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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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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.

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