Scars and stripes


Photo by Emily Meinzer

Anderson displays the surgical scars on her knee. After being kicked during a soccer game, Anderson had reconstructive surgery, and may not be able to play soccer again.

Story by Celeste Anderson, news editor

Crutches. Pain. Medications. Physical therapy. These are the first words that come to my mind when I think back to the first days after my knee injury. In May 2016, five seconds on the soccer field changed how I thought forever.

When I think back to how my injury happened, all I can remember is getting kicked, hearing and feeling a pop and falling to the ground. As I was laying on the ground, I remember everything spinning and seeing black dots dancing around the edges of my vision. After somehow being moved to the trainer’s office and having my leg manipulated, the trainers decided I would definitely need to see a doctor.

Initially, the doctor and surgeon thought that I tore my ACL, but after an MRI, it turns out it was a lot worse than they thought. Although I’m not quite sure on the scientific names, I was told I tore a ligament, two tendons, dislodged some cartilage, dislocated my patella and broke the top of my tibia, and that I would need reconstructive knee surgery as soon as possible.

So two days later, I hobbled into the surgery center on crutches, was hooked up to IV’s, and given medication to help me fall asleep. When I awoke, I discovered that my entire leg was held in a huge cast and was immediately given medication. I also discovered later that the surgeon pulled my parents into an office and told them that the inside of my knee looked like a bomb went off and that I should rethink playing soccer again as I should, “do what’s best for my 36-year-old knee and not my 16-year-old knee,” and if I played again there would be a chance that I would never be able to kick a ball around with my future children.

The next few weeks after my surgery are still blurry to my memory, as I was on strong painkillers that impaired my brain. I remember some of my friends coming to check on me and hang out, even if I wasn’t “all there.”

The summer passed with tri-weekly visits to the physical therapist, where they helped me strengthen the muscles in my quads, glutes and calves. When I was finally able to walk on July 7, I felt that I could do anything.

However, I quickly discovered that my new mobility was very limited and still is today; for example, I may not be able to run until December or January.

One issue that I have had to deal with is my scars; I have four around my knee averaging about 2 inches each. I’m self-conscious when I wear shorts or dresses because I feel like everyone looks at my knee or talks about it when I’m not around. When I first saw my scars, my emotions were mixed between sadness and anger, as I realized that I would have them for the rest of my life.

Despite my shyness about showing my knee and the looks I get, I have learned that you shouldn’t care what everyone thinks of you or how you look all of the time. My mom told me once that my knee was interesting because it told a story. I’ve learned that, even though my knee has been through a hard journey, it still functions and does what it needs to do for me, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Another lesson I learned through my injury is that patience pays off. It’s hard seeing people play soccer, or run or even walk without a limp and not feel a twinge of sadness because I can’t do those things anymore. I’ve had to understand that I’m getting better every single day and one day I might be able to run how I used to or kick a soccer ball as hard as I was able to before.

I’ve also come to fully appreciate the notion that “everything happens for a reason.” I was devastated when I learned that I wouldn’t be able to play soccer again because I had played since I was 3 years old. Every day, weekend and season since then was filled with practices, tournaments and games, so when I finally grasped that I couldn’t play ever again, I felt like something was missing from my life. I quickly learned that this isn’t the case, and, although I’m still not sure why exactly this happened, I fully believe that the reason will become apparent in time, and I will appreciate it.