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Everything You Never Wanted to Know about Having ACL Reconstruction Surgery

When I found out I had to have ACL reconstruction surgery, of course I googled it, looking for people who had the same surgery. I found a few blogs about it, but I quickly found that reading them raised my anxiety level. Still, it was good to have a little information in advance from people who had been where I was going, so I'm going to pay it forward by writing about what happened to me. This promises to be a long, boring post, but hopefully it will help someone like me who wants to know exactly what happens when you have ACL surgery.

The surgical center I went to was Kerlan-Jobe in Los Angeles and my doctor is Dr. Daniel Kharrazi. So far, I've been really pleased with the treatment I've received from Kerlan-Jobe, Dr. Kharrazi, and especially the staff at Kerlan-Jobe.

Holly_recovery

Here's a run-down of what happened in the days preceding my surgery:

1) Pre-op Appointment

There was no examination given during this appointment. Instead, Kerlan-Jobe staff and Dr. Kharrazi's assistant asked questions about my medical history and gave me the information I needed to prepare for surgery. It also gave me the opportunity to ask questions, such as:

Q- How will I get up to my apartment after surgery
A- Crutches (It turned out I was a little too off balance to use the crutches and nearly feel over a couple of times on my way up in the elevator and the pathway into the condo. I ended up using one crutch and Mick to slowly hop from the elevator to our unit.)

Q- How soon can I shower?
A- Second day, but must keep brace and dressings dry. Best option is to put leg into a garbage bag and cinch it at the top.

Q- How soon will I be back in the gym?
A- Ten days to two weeks, after my first post-op appointment.

Q- How long will it take to reach my current level of function?
A- About six weeks

I recommend you write down your questions so you don't forget anything.

2) The paper work they gave me at the pre-op appointment indicated I would receive phone calls from the insurance department of Kerlan-Jobe and the anesthesiologist. The insurance call happened a few days before the surgery and verified that my insurance was covering the procedure after my $3500 deductible was paid. The anesthesiologist called the night before. It was a helpful call--he explained what anesthesia they'd use and how it worked.

Day Before Surgery

1) I prepared everything I could think of for when I returned home from the surgery. I set up a bed on the couch and replaced our big coffee table with a small end table so it could be easily moved. I set out the clothes I'd be wearing while I was "laid up," including socks and underwear, so my husband or myself could easily get it. I put items like rubber bands, glasses, and lip balm in a small bowl so I'd have them when I needed/wanted them. I set up an easily accessible power strip where I could plug in all my stuff--computer, iPad, iPhone.

Making the couch-bed up in advance was the best thing I did though. Try to anticipate your needs as much as you can and prepare in advance. It was great to be able to just go straight to the couch with everything within easy reach.

Day of surgery

1) We were told to arrive at 8am for a 9:30 procedure. When I got there, I had to sign a lot of forms. It was also the beginning of the question: "Which leg is it?" (the left one). I was asked that again and again, confirming and reconfirming it was my left leg being operated on.

2) A nurse called for me and took me to the pre-op room. There were about five beds there, each with a person waiting for surgery. One of them was an Olympic volleyball player, but for privacy's sake I won't reveal which one.

3) I was given a hospital gown and a warmed blanket and told to take everything off, put the gown on, and leave it untied in the back.

5) The nurse gave me a purple permanent marker and asked me to write "YES" with an arrow on the ankle of my left leg.

6) The nurse put cotton around my arm, then a blood pressure cuff which remained on throughout the procedure. She explained the cotton prevented irritation from the cuff since it had to be on so long. She also put a finger monitor on me and attached some electrodes (not sure if this is the right word, but you know, the sticky things they put on you so they can attach monitor wires.

7) She inserted the IV needle. I must say she wasn't the gentlest of nurses and this fell under the category of "no fun." After the IV was in she drew blood and then it pumped fluids into me, which caused my right arm to feel cold, but not uncomfortably so. They'll give you more heated blankets if you want them.

8) Next came the worst part: Waiting. And waiting and waiting. Not sure how long, but it felt like forever because at this point, the anticipation of what was to come was causing me a lot of anxiety.

9) Finally, one of the nurses who would assist during the procedure came in and introduced herself. She asked me again which legs was being operated on and I passed the test by saying "the left one."

10) The anesthesiologist came in and administered a sedative to keep me calmed while he injected the nerve block in my femoral nerve.

The "happy" medicine really worked. As soon as it kicked in I became very charming and entertained everyone within earshot with my pithy comments and fantastic sense of humor.

The nerve block is injected into your femoral nerve and completely numbs the area. It's effects last from 10-16 hours and it helps with the intense pain immediately after the surgery.

When he injected it, the muscles in my thigh started twitching violently. Thanks to the "happy" drip I laughed through the whole thing.

9) They wheeled me into the operating room, where "Welcome to the Jungle" was playing which elicited comments from the nurse and anesthesiologist. I told everyone I wasn't familiar with the song because it was "before my time." (see reference to pithy/funny comments above).

10) They helped me get onto the surgical table, where I lay staring up at the ceiling. That's my last memory.

Post-op

1) I woke up in the post-op room with a nurse standing beside me, helping me "come back." She offered me crackers and soda or water. My mouth was so dry I couldn't eat the crackers without taking sips of the soda in between.

2) They administered more pain medication through the IV and gave me a Darvocet and an anti-nausea pill since I told them I'd had bad experiences with Percocet and Percodan.

3) They brought Mick into the post-op room. Boy, was I happy to see him!

4) The surgeon's assistant, who is a very handsome man, came over and explained what I needed to do between now and my first post-op appointment.

-Keep leg straight at all times
-Keep brace on at most times (he said I could open it up and let it "breath" now and then, but I haven't done that yet).
-Increase food intake gradually
-Remove dressing in 2 days and apply new dressing
-Put no weight on leg until nerve block effects dissipate as the muscles are too weak to hold any weight
-After nerve block wears off, partial weight on leg, with crutches

I should point out here that different surgeons have different protocols. For example, your surgeon might have you start using the continuing motion machine (more on that in another post) as soon as you get home. Mine doesn't want me to start that until after my post-op appointment. Follow your surgeon's instructions!

