Recovering from ACL Surgery – The Week After…

Recovering from ACL Surgery – The Week After…

If you’re just joining, go ahead and catch up on our pediatric ACL saga tear with the first 4 posts about my daughter’s ACL injury here, here, here and here. We are one week post modified adult ACL surgery and I thought I’d share how the first week has gone.

Day 1 – ACL Surgery

The day of surgery was pretty well taken up with the surgery itself.  Doctor came out with fairly cool and completely unidentifiable photos of the inside of Jaeda’s knee. knee surgery We were home by 3:30 and while Jaeda was still a bit woozy and light headed, she was up and  about on her crutches without much pain at all. Knee surgery photo We came home to the cutest flowers from a friend and grandma.  Tip:  Jaeda loved being thought of (I haven’t downloaded from my camera yet – but will add a pic later.) The nerve block was still in place and she slept well without much hassle.  Tip: The doctor said a small percent of patients feel pain on the back of their knee that isn’t blocked by the nerve block.  Jaeda felt that pain upon waking up and the nurse in charge said “The majority of kids hurt there when they wake up.”   We needed to keep the ice machine running and on her leg constantly for the first 24 hours so I got up at 12 am and 4 am to trade out the water for fresh ice and check on her.   Tip:  The ice machine says trade water every hour, but hospital staff said it’s fine for 4 to 5 hours.  

Day 2 – Top of the World

Jaeda started the day in great spirits.   The day could be best described by one of Jaeda’s statements that day:

“This doesn’t hurt as much as I thought it would.”

She felt up for visitors so one of her friends came over to say hello, she was up and about on her crutches and laughing.  Tip:  I had to buy ice since the ice machine is an ice HOG and my freezer couldn’t keep up.   Recovering from ACL Surgery Tip:  Bring very loose shorts or a skirt to the hospital for your patient to wear home.  She came out of the operating room in the full brace and bandage and the clothes need to fit over it all. We rented a couple of movies and the day was great. Then, I assume the nerve block wore off. There was pain. There were tears. There was panic about the pain and if it was going to get worse.   It was a rough hour.  Then she was due for another Oxycontin pill plus I gave her the supplemental pill and a half (Oxycodon) she was allowed for what the surgeon dubbed “break through pain”. The drama/pain/medication combination resulted in dropping off to sleep pretty soon thereafter and she slept great.  We were past the 24 hours of constant ice so I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night (which I appreciated).

Day 3 – Managing.

Wednesday was probably the worst day because Jaeda was feeling the pain and very anxious about the pain getting worse.  That anxiety caused tight muscles which caused discomfort which caused anxiety which caused tight muscles…and the cycle spun round and round. The supplemental pain pill (Oxycodon) was distributed pretty regularly which handled the pain, but then she started to complain that she felt sick – headachy, tummy ache, icky.  I assume side effect of the Oxycodon. Today was also the day the surgeon said she could take a shower so it was the first day we had a look at her knee post surgery. scars from ACL surgery Although pretty swollen, it looked much better than I expected. The shower was an ordeal and I got in with her to give her some comfort.  She was extremely nervous about standing up without a brace or crutches, teary from anxiety, and just all around unhappy.  But clean.

Day 4 – Physical Therapy

Thursday was on par with Wednesday other than Jaeda didn’t feel as much pain and she refused to take the Oxycodon because of how icky it made her feel.  Our big issue this day was the first physical therapy session post operation. Jaeda was extremely nervous that it would hurt and cried the entire time we were in the appointment.  Her nerves made it pretty difficult to get much done, but the PT (Jeremy of Rocky Mountain Spine and Sport) did a great job taking it slowly and easing her fears, being patient with her anxiety and easing her into it.   Her extension (straight) was great – 4 deg and flexion (how far it could bend) wasn’t bad at 23 deg. Tip:  Make sure your selected physical therapist has experience with child and teen patients. I knew Jaeda wasn’t feeling great because during the day she said a couple of times that “Tevan will be so mad at me if I decide I don’t want to go camping this weekend.” Meanwhile this is the kid that upon waking up in the hospital said “I still want to go camping, Mom.”  The fact that she was rethinking our trip was a pretty good indicator that she wasn’t feeling great. She was also very self conscious about her leg “looks fat.” Me: “No way!  It looks like a leg with a brace on it.  Not fat.” She’s anything but fat, but she has been very focused on her leg looking fat with all her “gear” on.  It worries me about body image, self confidence, and all the rest that parents struggle with during tween and teen years.  I suppose that I should be grateful I’ve had this peek into how she’s thinking and feeling so I can start looking for teaching moments and opportunities to discuss physical beauty, weight, etc.  Mostly though I’m nervous and the idea of ramping up the talks about body image is daunting.

