How I tore my ACL and got cartilage damage
It happened during a guest performance of my piece "Patterns of perception" at a school. The team and I were in a rush to set up the performance, because usually in these settings one doesn't get enough time. That led to me not managing to warm up properly and prepare my body. During the show (which was one of the best runs we had until then) I made a wrong step: I took too much energy for a hop, and couldn't deal with it during the landing, which led to misalignment and a bad landing, causing the injury to my knee. I immediately felt that something went wrong. While I didn't hear a popping sound as often described, my knee felt displaced, leading me to believe it was a kneecap issue or a similar minor injury, as I have never encountered knee injuries in my dance career before. I managed to lump my way off-stage for the last part of the performance, but ahead were 2 hours of workshops and Q-and-A after the show. I ended up icing my injury poorly, which I would regret a lot the next few days...
Diagnosis and Initial Plan for Surgery
After visiting the hospital and undergoing an MRI a few days later, the doctors revealed that I had a torn ACL and cartilage damage (2 doctors said that it was a rupture, and one said that it was not fully torn). They warned that without surgery, I wouldn't be able to dance again due to the instability and I would experience knee pain walking up the stairs due to the impact-related cartilage damage. At that point, I couldn't walk at all and was on crutches the whole time, so I took their word without any doubt and thought that only surgery could help me get back on track.
The Physical and Mental Challenges
The first week following the injury was the most challenging and longest week of my life. My knee was swollen, making me unable to put any weight on it, and having trouble sleeping, as I would be afraid to relax too much and turn in a way that would cause immense pain...
For me as an active person, this sudden loss of mobility took a toll on my mental health. I relied heavily on the support of others for even the simplest tasks, leading to moments of frustration, and due to the loss of movement I started to feel depression creeping in.
Luckily, I was already able to take small steps 7 days after my injury, and that drastically improved my mood and happiness levels.
I was told to wait 3-4 weeks until the swelling is gone and then call to schedule the surgery.
While preparing for the surgery, various unforeseen circumstances caused repeated delays and rescheduling of the surgery. Firstly, as I called to schedule the surgery, my primary doctor went on a 2-week vacation. Then there was a drought in Germany, which resulted in a delay, as the delivery time of the surgical materials was affected. The clinic told me that they had no idea how long this would take. Frustrated by these setbacks, I decided to try out another doctor - it's always good to have a second opinion. Many colleagues have recommended a Knee clinic in Offenbach that makes "all the knees of the region", so I decided to schedule an appointment with them and see if I can get my surgery done faster there.
The new doctor proposed a different plan. Instead of using a ligament from my leg for the ACL replacement, he suggested a donor ligament. His reasoning was based on the narrow structure of my bones in general (would my own graft be strong enough in the new place?) and concerns about weakening another area of my leg (wherever they take the graft from becomes weaker). He also mentioned a "healing method" involving the stimulation of stem cells through controlled bone destruction.
For me, this new plan sounded more considerate and I was happy that the doctor was willing to account for all the different factors and first see the condition, before replacing my ACL.