5) The nurse helped me put my pants on, then removed my IV and electrodes and transferred me to a wheelchair. She let me put on my shirt by myself though. After that she wheeled me to the restroom.

6) An orderly wheeled me downstairs, where Mick was waiting with the car. Do yourself a favor and make sure your back seat is clear, because that's where you'll probably have to sit. Mick and I's back seat was covered with ski equipment and he had to scramble to remove it all so I could get in.

Brace

Home at last!

1) I spent the rest of the day entirely on the couch. There was a lot of drowsiness so I just turned on a DVD and let myself go in and out. I found I was pretty content to just lay there without any entertainment at all in fact. I guess the one good thing about surgery is that my normally active and neurotic mind has been shut off.

2) It took a few rounds on the crutches before I felt secure using them. I didn't try to get up unless Mick was there to supervise.  But now, the next day, I'm much more confident and independent (though still won't use the crutches if Mick isn't in the house).

3) There is some pain, but it is manageable. Mostly it feels like I'm straining the muscle in the back of the knee. When I move there is additional pain on the top right of my knee and it feels like I shouldn't do it, but if I push past that initial moment of pain I find it's not unbearable and I can go about doing what I need to do.

4) I slept well last night. The only problem is staying one position all night--I woke up pretty sore.

5) The pain pill situation is interesting. Up until about an hour ago I hadn't experienced any nausea, but right now I'm feeling it. I'm also sweaty and a little clammy.  I think I'll reduce my pain medication the next time I'm due to take it.

6) Today Kerlan-Jobe delivered the continuous motion machine and a Game Ready ice machine. Like I said, I won't be using the motion machine for awhile but I started with the ice today and kept it on (intermittently) for about 4 hours. It definitely reduces the pain, and consequently, I've been able to reduce my meds. Believe me, I'm not trying to be a hero, nor do I oppose being drugged at this time in my life, but the risk of nausea makes me reluctant to take them.

Okay, that pretty much does it for what happens during surgery. It is definitely not the most pleasant thing in the world but it's not as bad as I thought it would be. Actually, it's about as bad as I thought it would be, but I'm in a much better place than I expected, probably because I'm sleeping so much. I'm sure the time will come when I go stir crazy and get depressed but so far it hasn't happened. I'll post more about it if/when something that I think will be helpful to other people happens.

Before I go, quick shout out to my wonderful husband Mick who has been at my beck and call since yesterday (some would argue since he married me). Seriously, I could not get through this without him.

Finally, if you made it to the bottom of this post, here's a reward.

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89 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Everything You Never Wanted to Know about Having ACL Reconstruction Surgery”

  1. J Clarke June 8, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks for the post, I actually enjoyed it, after recently going through reconstructive hand surgery. They also did a 20 hour block on the 2 nerves in my hand, but let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty when I woke up. I had a cast on that was too tight and I thank God I was staying with my mom, the nurse, who called the doctor. My surgery was President’s Day Weekend Friday so I had to make do with a halfway cut open cast (Dr’s orders) through Monday to Tuesday (my birthday – nice). Then I went to the dr for a new cast and much more pain medicine, as I’ve said. I like how funny you got on the loopy drugs. I was just hilarious as well. I also agree that it helps to have an excellent caretaker/team. When i had my knee surgery, for two days, my dad had to carry me around. When I was at Kerlan Jobe it was Senior Yr at LMU at I had Dr Gambardella (Joe Montana) do my elbow reconstruction and their PT Dept was fabulous. My famous person down the hall was Magic Johnson, who had a concussion form the game the night before (they actually kept me two days). Heather and I tried to walk down the hall but I threw up so we went back. Best to you, Holly.

  2. Holly June 9, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Julie, it’s been so good getting back in touch with you. What happened to you hand so you needed the surgery?

  3. Sharon O. June 9, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    The reward was sooo worth it! I did enjoy your blog, too. I think it would be helpful to someone else who may be getting ready for the same procedure. You sprinkled that HOLLY DUST all around. Love you — mom

  4. Steve Weddle June 10, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Damn. Get well soon, etc

  5. Holly June 10, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Thanks Steve!

  6. Rebekah July 26, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    I am pretty darn scared. I have to go in for surgery on Thursday. I am afraid that I won’t be able to manage the pain. I get soooo sick from Narcotics.
    I am just scared to death.

  7. Jamie August 30, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Hello! I keep coming back to your post. I recently had ACL reconstruction, Friday August 27th. I was outpatient so i was home the same day. So it’s only been 3 days. So far i’m doing okay, there’s still some pain but manageable. Im wondering how you’re doing now coz it looks like u had the procedure done 2 months ago. I’d love to hear it. Thanks for this post again. I am thinking of writing about my experience also.

  8. Holly August 30, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Hi Jamie,
    My surgery was on June 7, so its actually been almost three months now. I am doing well, and in most ways feel back to normal. I cant really run and do have chronic soreness, but thats to be expected and its very mild.
    Im almost finished with physical therapy, which has done wonders for my recovery. Theyve made sure I dont limp when I walk and now theyre busy helping me strengthen all the muscles around the knee. Its amazing how quickly you lose strength.
    If youre on day 3 you might find that the next couple of days are a little miserable. For me it took 10 days to really start to feel any bit of normalcy. I tried to get back on my feet by day 5, which for me was a mistake. I was in a lot of pain and really just miserable. I spent the next five days after that sleeping a lot and reading–I didnt try to do anything, I just wanted to get that time over with. My first post-op appointment was on day 10 and after that I started getting back to being myself again. So dont worry if you feel badly in the next few days. Days 4-6 were the worst for me.
    Holly

  9. hannah September 20, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    thanks for the info!
    i’m 18 and i have to have acl reconstruction in december. i have no idea what to expect out of this surgery; i had a meniscal scope in july because i also tore my meniscus, but i was walking within hours of that. your blog helped me a lot in understanding and knowing what to expect from this surgery!

