“I had to get back on my feet.”
“I knew exactly what I did right when I did it. I just tore my ACL… Once I realized the cheerleading door was pretty much closed, I was realistic and changed my focus. But I still had to get back on my feet.”
Allie Law always loved caring for people. It was her passion and dream job to make a difference in the lives of those around her. She decided to pursue this passion by becoming a nurse. For the past four years, Allie balanced her studies in nursing school with competitive cheering as a member of the University of Kentucky Cheerleading team—but everything came tumbling down when she got injured just as her nursing clinicals were about to begin.
“I was at practice and was kind of trying to multitask because nursing school had a lot to do,” said Allie. “I didn’t really do the actual warm-up very well, and just kind of stretched on my own, and then joined practice. My knee was hurt from before because I hyperextended it a couple of weeks ago, and was already in a knee sleeve. I went in for a standing full and when I landed it, I felt my knee pop.”
Allie’s trainers and Coach Ryan O’Connor rallied together to get her the medical care, diagnosis and treatments she needed. “In less than 24 hours, I knew that my ACL was torn,” said Allie. “My trainer, Taylor Spyker, had already gotten me into three appointments and my surgery could be scheduled for the following week. I didn’t really know much about ACLs, but I knew that it was the worst injury to get because it was the longest to come back from.”
Allie was not only facing a torn ACL—she had nursing clinicals to complete if she was going to graduate on time. She chose to push back her surgery and for the next two weeks she wore a brace and completed 36 hours of clinicals on a torn ACL. “It’s just painful and you can’t really sit or stand for too long because it’s kind of uncomfortable,” said Allie. “My preceptor was extremely understanding. She was super awesome about it too, and kind of took it easy while I was at clinicals.”
Determined to keep her life on track with the plans she had made for her future, Allie completed her clinicals and needed to move forward with treatment if she wanted to begin working as soon as she graduated. Allie immediately had surgery with Dr. Austin Stone, a knee specialist at UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine.
“I think one of the goals for her was really working with the rehabilitation team and advancing as quickly as was safe,” said Dr. Stone. “Her ACL was a fortunate tear pattern, because often [ACL tears are] accompanied by meniscus and sometimes cartilage damage. But Allie was completely spared of any other damage other than a tear. The operation itself was fairly short and fairly straightforward.” Dr. Stone took a piece of tissue from the front of Allie’s knee and anchored it in place to reconstruct the tendon, allowing her to get back up and on her feet soon after surgery.
“Dr. Stone was awesome,” said Allie. “He talked to my parents on the phone for like 45 minutes because they couldn’t be there for the appointment. He did the surgery December 16th. And then three days later I pretty much started rehab.”
“The recovery process is not so straightforward,” said Dr. Stone. “We got her up and walking right away, but she wasn’t doing the same things at the end of her senior year as she was when she started. One challenge she faced was trying to navigate the recovery process during the end of her senior year, and transitioning to getting a job. But she looked at what needed to be done, was on board with the plan, and said, ‘Let’s get this taken care of right away, so I can get back on my feet and continue on.’”
Although Allie will continue physical therapy and rehab for the next nine months, she has already shown improvements in running, lifting and strengthening herself. “I’m moving there slowly. I’m still right on schedule,” said Allie. “I think a lot of that’s due to how often I went to physical therapy and how awesome my trainers were, my physical therapist, and Dr. Stone, all of them pushing me and everything. I think that definitely got me to where I am now.”
Four months after her injury, Allie is successfully balancing her rehab and her nursing career. She graduated from nursing school and started a new role as a nurse at UK HealthCare’s Markey Cancer Center. “It’s been really good, so far. The atmosphere over there and all the people are great. When I was younger my sister was diagnosed with type one diabetes and I remember seeing you know, how involved the nurses were in her care and everything. I always loved taking care of people, and I’m extremely blessed that I got the job there. ”
Allie’s injury complicated her plans, but didn’t stop her. It’s a testament to her determination and personal strength that she was able to move on—mentally and physically—from a cheer career that she loved to a demanding new role as a nurse, all while healing up from a major surgery.
“I was ready to care for my patients and do my job,” said Allie. “I just really felt like I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and be that person for another family or another patient like those nurses were for mine.”