Knee Operation Recovery: Was There Light At The End Of The Tunnel?


With the operation now booked in, I could start to see the light at the end of this period of uncertainty. Prior to the phone call that informed me of the date had not been easy. Although I could see the light, I still wasn’t sure what awaited me at the end of this tunnel.

11 Weeks Post-injury- 1 Week To Surgery:

In the week leading up to the operation I was told that I had to self-isolate to reduce the risk of contracting coronavirus.

I was booked in for a pre-op assessment exactly a week before. This is routine and was to go through my general health and a chance for me to ask any questions I had about the operation and my visit the following week.

I had a few medical checks to go through:

  • My blood was taken so that the surgeon and his team had a supply of blood should it be needed during surgery
  • An MRSA test with swabs taken from my nostrils, groin area and armpits

MRSA is a type of bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics. Undergoing an operation where I could have an open wound, it was important that I wasn’t carrying MRSA unknowingly with the risk of infection.

  • My blood pressure was taken
  • Height and weight was recorded

I left the hospital a lot clearer on what my hospital stay would look like and was sent home with a pack of leaflets about the operation and a bottle of hibiscrub.

I had to ensure that the night before and on the morning of the operation that I showered using only the hibiscrub. No scented shower gels or soaps. After my shower the night before I had to dry with a freshly washed towel, get into clean clothes and have freshly washed bedsheets.

For you that aren’t aware (like I was when I received the bottle), HIBISCRUB is an antiseptic that helps to prevent infections by killing any germs on the skin.

The fact that I couldn’t apply any moisturiser or deodorant after the showers wasn’t something I looked forwards to!

I was informed that they can tamper with the wires attached to my body during the operation.

I was able to get to the training ground to check in with the boys a few weeks before my operation. By this point, I could now walk without the crutches. Image by Tom Mulholland

3 days before the operation, the 8th of August, I had to have a covid test at the hospital.

This was something I was dreading because although I had been isolating from the week before (except the pre-op assessment) and I felt well within myself, I was aware that many people were testing positive without any symptoms.

A positive covid test would have meant the operation being cancelled again and not being able to reschedule for at least 6 weeks!

I was told that I would only hear from the hospital within 48 hours if I was to test positive. As you can imagine the next two days were spent nervously waiting for that dreaded phone call.

One Day To Go

It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that I started to prepare for my hospital admission.

I knew that I was going in for 12 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon and I would be staying in for one night so I only had to pack the essentials:

  • Toiletries
  • Fresh clothes
  • Slippers (Crocs in my case, yes I am a Crocs and socks guy)
  • Laptop and charger for my phone

That evening it started to sink in that I would be undergoing a potentially big knee operation the next day. I think it hadn’t sunk in up until this point because I was still unaware of what the outcome would be. I had got my hopes up and been left frustrated when it was cancelled last time and I didn’t want to open myself up to that again.

I knew that I was having an arthroscopy (key-hole surgery). A procedure in which a surgeon can diagnose and treat problems through a small incision. A fiber-optic video camera is attached to a narrow tube and inserted into the incision and relayed to a monitor in theatre for the surgeon to look at the knee in more detail.

That was only to determine whether the ACL required surgery.

However, the club physio and I were certain that my LCL would need reconstructing and that was the impression that I also got from the specialist in previous consultations.

As time had gone by though, I wasn’t sure if any of my injuries would have shown significant signs of healing and if the specialist would allow for them to continue healing naturally without surgical intervention.

Although my knee didn’t ‘feel normal’ and I was walking with a limp, the pain had subsided over time. So this added to my doubts on whether surgery would be required or not.

I was going into this operation unaware of what the outcome would be.

Was my ACL going to need reconstructing and I’d be out for 9-12 months?

Would my LCL and biceps femoris need reconstructing, with 6 months being the recovery time?

Or would I wake from the arthroscopy and it would have been decided to let my knee heal naturally without surgical intervention?

Every day, those questions went through my mind dozens of times!

I would often think back to the night it happened and if the injury could have been prevented. Image by Tom Mulholland

12 Weeks Post-injury- The Day Of Surgery

At 6:30am my alarm went off and the nerves had set in way before I sat down at 7:15 to eat my breakfast of jam on 2 bagels.

I wasn’t allowed to eat anything after 7:30am until after my operation.

I didn’t have to be at the hospital until 12pm so I knew that it would be a long time until I would eat again, so I had quite a big, yet safe breakfast.

I didn’t want to eat anything that could upset the stomach for obvious reasons!

My Dad was taking me to the hospital, so just before he was due to arrive I had my second shower with the hibiscrub. With the operation being close to Eastleigh, we had to give ourselves enough time to make it for 12pm.

