I’m finally feeling up to sharing more about my injury. It’s been a long 12 weeks for me. April 11th I broke my knee, or as my physical therapist corrects me, I shattered my knee. I fractured my tibial plateau in more than 20 pieces, and tore my LCL off with one of the fragments of bone. I debated sharing my experience here, but I thought maybe someone is out there with a broken bone, or has been knocked down in some way due to a sickness, injury or freak life event, and this might in some way help you feel less alone.

AC and I were up at Breakneck Ridge trail for a fun filled day out of the city to celebrate his birthday. We hiked to the top of the Ridge and enjoyed the beautiful views and photo opps over the Hudson River. We rock scrambled up the river side of the hike first, and then hiked down the backside of the ridge back to the car, which was a downhill trail decent for several miles.

I noticed how fatigued my quads were near the end of the hike. It’s definitely harder to go downhill than uphill, it requires so much more control of your lower body. I yelled ahead to AC, “I GOT JELLO FOR LEGS!” But I pressed through the wobbly feeling, knowing that each step carried me closer to a romantic dinner with him at an adorable inn located on the riverfront. We were almost to the road–about 100 feet away. We simultaneously let our gaits unfold into a run, letting the downhill momentum carry us down the trail.

My last step I placed my foot on an uneven cluster of roots as the trail dipped excessively, and at the exact same moment my knee was improperly aligned–most likely hyper-extended. I came down on it, with extra force because of the downhill momentum and immediately, my knee snapped, crackled, popped, and I crumpled to the ground. I knew it was bad. Really bad.

We waited for an ambulance for the longest 40 minutes of my life. I was in shock, and my whole body started trembling, which didn’t help to stabilize my knee. Endless hikers passed by offering help and medical advice. Most people guessed it was an ACL tear, or a dislocation. I refused to look at it, but I could tell from AC’s face that it was serious. My mind raced to the endless hours of PT ahead of me. I thought of my sister, who tore her ACL and vomited her way through recovery because the pain meds didn’t agree with her, and the two follow up surgeries she’s had to endure. I thought of #14 on my list of 101 in 1001: go salsa dancing. I thought of all the inactivity I had been guilty of for the past year. I thought of how awful my family would feel when we called them from the emergency room with the news. I was too upset to even cry. I kept asking, “is this really happening?”

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I was first taken to St Luke’s emergency room in Newburgh, where everyone seemed confident that it was a dislocation based on how funky it looked, but the doctor said, perhaps it was broken. I put that out of my mind. I had never broken a bone in my life! The x-rays came back, and it wasn’t just broken, it was broken so badly that the orthopedic on call didn’t feel comfortable touching it. The doctors warned me that I would probably need emergency surgery that night. I insisted that I wanted someone to simply reset it, so I could go home, get a good night’s sleep, and research the best doctor in the morning. They informed me that I might have to have a knee replacement that night–this was happening ASAP. So back in the ambulance I went, to Westchester Medical Center, a trauma center about an hour away. They welcomed me with open arms and more painkillers. I was told I was the top trauma case in the hospital, which made me feel weirdly special. Sister Toby and AC beat me there, I was never more happy to see their beautiful faces as they wheeled me inside that ER.

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A few orthopedic residents asked me a thousand questions and then poked and prodded at my knee. They told me to hold onto Toby and AC’s hands and squeeze hard while they pulled my leg down and across, trying to reset the bone into place. In the midst of this I politely asked through clenched teeth, “HAS ANYONE EVER SH!T THEIR PANTS ON YOUR TABLE??” I will never forget the image of those two residents yanking with all their might on my broken leg. (Don’t worry, I didn’t crap my pants.)

I ended up having my first surgery, an external fixation, in the middle of that first night in the hospital. First, they had to cut off my favorite Lululemon pants. Sigh. I don’t remember getting anesthesia, I just remember waking up in the recovery room to a woman who would not give me enough ice chips. And I remember looking at the 4 new rods protruding out of my leg. They drilled 4 holes all the way down to the bone and inserted steel rods that essentially re-aligned and stabilized my leg. I had these crazy things sticking out of my leg for the next 36 hours, but I was too drugged up to really mind.

