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On The Mend

Written by Cassie Trammell

Everyone who knows me knows that I am always making hospital and doctor's office visits for various health reasons because I have terrible luck with injuries! There is a curse on me in the beginning of the year… I almost always get hurt in January or February. And believe me, they are never cool stories as to how I get the injuries.

For example, my second year as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, I broke my collarbone at the beginning of January, which caused me to spend my 21st birthday in a sling. I broke it because I was walking my 80-pound dog and he took off running after a football and I didn't happen to let go of the leash in time.

When I was a just seven years old, I broke my elbow on Super Bowl Sunday. While trying to hang on the rim of a basketball goal, my brother pushed a city trash can out from underneath me. Of course, since it was the Super Bowl, my parents really didn't want to take me to the hospital, and I really don't blame them now!

The break was so bad that when I finally did go to the doctor, I had to have surgery to pin my elbow back together, then another surgery to have the pins removed.

My first knee surgery was the result of a simple toe-touch competition in cheerleading practice my senior year of high school. I think I definitely mastered the toe-touch in about the fourth grade, so that was really embarrassing. Considering all the stunts and tumbling I have done throughout my entire life, the way I get hurt is always seems to be super embarrassing.

Last year around February, I tore my meniscus for the second time while doing yoga … yes, I said yoga. The calm, spiritual workout that is mostly mental rather than physical. So after my second surgery to repair my meniscus in March, my knee never really felt 100 percent again.

I went to see Dr. Cooper in December because it hurt really bad during the entire football season. He told me to wait until January or February to come back because I still had to go on our USO tour and somewhat finish out the season. After the tour, I knew that I had damaged my knee even worse, so I performed at the Cowboys' last home game, then immediately called to set up an MRI in January. I had the scan done on Jan. 4, then just waited for a call. When I finally heard back, I knew it was bad because they asked me to come in and talk to Dr. Cooper.

Of course, it was another torn meniscus. This time it was torn in a different place, but I still thought it would be another easy procedure. In the past, my knee recovered in about three-to-six weeks and I would be dancing again for all the offseason shows.

Dr. Cooper decided to go ahead and do another scope surgery, which is basically where he goes in through two or three tiny incisions with a camera, and he told me he would then decide whether he would repair the same (right knee) meniscus for a third time, or just remove it completely since it is so problematic. However, if he were to remove my meniscus completely, I would develop arthritis in my knee very early in life. My mom said I was okay to miss a few shows over the next month, and knowing I didn't have much time off after February, Dr. Cooper squeezed my scope into his schedule for Tuesday, Jan. 24.

The morning of the surgery I woke up calm and collected because I literally just had the same surgery less than 10 months ago. Everything went very smoothly the last time, so I knew everything would be okay. My fiancé was working all day, so my mom picked me up in the morning and drove me to the hospital. We got called back to pre-op very soon after arriving, which was good because I was excited to get it all over with. We told the nurses all my allergies and that I have problems with anesthesia and getting sick from it, so we had everything under control with medicines in my IV and what not.

The only hiccup of the morning is one that happens to me all the time. They had to put my IV in kind of a weird place because my veins are so tiny, but hey, I was happy it was still in my arm at least! I had to have an IV in my neck once because I was so dehydrated, so a different place on my arm is nothing to me after that awful experience.

I also wasn't very happy that the medicines hadn't kicked in by the time they had to take me to the operating room because I hate being awake for that part! I would so much rather be asleep already and completely unaware, which was the case for my last three or four surgeries.

Once they calmed me down and put me under, Dr. Cooper began doing the scope. Halfway through the procedure he realized that my meniscus wasn't just a simple tear like it had been the last couple of times. It was torn completely in half! (I definitely could tell that it had been hurting much worse than my first two knee injuries, but I just couldn't put my finger on why.)

He pretty much quit the scope right then and there, and went into the waiting room to talk to my mom. I was still completely unaware of what was going on! He basically told her that what he found was much worse than he originally thought and asked how long I could really have off from dancing. I had several shows scheduled from the end of February to the beginning of May, and let's not forget that my wedding is in April! But he really had no choice but to repair it now, because if I waited any longer, I wouldn't be able to audition for my fifth year of DCC in May. I had to either do it now, or during training camp if I made it back, which I really don't think would have been fair to the other girls.

So I am really glad my mom told him to just get it over with now. He started a completely different surgery immediately through a larger incision, during which he basically stitched my meniscus back together with sutures, something similar to a fishing wire. I woke up and was really confused to see a huge knee brace that I had never had to use before. I was also confused as to why my 45-minute surgery lasted about three hours!

He then explained to me exactly what he had to do and that I could start therapy in a few days, although I still didn't really know the extent of what was going on. When we got in the car, I asked my mom why I had a different brace on and I also asked why he didn't tell me the usual: To come back in about three-to-six weeks for a follow up appointment. I guess she didn't realize that he hadn't told me the whole story, and if he had, I was so out of it from all the extra anesthesia that I'd missed it. She told me that I am not supposed to dance for at least three months. I felt really shocked and confused about missing all of the upcoming shows!

I am so, SO very upset about my lengthy recovery time, but I am trying to stay as involved as possible. I will at least be able to help with prep classes in a few weeks when I can move around comfortably, and I can still do some of my scheduled appearances.

I'm mostly just upset about the some of the shows coming up before the month of May, like the NFL directors meetings when all of the dance team and cheerleading directors in the National Football League will come to Dallas to attend. I was also really pumped up to go perform at a hockey game in Peoria, Ill., and there is another show in San Antonio that I was the most excited about. Sea World is my absolute favorite place on earth, and we were going to visit there before we taught a clinic (another one of my favorites) and then performed later. That is the event that hurt my heart the most!

Though I am very sad about all of this, I am also happy to know that my right knee should be in much better shape after such an extensive procedure. I hope to have at least a year (or even longer) free from any crazy injuries. I just have to keep my head up and really stick with my physical therapy so that I can be back at 100 percent for auditions, because I would hate to start off the season in bad shape. Hopefully if I work really hard, I can even have a little light "boogie session" with my close friends and family at my wedding in April.

I will definitely keep everyone updated on my recovery. Please keep your fingers crossed that it is a speedy one!

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