My Journey Through MPFL Reconstruction Part 2 (The Procedure)

Above is an animated video of an MFPL Reconstruction, the procedure that I will be having in two days.  There are other videos of the actual live procedure, but no amount of Nip/Tuck episodes (who am I kidding, I’ve seen all 100!)  could prepare me for watching that!  If you are going through this surgery yourself and would like more info, here is a link to my Bum Knee  Pinterest board.

In case you’re like me and hate watching videos on the internet and would much rather read the info, I will explain the surgery in laymen’s terms.  The main problem in people with repeated patellar sublexations (kneecap dislocations) is that their Medial Patellofemoral Ligament has either snapped or has gotten extremely stretched out from the first (or subsequent) dislocations.  The MPFL helps keep the kneecap from slipping to the outside of the leg.  My MRI (oh Lord, that event calls for a whole separate blog post!) showed that my MPFL is still intact, but is severely stretched out from my four dislocations, and that I also have significant signs of wear and tear under/around my patella.  Most likely the ligament never fully snapped because my patella only remained “stuck” outside of its rightful place once, and by then the ligament was already very loose.

The reconstruction will entail my surgeon replacing my worn out ligament with one from a cadaver (yes, that freaks me out and puts so many more questions in my mind eg.:what if my donor was even more of a couch potato than I am?  What if my donor was a 100 year-old woman with arthritis?  Does this mean I will now be part zombie?)  He will drill through both my femur and my patella and then thread the “new” ligament through.  This will all be done arthroscopically, so I will only have three tiny incisions and one larger (about 2-3 inches) one.  The procedure will take around two hours, and I will be under general anesthesia (yes, this also freaks me out because I have NEVER been under anesthesia.)

Apparently this procedure has a much higher rate of success than the former-most-popular lateral release procedure.  As my previous post said, when I had my second injury my old surgeon told me that even if I had a lateral release there was still a pretty significant chance that I would continue to have sublexations.  Both of my surgeons have told me that this is not the case with the MPFL reconstruction.

After the surgery I will have to keep my knee straight for three weeks and be on crutches.  My surgeon says that I should be able to play any sports I want after about three months.  That sounds a bit too optimistic to me.  I would just like to be able to walk upstairs without waking the neighbors!  However, I must admit that a tiny part of me is daring to hope.  The thought of being able to be my old, athletic, active self again gives me butterflies (I know that’s soooo lame!)  I really had resigned myself to being pudgy and lethargic for the rest of my life, but now, just maybe, I don’t have to.

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My Journey Through MPFL Reconstruction (Introduction)

Style icon Grace with Steve Kerr

There are very few resources for people having MFPL Reconstruction, so I decided to use my blog to share my story.  This is the first post in the series.

 

It may surprise some people to know that my life was once focused around sports–basketball, specifically.
10 years ago it would be hard to find me wearing something other than basketball shorts or with my hair any way but in a slicked-back ponytail.  Yes, my awkward stage was excruciatingly awkward. But I didn’t care, because my whole world revolved around basketball.  All along I knew I was never going to be a pro, but I attributed that to my height (or lack thereof).  Little did I know that my knees would be my real enemy.

Freshman year of high school (Spring, 2005):  I’m standing at my desk with all of my weight on my right leg.  A classmate barrels by me and shoves me, causing my right kneecap to dislocate (technically speaking kneecaps “sublex”, not “dislocate”).  Since this has never happened to me before, I am blindsided by the pain, but don’t know how to describe it to my teacher.  So I limp down to the nurse’s office and get a bag of ice.  This injury happened AFTER Freshman basketball season, so I rested it and iced it until I could play again.

