Living with a torn ACL is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Two summers ago, when I was 7 months pregnant with our youngest, Thor, I fell on my just-mopped, slippery kitchen floor, twisted my knee and tore my right ACL.
Living with a Torn ACL
It hurt like you wouldn’t believe. I could barely walk for the rest of the day. And because the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is largely responsible for stability in the knee, I fell on numerous occasions afterward (twice while holding Thor when he was a newborn – don’t worry, he was fine!), and had to become super careful to avoid stepping on ANYTHING that would offset my balance (like a small toy). I was also left unable to run, jump, or do anything else that required stability in the knees (which is a lot of things!).
You hear about athletes tearing ligaments like this, not pregnant moms who just finished cleaning their kitchen floor, thought it was dry, then found out the painful way – NOPE! Not dry here yet!
I’m still mad at myself, and my husband still picks on me about it (he’s actually a good husband – he tells me I shouldn’t have been mopping the floor while pregnant…I should have been relaxing!). But actually – I’m quite proud of myself. I instinctively fell in a way that protected my belly – which was a good motherly thing to do, right?. Unfortunately, it meant protecting my belly at the expense of my knee.
Since an MRI showed I completely tore it (plus did some other damage to my knee), and since the ACL doesn’t heal on its own, I found out I had two options: physical therapy to strengthen my knee muscles (to somewhat make up for my lack of ACL), or physical therapy AND surgery. Surgery would mean creating a graft using other ligaments in my leg (ouch!), and giving me back the stability in my knee that I, like everyone else, take for granted until it’s gone.
Medical Bills and Insurance
I checked our health insurance, which is through my husband’s employer. Our insurance is affordable, provides great coverage for preventive care (100% covered!), and we’re grateful for it, but anything involving treatment for anything – hospital stay, surgery, etc. – is only covered at 70%, and there are numerous co-pays to go along with that.
At this time, we’re working on paying off $3000 we had to pay after insurance for a minor (unrelated) surgery I needed a year ago. Knee surgery for me, I estimate, would cost us over $6000 out of pocket.
Medical costs are insane. No wonder most household bankruptcies are caused by high medical bills and debt. My heart goes out to the MANY people out there with health issues and medical debt.
So last year I started physical therapy. However, because it was applied to our deductible, we were billed for the whole thing. So I decided to just go one time and get the exercise info I needed. I’ve done my best to do the exercises regularly, and they’ve helped, but the exercises will never make up for the stability that I lost.
Long Term Effects of Living with a Torn ACL
But now as our kids grow and become more active, it’s getting harder to live with my limited ability to do things with them. What happened in about 1 second has diminished any hope I have to someday go ice skating, play “chase” or “tag,” or jump around the yard with them. I also have been unable to do the kinds of workouts I used to do – dance aerobics, step aerobics, yoga exercises such as “planks” (which are great for the abs! Moms need these!). Basically anything involving jumping or twisting, which are actually very common in just about any kind of aerobic workout. I have many Denise Austin and Jillian Michaels workout DVDs, but can’t do them anymore. Instead, because I can walk just fine, I just do Leslie Sansone walking workouts (which are great, by the way). But I think that my knee may be another reason I haven’t lost those last ten pregnancy pounds! (See my post: Ten Reasons I Haven’t Yet Lost Those Extra 10 Pregnancy Pounds).
Thinking on that Surgery
So I’ve been thinking more about getting the surgery done, even though the price tag of $6000 or more out of pocket will take years to pay off (that’s not even including the physical therapy).
I think of all the other things our family could spend $6000 on. I think of the thousands of dollars worth of home repairs we need to get done, including a total kitchen remodel (our kitchen is so old and outdated!). And I think of all the unexpected things that always come up, like the $2100 in car repairs we’ve had this year alone ($1800 in the first 5 months of this year), and the $800+ we had in emergency veterinary expenses for our pets this year (We had to have one of them, our ferret, put to sleep at the emergency clinic. That was tough. We just have a cat now.).
But also, I think about how for years I’ve been hoping to take our kids to Disney World someday. Going there for a week or week and a half, and staying at a nice, moderate-priced hotel on the Disney World resort, which is what we’d like to do, would easily cost around $6000.
When Heidi was born almost five years ago, I started a savings account for a Disney World trip. Unfortunately, much of what we’ve saved had to be withdrawn for unexpected expenses, but I keep planning on replacing it. Especially since Heidi loves Disney princesses, most of all Ariel, and keeps telling me she wants to go to Disney World. Of course, I want to take her there. I went to Disney World several times while growing up and absolutely LOVE it. I wish all families could afford to take their kids to Disney World.
A Mother’s Decisions
How does a mom make decisions like this? How do I choose between 1) knee surgery to get my stability back so I can enjoy simple things with my kids every day, 2) home repairs that will make it more enjoyable to live in this home that we’ll be paying for for 30 years, or 3) possibly fulfilling my dream of going to Disney World as a family someday?
This is why we’re a frugal family. This is why we choose to be wise with our money – because you never know what expenses life will throw at you. Life threw my unexpected knee injury at me. I should have been more careful that day, and now I know better, but now I have to decide what to do. Our family can’t afford to do everything we want to do, so priorities need to be made about what we can do.
In the meantime, I’m grateful that the damage I did to my knee wasn’t worse (I COULD run if I had to, but would run funny!). I’m also grateful for everything else I have, which is part of what being frugal is all about.