Andy Rowe is a 39-year old Assistant Chief of a 100% volunteer firefighter department, and is dedicated to serving the community. He is also a private pilot and was previously in the army. Unlike many others, Andy did not tear his ACL playing sports, but rather while fighting flames when part of the roof of a house collapsed on his knee. He is currently 13 weeks post-op and making real progress.
1) Can you share your ACL story?
The short version of my injury was while fighting house fire, the structure collapsed, and a portion of the roof hit me above the knee. After putting out what landed on me, I crawled out from under and walked back to our fire truck. A couple steps was all it took for me to realize that something was really wrong. I destroyed my ACL, tore my Lateral Meniscus, MCL, LCL, fractured the Tibial Plateau, and there were a couple of bone contusions.
In the past few years, I was doing 4-5 5k runs a year, and flying around as a private pilot. Suddenly, all of that was gone. At my 12 week checkup, he examined me and said, “when I see you in 8 weeks, we’ll talk about when you can go back to firefighting. You are healing great, you can start jogging in a few weeks, and I have no doubt you will fully recover". I am putting in a lot of tough work at PT 3x weekly, doing the exercises as requested and fighting to stay positive. Two days ago, I took my plane up for the first time since February. Recovery is possible for anyone!
2) What was the hardest part of the experience?
The hardest for me was the loss of independence. Not being able to walk, drive, fly, or be “normal.”
3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?
The days I went to physical therapy and didn’t progress were hard. I was so focused on making the next degrees, that when fatigue, or swelling kept me the same or even went backwards it bothered me. Luckily I had been tracking the over all progress. I could see though I may be a few degrees less that two days ago, over time it is much better. So I focused on the long term wins. The overall progress.
4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?
Remember that this is all temporary. When in pain the first week, or frustrated about not being able to walk at week three, know that the weeks will pass, normal will come back. Patience and hard work on recovery are your friends.
5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?
I have realized so many things that I took for granted. Standing in the shower, walking outside, chasing my kids. This experience has made me realize how many things I have been taking for granted.