Sophomore year (Fall, 2005):  After a summer full of club tournaments and grueling pre-season conditioning sessions, I’m looking forward to proving myself to the JV coach and becoming a starter.  It’s the day before tryouts begin and my teammates and I are on the track conditioning.  I’m doing laps when all of a sudden my kneecap sublexes again and I collapse.  Needless to say, I am devastated.  This time, my parents and I know that this is beyond ibuprofen and ice, so we visit an orthopaedic surgeon.  He tells us we have two choices: try 8 weeks of physical therapy or preform a lateral release procedure.  He shows us on the x-ray that my kneecaps are slightly tilted in a way that makes them more prone to sublexation.  Since I’m 15 and in otherwise good shape, we choose physical therapy.  It worked!  I was back running and jumping (with a gigantic brace) in about 8 weeks.  I was cured…or so I thought.

Spring, 2012:  Life is sweet.  Having graduated from the University of Arizona the previous December I am now working as a Realtor and waiting for my perfect boyfriend (now hubby, Jojo!)of two years to propose.  Did I mention that this perfect boyfriend is a marathoner?  I haven’t been much into sports since quitting baksetball after my Sophomore comeback (coach drama combined with continued knee pain and AP classes just did not mix).  However, I had continued to work out consistently and live a pretty active lifestyle.  Because of my trepidation about hurting my knee again I have been relying on strength training, Pilates, and the elliptical to stay in shape.  After so many years without a sublexation and being motivated by my super-fit boyfriend, I decide to take up running again.  I am SO excited.  I buy the fancy shoes, a Nike running watch, Kara Goucher’s book, and begin a training plan in order to run my first official 5k.   I feel so wonderful being able to share in Jojo’s passion for running.  He shows me some of his (shortest!) favorite trails and I manage to finish them!  I definitely do not get anywhere close to a runner’s high, but slowly but surely, I’m doing it!  One Sunday Jojo, my mom, and I decide to go for a run together.  It’s a perfect day and I am so proud of myself for going for a run instead of watching TV!  We get about a mile away from my house and BOOM!  My kneecap pops out to the side and this time, it stays there.  I collapse on the ground and scream when I see it.  The sight of it sticking out like that was so disturbing that I don’t even notice the pain at first.  Mom and Jojo are horrified.  Jojo comes and pops it back in as Mom calls my Dad to come pick us up (on the phone of a good Samaritan who pulled over to see if I was okay…because of course none of us had our phones!)

My beautiful immobilizer brace

I go back to my surgeon.  Same story.  I think more seriously about surgery but he says that the surgery does not have a fantastic success rate and that many people who have it end up suffering sublexations again.  I return to PT.  This time graduating from PT does not mean running and jumping, it means being able to climb the stairs and walk without crutches.  My heart is broken, and my days as an athlete (or even just an active person) are finished.

Fall, 2013:  I’m a couch potato.  I go to the gym from time to time, but walking around the equipment with tired legs scares me.  I’m scared of people bumping into me.  I’m scared of riding the stationary bike and twisting my knee the wrong way.  I’m scared of walking to my car after a workout.  I avoid walking over curbs in parking lots.  I avoid making anything besides 90 degree turns while walking.  When my dog wants to play, I stamp my feet and wave my arms because I can’t actually chase him.  My knee sounds like steps in gravel every time I straighten them.

My fanciest brace (for special occasions of course)

I’ve gained weight and started taking anti-anxiety medications.  My life is even better than it was before: I am married to the love of my life, we own our own home, we have an adorable dog, I even have a new car!  But I feel like I’m 100.  I have no energy, and even the slightest twinge in my knee terrifies me.  One day I am walking into the school where I am a substitute teacher.  I accidentally step off of the sidewalk and…you guessed it…my kneecap dislocated.  I am 23 years old, getting pushed in a wheelchair by my GRANDMOTHER.  That’s when I decided that this has got to stop.

On February 10th, 2014 I am having Medial Patellofemoral Ligament Reconstruction.  I am so excited for a new, active, healthy chapter in my life!

Days 3 and 4

According to this blog that I am loosely following for my Paleo challenge (do you like how I am no longer using the 30 Day part? Haha!) on Day 5 I will feel incredible and have tons of energy!  Well…I certainly hope that’s the case because I am feeling like a sloth!  I am supposed to be re-decorating our powder room and let me tell you…I have not done even the first step!

