeks and bad weeks.  The good ones usually involve realizing I've made some progress—another 10 degrees of bend, the ability to climb a step without a hand rail—which usually comes on suddenly, like "hey, look at that, I'm an inch closer to the floor and it doesn't hurt!"  That's been interesting to watch, since I thought the healing process would be more gradual.  The bad weeks involve trying and failing to do something I used to be able to do, or think I should be able to do, or try doing and then finding out how much harder it is to do than I thought it would be.  I expect these weeks to be more common now that the brace is off and I can try (and fail) to do more.   Hopefully they'll be countered by weeks when I realize that I've tried (and succeeded in) doing something, even if it's just a little more than last week.

So I still find the injury and healing process intriguing, despite the frustrating moments.   I'm hoping I might be more empathetic about both in the future, now that I'm developing an understanding of how much time it can take to heal and how difficult it can be.  I'm happy to be walking, hoping to be running (slowly) soon, and looking forward to hanging out in the bottom of a squat again.  This week I started hitting things (and got hit) again in boxing, and today I pushed a sled—not the heaviest one I've pushed before, but it felt awesome to move that sucker across the gym floor.

Tomorrow I may hurt.  And I'll likely be pissed off because of it.  It's easy to take for granted the things I could do before being injured, and it's frustrating not to be able to do them now.  But eventually I'll get there, with enough time and practice and patience, maybe just one small lunge or shallow squat at a time.   In the meantime I'll take whatever quarter-inch more mobility my knee will give me, and try to call it good.