By Ceiledh Monk
My name is Ceiledh Monk and I am a varsity athlete at Charles. P Allen High School. In grade ten, I was on the starting line of the girls rugby team and had fallen completely in love with the sport. In the semi-final game, on May 26th, 2015, while in a tackle, my feet remained planted, my knees went right, but my body went left. I knew something was wrong when I stood up and noticed major instability in my left knee. The feeling of my knee collapsing with every step has stuck with me ever since my injury.
I remember the morning after my injury, no one was available to help me so I had to get ready on my own and take the bus to school. With a big cast on my leg, I was quickly frustrated and I started crying when I was struggling to put my socks on. Reflecting back on every moment of helplessness and weakness, I used them to propel my motivation to fully recover and return to sports.
“I couldn’t be more excited and more terrified for tomorrow.”
Directly after my injury, I saw multiple doctors who denoted that I did not need surgery and there was “nothing wrong” but I insisted booking imaging to confirm and began physio a week later to error on the side of caution. My physiotherapist said there was a possible tear and we began rehabilitation and strengthening right away. Five months after my injury, the MRI confirmed an ACL tear, a damaged meniscus, and a large bone bruise from the impact.
Receiving this news hit me hard because I was so hopeful up until this point. An injury is one of the things no one can ever be prepared to handle. We all hear about severe, career-ending injuries but no athlete ever expects their own body to give out.
I was fitted for a custom ACL brace and returned to hockey until I had surgery on March 3rd, 2016. Throughout this process, I kept blogs primarily to update my friends and family and to reach out to athletes going through ACL reconstructive surgery because there is no reason to go through this alone. After publishing a few blogs, I realized that there was something therapeutic about sharing my story and receiving motivation and encouragement from loved ones, and even strangers.
The day before my surgery I wrote, “I couldn’t be more excited and more terrified for tomorrow.” It was my first surgery, there were so many unknowns, and to describe the feeling as “overwhelmed” would be an understatement. I am extremely thankful for the many strangers, and now friends, on Twitter who were really helpful and inspiring throughout this entire process.
The day of surgery, I was calm and collected knowing that my worrying had absolutely no effect on the outcome. The surgery took around 45 minutes; My surgeon took a piece of my hamstring and put it in my knee as an ACL, stitched my meniscus, and removed 20% of my cartilage.
“It is tough to get back the fearless mentality I once had but I am optimistic”
The initial recovery was mainly taking medication to control the pain, rest, compression, elevation, and constantly icing with my ice machine. I was completely dependent on my family to do everything from helping me get into the shower, preparing my food, and driving me anywhere I needed to go. I was on crutches for the first six weeks of recovery because of my meniscus repair. I took advantage of this “down time” without athletics to become involved with the air cadet and Lion’s Club public speaking competitions which I really enjoyed. Having to get everywhere by crutches was a long and frustrating learning experience but it has definitely made me much more appreciative of my athletic abilities and good health.
Once I began to walk again, my recovery took flight. I was eager to return to my normal routine and become involved in things like my school’s fashion show, which I walked in while I still had a slight limp. I started hiking again with my family and going to the driving range with my dad and my brother. It was nice to return to everything that had been put on pause for a few months! Also, while planning on potentially losing my senior year hockey season due to my recovery, I tried to make the best of it and I decided to apply for Grade 12 Representative on
Students’ Council which I’ve grown to love!
It’s important to never lose hope throughout this roller coaster process. It is a long recovery and rehabilitation but it’s imperative to stay focused and ahead of the game. Sticking to the physiotherapy plan and doing exercises regularly is the key to getting back to sports within the average nine month recovery time. I recommend keeping track of accomplishments in a journal, on a calendar, on Twitter, blogs, wherever, as it helped me maintain awareness of my progress as the weeks and months passed.
Although the injury and rehabilitation is physical, many of the long term repercussions are mental. The entire process is stressful and constantly demands positivity and self-motivation which can be hard to find some times. The confidence and trust lost after an injury is very hard to recuperate.
Now, one year after surgery, I am happy to say that I am back to sports and I enjoy working out regularly. I am beginning to do full workouts and gain confidence without my brace. So far, I have returned to hockey, done a high ropes course, played beach volleyball, and gone skiing. I was very nervous to do each of these activities but I am grateful for my family’s support and encouragement. I have thought long and hard about joining the ultimate frisbee team at my school but I believe I need to do this in order to continue making progress in the right direction.
“It is tough to get back the fearless mentality I once had but I am optimistic” Overall, I am grateful for the surgery and the outcome and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as most obstacles are.