Long story short, Paleo is HARD.  Not as hard as other diets that I’ve attempted, since I’m really not hungry.  Paleo is all about fueling your body with nutritious food and avoiding dairy and grains, not counting calories.  Thank goodness for that!  So I understand I’m going to sound like a baby saying this but OH MY GOSH I WANT SOME BREAD/PASTA/CHEESE!!!

Or how about ALL THREE TOGETHER?!?!?! OMGGGG!

I might kill someone for a slice of that right now!

I am not known for having the strongest willpower, especially when it comes to food.  However, I have not cheated AT ALL in four days!  It may not sound like much, but it’s a huge accomplishment for me!

Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been eating:

Day 3:

Breakfast – Two bfast quiche

Lunch – A can of tuna with avocado mashed in it, red peppers, and a grapefruit

Dinner – Honey mustard baked salmon with roasted baby carrots and onions with a little brown butter, and broccoli

Dessert – Dark chocolate and some fruit salad (not great when you can’t add sugar!)

Day 4:

Breakfast – Fried eggs and nitrate-free/grass-fed bacon

Lunch – Salad with lots of veggies, turkey shreds, olive oil and balsamic, a grapefruit, half an avocado

Dinner – Baked skinless chicken thighs (dressed with Frank’s hot sauce like fake wings), TBD veggies, and Cauliflower breadsticks (without the cheese of course!)

Tomorrow is Friday which means we will be going to my parents’ house for dinner/happy hour.  I’m TERRIFIED!  I don’t want to cheat, but my parents are both amazing cooks and my siblings are junk food hounds!  Plus Mom and I usually enjoy a couple delightful, fruity cocktails on Fridays!  I found this infographic about Paleo drinking:

I don’t know about you, but tequila or vodka with any of those Paleo-friendly mixers doesn’t sound very delish to me.  I think I’m going to stick to red wine, and only two glasses!

Wish me luck…

The First 48

Well, I made it!

As long as I go straight to bed after posting thing without eating, I will have made it through the first two days of my Paleo challenge.

My hubby (who is kind of doing the challenge with me…mostly just at dinner) told me to just write “VEGETABLES…” for this entry!  From that you can tell what the majority of our food has been!   I think we’ve eaten more veggies in the past two days than we have in a month!

In case you have decided to do your own Paleo challenge with me, here’s what I’ve been eating since my last post:

I forgot to mention that I am ADDICTED to not only sugar, but artificial sweeteners.  I would say that most of my body is made up of pure aspartame (horrible, I know!)  Diet pop, crystal light, flavored water, Equal in my coffee…almost everything that I drink has it!  I knew there was no way that I would be able to go Paleo without SOME sort of sweet, fruity drink to keep me from downing a bag of Skittles.  Luckily, I found this recipe on Pinterest!

Ingredients for Paleo Cool Aid

Just brew up six bags of tea in four cups of water, add two (or more) tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar, sweeten with liquid Stevia, and add enough water to fill a gallon pitcher.

I needed some more tartness so I also juiced a lemon and a lime in my “Cool Aid”.

Delicious!

For lunch I was supposed to have a can of tuna mixed with an avocado, but my avocados were rock solid…so I used a teeny bit of mayo.  No…I haven’t gotten around to making my own Paleo mayo yet!

Lunchtime!

Tip: Since of course crackers are a no-no, I used red peppers instead and it was surprisingly satisfying!

For dinner we grilled chicken and zucchini, and I made my first cauliflower mash.

Jojo plated this! I would have made it prettier, I swear!

I’m not a huge fan of mashed potatoes anyway (I know…strange) so I actually highly enjoyed the cauliflower!  So did Jojo!  I just steamed a cut-up head of cauliflower, tossed it in the blender with a tablespoon of butter (from grassfed cows…so it’s Paleo!), about 1/8th of a cup of bacon fat, salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes.  It came out so nice and fluffy!

