The Slow Recovery from a Complete Quadriceps Tendon Rupture My Life 26 JAN 2016

On the 22 January I did something pretty rare – I swore on my Facebook feed:

Fuck yeah!!!! Just managed to lift my left heel off the ground under my own strength. Haven’t been able to do that since the start of december last year! ‪#‎RoadToRecovery‬ ‪#‎SmallSteps‬

I had good reason to of course. I’ve spent almost two months since the start of December last year, sitting in my chair in the lounge because I’ve been unable to walk thanks to a complete rupture of the quadriceps tendon in my left leg.

emergency centre at vergelegen mediclinic in somerset west

Literally three days after rushing Chantelle to the Emergency Centre at Vergelegen Mediclinic Hospital for her dislocated toes, I found myself being rushed to the Emergency Centre after slipping down a single step outside my front door whilst taking the kids out for a bike ride around the complex.

A simple slip of the foot down a single step led to an agonizing scream of pain from me, forcing me to go down to my knees and then to lie flat on the ground. The girls were hysterical, and after gritting my teeth and pulling myself together, eventually I managed to pull myself upright and calm the situation.

Thankfully, my cellphone was in my pocket, meaning that I could phone Chantelle for help, send Jess on her way with her friends, calm Emily down, and then just sit there, snapping photos and contemplating life whilst waiting for backup to arrive.

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As luck would have it, Retha was in the area and was available to come look after the kids, meaning that after the particularly difficult exercise of getting me into the car, Chantelle was able to drive me to the Emergency Centre where I then got to experience a ride in a wheelchair, endure a lengthy wait, and of course get some x-rays for check up purposes.

The swelling was already pretty severe, and with nothing conclusive showing up on the x-rays, orthopedic specialist Dr. Peter Hardcastle gave me some painkillers and crutches, and instructed me to return to him in a couple of days time so that he could have a better look into what exactly the problem might be.

IMG_20151209_160016 emily lotter in dr peter hardcastle waiting area at vergelegen

This all happened on Monday the 30th of November, and nine days later (in which, despite my non functioning leg, I managed to attend Zandea’s birthday party and make the long drive in to work), I found myself in Dr Hardcastle’s offices for with a more normal sized knee ready for examination.

His initial look pointed to a troubling patellar rupture below the knee, but not a 100% sure, he sent me off for an ultrasound, which after two tries and a lot of head scratching, lead to a new diagnosis of a complete quadriceps tendon rupture – less troubling than a patellar tendon rupture but still serious enough to make it a big problem.

Essentially, I no longer had a connection to my lower leg, meaning that an immediate operation was pretty much my only option.

(To be 100% sure of the diagnosis, I opted to undergo a private MRI session in Stellenbosch, where after quite a strange and tingly experience, the trained assistant confirmed that there was nothing but a big black hole where the tendon connection above my knee should be!)

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Dr Hardcastle organized the medical aid authorization and booked me in for surgery the next day, and so early morning on the 10th of December I found myself delivered to Vergelegen Mediclinic, prepped and then knocked out, only to wake up again with a heavily bandaged knee, a long scar, and an unsightly drip draining fluid out of my leg.

I saw the surgeon, who confirmed that everything had gone swimmingly well (though to use Dr Hardcastle’s words, once he had opened me up, it “looked like a bomb had gone off in my knee” – which if I think about it makes sense, considering the difficulties and pain that I’ve had with the knee over the last couple of years), and then shortly after was visited by a rep from Orthocare who fitted me with a leg brace that was to become my constant companion for these last two months.

In short, the fix done was to open the knee via a long cut, trim and clean the edge of the torn tendon, drill three holes into the patella, and finally thread microfibre through the holes in the patella and then suture it to the tendon.

Then it’s a case of simply sitting back for 8+ weeks and hope that everything grows back nice and strong.

IMG_20151214_191909 craig lotter in a leg brace holding jessica and emily on his lap

I spent a reasonably uneventful evening at hospital (peeing into carboard funnel bedpans is weird), was discharged the next morning, and then was whisked away back home, where I made myself comfortable in my tub chair, took my medicine and pretty much sat there for the next two months.

As you might expect, December and January were not great for me. Restricted in movement, helpless for the first part (Chantelle had to wash me!), melting in the extreme heat, my mood was sullen and my temper short.

Chantelle of course was super busy with work, so the kids spent a lot of time staying over with both sets of the grandparents, or alternatively the folks would come over and help me look after the kids here. (Shame, the kids missed out on having a fun holiday this time around – Jess in particular because I was meant to have been camping with her at the start of the holiday!).

I missed out on Retha’s big wedding, missed Jessica’s ‘graduation’ from Vergeet-My-Nie, her first day attending Grade R at Gordon’s Bay Primary, as well as her first ever run at the school’s athletics day.

So yeah, worst year end holiday ever!

That said, things are finally starting to look up now six weeks into this horrible ordeal. The pain is gone, meaning that activating all the muscles is now the name of the game, and together with the excellent physiotherapist Carolise Botha, progress is being made at a rapid pace.

My brace has now been set that I can bend my leg to 90 degrees, and the current primary goal is to start getting my knee functionally strong again. I’ve been told that I can attempt to start driving again (which is of course a big one), and so if all goes well it shouldn’t be too long until I can feel that 2016 has now at last properly kicked off for me.

So, let’s hold thumbs then, shall we?

About Craig Lotter

Software developer, husband and dad to two little girls. Writer behind An Exploring South African. I don't have time for myself any more.