  10. DR Tom October 10, 2010 at 1:50 am

    The patellar tendon has (historically) been among the first preference for ACL reconstruction because of its close resemblance in size and strength to the ACL, and overall stability and integrity of the new graft.
    http://www.health-tourism.com/anterior-cruciate-ligament-reconstruction/thailand/

  11. Ben November 18, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Thanks for the Info.. Im having ACL LCL PCL reconstruction on the 18th of this month and was really nervous on what all would happen..

  12. Brian February 19, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Thanks for the information. I am having surgery next week and I am somewhat nervous. Your blog has helped to calm my nerves! Many thanks and good luck with your full recovery.

  13. Marymarler March 26, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Thank you for writing about your experience. I will be undergoing this surgery in 6 days and found oyur article very informative

  14. Ben Hannan June 30, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    Hi there,
    Nice blog Holly. Good on your for sharing your experience.
    I’ve done the same thing and have compiled a full structured list of things that need to be considered as people prepare for an ACL Reconstruction as well as a fully documented physiotherapy recovery program which helped me return to competitive soccer. It’s part of a Complete ACL Reconstruction Guide. Details at: http://www.mykneereconstruction.com
    All the best.
    Ben Hannan

  15. Monica July 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I tore my ACL on July 2nd and will be having surgery on the 26th. I really appreciate your suggestions for getting everything set up before you get home. Also your blog was the only one that didn’t stress me out, thank you for being so upfront!!!

  16. Joe M July 21, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Holly,
    I had the surgery today. I am up (it’s 3AM) looking for information on how long the femoral nerve block will last. I am a little freaked that my quad simply doesn’t work. This is an informative post as I relived the days events through you words. Thank you. I will be back to read this again. You wrote, ” I guess the one good thing about surgery is that my normally active and neurotic mind has been shut off.” I guess it got turned back on just before you began writing. :-) I know how it is hence my comments at 3AM.
    Regards,
    Joe M

  17. Prashant November 8, 2011 at 2:06 am

    This is a very good post… I had ACL reconstruction Surgery Last Week but still liked to read this

  18. Julian November 12, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Great post! I just had Surgery to repair my diffused ACL. I spent last night at the hospital in recovery but am home today. I was wondering if yourself or anybody else who has had this surgery had problems with their leg twitching or spasming after the surgery?

  19. Hannah November 16, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    This is such an interesting post! I had my ACL Reconstrustion Surgery yesterday.. I havea huge fear of needles so I spent a lot of my time crying before and after surgery but my mom told me it was better to let all of my anxiety out because if I didn’t I could have an anxiety attack and make things worse. It worked, I am only fourteen and after all nurses and my anesthesiologist knew they all tried to make me feel better. I love all the people who helped me out. Anyways, I had the Nerve block and was told it would last 24 hours. It wore off about 7 hours ago and i want it again. I am in so much pain. If you or anyone has tips to make me feel better it would be greatly appreciated! I am taking the pain pills they subscribed (1 pill every 3-4 hours) I have been taking it exactly at 3 hours. My Pain gets so bad when I move that I just bawl my eyes out. It is too intense.. Should I wait a day or two to talk to my doctor or should we let him know ASAP

  20. Emily December 29, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    So can you where underwear while you are in your surgery?

  21. Alexis January 10, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Yeah, I have to get this done this Friday. I am SO SCARED! Reading this did help me out a lot though. I just have a quick question… I am SO SCARED of needles. Does the nerve block or whatever hurt?

  22. Chrissy January 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    I wish i would have found this before I had my surgery lol. I am now on day 3 and I am just uncomfortable. Thanks for sharing your experience so I can see what I have to look forward to down the road. Hope you and everyone else on this blog has done well with their recovery!

  23. Katie March 8, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Thank you so much! I having ACL reconstructive surgery in the morning and was feeling the anxiety kick in… Reading this has put my mind at ease. Thanks again for posting such a thorough post. How was your recovery and how long until you were able to walk normal (without crutches) and upstairs?

  24. Holly March 9, 2012 at 9:26 am

    It took about 10 days to walk without crutches and I don’t remember how long it took to use stairs–maybe six weeks? That might be too long. By the end of 3 months I was going up and down stairs like nothing happened, but I was definitely able to climb them (albeit rather gimpy) way before that. Good luck w/ your surgery!

  25. Abegail Casidsid April 19, 2012 at 1:12 am

    I would like to thanks the author for posting an informative article like this. It really help those people who are hopeless in their life especially those people who are experiencing a same circumstances.
    Here are 7 benefits of the ACL Reconstruction:
    1. Surgery is often done under a local anaesthetic resulting in shorter wait times, less trauma and faster recovery.
    2. Success rate ranges from 82% to 95%
    3.The patient may regain full range of movement and be able to return to previous levels of activity.
    4. Prevent further tissue damage to the ACL.
    5. Help to prevent early onset arthritis.
    6. Provide relief from intense pain and swelling.
    7. With the outpatient procedure there is less scarring and faster recovery
    To know more about Pros and Cons of ACL Reconstruction, you can visit http://aclreconstructionsurgery.org/

  26. Bonnie April 24, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Hi holly, I’m Bonnie and had my acl reconstruction in aug 2011. I tore it playing in my soccer game when I was tackled from the side. I’m doing well and wish I found this before I had surgery! I’ve learned so much about the knee throughout this experience and I’ve actually figured out that someday I want to be able to work in a hospital.

  27. Kiran June 24, 2012 at 1:27 am

    Hi, on 13 june 2012 i had my ACL surgery done. Doc said, i had very soft bonesc & screwes were not fitting in the graft so he useed staples. My operation tok nearly 4+ hrs. I assume its quite long excluding recovery room time.
    Doc was not quite happy with the staples he had to use because of my soft bones in the knee.
    Now i am worried.

    Has any one came across this use of staple????

  28. Andres Fuentes July 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    hi,my name is andres.. im 15 years old and i tore my acl playing soccer in april, now i will be getting surgery in 14 days july 24th. im kind of scared about it and a little freaked out so i really hope everything goes fine durning the surgery and after, ive never had surgery before this is my first time so idk what will happen before it or after it. but im glad to read about someone that has had it before and it felt better.

