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January 21st, 2011
12:07 PM ET

Soledad O'Brien: ACL is doing fine, thanks

Watch as CNN's Soledad O'Brien  undergoes surgery to repair her torn knee ligments, as Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains  this and other types of knee surgery on a special edition of "SGMD," Saturday-Sunday, 7:30 a.m. ET

I’m limping today—that’s typical I am discovering, on the days when it’s cloudy and dreary. My knee swells and all the progress I think I’ve been making since my knee surgery back on October 22 seems to evaporate. I hobble up and down stairs like an old lady.

For the most part, though, my surgery has been an unqualified success. I have five scars that run across my knee. One of them is a tiny incision where the doctors put a camera in so that I could view the damage to my mangled ligaments: a completely torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and damaged MCL and LCL as well (As you can see, I’ve become a bit of an expert in knee acronyms). My meniscus (knee cartilage) also has a major tear in it, and is now held together with two stitches.

There’s a two-inch vertical slash where Dr. Laith Jazrawi re-inserted cadaver tissue that now serves my new ACL. The other scars are smaller, but still visible. But considering the pretty monumental damage I suffered when I fell off my horse in early October, I’m happy with the incisions, which people barely notice.

How to give your knees some TLC

The surgery was fast—and I was so sedated doctors had to keep poking me to wake up and pay attention as they scoped my knee. Friends think I’m strange for wanting to see what the inside of my knee looked like, but I was a pre-med student long ago, and gross medical procedures intrigue me—especially in my own body. And ultimately, it wasn’t that gross. My damaged knee looked like shredded pasta.

What surprised me the most was the lack of blood and gore. It looked downright sterile. Immediately after the surgery my doctor put me in the greatest contraption known to mankind—the Game Ready. It’s an electric ice pack-slash-compression machine that was the only way to manage the pain and bring down the swelling that stretched from my ankle to my thigh. I had a giant bottle of Percocet too, but stopped taking drugs within a day—I hated the feeling of drowsiness.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: What you need to know about  knee replacement

My biggest problem—managing the crutches, since I couldn’t put any pressure at all on my left foot. The crutches chafed me under my arms, and meant my days sprinting through airports en route to shoots were over. I kept traveling, but at a snail’s pace. TSA employees patted me down, head to toe, every leg of my trip. I was advised (thank you, Sanjay) to take physical therapy seriously, and I did. That meant I was off crutches after four weeks, and off my cane two weeks later. I’m still clunking slowly as I go up and down stairs, but my physical therapist swears I will be running in February and back on the horse that threw me, in April.

The upsides-seven weeks total on crutches gave me amazing arm muscles! And I’ve gotten more aggressive about working out. I’m signing up for a sprint distance triathlon this summer (early June), mostly to motivate myself to get through physical therapy and not give up.

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soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Jack Howitzer

    super amazing. ACL surgery is a miracle

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    January 21, 2011 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • fulton

      Why do news people always do stories on themselves? Stories that wouldn't be covered it wasn't happening to them. You all are just not that interesting

      January 21, 2011 at 13:40 | Report abuse |
    • cnncorrespondent

      I agree. I know of numerous people who have had to get this surgery. It is very common place, and also a major surgery that requires years of rehab.

      January 21, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse |
  2. SKRIMPS

    Congrats on the successful surgery. I had my right ACL done in 2001 and left in 2006 due to many years of mostly soccer but being male many other stupid events. I've also had ligament work done on my right ankle and had a bone fracture removed from my left ankle. Definitely follow the therapy and you will come out just fine. Living in Wisconsin I always feel the weather impacts but I will be turning 40 in the spring and have been playing rec soccer again for a little over year. It's hard work but there is a pay off.

    January 21, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Caroline

    I have had a hard time caring about anything this woman says or does since I read the stories about her attemtping to evict her neighbor's dog from their co-op. I stopped watching American Morning then and there.

    January 21, 2011 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. abcdef12345

    Where is your report on the story that the CDC is looking into Post-Flu Shot Seizures Among Kids from the vaccine Fluzone? CNN= Shrill for Big Pharm. You should be ashamed of yourselves for ignoring this story.

    January 21, 2011 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Irma

    Soledad, hope you get to feeling better soon. Never give up on your physical therpay. I know it hurts when something happens to one of your legs. I broke my ankle years ago, and the pain is still vivid in my mind. Get well! =)

    January 21, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. tharris19

    It's good to know that you are an athlete. Don't let the physical terrorist get you down, do the work, get better and get back on that horse. What breed is it? We have an Arabian mare who is a doll.

    January 21, 2011 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Patricia S. Dumas

    I agree Caroline.. ever since the dog fiasco with Soledad, I've had hard time taking her seriouly because if you are as good a person as you try to come off to be, then you wouldn't act like you're the only one allowed to live in your special little condo.
    I find Soledad very very self righteous and self-aggrandizing. I don't find her warm or emotional and involved in her stories like she'd like us to think. I think she slaps these stories on her belt like they were marks on a report card. And, lastly, who cares about her surgery? Really... very self important story.

    January 21, 2011 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Andres

    Great job on the recovery, rehab really is tough, but necissary to get you moving again! Take care of your hamstrings and get them strong to prevent it from happening again to the other knee. Famales are notorious for having weak hamstrings causing ACL tears! There's your next story, how to prevent ACL tears!

    January 21, 2011 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Bob

    I had acl surgery about 15 years ago. The acl was replaced with part of my patella(?) tendon. I too recomend following your dotor's advice for physical therapy. The sooner the better. The more I exercise and strenghten my knee the better it feels. Good luck with your goal to be running and riding again.

    January 22, 2011 at 08:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. proshooter1

    OK, So... she likes the: "It's ALL about me" thing...

    January 22, 2011 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. young95014

    Had a couple of knee surgeries about five years ago. The doctor refused to let me see the operation in both cases. Bummer. One was so straight forward that it was under three hours from checking-in to the surgery center to leaving the place. So I couldn't have been seriously under. Got an explanation in a post-op. To have room for the camera and surgery tools to move around in an arthroscopic operation, water is injected into the knee region blowing it up to "football size". Apparently, some patients freak out when they see this. What are other people's experience when asking to see the operation?

    January 23, 2011 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Is this news or an attempt to stay relevant?

    January 24, 2011 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.