On Thursday, February 20th, 2014 I snapped three out of four ligaments in my right knee (ACL, PCL & MCL), in an epic trampoline accident and my meniscus was damaged beyond repair.
Prior to my injury, I was very active, I went to the gym regularly, did mud runs, obstacle courses, diving classes, gymnastics and was in Manchester University’s trampoline society.
The injury happened whilst being coached for an upcoming trampoline competition based in Ireland. That very morning, I vowed I was going to get even better at gymnastics and trampoline, booking myself my first session with a parkour personal trainer the next morning. However, during practice after landing a backwards somersault I felt one of my legs go loose and ‘funny’.
I dropped down, landing on the netting of the trampoline. Looking at my leg I could see it had totally dislocated, it looked like something you’d see in a weird abstract painting. I remember the pain, however being surrounded by my fellow trampolinists I decided to take the pain and be as manly as possible! This led to me suggesting someone take a photo of my injury so I could brag about it on Facebook later:
When the ambulance took me to the hospital after a few hours wait they x-rayed my knee, put it in a knee splint, gave me crutches, told me not to bend the leg and to come back in a few weeks for an MRI scan.
Going from super fit to hobbling along
This was the hardest part for me, going from a very active person to hobbling along on crutches not really knowing how long it would take to heal. However, I was very optimistic and thought it would probably heal itself in a month or two…
How wrong I was! After my accident, I was on crutches for roughly eight months, had three operations and had to wear a metal leg brace for another six months on top.
Within the first month, I had the MRI scan where my doctor told me that I had snapped my ACL, PCL, MCL and destroyed my meniscus. They said I would probably never run again and would likely have a limp for the rest of my life.
I was then booked in for keyhole surgery. The keyhole surgery had to wait a couple of months as the knee was too swollen. After the
keyhole surgery (where they attempted to repair my meniscus) they booked me in for another operation whereby they replaced my meniscus with a cadaver’s (dead person’s). This operation involved open knee surgery, taking out my damaged meniscus and replacing it with the new one.
For this operation, they gave me an epidural which meant afterwards I couldn’t pee and had to get a tube shoved up my urethra! (luckily this was only for about two days) Another side effect of this operation was that they had to sever the nerves in my knee to open my knee up, which unfortunately means I can no longer feel sensation in my knee:
After they’d repaired my meniscus I was given a recovery period. I was unable to bend my leg for a month and had to inject myself in the stomach with a needle every day to make sure I didn’t get ill from the operation (I don’t know how diabetics manage it!)
It was also agreed prior that the NHS would heal my knee in two stages, the first being the cadaver meniscus replacement and the second operation a month later whereby they would replace all my ligaments (with a tendon from my other leg). This is where the NHS started to be annoying…
NHS not wanting to replace my ligaments
In-between waiting for the operations I was doing exercise to try to recover quicker, I still went to the gym on my crutches mainly doing upper body (Such as Chin-ups, Pull-ups, Front-dips and Sit-ups). I’d gotten much stronger and therefore became quicker and quicker on my crutches, and even planned to do a race on my crutches if I were on them for much longer.
However, after they replaced my meniscus they slowly started taking my crutches away and I could walk again! However, I still didn’t have any ligaments, which seemed very odd, surely my leg could have given way at the slightest jolt? Thereby having to start the recovery process over again.
I kept asking my doctor when he was going to perform the 2nd operation, to replace my ligaments. However, my doctor didn’t seem to want to book the operation. He said I was doing well and suggested that I might not need ligaments, he said that I wasn’t as young as I use to be (Aged 29) and if I were willing to live a sedate lifestyle I could do without the ligaments. He even tried to scare me out of the operation by saying that it might end in death!!! (I suspect this was totally down to the NHS’s budget and them trying to save money)
This totally infuriated me, I had done a lot of research and knew that I could never hope to recover if I didn’t have ligaments. The result of all this being a complaint letter and me changing my doctor and hospital. (When I found out I could change to another hospital it was a MASSIVE relief as the thought of not being active upset me a lot).
So if your doctor seems not to want to perform your operation I strongly suggest you get a 2nd opinion as it could be solely a financial issue.
New doctor and hospital
After changing to a new doctor and hospital things went a lot smoother, my new doctor was a lot more supportive. I was shocked at how effortless everything moved afterwards. Within a month with my new doctor, I had been booked in for my third and final operation. Where I had tendons taken out of my good leg and used to replace the ligaments in my injured leg. Apparently, it’s better to have replacement ligaments from your own tendons as your body is less likely to reject them. They had to drill into my bone and put in three titanium screws!! (which I think is quite cool, as it brings me one step closer to becoming Wolverine):
After my this operation I had to wear a futuristic looking robot leg for about six months. The robot leg’s job was to protect my new tendons until they have time to grow into ligaments and attached themselves to my body. The robot leg had a lock on it which meant I couldn’t bend it all the way. I believe it started at about 10 degrees and was then incremented to 90 degrees over those six months:
Whilst trapped within my cool robotic leg I was continuously going to the gym, building up the strength in my leg and doing any exercises I could in order to improve the chances of recovery. The best exercise was the exercise bike, I started with low resistance and then as my strength improved moved the resistance to a higher and higher level.
After I was given the all clear by my doctor to remove the robot leg, It took a few weeks until I was confident even to try jogging on it. However, when I did jog I was surprised that I still could!!
I kept jogging a little further each week, I also started doing gym classes. I was given physiotherapy appointments with the NHS, however, I only attended one session due to all the gym work I had done. The NHS’s exercises seemed too basic so I hired a personal trainer.
The doctor had told me to go easy on my recovery, however, I missed my obstacle races too much, in October 2015, I ran a 10k obstacle race “Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest” a race I had taken part in before my injury. However this time to my surprise I had beaten my earlier time and managed to come in the top 5% of all the participants!
So then I decided to do a 15k obstacle course “Tough Guy” in January, and to my surprise, I also came in the top 5% of all participants!
Prior to my injury, I had booked a place to take part in the biggest obstacle course in the world “Rat Race Dirty weekend” a 20-mile obstacle course with over 200 obstacles. I thought it would be crazy to attempt this race however at the same time I thought I wouldn’t know the limitations of my new leg if I didn’t push myself. So I signed up for a spot, race scheduled for May 2016.
In order to train for this, I increased the amount of running and kept up the session with my personal trainer in the gym. I thought I should do some long-distance running beforehand as the furthest I ran on the treadmill was 10 miles. So I signed up for the Manchester marathon (March 2016) I finished the marathon in 4 hours 40 minutes! I then went on to run the Rat Race Dirty Weekend Race and came 202nd out of 3743 people!!
With me being in great shape before my injury, it helped greatly with my recovery. Also, the great medical treatment I received was a huge factor in me regaining full use of my knee. However, I also thank my optimism which inspired me to train my muscles so much and to not feel too sorry for myself and just sit around playing the victim. I listened to all the advice given to me by my doctors and took my recovery very seriously.
I did a lot of research and this lead to me changing doctors when the NHS seemed to want to save money on their budget! The most annoying thing was the sitting around waiting to recover however it was needed. I also knew my body and knew that the physiotherapy the NHS gave me wasn’t adequate to my level of fitness so decided to train independently based on my research.
I went from having three snapped ligaments and a destroyed meniscus to coming in the top 8% of participants of the biggest obstacle course in the world in just over two years. Hopefully, my recovery will serve as some sort of inspiration to you if you’ve experienced multiple ligament injuries, stay optimistic and train your muscles to become stronger than before!