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Monday morning following the Saturday night external fixation I went in for the internal fixation. “Fixation”, such a pleasant word, am I right? It wasn’t until they CT scanned my leg the evening prior that they learned exactly how many fractures there were. My doctor talked to me before under-going anesthesia, and warned me there were over 20 fractures, and the LCL had torn off with one of the bone fragments. It was going to be a long day for both of us. He operated on me for nearly 8 hours. God bless that man. It took 11 screws and 2 plates to fix my sweet little knee.

thesarahjohnson-broken-knee-xrayI stayed in the hospital until Thursday afternoon. Westchester Medical Center is the JAM. My stay was top notch, I was blown away at the stellar level of the entire staff. A few nurses in particular, Miroslava and Jumona, were two of the most incredible human beings I’ve ever met. I told them I loved them, and I do. I still get overwhelmed with emotion when I think about them, and what wonderful caretakers they each are. They are truly sharing their unique gifts with the world. I’m so lucky to have been under their care during the most traumatic week of my life. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with them once I’m back on my feet.
thesarahjohnson-hospital-stay-broken-kneeI arrived home from the hospital on the 16th of April. I spent the next month and a half on bed rest, aside from getting up to go to physical therapy three times a week. Time moves pretty slowly when you are laying around…a month felt like a year and a half. Now, at week 12, I’m shuffling around my apartment and neighborhood more. I’m partial weight bearing on my injured leg. I can use just one crutch instead of two. I’m doing more work. I’m cooking some meals. I’m semi-circling on the bike (can’t quite make it all the way around yet). I’m bending to 85 degrees. I’m making homemade ice cream and green juices. I’m crying less. I’m crafting more. I’m sitting by the Hudson river at sunset with my mom. Slowly…slowly, I am becoming myself again.

 

 

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Some thoughts I have so far on this journey:

1) I always thought I was a patient person. This experience has taught me a whole new level of patience. I had no idea what patience was before. My doctor says I’ll finally feel like myself, and not be overly aware of my knee with every step I take in 1.5 years. Whoa. Recalibrating patience meter, now.

2) A life event like this has extreme highs and extreme lows. I’m learning if I am experiencing one extreme, the other is likely right around the corner. Staying right smack in the middle of the emotional roller coaster is unrealistic. So, I’m allowing myself to feel, express, lament whenever I need. I cried while talking to a fellow patient at PT yesterday. The tears just had to come out then and there. I watched the pilot of Friday Night Lights where the quarterback gets paralyzed. Sobbed. I googled Shania Twain lyrics. Bawled. I woke up in the middle of the night from a dream about the exact moment of injury. Weeped. It’s all allowing my body to emotionally detox from this traumatic life event.

3) There is no value in worrying about next month or next year. The most valuable thing I can do during this healing process is to be present in the hour that it is. Stop thinking about if I’ll be able to dance at that wedding in September. Stop thinking about will I ever run a mile again. Stop thinking about if they will have to remove the screws and plates in a year. Stop thinking about how I never ever want to go on a hike again.

4) I was shattered. I was drugged. I was unconscious. I was drilled. I was drugged more. I was cut into. I was hammered & plated. I was stitched. I was stapled. I was woken up every 3 hours. I was made to pee in a bed pan. And to think I made it out of the hospital alive. I think I should definitely be a stronger person once I’m on the other side of this. If I can make it through all that, a lot of things down the road will seem rather easy, am I right?

5) Simplification. The very second my knee shattered, I laid across the trail waiting for the ambulance, and thought about everything in my life that felt undone, untied, unkempt. I felt an urgent need to simplify. EVERYTHING. I believe life only gets more complicated as we press on, with new responsibilities, relationships, stresses, goals. This event has made me slow down…it’s made me HALT. I am using the time to reflect and plan how I will come back stronger and simpler. So I can spend more time living, and less time carrying around excess weight in my life. I spread myself incredibly thin before the injury, I felt like a chicken running with my head cut off for a long while. I was doing a lot of things, but none of them really well, nor was I 100% present for any of them. I’m thinking about changes around my work pursuits, my physical world (“stuff”), goals, the culture/brand of my life, and focusing on how I can feel less cluttered overall. I like this list of ideas on how to simplify. “Getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value.”