Day 5 – Physical Therapy & Camping

The second session of physical therapy went SO much more smoothly than the first one.  Jaeda wasn’t afraid this time and was a rock star.  Just in one day she got to 2 deg extension and 32 deg flexion and was a great patient.  She even got on the bike!

physical therapy for knee
4 days post ACL operation

She was feeling much better and decided she did want to go camping after all. So we did. Friday night we tent camped and she was a trooper, no complaints.  The drive up was a bit difficult to keep her leg on the seat but not have the dog sit on her leg was quite a struggle.

Day 6 – Camping

She was a little sore, but not wanting the Oxycodon.  Thankfully some people we were camping with brought Advil which did the trick. Emotionally she was upset she couldn’t participate in most of the activities the other kids were doing such as swimming, zip lines, playground, etc.  Although she wasn’t quite as upset that she wasn’t expected to set up camp :).  It was about this time that the length of time it would take for recovery hit her and some time and emotion was spend wishing it had never happened. I agreed – we all wish it hadn’t happened, but let’s look forward.

Day 7 – Home Again

We headed home from camping.  Jaeda’s leg was getting pretty sore and she was ready to be home.  We managed a better arrangement for the drive back that didn’t have her sitting with the dog worried that she was going to step or sit on Jaeda’s leg. Getting ice on her knee when we got home helped a lot, as did just laying down on the couch with it elevated.

Day 8 – Huge Improvement

Physical therapy was awesome.  Jaeda had -2 degrees in extension meaning her knee was beyond straight and even into hyperextension (her normal) so she hit that milestone.  Her flexion was 90 degrees – awesome!  And what the surgeon hoped to see 2 weeks out versus 1.  Her lag on quad engagement prior to getting her leg to lift was 24 deg and fairly common. Big goal of PT is getting her quad engaging again and strong. No pain.  No anxiety.  Walking on it solidly and comfortable showering alone and taking the brace off for laying around.

Day 10 – Progress

PT measurements continued to improve.  She achieved full extension last session and maintained it, plus went to 108 deg flexion, and reduced quad lag to 10 deg.  Got on the bike and was able to go the full way around even. Mental is great, feeling confident and doing well with all her everyday activities without help. Awesome.


I wanted to give you an idea of what the first week looks like because things change so rapidly, but from here out it’s just going to be PT improvements and 2 week, 2 month and 6 month check ups with the surgeon.   We have PT 3 times a week until she starts school and then I think we’ll drop it to 2 times a week now that she’s getting the major milestones and can do more at home. Life is gaining some normalcy! Next up?  Back to school in 6 days.

 More ACL Posts

Post 1 – ACL torn, Meniscus torn, bone  bruised – now what?

Post 2 – Best doctors for pediatric ACL surgery

Post 3 – Update on daughter’s ACL surgery

Post 4 – ACL Surgery Update

Post 5 – Recovering from ACL Surgery – the Week After

Post 6 – 4 Months after Pediatric ACL Surgery

Post 7 – Tips for Traveling out of Town for Your Child’s Surgery

Post 8 – A Year After ACL Surgery

13 Responses to Recovering from ACL Surgery – The Week After…

  1. This brings back so many memories. I tore my ACL twice – I have matching scars on each knee – back in high school and college playing soccer. I feel like the surgeries and recovery just keep getting better, but it is a long road. I always felt so great though after the actual surgery part was done, because then I knew I was on the road to getting back to normal and making progress. I hope your daughter has a speedy recovery!

    • Yikes Kerry! BOTH knees? I can only hope this is the one and only ACL surgery we have to experience in this family. There are worse things that can happen, but it’s still no fun at all.

  2. Thank you so much for posting this! My son who is 11, tore his ACL three weeks ago in soccer. We are in the process of finding a surgeon and deciding on the technique. So overwhelming and sad! I hate that this happened! But this was so helpful to see what the two weeks after look like, thank you!!!!!