  29. Becky August 3, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    Thanks so much for this..it actually calmed me down a bit I’ve never had surgery of any kind and I also have an Acl tear in my right knee and surgery is in a week and a half I didn’t know what to expect and I had been looking for info on how the experience would be to just know what exactly would happened..thank you thank you so much for writing this..u don’t know how much.this helped believe me..by the way Iam 20 years old tire it at the park just messing around =/ thanks again

    • Holly West August 4, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      You’ll do fine! Glad I could help set your mind at ease.

  30. Beth September 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    I had ACL reconstruction with patellar tendon 3 weeks ago. The Dr. also took 25% of my lateral meniscus due to damage. My experience was nothing like Holly’s. I woke up in the recovery room feeling nauseated and in pain. My doc put in a pain pump catheter that went directly into my knee with oral pain pills. No nerve block. I proceeded to fill up 4 or 5 barf bags before getting home. I was in a great deal of pain, and continued to take oral pain pills around the clock sometimes cheating on the time between pills. The doc sent me home with a polar ice care machine which constantly circulated ice cold water around my knee. I also had a passive range of motion machine that I used for 6-8 hours every day for the first 10 days post-op. I was non-weight bearing on crutches for 4 to 5 days post-op because of the pain, but gradually started to put some weight on my leg. It is now 3 weeks post-op, and I am still using crutches. I can bend my knee to about 90 degrees not enough to ride my stationary bike. Physical therapist said I will be using crutches for awhile longer until I can raise my leg without any give in my knee. My quads are all tight and painful to the touch especially after PT tried to work out the knots yesterday. Extremely painful. Knowing what I know, I would NOT recommend this surgery to anyone expect a collegiate or professional athlete. I would have just worn a brace and dealt with the giving out of the knee. My experience has been horrible, and I have one of the best surgeons in town. Don’t elect to have this surgery especially if you have multiple ligament damage like I did. I should mention I also had full thickness tear of my MCL as well as a stress fracture and bone contusion. Good luck to those who have to go thru this. I would not wish this on my worst enemy.

    • Holly West September 7, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      I’m so sorry your experience has been so terrible. I will say that 3 weeks post op really isn’t very long (although it sure seems like it). I didn’t have full range of motion in my knee for at least a month & a half. I was cleared for “all activities” by 6 months post op but running about three months post op.

      For me, dealing with an ailing knee would’ve been unthinkable. Prior to the surgery it went out twice and they were the most painful experiences of my life. If I had to deal with that on an ongoing basis I don’t know what I’d do. So I for one am very thankful I had the surgery.

      Two years post op and it’s like it never happened (and has been like that for at least a year).

  31. Doug September 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Did you do patellar, cadaver or hamstring?

    • Holly West September 20, 2012 at 8:29 am

      I had the cadaver.

  32. Kimberly October 18, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. I too Googled and tried to find out as much as I could and your article was by far the best. I will be having surgery next Weds so thank you very much

  33. Riddhi October 21, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I’m 21, i’m getting an acl reconstruction surgery next month! I’ve read everything i could about it but still the fact that i may never get normal again scares me. Your blog helped. Thank you! wish you a healthy life!! (and lots of skeing fun ahead:D

  34. inez October 28, 2012 at 3:00 am

    In February 2012 i ruptured my ACL , i’m 7 months through rehab , I have tendonitis and Anterior Knee Pain , to hear from other people who have had ACL repairs or even just other injuries would be brilliant as I live in a small village and in my school no one else has an injury similar to mine , i want to broaden my knowledge abut hockey and injuries -(mainly ACL)

    I’ve created a blog about my ACL /knee/ hockey experiences because i want to talk to and learn from other people who have had similar injuries
    This website is a real inspiration if there is anyone out there intrested check out my blog http://inezpadiachy.blogspot.gr

    please comment and subscribe would love to hear from anyone !

  35. J.J. October 28, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I have ACL reconstruction scheduled with Dr. Kvitne at Kerlan Jobe next month. Like Riddhi, the fact that I may never have a normal knee again, scares me. Reading about your experience alleviated a little of my anxiety about the surgery recovery. Not having this surgery is not an option for me, as I teach self defense and kickboxing. Can I ask how you came to the decision to have a cadaver graft?

    • Holly West October 29, 2012 at 8:04 am

      My doctor didn’t really give me an option on the cadaver graft. In his experience he got better results with it and I trusted that. I’ve not had one moment of regret about that.

  36. Kelcie October 29, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    I have to get ACL surgery november 16th, and Im soooo scared!! I’m a competitive cheerleader, and I’m so scared that it’s gonna hurt to bad to compete.. Bleh…

  37. rugbychick123 December 12, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    I tore my ACL playing rec soccer this past July. I took the month of August off of playing on my club rugby team as my AT thought it was just a MCL tear. I played the first month of my university rugby team’s season before getting an MRI and finding out that it was actually my ACL torn and my muscles were just protecting it really well when they tried to do the Lachman test. I toughed it out and played the rest of the season, never really having any issues except for it buckling on me in our second last game. It has been pretty sore since that tho. I have my surgery next Thursday so I have just been hitting the gym like mad getting as strong as I can beforehand. I am kind of nervous but I will have good family and therapy support teams and I will do everything I can so I am back and able to play in our university rugby season in 8 months! Thanks for the great article!

  38. donny January 14, 2013 at 2:22 am

    Thank you so much for posting this, I am going to have my ACL reconstruction on this coming Jan 31, 2013.

    Its very helpful information, again thank you so much.

  39. Ki January 14, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks so much for your detailed blog! Going for surgery in 2 weeks which is just about 5 weeks after I tore it… I tore my ACL completely skiing. My doctor at Hospital of Special Surgery completeluy recommended the donor ligament because I’m 37 (somewhat on the border of younger/older) and I’m active (love to weight train, hike, ski, paddleboard, play tennis, etc). Much younger athletes should probably go with the autografts, he mentioned. But of course, it’s a case by case basis. It was nice to hear that he expected recovery in 3.5 months! I was expecting 4-6months based on all the online research, but this is likely due to getting allograft (less incisions, etc.). Of course, I don’t expect to ski again for another year (or maybe switch to snowboarding, haha). I can’t wait to get this over with and get the ball rolling with recovery! Here’s to a speedy recovery for everyone!

