ACL Diary: Clearing Hurdles

The Surgery Itself
Willow’s ACL tear happened during the first game of the 2011 AZ State Cup, which is the last tournament of the season, and the most important in terms of establishing team ranking. She was also in the midst of her school track season and had just posted her best time, three seconds off the previous week. Her event? 300 Hurdles.

Little did she figure on a whole new set of hurdles ahead of her that would cover a span of months rather than yards.

Willow Cozzens, 300 Hurdles Sabino High School

Clearing the hurdle over selecting what type of ACL reconstruction surgery to have, the next hurdle was scheduling the procedure. Dr. Todd Tucker, who we believe is the surgeon of choice for hamstring replacement in Tucson, had an opening on April 21. This was Willow’s first day of Spring Break, and at first we thought it was good timing, considering she’d miss fewer days of school.

Willow is a serious student, enrolled in demanding classes. Missing school might be considered a bonus to some kids; however, to Willow, who ultimately only missed two days, finding time for makeup work (particularly lengthy trigonometry problems) was an additional stressor we didn’t foresee. It nagged at me that we possibly should have waited until the school year ended; however, given our back-and-forth lifestyle (Tucson-Wisconsin-Tucson-Wisconsin-Tucson-Wisconsin) we decided to have the surgery here in Tucson—rather than during the midst of our busy season at Sandy Point Resort. Plus, Dr. Tucker wanted at least 4-5 weeks to monitor Willow’s initial post-surgery progress.

So, with an ETD for Wisconsin of May 26, we counted weeks on our fingers, and scheduled the date–April 21.

Mike and I were as worried as any parents of a child undergoing general anesthesia and the knife. Willow, on the other hand, was resolved. She may have simply believed that the sooner she had the surgery, the sooner she’d get back on the field. We were blessed to have a good friend, Karen Schwartz—aka KK—as her intake nurse at the Tucson Surgery Center. Her high beam smile and natural warmth eased us into the process.

KK and Wills in the recovery room

As she and the anesthesiologist prepped Willow, Dr. Tucker told us to expect the surgery to take 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours. He, of course, knew what to expect with the ACL, but he wasn’t certain about the meniscus. Since 50% of these injuries tend to also include meniscus damage, and the MRI wasn’t definitive, he wouldn’t know until he got in there. His plan was to repair the meniscus if necessary, or remove any damage if determined to be insignificant.

Granted, 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours wasn’t a large stretch of time in the waiting room, but timing is everything when running hurdles. One needs to know when to expect the next jump—right down to the millisecond.

I passed the time doing the Thursday Merl Reagle crossword and the Suduko puzzles in the AZ Star, while Mike went to Starbucks for his nineteenth nervous non-fat latte.

And then, merely an hour after we watched Willow wheeled away, Dr. Tucker came into the waiting room. He spotted us at once and a smile filled his face.

All I can say is that at this moment, our hearts leapt.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top