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Michelle Parker: The Injury, Part 1

Skier Michelle Parker had everything going for her. Until she blew her knee to pieces. Here is part one of her story.
posted: 08/08/2009
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Coming to the end of the season is kind of like crunch time. All I could think about is finishing up my segment for Matchstick Productions. It was March and we were in Retallack, BC, with the Orage team. Everything was perfect, the snow, people, terrain, and necessary photogs and videographers. The week of shooting had been one of my best ever. Nearing the end of a nine-day trip my body was getting tired, but it was the last day to shoot so of course I sucked it up and went out there anyway. The zone we were in had a few options,  but one stood out in my mind. It was a little 15-foot cliff with a nice take off and the landing couldn't be more perfect. After checking it out from a few different angles, I headed up to the top of the line to get the shot.

For me, once I'm standing on top of a line all that goes through my head is visualization of me skiing it successfully. There's usually no question in my mind that I'll stomp the landing. At this point, I was waiting for the cameras to be ready then I hollered down, "Dropping in 10...3, 2, 1, DROP!" It was a pretty straightforward cliff. Just point it to the lip and go for it.

Next thing I knew, I had landed on a rock, tumbled a little bit, and stopped. I was in the most pain I had ever felt. My thoughts were initially to suck it up, try to be tough, but then I came to the conclusion that I didn't really care about being tough. My knee felt completely ruined. There were a couple of large bumps that seemed completely out of place. I don't remember many tears, they came later when I realized that this injury would end my season and part of the next season. It wasn't the kind of pain that caused tears, it was the kind of pain that made me yell, shake, sweat, and tense up.

I was flown by heli to the nearest hospital. About three and a half hours later I got my first dose of morphine and my knee cap was put back into place. The pain was manageable after that. Three days later, I was home, getting an MRI on a Monday and booked for surgery on a Thursday. I was expecting the worse, so I wasn't too bummed when Doctor Orr told me the results: ACL, severe cartilage damage, bucket flap meniscus tear, and completely torn medial patellofemoral (this one holds your knee cap in place). All in all, it would require two surgeries and a lot of physical therapy.

If there's one thing I've learned through previous injuries, it is to stay positive. It can always be worse and there's no use in being bummed because it will only hinder your recovery. A few key things that I took away from the surgical process are to tell the anesthesiologist that I get nauseated after surgery and to use a nerve block for the pain. They can help with the nausea and the nerve block takes away pain for 24 hours, but it felt more like 48 hours. My surgery lasted about five hours and I woke up around 1 AM. I ended up staying in the hospital, which also helped in managing the pain.

I started with physical therapy the very next day. Despite the pain, there are still exercises that you can do while lying in bed and it's important to get on it as soon as possible. Atrophy happens fast, incredibly fast.

In my next post I will include information about physical therapy and post op, including treatments like acupuncture that I have found helpful. I will bring these entries full circle with preventative exercises and stretches in hopes that this doesn't happen to you, especially for women because we are two to eight times more likely to blow our ACL's than men.

For more on Michelle, check out her blog at www.michelle-parker.com. For part 2 of her story, click here.

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