  40. sapan sharma January 16, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I would like to introduce myself as sapan sharma, i have represented h.p in national soccer. I had an acl tear duringthe game some 10 months ago, i have gone through a surgeryin sir gangaram hospital delhi, still after 9 months of injury i feel hesitant to resume playing, left leg ( which had the tear)has become comparitively thin and iguess is still weak, i feel hesitant in sprinting and tackling……!!!should i sstart to play…….???? im expecting ur reply…..

    • Holly West January 16, 2013 at 4:24 pm

      Check with your doctor. I’m not a physician, so can’t help you with your question.

  41. sapan sharma January 17, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Any way, thnkks….

  42. Maria January 28, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    hi everyone I tore my acl and some of my meniscus September 17th 2012 and now finally getting surgery in three days! I’m 18 years old and I’m deathly afraid of throwing up, I heard the medicine and anesteshia can give nausea and vomiting. what can I do to help prevent that? I know it’s alittle ridiculous to be more afraid of throwing up rather than the surgery itself but I’m a very paranoid person, will someone please give me some tips to reduce the possibility of vomiting? if there is any? please and thank you!

  43. Kerri January 29, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    thanks for a great post reviewing the run down. I have my surgery in the next few weeks and appreciated this!!

  44. Suzy February 27, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Great post :-) I love your honesty. You have answered many questions. I am awaiting ACL surgery in a few weeks. I keep reading posts on to do or not to do…. At present I am on for getting the surgery, but hope this is the right choice?!? I am young, fit, enjoy an active lifestyle, ( walking, aerobics, gym, open to try new things, like skiing…. This is how it happened) but I am not a sports fanatic nor do I play in teams etc. Is surgery the best route?

    • Holly West February 27, 2013 at 10:03 pm

      I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say what’s the best route for you. I was 41 when I had my surgery and I don’t regret it for a second. In fact, I’m on a ski trip right now, something I’m not sure I’d be doing if I hadn’t had the surgery.

  45. Suzanne February 28, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Thanks for your sharing your great experience. I had my surgery yesterday. ACL was severed, torn MCL and PCL, torn meniscus. Used allograft for my age. Had been afraid of nerve block, but anesthesiologist gave me the shot without me even being aware – just chatting! Surgeon gave my husband a great report. I hurt myself on a bad turn in a slalom race on Jan 5th. Enormous swelling and pain. Spent much effort reducing the swelling and exercising the leg to get full range of motion back. Then I gradually worked to put weight on the leg. Was able to walk into the surgery. This is my third knee injury after a lifetime of sports. Each time I’ve been aggressive with following doctors orders and doing the rehab. Very important I feel. I want to ski with my sons when I’m 70 years old!

  46. Luciana Singleton March 10, 2013 at 5:53 am

    Thanks. You helped me so much,
    I’m having surgery on March 13.

  47. Julie March 17, 2013 at 6:51 am

    Hi everyone my name is Julie I just recently had ACL reconstruction surgery with the use of my hamstring as my new ACL. I had the surgery Feb 22 2013 and its now march 17 2013 so 3 weeks into recovery and all in all it’s been ok but a lot of pain and I’m starting to get depressed I’m sick of this brace when I went to physio the other day she said I can sleep with it off and I was so excited to hear that but wow the pain that I’m having throughout the night sucks I’m still on perks but I’m so stubborn that I don’t wanna sleep with the brace I just wanna burn it I hate it so much. My boyfriend booked us a trip for Cuba I’m really excited he sees how depressed I’m getting but I’m scared to go trip is booked so I’m going just so nervous :( not like I’m going to be able to do much on the trip and I hope the 4 hr plane ride is comfortable for me :( maybe I just worry to much I don’t know. So I’ve been doing something I don’t think I should just wondering if anyone else has done it….. So ya I’m so stupid or stubborn not sure but I’ve been walking on my knee with out the brace on has anyone done it? I’m not walking far or leaving the house without it but have walked around to the washroom and little stuff like that.
    Thanks everyone for listening to me I just feeling lonely and sad about it all kinda wish I would have never went through the surgery wish I would have know about wearing this stupid brace for so long :((

  48. Liv March 18, 2013 at 12:14 am

    Thank you so much for posting this, I have my op on 21th march and was freaking out after reading and watching youtube about it. Now im not as bad and feel like I know a little more XD

    • Cristina March 19, 2013 at 9:14 pm

      I am having surgery on the 21st as well! Good Luck! Somehow it made me feel better to know that someone else would be going through the same thing at the same time.

  49. Renay March 18, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Thank you thank you for writing this! I know it’s been a few years since your surgery, but my husband is having reconstructive ACL surgery next month. He will also be having his meniscus repaired at the same time. I am looking for ways to help him through the recovery, keep him comfortable and keep our house running as smoothly as possible during the first couple of weeks (we have three little boys to care for as well…or should I say, I do – at least for a few weeks – ha!) I love all the little tips like having everything in a bowl near your bed (I’m setting him up on our couch downstairs I think). Did you ever write any follow-up posts this one? I searched ACL, but didn’t find anything. Thanks again!!

  50. Christina March 22, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks so much for your post! I recently tore my ACL and lateral meniscus skiing and I’ve been laying around stressing for weeks lol so to here you say it’s not that bad I think I’m ready!

  51. Sabeeya April 2, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I am 31 years old active mum with 2 years old son. Attending all group fitness classes (aerobics,power bar, yoga, Pilates, fit ball sculpt, super circuit). This knee injury(ACL rupture and long horizontal tear in lateral and medial meniscus) happened to me while attending dance class. Getting myself prepared for the surgery tomorrow.

    For everyone else life comes as a package so try to enjoy the best.

    Thanks a lot Holly for a informative blog.

    • Holly West April 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      I hope your surgery goes well!

