Rite of Passage - ACL Reconstructive Surgery

December 11, 2016

by Ambassador Amanda Maida

That moment when you’re trying to have a casual conversation about winter adventures with the nurse with the nice eyes, and you’re so high on ketamine that you can’t speak properly…. that’s surgery.

The operating room nurse smiled with his eyes (which was all I could see under his face mask) gave my hand a squeeze and told me it’s ok.

I opted out of general anesthetic, and instead received some mild sedation and an epidural, freezing my body from the waist down, so I could watch my ACL reconstruction on the left knee and meniscus repair surgery on the right. A monitor was set up and I was asked if it’s at a good angle.

“Awesome,” I replied giving two thumbs way up.

For months I’d been living with constant apprehension and anxiety about this surgery and the long road to recovery, yet the staff of Banff Mineral Springs Hospital somehow made it all feel casual and comfortable.

On a sunny Saturday last spring I was skiing down a steep, icy run, when I caught an edge and somersaulted to the bottom. One binding failed to release from my ski and I felt my knee being ripped apart.

As someone who finds their identity and community in sports and an active lifestyle, the thought of having it taken away, if only for one year, felt like a prison sentence with no chance of parole.

In the months that passed between injury and surgery, I found creative ways to keep up my fitness in both mind and body. On a scale of 0-gnar I was a -2, but I didn’t stop. With two bionic-woman knee braces I continued to climb mountains and explored new terrain, however slowly.

Still, upcoming surgery loomed over me like a dark cloud, and I counted down the days until I would be learning how to walk again.

“When you play with the big kids eventually you’ll get your sandcastle kicked over,” my friend Craig told me on an early Wednesday morning drive – the dreaded surgery day. Craig was a former Calgary paramedic who found peace in the mountains. He loaned me the crutches from his last surgery like handing someone a band-aid for a paper cut or a beer after a long hike.

In the recovery room, with surgery completed, the nurse with the smiling eyes asked if I have any questions or concerns. The drugs were wearing off and I felt as foggy as an 18-year old the morning after spring break, minus the hangover.

Athletes from around the globe come to this place for all their orthopedic surgery needs and with the world class care I’d just received, my only concern wasn’t medical; I told the nurse I hoped I didn’t say anything overly flirtatious or inappropriate during my surgical-sedative haze. He laughed, assured me not to worry and wished me a speedy recovery.

Somehow, months of built-up feelings of trepidation and tension had been transformed into laughter, smiles, and story time… but that’s just another day at the office for the staff of Banff Mineral Springs Hospital.


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