Yesterday was pretty easy!

Then there was today…

I had ZERO energy today!

Granted, I am still getting over a terrible bout of bronchitis, but my body was aching for some bread and sugar today!

So, no pics of my food today.

Breakfast consisted of two of the quiche from yesterday’s post; yum!

Lunch was an avocado with lime and salt, an apple, and some nitrate-free turkey slices.

For dinner I made my usual crockpot sausage pasta sauce, except with Trader Joe’s chicken sausages instead of pork.  I served it over spaghetti squash.

Now let me tell you something…spaghetti squash may look convincing…but at the end of the day it is still SQUASH!  This Italian family did NOT love it.  But with enough sauce and sausage, it was definitely edible.

My favorite part of the past two caveman days has been my dark chocolate square (or three) after dinner.  I just can’t NOT have dessert (thanks, Mom!!!)  According to my Paleo sources, dark chocolate in small portions is allowed!

 

So there you have it!  I still cannot make any promises about how long I’ll last, but I’m doing my best!

Jumping on the Bandwagon!

After months of being pretty good about going to the gym but still indulging daily in the kitchen, I decided to bite the bullet and TRY the 30 Day Paleo Challenge!  I am fully expecting to not make it the full 30 days…but I’m okay with that!  For some reason I’m feeling very excited about “challenging” myself!  In the gym, it’s easy for me to make excuses.  I have kneecaps that love to dislocate whenever running or even walking is involved.  Because of my lovely knees, it’s easy for me to scale back my workouts out of fear of being back on crutches.  In the kitchen, however, I have no excuse not to give 100%!

So yesterday I did my favorite thing of all: a day-before-the-diet pig out!  For me, it was a Nico’s bacon, egg, cheese, and potato burrito, cookies, Little Caesar’s deep dish pizza, and tapioca pudding.

But now it’s Monday.

DAY 1!

In case you don’t know what the Paleo diet is, here’s a little graphic to clue you in:


That’s right, this Italian girl can no longer have bread, pasta, or cheese! Are you kidding me?!

I have absolutely no intention of living my life like this permanently…I love those foods way too much!  BUT, I want to see if I can do it for 30 days (or even a week!)

I am loosely following this blog for my 30 Day Challenge, but supplementing with my favorite resource for ANYTHING, Pinterest (click the link to see my Paleo board.)

Here’s what today has entailed so far:

TONS OF WATER

Whipping up a batch of Paleo breakfast quiches

Ingredients for bfast quiches: I used bacon, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, red pepper, spinach, and fresh basil.

Scramble 12 eggs in a pyrex cup, add a splash of water and seasonings, pour into muffin pan that has been sprayed with coconut oil.

Sprinkle in the bacon and veggies, bake at 350 for 15-20 mins.

Voila! Paleo mini breakfast quiches!

This is supposed to be my breakfast for the next week.  Since they weren’t done in time, I just fried some eggs for today’s breakfast.

Today’s bfast, note lack of buttery toast and cream and sugar in the coffee.

I know breakfast will be the easy part of Paleo for me.  I usually have eggs for breakfast everyday anyway.  It’s making it to bedtime without a belly full of bread and sugar that will be the real challenge!

Is anyone else currently eating like a caveman?  I would love any tips/favorite recipes of yours!

ChikFilA Night

After a fantastic 4th of July visit from our favorite house guest, Michael, Jojo and I decided to have a lazy Sunday together.  This particular lazy Sunday included the season finale of Mad Men, a couple episodes of Big Love, and a monsoon!  I started to get a little restless (and hungry) as the day went on and decided to try a Pinterest recipe for dinner.  As luck would have it, our good friend Matt happened to be back in town after his Italian vacanza so he got to join in!

I would highly recommend this recipe IF you have plenty of time on your hands (and wine to give you patience).  So here it goes:

ChikFilA CopyCat Nuggets

Two warnings:  First, I do not have a cool fancy camera…I have my iPhone…so sorry about the low quality pics!  Second, I come from a family who refuses to follow recipes, and I am the same way!  I will link the original recipe for you, but I kind of did my own thing.