  52. Harsha Sekar April 3, 2013 at 3:41 am

    Hello Holly,

    I am having an ACL reconstruction the day after tomorrow and after reading this I have no fear about the procedure. Hope my surgery goes well. :) Cheers for the tips and keep writing.

    Peace,

    Harsha

  53. SABEEYA April 4, 2013 at 1:20 am

    Hello Holly,
    The surgery went on we’ll. Like you said manageable pain. Still on the bed. Overnight stay at the hospital. I am doing good.
    For my buddies no worries, dedicate yourself for rehabilitation and make the physio as your best buddy for the year.
    All the best Holly.
    Keep updating.
    Cheers,
    SABEEYA

  54. James Harper April 10, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Great blog! I love the inspiration in your writing. I just got my ACL surgery done a week ago, and since day one I have been documenting my journey as well. My campaign is called #RunHarperRun.

    Thanks for the writing! Good read!

    RunHarperRun.com

    James

    • Holly West April 11, 2013 at 9:21 am

      Thanks for sharing this, James! The third anniversary of my accident is April 14. Seeing your pictures brought it all back–I feel your pain. Hoping for your quick recovery!

      Holly

  55. Diane April 18, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    It’s midnight, 11 days post-op for me. I’m trying to not think about the discomfort by playing Solitaire on the iPad and reading this blog of others’ experiences. It has been a roller coaster of a ride. Up, Down, Happy, depressed and crying. Occasionally I sleep in the guest room to avoid disturbing my partner because I’m so uncomfortable, I toss and turn.

    I was mostly off the narcotics… Then I started PT and quickly resumed taking them… I’m not a superhero!! Note those with pending surgeries… Keep on top of the pain, take pain meds before PT and ice, ice, ice!!

    I can happily report though that tonight I noticed just having a sheet on my foot in bed finally doesn’t feel “too heavy.”

    I’m so glad I found this blog and the subsequent comments. It’s been helpful to know that it’s okay to be frustrated but that it will get better.

  56. Dawn April 19, 2013 at 6:33 am

    I had ACL surgery with allograft on March 26th. I read your blog before I had surgery…it helped a lot. I am now 3 and a half weeks post op, flexion at 115 degrees, full extension, walking (if you can call it that more like gimping) without brace or crutches as of 2 days ago. I do PT 3 times a week (its tough, but at least it feels like your accomplishing something). I have 3 questions. First, when does the night time pain go away? Still take pain meds at nigt but they don’t really help. Second, when does even a simple trip to the grocery store not feel like I have just done a marathon? When do you start feeling “normal” again? I get so frustrated and depressed not being able to do the simplest tasks without being exhausted on the couch and icing the knee to stop the pain. Thanks!

    • Holly West April 19, 2013 at 7:50 am

      It’s been nearly three years since my surgery, so forgive me if some of the details I remember are shaky. But at 3 1/2 weeks post op I definitely still felt gimpy–my surgery was in mid-June and I probably didn’t start to feel really normal until the end of August. I know that sounds like a long time but the change was gradual. Every day there was improvement so it didn’t feel like I was gimpy and then all of a sudden better. But yes, it is a slow process. I’d say it took three months or a little more before I wasn’t walking funny and by six months out I was cleared for all activities. Pain-wise, I’m pretty sure I was off narcotics by day ten post-op. Up until that point, the pain was pretty bad but seemed to taper off after that. If you’re still having problems with pain (and the meds aren’t helping) maybe you should talk to your doctor about it, just to make sure there’s no complications.

  57. Jackie April 30, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Thank you for sharing Holly! I am 8 days post-op, had ACL w/hamstring tendon autograft. I’ve had a pretty normal experience based on what I’ve read in others blogs. I will say day 6-8 caused me the most pain, I think that it was caused from the swelling and blood pooling in my calf, pt starts Monday so that may change. Today was my first real venture out for my follow-up, sutures removed, had an ultrasound to rule out a blood clot(normal thank God), fitted for a new and way better brace, and made it to lunch. Too long for my first outing, but I put actual clothes on (not yoga pants) and felt human again! Now paying the price, leg elevated and on ice. I am so glad to have found your blog to see what others have endured during a similar situation. What is so awesome is that we can take from everyone’s experiences and have a guide of do’s dont’s what might work and might not work. This is a major surgery and no one needs to be a hero, do what works for you, if pain pills are needed there is a reason. Same with rest, listen to your body.
    Thanks to everyone for sharing the good, bad, and the ugly.
    Happy Recovery

  58. Selma May 2, 2013 at 2:50 am

    Hi there, day 5 post ACL reconstruction (left knee, hamstring graft), after a slow skiing fall at Keystone on the 9th March. Did a lot of pre-op physio therapy, which I strongly recommend for anyone preparing for this sort of intervention. First couple of days thought I was doing so great, and the swelling and bruising looks minimal. Pain managable, though nights very uncomfortable – stare at my ceiling a lot. Day three was a bit rough, felt a bit feverish, and I believe I might have been a bit irritable /difficult to handle by the dear ones trying to help :-(. Getting a bit fed up by the brace, and though I can manage around the kitchen or bathroom without it or the crutch (dropped the second crutch on day 2), it feels of course much safer and more stable with the brace on. Will go for a walk around the block now, and enjoy the sunshine :-). Many thanks to Holly and all others for sharing their experiences. Selma

  59. Lauren Gordon May 13, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Thank you Holly for the blog!

    I’ve been asking so many people questions but this has truly helped me understand the procedure and recovery process.I was 19 and extremely competitive with my college sport career. I tore my ACL tumbling february 19, 2013 and im barelyngetting my surgery this Thursday, i put it off for so long due to my college career with sports and crossfit but my season is over and im ready to get this over with! Im 20 now and going in for survery this Thusday! Thanks again for the inspirational post :)

    Lauren Gordon

  60. Jacquie May 15, 2013 at 7:05 am

    Had your ACL reconstructed?

    I’m doing a Master’s research project on ACL reconstruction and want to know about your experiences about rehabilitation, and getting back in the game.