6) I keep thinking about all the intense basketball drills I did during high school and college, barreling down the icy mountains of upstate New York in middle school on skis, or all the NYC late nights of dancing while drinking in awful shoes. And this happened, essentially while running in a straight line. I’m accepting that life is just freaking hard sometimes. And sometimes we are strong, and sometimes we need help. Sometimes we are prepared, sometimes the rug is pulled out from under us. The most important thing is that we have strong, meaningful relationships through the ups and downs. Healthy, loving relationships matter deeply. Going through something hard makes loving my people that much more important to me. It makes me more conscious in how I love and who I love. I accept the reason I’m here: to love, and be loved.

If you are going through something that has knocked you off your saddle, know you aren’t alone. I find comfort in being open and sharing this experience with anyone who will listen. I’m learning when I let down a wall and share something raw and honest, others will too. I’ve found the power of connection to be rewarding and healing.

Here are some of my favorite things that have helped me get to the 12 week mark a little more comfortably/happily:

thesarahjohnson-birks

Birkenstocks sandals. I’m still having acute nerve pain in my big toe, foot and shin, and Birks are the only thing that I can wear comfortably. I love the white ones!

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Bliss’ Hot Salt Scrub with rosemary and eucalyptus. I scrub this from my knee down to my foot and let it sit for awhile. Not only does it help with exfoliation, but when rinsed, it creates an incredible warmth. It’s so soothing on my healing leg. I go through a whole jar per week!

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Face cleansing wipes are my new favorite little luxury. Standing at the sink and doing my entire night-time skin routine is not so easy on a leg that is healing, especially in the beginning when I couldn’t bear any weight on it. I keep these in the drawer of my bedside table, and clean my face leisurely at night while laying in bed. I love this new night-time ritual so much that I will keep using them even when I’m completely healed. Simple cleansing wipes are my favorite.Turmeric capsules by Total Renu. Turmeric root has shown to be an incredibly effective way to reduce inflammation in the body. It’s especially helpful while healing a bone fracture because most doctors prohibit the use of anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen because they interfere with proper bone fusion. Turmeric’s antioxidant benefits make it one of the top-ten antioxidant-rich foods. One study has shown turmeric to work about as well as ibuprofen in reducing pain. When I first got home from the hospital my sister was juicing fresh turmeric root for me constantly to drink with some warm water, honey and ginger. It’s not exactly the fastest elixir to make, and juicing anything requires a lot of clean up. So when I found these capsules with 5 stars reviews on Amazon, I knew I had to give them a try. I am pleased with the results and my swelling and pain has decreased with a daily dose. After I’m all healed, I will continue to take turmeric daily for all its other great health benefits.

Thymes lavender cologne. This scent is the best lavender fragrance I’ve come across in my life. My mom and I discovered it in the gift shop at the Naples Botanical Garden a few years ago. She wears it daily, and I finally splurged and bought some for myself too. It is lasting, yet very light. I’d describe it as a rather androgynous scent. Best of all, lavender is known for its calming and relaxing therapeutic effects. Bring on the lavender. I carry the rollerball in my crossbody bag and touch up after PT sessions.

Other little happinesses while I recover? Friday Night Lights marathons on Netflix with my sis, this bright summery Essie nail polish on my toes, snacking on heaps of dried mango for vitamin C (the candy of the earth!), watching sunsets on my rooftop, these paleo muffins that taste like brownies, and lots and lots of writing in my journal.

Oh and this thing is a TOTAL life changer too.

Thanks for reading my story. I make brief updates about my progress on Instagram and Facebook.

{ Update!! I’ve shared my thoughts and lessons learned, one year after this incredible injury, in this post here. }

*I received free samples of Total Renu’s turmeric capsules. The opinion and review of the product is entirely my own.