    • Hi Sara,

      So sorry about your son! I can almost guarantee he should have the physical sparing surgery Kocher is Boston is THE surgeon for that. If you can’t travel to Boston, ask them who they recommend in your area. Email me and I’ll put you in touch with another mom who’s son had this done. She was SO helpful to me. Mominmanagement @ gmail

  3. It felt good to read all 4 posts. I sent my previous comment well before I read all the posts on this. Its amazing how you have kept track of everything and guiding parents in the same boat.

    I am not sure what decision we would take. We are in mid-west 2 hours south to Chicago so both Denver and Boston are kinda far. So looking out nearby options if there are any to take a second opinion/taking surgery decision. As said earlier, my son is just 10 now and not sure about his bone age. Also, need to read more on modified ACL reconstruction…before deciding which way to go.

    • I am happy to help! Please don’t hesitate to reach out. Unfortunately I am at work right now and about to step into meetings for the rest of the afternoon so I can’t call until later tonight.

      Here is the contact information for Kocher’s team in Boston, please call them and ask for recommendations in your area. I bet there is at least 1 if not more in Chicago that are very well qualified.

      I will call you later.

      Stefanie A. Blakely
      Template Coordinator | Phone (781) 216 – 1327
      Boston Children’s Hospital | Division of Sports Medicine

  4. Hi Daria,

    After spending 2-3 days in crying over what happened, I am finally feeling in a state of thinking ahead. It’s so unfortunate to see our one and only active boy stranded and limping with those heavy braces. It is so heart breaking. It still makes me break in tears when anyone asks about my baby…very hard to accept this harsh reality.

    I am bit consoled after reading through all this. Need to pick up myself and move on. Thanks you for posting every detail of it.

    Could I ask you for a favor? Could you please ask your doctor about anyone equally capable of doing pediatric ACL reconstruction in Chicago/St. Louis or Indianapolis areas?

    I am also open to talk to you on phone…My number is (614) 218 5390.

  5. This have been a relief for me tonight. Today, my 16 year old daughter Shaye, suffered a major knee injury playing in a volleyball tournament. The physical trainer said he feels it is a torn ACL, damaged meniscus and bruised bone. We were told to follow up with a Sports Medicine Surgeon at the University of Wisconsin Children’s Hospital on Monday. Of course I don’t have the patience to wait until Monday, so I am happy to read this to answer some of my questions. Thanks! Tomorrow will be a loooong day.

    • Hi Heidi,

      I HEAR you! I have been where you are, scouring the internet looking for answers, trying to figure out what to do and worrying the whole time about if you’re making the right decision. Based on my experience your daughter is likely going to have the modified adult repair or the adult repair depending on if her growth plates are still open. DON’T let the surgeon talk you into the adult repair (with bone blocks) if her growth plate is open. Get at least 2 opinions and 3 is better. Also, I started a facebook support group for parents of kids with ACL repair surgery if you’re interested in joining? This is the link

  6. Thank you for your posts my almost 14 yr old son has been diagnosed with a stretched lateral colateral and a partial tear of his ACL we are not sure when it happened, just looking forward to him getting stronger and no longer playing in pain. I also searched the internet and are very grateful to be in NH and have our local orthopedist recomend Dr. Kocher at Boston Childrens. He is having his surgery on May 29th they will replace the LCL with a donor graft and decide about the ACL tear while he is on the table, if it needs to be done it will be a hamstring repair sparing his growth plates. I appriciate your week of surgery posts and helpful hints and wish you and your daughter a full and uneventful recovery… Sandy

  7. I’m so grateful for your blog and the information it has provided. I would love to know how your daughter is doing today- 3 years after the surgery.

    My 12 year old daughter tore her ACL on the last drill on the last day of softball camp last week. We thought it was a sprain, but when it wasn’t almost back to normal after a couple of days we took her to the doctor yesterday. He’s 90% sure it is an ACL tear. MRI is scheduled for tomorrow.

    I’m going to be strong for my daughter, but I just wish it had happened to me instead so I am getting my crying out of the way now. The other challenge for us is a financial one. We have a high deductible insurance plan that does not kick in until our $10,000 deductible is met. This is another burden on top of the worry about our daughter and getting her healthy.

    Thanks again for the information.

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