We arrived at 11:15am and I went into the hospital reception to check myself in and just in time to go to the toilet and have my last sip of water.

With 11:30am being the last time I was allowed any water until after the op, I was desperate to have one last sip. I was also desperate to empty my bladder after the constant sipping of water on the journey!

Fortunately, although I had arrived 45 minutes early, my room was ready for me so I was able to go straight up after I had filled out the forms for my admission.

Once I had met the nurse, gone through some health questions and got my calves measured up for my compression stockings, I got changed into the gown that I would wear during surgery.

I was told to make myself feel at home and that the surgeon would come and see me soon with the anaesthetist. I tried to relax and distract myself from the operation by watching TV and speaking with family and friends, but I’d be lying if I said the operation didn’t have me feeling nervous.

Whilst I waited for the surgeon, I was asked to select something to eat from the light bites section of the menu for after my operation

The surgeon arrived just before 1:30pm with the anaesthetist not far behind. More health questions were asked and consent forms were signed, I was all set for the operation! The surgeon, who was also the knee specialist I had seen for my consultations, advised me that we should be ready to get underway around 2:30pm.

At 2:15pm the nurse who would be accompanying me down to theatre and staying with me throughout the procedure arrived. It was a short walk down and before I knew it I was lying on a bed, in a room next to theatre, going through more health questions.

The anaesthetist was already in the room waiting. Whilst I answered the questions, he inserted a canular into my left hand.

In constant conversation with the nurse and anaesthetist about life and anything but the operation, I had a sudden burning sensation in my left hand. I was informed that this was simply just the anaesthetic going into my bloodstream and that it was normal to feel that burning.

Knowing that at any minute I would slip off into a deep sleep, I said a prayer.

3 months of uncertainty and frustrations were all about to come to an end.

I knew that no matter the outcome of the arthroscopy, I would have many more frustrations and setbacks on the journey to fitness, but that at least they would be on the road to recovery!

A picture of my injured knee before going down to theatre. In part 3 I think you will notice the difference!

Where am I?

Who are you?

Why does my knee feel like that?

It suddenly dawned on me where I was.

In and out of sleep, my eyes felt heavy.

A nurse standing by my bed.

My knee felt extremely stiff.

There was only one place I could be and that was the recovery room.

If you have been under general anaesthetic before then you will know how I felt waking up in that recovery room.

If you don’t then the only way I can describe it is, have you ever woken from a deep mid-afternoon nap and have no idea where you are or what just happened? Times it by 10!

The recovery room is the place patients go to straight after any operation to be monitored by nurses, until deemed well enough to go back up to the ward.

The effects of the anaesthetic had me struggling to stay awake. When I was awake I found myself chatting away to the nurse who was looking after me. I’m sure if you were to ask her, when I would drift off into a sleep was when she could finally do some work.

I was chewing her ear off.

I was told in a previous, much smaller operation that when you finally come around from being under anaesthetic, you are either in high spirits or feeling very low. I was clearly the former!

Bandaged and back in the brace, this was all of what I could see of my knee

I could see a clock on the other side of the room and saw that it said 5:45, I could only assume it was in the evening! I asked the nurse what time I had come out of theatre and into recovery.

“5:15. You were in theatre for quite a while”, was her answer.

I may have been groggy and away with the fairies but I knew I had gone down to theatre at 2:15pm. So once the anaesthetic had kicked in, I would guess I was wheeled into theatre before 2:30pm which meant I would have been in surgery for just short of 3 hours!

Realising the duration combined with the stiffness and the pain in my right knee, I was convinced that major work had been done during the surgery. The anaesthetist had given me more anaesthetic during the operation to make the pain more bearable when I woke up and since waking I had taken oral morphine, so the pain was dulled for the time being.

At 6:15pm I was deemed well enough to go back up to my room. Either that or the poor nurse couldn’t take any more of my constant chat and wanted rid of me.

I can’t really remember too much from my time in recovery or my transfer back to the room and this was the same for pretty much the rest of that evening.

Although at the time I thought I felt fine, it wasn’t until I looked back on that evening a few days later, that I realised how big an affect the anaesthetic had on me!

Now back in my room, it was time to wait for the surgeon who was going to be coming up to explain to me the outcome of the operation.

Remember to follow me on Instagram @flyontheball_ to see daily updates of my recovery and to follow the journey!

One thought on “Knee Operation Recovery: Was There Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

  1. This young man has really educated me in what professional footballers go through on a daily basis. Thank you very much Alex and it is so very well detailed with explanations that we can all understand. I have read all of your blogs and the wonderful thing is that they are geared for everyone. Parents, youngsters, football fans, and footballers. I commend you, by the way Alex when you decide to stop playing professional football you have a future in football journalism .

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s