Step 1: Prepare the chicken.  I used five boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Season them with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (my addition) and cut them into bite size pieces.  I usually cut my chicken way too big, so I consciously made them pretty small this time.  Who likes a big dry hunk of chicken?  No one!

Step 2:  Make the marinade.  In a big Ziplock bag or glass dish whisk together 3 eggs, and equal parts milk and dill pickle juice (I LOVE the taste of pickles, so although the recipe calls for half the amount of pickle juice, I upped it).  I think I used 2 cups of each.  Adjust the amount of marinade to how many chicken breasts you are using.  Place chicken cubes in marinade, cover, and put in fridge for 2-4 hours.

Hey Mom, can I come inside?

Step 3:  Brush off all the dirt that the puppy has rolled in while you were making the marinade. Thanks Alici!

Step 4:  Take a nap while the chicken marinates.

Step 5:  Forget that you are blogging this recipe and stop taking pictures!  Oh yeah, and heat a thin layer of oil in the biggest pan you have.

Step 6:  Mix together 1.5 cups flour, 2 tbsp powdered sugar, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika in a big Ziplock bag (I made 2 bags since I had so much chicken).

Step 7:  Using a slotted spoon, place delightfully marinated chicken in flour bags and shake shake shake!

Step 8:  Test the oil by putting a little piece of chicken in.  If it sizzles, it’s ready.  If it pops, it’s too hot.  If it does nothing, it’s too cold.  Once the oil is ready, put a small batch of nuggets in and let them cook for about 4-5 mins or until they turn golden brown on the bottom.

Step 9:  Flip each nugget and cook about 4 mins longer, and enjoy your company (and wine…don’t forget about the wine).

Matt and Jojo anxiously awaiting the nuggets!

Thank you for helping my patience, Pinot!

Step Omg These Are Time-consuming: Keep on going until you run out of chicken!

I wanted everyone to eat at the same time, so I put my oven on 200 and kept the batches in there until I was finished with all of them!

Step 73:  While the nuggets are cooking, mix together some ChikFilA sauce (which turns out is just honey-mustard and bbq sauce!

Last step:  Serve with whatever delicious sides you crave (I made fontina and cheddar orrecchiette and green beans) and ENJOY!!!

Happy Hubby

Sooooo good!

Here is the link to the original recipe.

There ya have it!  Let me know how it turns out if you try it!  It did take forever to make but did NOT disappoint!

Hope you all had a great 4th of July weekend!

Procrastinator

Well in true Grace fashion I started this blog and promptly ignored it almost into nonexistence! Instead of give up completely or guilt myself into setting some outrageous daily posting goal, I’m just going to accept that I am a procrastinator extraordinaire and write when I get around to it.  After all, didn’t I create this blog to cultivate self-acceptance?

So in the past month, I dumped an entire cup of water on my brand new laptop (while it was open…while I was watching Netflix instead of doing anything productive).  Shockingly, after a week with the battery removed, it started right up again!  Thank the Lord (although I was already shopping for a fancy schmancy touch-screen one)!

Unfortunately, I haven’t put any of my pictures on this laptop yet, so I have nothing exciting to post except for this Instagram pic of one of my favorite Pinterest meals!  Here is the link to the recipe: http://addapinch.com/cooking/2012/11/01/balsamic-roast-beef-french-dip-sandwich-recipe/

Am I the only one addicted to Pinterest projects?  It’s all I want to do!  I must say I am far more active on Pinterest than on this blog…boo!  If you’re on Pinterest, you should follow me, pinterest.com/gracap04.

Quickie

Image

Missing Italy today!  Above is a picture from my Grandpa’s cousin’s agroturismo Santa Cinnera in Soveria Simeri, Calabria where we spent 10 glorious days!  It’s Heaven on Earth!