“When we let silence wash over, a space is created for vulnerability and the potential to know others in a way that talking could never allow” (B. Zhang, HFO).
It was a wintry Thursday night when I and my comrade were cruising our way to one of the badminton courts where we usually compete for tournaments. I was all covered up with cheerfulness and enthusiasm for that particular tournament’s 7th Round, which emanated from my unusual ability to see the outcome of a particular event. I knew that it was his time to clinch that coveted champion title. I had seen it happened in a dream. The odds and statistics were also in his favor. We were both tremendously improving by then. That was why I bagged that title on the 6th round. He and I were constant partners in tournaments during the last eight months.
While I was sitting on the sides of the court watching him and the other teams play, I was hit with a sudden bolt of great joy and pain. I got severely distracted…yet I continued cheering them on. I had never been so intent at the details of how these racket warriors play on that level until that night. For a moment, I was amazed because I made it to that level with an overwhelming victory. Then got completely distracted—again. Whatever form of positivity radiating from me earlier vanished into thin air. Nobody knew I was hurting and if someone did, it would be nowhere near the actual gravity. Gluing my eyes to them brought unimaginable agony to my heart and, somehow, literally to my left knee. Then again, I had to come to my senses until he and I were drove home. I did not want to ruin the award ceremony when I approached him and his partner and said, “I told you!”
The breath of that unmatched victory brought a soothing heat to the cold wind enveloping the entire city of Riyadh. I danced to its generated harmony as he did when I had mine.
Earlier that night, I got the MRI results of the injury I sustained seven days before the tournament. I kept it to myself after informing my family back home, and after breaking the tear ducts for a few minutes at the corner of that familiar street near the hospital. I actually thought it was a non-serious injury because I was able to drive and walk—though limping—after the accident. I also rested (i.e., no practice at all) for straight six days prior to the event and did stretches at home and at the court. The report of said results spoke otherwise.
My thoughts brought me back to the night it happened. He and I were on a team tournament battling for the fourth, deciding match with quite a strong opponents; the beast mode was switched on. During an intense rally where I was at the left back side of the court and the shuttlecock was directed to me, I responded with a slight jump smash then landed on that damaged, scotch-taped part of the taraflex floor. I slipped upon trying to position back properly when the shuttlecock was returned to me. Before I could respond, I fell. It was when I tried to stand up that I felt an excruciating pain. I growled for about a few minutes before fellow players came hovering over me. I was in a half-conscious state when I felt someone pulled my leg up abruptly with great force; the pain frittered away instantaneously. Thereafter, I was advised by a fellow player, who happened to be an orthopedist and have placed my patella back, to rest for two weeks.
Things turned upside down with that single strike of reality, upon reading the results and hearing the orthopaedic surgeon’s advice. My anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) was completely torn and I had to have surgery. My questions about the surgery ensued…I decided not to go for it even if it shall be covered by the insurance. I left the hospital with a heavy weight on my chest knowing that I will be on limited mobility—forever. Pictures of my activities that require physicality flashed through my mind; I was harrowed. There was nothing that could console my spirit.
I made a choice to play this sport because it is one of the few things I feel I am good at. Now that it has been taken away from me, I kind of lost my sense of purpose. I remembered in a trice all the sacrifices of spending Fridays for hard-core training…among others. The world seemed to have stopped from revolving. Everything around turned bleak.
A few days after that emotional distress, I reconsidered the decision. I was about to cross to other side of the road in broad daylight to do my monthly remittance when I froze out of the blue. I could not move my left leg … Not because it was still swelling but because I was filled with fear at the mere sight of speeding vehicles passing by. For the first time in my life, I felt so helpless. Weak. Worse than being paralyzed. It was there that I was suddenly brought to a time warp where my family is in a hostile situation and I have to fight in order to save them. This put a new spin on the ball indeed so I went to the hospital on the same day to book a date for the surgery.
I was given 45 days to prepare. I informed the concerned and see to it that there will be someone with me on the big day and when I get discharged from the hospital. I spent a lot of time doing prehabilitation to ensure my feet, especially the injured one, are stronger post-operation. Also, ruminating on the procedure from things to do before and after to detailed physio exercise programs with the help of the internet.
The next thing I knew I was lying on the operation table on a Thursday afternoon. Above me, a canopy of stars emerged from the surgical lights. There were seven nurses in green uniforms; the surgeon was in light blue. When all of them put the white mask on, I heard the surgeon said, “It is time”. I closed my eyes; prayed; felt something cold rushing through my veins; and, I say, went on a deep sleep. Every part of me shut off for about an hour and a half. When I opened my eyes, I was already in my room feeling that minimal pain in the surgical cuts with a braced knee. I traveled back to the slumber world within a few minutes of murmuring a little thanksgiving prayer, snacking, and ocular wandering.
The operation, which was scheduled in the morning, was seven hours late. Consequently, I missed the first physical therapy—of the three required, initial sessions. The physio gym is open from 0800 to 1830 only. I had to be admitted for another day to complete the sessions and got discharged on Saturday. The regular physical therapy immediately started on Sunday.
Going to the hospital entailed an absolute struggle particularly on that first day. It took me approximately two hours bathing; 25 minutes defecating; almost one hour putting clothes on; about 15 minutes going down the 25 staircases to opening the gate; and three minutes getting into the car. There were days that I skipped bathing to give way to doing two sessions of physio at home. Each session lasts for a total of three hours on the average and I am required to do three sessions—daily. The range and frequency of the exercises or activities are being increased every week.
Under the circumstances, writing is not in the equation but for the innate love of sharing the experience, I did find a space for it to be jotted down whenever I am en route to the hospital; on a twenty-minute intimacy with the electrotherapy machine; and resting on Fridays—the only day when the physio gym is closed.
I am completing my third week of rehabilitation today, 31 January 2019. It has been a grueling three weeks of physical therapy. I have grown to heart the abduction and induction machine, clinical bed, cryotherapy device, recumbent bike, and, most of all, the smiles on the faces of fellow patients while doing the tormenting knee flexion exercises.
In spite of the hardships of this injury down that long, winding, and challenging road to recovery, I know that it will end. My results are excellent so far. I can now walk without crutches—albeit limping—but that does not mean I could advance to the next phase. The rehabilitation program is (strictly) a step-by-step process.
Since that night my ACL was torn, I have gathered life lessons that have been unexpected, humorous in a way, and, of course, insightful. I still weep, but I also still laugh at the end of the day and smile every time I wake up—knowing that there are still larger-than-life endeavors ahead of me.
The experience, no matter how unfortunate, taught me that I have a strong will and I am more disciplined than I have ever imagined. And the priceless discovery that came out of it is…I have friends who, just like family, have values that are more than champion trophies or the most expensive smart phones out there.
I am forever grateful to everyone who has been an essential part of this journey. I have nothing but good wishes for you at this moment.
ACL | Finding the SILVER LINING in every step of the Journey (doitchoco.wordpress.com)
The Road to Recovery: Getting Back in the Game (accesssportsmed.com)
ACL Repair Surgery – What They Don’t Tell You (and My Recovery) (indianajo.com)