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Hey, I'm Sarah!

Designer, DIYer, & Deep Googler

I've always been infinitely curious on how the things I love are created. Whether it's the recipe of a decadent soap, a beautiful piece of jewelry, or a jaw-drooping, drool-worthy interior... I have an persistent need to figure it out... and do it myself!

LEARN MORE ABOUT ME //

Tulip Wreath

LABEL MAKER

"LOVE" ART PRINT

FAUX FUR BLANKET

heyday IPHONE CASE

amazon

amazon

society 6

anthropologie

target

The first time I saw this wreath in real life I gasped because I thought the tulips were real! It's stunning!

When in doubt, label everything. I'm amazed at how long this little machine's batteries last.

Got this one after my husband popped the question. It's how I feel when I'm with him!

The coziest blanket you'll ever find. So good I gifted them in different colors to my beloved wedding guests!

Currently using this--it's the perfect shade of soft pink, and sturdy without looking bulky.

Fiberclay PLANTER SET

SHEEPSKIN rug

PLANTER (for DIY CANDLE)

IMITATION Pothos

Bisley FILE CABINET

michaels

etsy

amazon

michaels

container store

Scatter a cute planter set from Michael's around your home--it will make your decor feel cohesive.

I throw these everywhere... the floor, my work chair, the couch. They are 100% worth every penny.

I love to turn planters  into large DIY candles. It's my favorite gift to give... Everyone loves a huge multi-wick candle!

Shhh... When I want my plants to cascade more, I add in an extension like this while they grow.

I used two of these sleek Bisley cabinets under this delicious slab of wood to DIY my dream desk.

HANDMADE CERAMICS

MICRON black PENS

Fanny Pack // BELT BAG

SCARF NECKLACE

THRIFTED DESIGNER SCARF

calLahan ceramics

amazon

shopbop

mignonne gavigan

thred up

Sign up for alerts, it's almost impossible to purchase these beauties before they sell out!

These are the only pens that let me write neatly. There's something magical about them! #01 is my fave size.

The fanny pack has officially changed my life for the better. No more big bag shoulder and back pain!

The most beautiful handmade accessories around. (I wore MG "Burst" earrings for my wedding!)

Make money on clothes you no longer wear, and find designer goods (with tags still on!)

Storm Cloud Wall Art

Tillandsia AIRPLANT

FLORAL Macbook case

Distressed Mirror

GLUE GUN

anthropologie

amazon

etsy

anthropologie

amazon

Living in LA's perpetual sunny and 72 degree weather has made me LOVE clouds because I so rarely see them!

The most low maintenance plant on the market. Find a cool planter and plop it in. Mist every 2-3 weeks.

I've cracked too many screens in my lifetime to not protect my devices. Love this feminine floral hard case.

A mirror that looks like a moon? Make it a full moon everyday in your house!

Everyone (and I mean everyone) should go through life with a trusty glue gun by their side.

uline hair detangler

Silicone ALPHABET MOLD

fave white tee

THERMAL LABEL PRINTER

e6000 GLUE

amazon

amazon

amazon

amazon

amazon

The best detangler I've found. I throw the travel size bottle in my gym bag, travel bag, and beach bag.

These ABC molds allow for ample DIYs. Jello, melt and pour soaps, crayons... the fun really will never end!

My favorite white tee. I've bought about 18 of them by now. Best cut v-neck, long in the body, high quality. (Why not get a few.)

Print a lot of labels and tired of buying ink for your printer? Get this thermal printer and never buy an ink cartridge again.

This is the glue that holds my life together. No really... I use it for everything.

Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens

Caudalie BEAUTY elixir

Candle Making Pitcher

singer sewing machine

photography backdrops

amazon

amazon

amazon

amazon

replica surfaces

100% my most favorite portrait lens. Do yourself a favor and add it to your cart immediately.

I take this face mist with me while traveling and instantly feel more refreshed and awake after a few spritzes!

Never buy a candle again! Use this to DIY your own (they smell better, burn longer, and save money).