    Please visit http://fluidsurveys.com/s/returntosport/ to participate in a short web survey. Participation involves answering 19 on-line questions about your activity level, your experience surrounding the process of rehabilitation after ACL reconstruction, and your decisions surrounding returning to sport. The questionnaire will take 5-10 minutes to complete, is completely anonymous, and will have no influence on your medical care.
    Jacquie Minnes PT
    School of Rehabilitation Science
    McMaster University

  61. Petr Paul May 24, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Hi,

    I’m going in for ACL surgery in about 3 weeks. Thanks for all the insights but I have a couple of questions. Why would you have to remove your underwear for a knee surgery? I am not a prude but from the standpoint of modesty and dignity, the last thing I want is someone checking me out when I’m totally out of it. Also, did the forms you signed allow for people (med students, observers, etc.) to be present during your surgery?
    Finally, how does the ice machine and movement machine work? Is the ice machine a wrap you put around your knee? Is the movement machine something you sit on and strap your leg to?

  62. Annie June 2, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    I am 49 active weekend warrior type and am 3 days post op, used patellar graft. Your blog has been very handy during my sleepless nights. I am pleasantly surprised as I have just had minimal discomfort. I have found the ice/compression machine to be very helpful I was told to bring it to the hospital when I woke up in recovery I had the ice bandage and leg brace already on which was very helpful. With regard to the movement machine you put it on a flat surface ex. bed,couch, floor and rest your leg on it you strap leg in and set the degree of flexing i was told to start at30 degrees for 2 hours at a time twice a day. I took pain med 30 minutes before starting machine and then ice following.My only set back/ complication was when I took off the compression stocking to shower for the first time I became dizzy and lightheaded and passed out luckily I had someone close by to help me. Has anyone else ever had this happen?

  63. jenjen June 8, 2013 at 2:01 am

    Annie, it’s very likely the medication you’re on, I just had my acl surgery on 5/22/13 (i’ve had my other knee done years before) and I too got very dizzy from taking the percocet, especially when I got up to go to the bathroom. I was told to drink a lot of fluids and eat when I took them to help combat this common side effect, but that only helped minimally. I started decreasing my percocets for tylenol 10 days after my surgery and that stopped the dizziness.

  64. Lauren June 10, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Hi, I get this surgery tomorrow morning, and just have one question. My doctor has had me do two weeks of PT Prior to scheduling my surgery. I have full motion and range in my knee, and have been told that this alone can greatly reduce the severity of my pain after surgery. Did you undergo the same before your surgery? If so, do you believe this helped any? Any relative information would be useful thanks

    • Holly West June 10, 2013 at 10:50 am

      My doctor didn’t prescribe PT before my surgery but he did recommend low impact exercise such as elliptical and swimming to strengthen the area prior to surgery. I followed this advice 3 days a week for about 2 weeks. Whether it helped I don’t know, but I had no complications and was off crutches by my post-op appointment (day 10 after surgery).

  65. jess June 16, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Just wont to say it is nice to hear what some went thought and give me some insight in what i might be going to have to g thought

  66. Todd Oxendine June 18, 2013 at 8:38 am

    I just read your blog about your ACL reconstruction surgery. I came across it doing some research on what to expect when I get “older” after having had knee surgery. I had my 2nd ACL reconstruction surgery (left knee) on May 21, 2012. For this one they used a donor ACL. I tore it playing softball. I tore my right ACL back in 2000. They used my patella tendon for that one. For my most recent surgery they offered the femoral block but I turned that one down. I’m not a fan of needles. The surgery definitely isn’t as bad as you’d expect though….but I hope I don’t have to go through it again anytime soon. Glad yours went well and thanks for your time and sharing your experience.

  67. Christopher watts July 6, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Just read your information about your surgery. That really helped me out alot. I tore my left knee ACL/LCL, June 17th and had surgery June 28. I’m 8 days post op and and started PT immediately. Still have swelling on the knee cap and I’m kinda worried but not too much on when it will go down. I have the ice man and I been taking my pain meds. The intense pain has died down but the other day was CRUCIAL! I didn’t get no sleep and I had to go into PT that next morning. I had my surgery done with the hamstring graft. I kno for everybody it’s different, but I’m worried about the pain and when will it go away. I play football for a University which I can’t say but this is the first time I had something like this. I’m still in the brace and on crutches. I can put weight on my left leg when I walk. My heart is beating pretty fast and I’m just thinking that’s coming from the naproxen. I’m thinking I should stop the meds and start taking Motrin or Tylenol. Finally able to take a number #2 which made me feel alot better. I just want to be normal again. I’m having trouble sleeping and my leg be twitching which causes me to wake up. Idk what that’s about. Hopefully I can get some feedback from you good people and the author

  68. Irene July 7, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Hi! I’m having ACL reconstruction as well later this week. I’ve been very anxious and worried as to how it would all actually happen (I’m only 18) and this post really explained a lot to me and answered many of my questions so thanks for posting!

  69. Meredith July 27, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    I am having acl reconstruction on this Thursday. I’m a ball of nerves. Your post definitely helped. I was jumping on a trampoline and guess came down wrong because the next thing I knew, I heard and felt a snap in my knee. After X-Rays and a MRI, I tore through my ACL, tore my meniscus, and had a bone marrow bruise. My surgeon does not think the surgery is necessary, due to my limited activities (as in I don’t play sports), but I am a retail manager on concrete floors. Even though I don’t run or play basket ball, my knee is unstable and it slips if I have to stop suddenly while briskly walking my store. I did PT prior and have very good range of motion now. I am concerned about getting on my bed. I’m 5’4″ and my bed stands to the top of my hip. I can’t lay on the couch….3 dogs and 3 kids. Anyone out there have the surgery with an extremely tall bed. The only good thing, I can lift my legs or head and elevating my knee won’t be a problem. Again, thanks for the info and advice!

  70. Alaa Alemara August 2, 2013 at 1:40 am

    Hi Holly, I am 28 years old and I torn my Acl in a soccer game. I am schdualed for surgery in 3 weeks but I am not sure if I want to do it because the MRI didnt say I have a torn ligament but the surgeon said I did. I was wondering what type of acl did you use? Allograft or Autograft? I am really worried about the recovery because I smoke a pack of ciggerates a day and I know that will mess with the healing process if I choose to go with the surgery.

