Kaila Pirrie resides in Glenwood Springs, CO with her two pups. She is a licensed massage therapist and licensed esthetician. She is also a mountain girl to the fullest! Kaila enjoys rock climbing, biking, skiing, running, and yoga. Her current goals are to spread awareness on the benefits of veganism, and to study Thai massage.
1) Can you share your ACL story?
I remember this day so perfectly, as it has replayed in my mind more than other life experiences. I was with a friend skinning up highlands mountain in Aspen, CO. We had made it to the Merry Go Round restaurant, and were told we couldn’t go any further due to the time of day. Instead of getting upset, we were both like “alright, one beer here and down we go!”. The snow conditions were absolutely terrible. We skinned on some dirt and rocks at one point, and mind you, it’s January and the conditions hadn’t been this bad in yearssss. We started skiing down on a blue run, and I noticed the snow was very frail. Still having fun, I started to go faster because it was basically ice, and fast was the only option. I remember making a left turn, and suddenly loosing control. Trying to over correct this turn wasn’t a good idea. My skis popped off, and as they popped off, I felt this LOUD pop throughout my body. I couldn’t tell where it came from at this point. I front flipped and rolled 50 feet forward until I finally stopped. Laying there on my back I was in indescribable pain. A few kids skied by my asking if I was ok and I sent them off saying I was fine. My friend and another kid helped gather my skis to bring them to me. I felt a single tear drop try to trickle down my face, but ended up being absorbed by my ski goggle liner. Trying to stand up was hard, and I couldn’t straighten my leg. For some reason I had thought a toboggan ride down would cost a lot of money, or they would call an ambulance. At the time I didn’t have health insurance, so I skied down on one leg. There was still quite a bit of mountain to get down, and it was incredibly challenging. Once down, I remember feeling like my leg was giving out every step and knew I had done something very serious to my knee. It wasn’t stable, making my walk very limped.
2) What was the hardest part of the experience?
This is a hard question to answer, because there were multiple challenges. Initially, the hardest part was figuring out what to do without health insurance. I thought I had possibly just torn my meniscus, but my chiropractor did a standard ACL test and thought differently. I hadn’t seen a medical professional to do an x-ray or MRI for 2 months after the tear. I was waiting for the insurance I ended up purchasing to kick in. I did however, see the orthopaedic doctor my chiropractor recommended to me to get his perspective before I had insurance. He said he was 100% sure it was an ACL tear before the MRI scan. Another challenge I personally faced was how to stay active. I was climbing a ton before this injury, and not being able to was crushing news. I tried to keep busy by doing sit ups, or hang board sessions, but I was very upset about not getting to go out with my friends to climb.
3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?
It was rocky at first. I am a very positive person, but when your knee wants to give out at every step, and you can’t do what you normally do, it’s tough. My motivation was setting future goals for myself. I would do something new every week, and I was very active at physical therapy. He knew I was a mountain athlete and pushed me hard. It was NOT fun! PT in the beginning is painful, in case you didn’t know. I was in tears the first day I went. I’m STILL setting goals for myself 7 months post surgery. I believe the acl recovery is a long one. It takes dedication and you can get lost in remembering to stretch daily.
4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?
Remember, this is NOT forever! Nothing is. Keep your goals in check. Don’t forget there are many many people that this has happened to. I love talking to others that have torn their acl. Reminds me that this injury isn’t an easy one, and some that haven’t been through it before cannot simply relate. Nobody can truly relate to any injury unless they have been through it themselves. Another reminder is to keep your legs strong, and to do as many squats as you can!
5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?
Oh most definitely! It has made me a more patient human. I also feel as though it has made me more curious how I can help other humans with their injuries, no matter the injury. As a massage therapist, I see many past injuries or current injuries in bodies. I’m wanting to learn more about how to help, even if it’s just writing out my answers to these questions. My acl injury changed me for the better, not the worst. I may still feel myself recovering 7 months post surgery, but I wouldn’t trade it happening. I was able to teach myself how to walk again, how to stand, how to overcome something that made me depressed for months. The lesson in this injury made it seem like the hard months of pain and challenge worth it.