This is the sewing machine I used to DIY my wedding dress! Easy to use, I recommend it to any level sewist.

I use these surfaces to shoot styled stock, product, and brand photos that need clean, realistic backgrounds.

PLANTER (for DIY CANDLE)

amazon

I love to turn planters into large DIY candles. It's my favorite gift to give. Everyone loves a huge multi-wick candle!

LABEL MAKER

amazon

When in doubt, label everything. I'm amazed at how long this little machine's batteries last.

"LOVE" ART PRINT

society 6

Got this one after my husband popped the question. It's how I feel when I'm with him!

FAUX FUR BLANKET

anthropologie

The coziest blanket you'll ever find. So good I gifted them in different colors to my beloved wedding guests!

heyday IPHONE CASE

target

Currently using this--it's the perfect shade of soft pink, and sturdy without looking bulky.

Fiberclay PLANTER SET

michaels

Scatter a cute planter set from Michael's around your home--it will make your decor feel cohesive.

SHEEPSKIN rug

etsy

I throw these everywhere... the floor, my work chair, the couch. They are 100% worth every penny.

IMITATION Pothos

michaels

Shhh... When I want my plants to cascade more, I add in an extension like this while they grow.

Bisley FILE CABINET

container store

I used two of these sleek Bisley cabinets under this delicious slab of wood to DIY my dream desk.

HANDMADE CERAMICS

calLahan ceramics

Sign up for alerts, it's almost impossible to purchase these beauties before they sell out!

MICRON black PENS

amazon

These are the only pens that let me write neatly. There's something magical about them! #01 is my fave size.

Tulip Wreath

amazon

The first time I saw this wreath in real life I gasped because I thought the tulips were real! It's stunning!

Fanny Pack // BELT BAG

shopbop

The fanny pack has officially changed my life for the better. No more big bag shoulder and back pain!

SCARF NECKLACE

mignonne gavigan

The most beautiful handmade accessories around. (I wore MG "Burst" earrings for my wedding!)

THRIFTED DESIGNER SCARF

thred up

Make money on clothes you no longer wear, and find designer goods (with tags still on!)

Storm Cloud Wall Art

anthropologie

Living in LA's perpetual sunny and 72 degree weather has made me LOVE clouds because I so rarely see them!

Storm Cloud Wall Art

Tillandsia AIRPLANT

The most low maintenance plant on the market. Find a cool planter and plop it in. Mist every 2-3 weeks.

FLORAL Macbook case

etsy

I've cracked too many screens in my lifetime to not protect my devices. Love this feminine floral hard case.

Distressed Mirror

anthropologie

A mirror that looks like a moon? Make it a full moon everyday in your house!

GLUE GUN

amazon

Everyone (and I mean everyone) should go through life with a trusty glue gun by their side.

uline hair detangler

amazon

The best detangler I've found. I throw the travel size bottle in my gym bag, travel bag, and beach bag.

Silicone ALPHABET MOLD

amazon

These ABC molds allow for ample DIYs. Jello, melt and pour soaps, crayons... the fun really will never end!

fave white tee

amazon

My favorite white tee. Best cut v-neck, long in the body, high quality. (Why not get a few.)

THERMAL LABEL PRINTER

amazon

Print a lot of labels? Get this thermal printer and never buy an ink cartridge again.

e6000 GLUE

amazon

This is the glue that holds my life together. No really... I use it for everything.

Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens

amazon

100% my most favorite portrait lens. Do yourself a favor and add it to your cart immediately.

Caudalie BEAUTY elixir

amazon

This face mist instantly will make you feel more refreshed and awake after a few spritzes!

Candle Making Pitcher

amazon

Never buy a candle again! Use this to DIY your own (they smell better, burn longer, and save money).

singer sewing machine

amazon

This is the sewing machine I used to DIY my wedding dress! Easy to use, I recommend it to any level sewist.

photography backdrops

replica surfaces

I use these surfaces to shoot styled stock, product, and brand photos that need clean, realistic backgrounds.

Thanks! Keep an eye on your inbox for updates.

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