  71. Paul Abbott October 19, 2013 at 5:30 am

    Hi,

    Really enjoyed your blog. I go in for an ACL operation in 11 days time. Having the hamstring type. I’m 51 so a bit apprehensive had a Dacron (carbon fibre) ACL 21 years ago which was about as much use as a chocolate tea-pot – just been waiting for surgery techniques to improve enough for me to go under the knife again. The times feels right now, I have a degree of confidence things will be ok this time.

    Thanks again,
    Paul.

  72. Denise November 7, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Holly, l read this blog before my surgery yesterday .. Nov 6th. Your blog put me to ease before I went in. All the bad stuff I read and I was scared to death. I too had a cadaver acl reconstruction. I have done wonderful. I have the nerve block also. Haven’t taken pain meds so far. My back and neck is more sore than my knee from laying in bed so long. I wanted to thank you for this blog, you really help to keep my anxiety to a minimum!

  73. Mary November 9, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Thanks for writing this! I wish I HAD read it before my surgery, which was on August 27, 2013. I tore my acl, meniscus and also had a bone bruise and was terrified going into surgery. I have never had an injury like this. I did have pt before surgery and still go once every other week or so. I can see why it’s important to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee, and the hamstring! I had the patellar graft and still have pain going down the shin from the graft but hopefully that will settle down! Thanks again!

  74. Cliff December 18, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Interesting blog. I don’t follow blogs but was looking for info on side effects of nerve block. I’m 67, tore my acl & medial meniscus January 23. Surgery was on April 16 so I’m 8 months post-op. The surgeon I chose was my second doc. First one wasn’t going to replace acl because he “didn’t think it would ever catch up with me”. I ski hard and participate in traditional karate a couple of times per week. Again, I go hard, not pitty-pat. I’m sure the first doc wasn’t going to repair my acl because of my age. He was wrong! Went to a university sports medicine office and was lucky enough to get a great (team) doctor. He said “it isn’t your age that I look at, it’s your activity level”. I was able to return to karate in five months (with my brace), though lightly, and skiing last week (Dec. 11) where I skied ‘bumps’ (I was wearing my brace to help support the joint) for about three hours ’til my legs turned to rubber and I started falling.

    My doc used an autograph (hamstring)and I was given a ‘nerve block’ from which I’m still feeling residual effects (a little numbness & tingling) which I understand is not terribly unusual in “older” folks like me. Disclosure: I had ‘shingles’ with numbness, etc. in my left buttock & leg before the surgery to which I attribute some of the numbness. My surgeon thinks it is the nerve block.

    Bottom line: Choose your doctor carefully. Do your homework first. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Listen to and follow your doctor’s instructions as closely as you can. Do your PT religiously. Finally, BE PATIENT!!! Can’t stress this too much. I’ve had a great outcome. There have been little ‘blips’ but nothing that a person can’t deal with. We’re all different but we can do more than we think, if we’re willing to work hard and keep at it. It isn’t easy, or fun, but it IS worth the effort!

  75. Emily December 29, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Thank you very much for posting this. I torn my ACL in a soccer game 2 months ago. I’ll go in for an ACL operation in 5 days. I’m only 16 so i’m really scared, but your blog is definitely helping. But i’m just really scared that i’m going to have an anxiety attack minutes before my surgery. I’m having the hamstring one by the way. Does anyone have tips for me??
    Again, thank you for the info and advice!!

  76. Nina January 4, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    I had ACL/meniscus surgery January 2, 2014. ACL was repaired w patella and meniscus was sewn back together (no weight on my leg for 6 weeks because of meniscus). Pain has been that annoying but the medication has helped. I’ve experienced throbbing at the knee as well as a burning sensation around my ankle. My brace wasn’t lined up with my knee which I was worried about. I felt my knee wasn’t bending the right way in the CPM machine, even when the brace was unlocked. I called the Dr. on call and was told to rearrange the brace so it lines up. I hope the next time I use CPM (after I change dressing today) that it will bend properly. Post-op there was minimal vomiting but I have the most trouble getting on and off the couch to use the bathroom. I’m 23 and was extremely nervous about surgery, but the key is taking it day by day and not pushing yourself past your pain limit. If you go too hard too soon, it might upset your knee. Taking it day by day for now. Flexion on CPM is up to 45 degrees. Trying to get to 90 by next Thursday (1 week after operation, as per Dr.’s PT regimen). Good luck to anyone getting this surgery. It’s a long road to get back to 100%.

  77. Casey March 6, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Hi Holly, thank you for your story. I am a 41 year old woman, active (bike, hike, jog, weight train, really anything that keeps me moving). I tore my ACL and meniscus in a low impact ski accident. It was awful. I will be doing 3-4 weeks of pre op PT and then surgery beginning of April. I am scared. Nervous about post op first week or so. It’s hard to mentally prepare for this. I am a teacher and put so much mentally into my job I feel like I will not have the mental strength for both. I will take 3 weeks off and have the ability to take more if needed. Ugh, the whole thing is just very upsetting to my life. I want to (need to) come out of this on the other side better, stronger, and healthier. Thank you again for your post. It’s helpful to read your story and others on this blog. I welcome comments/advice. Take care and stay healthy all. :)

    • Denise March 28, 2014 at 5:38 am

      Casey,
      I tore my acl, mcl, and meniscus right after I turned 40 last year. I’m very active as well. I just wanted to let you know you will do great. Don’t be afraid. I was so scared before my acl reconstruction ( donor ), I wanted to just not do it at all but I knew I had to so I could eventually walk normal again. Surgery went wonderful and I’m 5 months post op. I’m not going to lie but it’s a very SLOW process. I’m not a patient person by no means.. I just want to do my normal routine again. My knee feels stronger everyday. I still haven’t tried jogging yet and since I wasn’t a jogger to begin with my physical therapist hasn’t been in a hurry to have me run just yet. That starts next week.. ;(. Kind of scared to start that. My knee still feels really tight at times but I can finally walk downstairs better.. Instead of taking baby steps. Lol. Good luck you will do great.
      Denise

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