part 1: That one time…in a Swiss hospital

I had reconstructive ACL and double meniscus surgery at a private clinic in Switzerland.  14 words that generally don’t end up in the same sentence. 14 words that completely changed my world on Monday October 1, 2018.

Note: This is a personal post, NOT a travel post.  For anyone who has seen my increasingly ironic crutches-based instagram posts, here’s the story!

Having played a multitude of sports all my life, I’ve always considered myself lucky that I have never had a serious injury.  No stitches, no broken bones, even when I went hiking in a Thai jungle with $2 shoes, joined an Aussie rules football team in Melbourne or  when I was bitten by a caracal in Namibia. After successfully avoiding hospitals for 27 years, I really went for it…


Where it all changed

Everything changed on September 3 when I was playing a football match with my team in our women’s league.  Less than 20 minutes in, I collided with another player and then tried to turn to go after the ball.  Tried being the operative word.  My body succeeded in turning, but my foot remained firmly planted in the artificial turf.  I can still hear my scream as I collapsed on the ground.  Not being an overly loud player, I generally have second hand embarrassment when I see players screaming and pounding the turf when they fall.  I am now one of those people.  The difference being that I didn’t get up 5 minutes later and keep on playing.  It was the most pain I’ve ever been in and I felt things stretch inside my knee, but as I didn’t hear the tell-tale ACL pop sound, I held out a little hope.

My plan was to go to the hospital in the morning after sleeping in my own bed, because what are they going to do overnight for my knee?  When I asked my boss how our accident insurance worked and casually mentioned this, she did not accept, and immediately drove me to a clinic.  The on-call doctor couldn’t do much more than take an x-ray (inconclusive of course) and recommend an MRI and a knee brace.  Thanks to the private health care system in Switzerland (more words I never thought I’d say) the MRI was arranged for 4 days later, not 3-6 months later as is the norm in Canada.

The MRI proved that my ACL was indeed fully ruptured and that I also had tears in both menisci.  The doctor immediately gave me the full leg brace where you cannot bend your knee let alone sit down properly on a chair.  I managed to have some assistance to move up my appointment with the specialist and when I saw him the first thing he said was “take off that brace!” Apparently with my injury it’s important to move as much as possible before surgery, so much so that it is normal to do 1-4 months of physiotherapy PRE surgery, to assist with the recovery.

With my injuries, I was told by the surgeon that if I wanted to properly play football, or ski again, I would need surgery and the extent of the surgery would be determined only once I was on the operating table.  He also wanted to give me a new anterior lateral ligament, which I had never heard of and did not quite understand but nodded anyway.  The entire process after injuring myself had been very confusing – one doctor had said don’t move your knee at all, another was saying move it around, and all my friends who had torn their ACL had been able to move around much better than me after their injuries.  Needless to say I was not feeling confident, especially considering some of these appointments were conducted in French and my medical French was essentially nil.

About two weeks after my injury, I had an “I need my mommy” moment. Unfortunately when your mommy has spent even less time around healthcare than you, you realize quickly that you simply need to suck it up and figure it out.  I felt a bit better after going to another surgeon for a second opinion and being given essentially the same diagnosis.

Ines and I

I also felt a bit better when friends decided to join me with my new look 😉 To be fair, she did have the crutches first.

If you’re still enthralled and want to know the gory surgery details from the perspective of a girl who had never spent more than 30 minutes in a hospital, click here for part 2.

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