missingmyheelsnz’s AchillesBlog

My journey after a visit from the Achilles fairy…

My Journey Begins…

Filed under: Uncategorized — missingmyheelsnz at 2:24 am on Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hi World.

Well, my story is the usual, office worker, regular gym bunny, trains 5 days a week, 6 if im good, usually have thurs and fridays off… my training consists of weights and hot yoga, not a lot of cardio now that Ive retired from basketball.. so you get the picture right?

Here in NZ, we’re about to go into Summer, Ive just come back from fiji, I thought to myself, hmm, a little cardio could do some wonders for that bikini… BIG MISTAKE. MASSIVE, HUGE. GINORMOUS….

In short, on saturday 17th November, I snapped my left Achilles by doing jumpy scissor lungey things on the step platform (2 high) inbetween weight training exercises. WHAT AN EGG. (you’ll hear that a lot, i think its a kiwi thing).

I got driven to the hospital by a girlfriend who was working at the gym at the time, (dont get me started on why the ambulance didnt come - it was only based 500m down from the gym… if you’re in wellie, you’ll know which one Im talking about.

The Emergency Department had triaged me and on painkillers within 15 mins of walking, no wait, of being wheeled in the door, i just had to be seen by a doctor.

Within 30 mins of being wheeled in, they confirmed I had snapped my achilles on the left leg. I was wheeled up to the fractures clinic, seen by an attending and almost on my way to having a cast put on when my best mate “M” arrived. “Did you ask about surgery?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied “and they told me that unless im an elite super athlete I wouldnt get one”

Surgery has been debated by all my friends who have had an encounter with the achilles fairy. Some have had it after they were in a cast for 4 weeks, some have had it straight away, some didnt get it as an option (and they were super athlete material)…

“Ask again” M whispered… “no, they wont give it to me” i replied, “ASK!!!!” he insisted. You can see who won that wee debate.

“What about surgery?” piped up this little voice, oh wait, that was me,

“Well, unless you’re Dan Carter you probably dont need it, the pros and cons of surgery vs non surgery are debatable” replied the doctor.

“Can we ask the surgeon” asked M, who, as you’ve all guessed by now is pro surgery as he was the dude in a cast for 4 weeks before they realised his tendons hadnt knitted back together again…… we have another friend who waited 8 weeks before they realised… so yes, surgery is a good idea in Ms brain.

We waited for 3 hours for the surgeon to get out of surgery, which im sure is a ploy to make you take the cast option. He came up, repeated the whole “we dont usually operate on achilles unless you’re dan carter… but….um ”

“Gotcha!” I thought, theres the “but…. um” we were waiting for …………. He talked about the pros and cons, all i heard was “risk of infection, blood clots, no shorter healing time then if you didnt have it….” yeh, yeh okay… im good for just the cast option now, hook a sistah up.

M insisted I hear his point of view… “and then you know that its done properly and you dont have to worry about it, and what happens if you go into a cast and then you need surgery, you’ve just wasted 4 weeks… ”

“Um, i think i’d like to explore the surgery option please.”

They sent me home in a cast 30 mins later while they booked me in tentatively for surgery on Monday morning, they were going to talk to the head surgeon dude and would to confirm tomorrow night.. yay!!!!????

I came home, leg in a cast with some crutches, and had a shower - what a mission. plastic rubbish bag, tape it up, no wait, i think its leaking, undo it. do it up again, get in the shower, sit on the plastic stool we had, cried my eyes out. summer was over. no more high heels, no more driving my car (its a manual and a convertible). STINK. (another piece of kiwi slang for you)….

The texts and facebook well wishes came thick and fast - M felt it was his duty to share my pain w the rest of our friends, My cousin dropped off a shower chair and a seal-protect bag for my leg that she had used.

TIP #1 - get one of these bags from the pharmacy - they are AMAZING! no more rubbish bags, no more tape. GET ONE. now.

I went to bed after my shower. Im not talking to anyone. I had my grump on.

Sunday - i had to go to work, well, i didnt, i was always going to go to work on sunday pre snap (PSnap) but now i had to go in and finish up all the things I wasnt going to get done if I had to have surgery.

Sunday arvo, phone call came in - report in at 8am. you’re on the schedule for tomorrow. (if i could’ve jumped for joy, i would’ve.)

next post: surgery.

So, this is where my journey begins… I welcome you along for the ride…

see you soon




Comment by Mr WordPress

November 24, 2012 @ 2:24 am

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Comment by Hillie

November 26, 2012 @ 1:15 am

Hi, and good luck with the surgery.

My specialist took the same view as yours initially did, I went with that and on arriving home researched the op and non-op options. It was a full rupture, right leg.

I decided to stay with non-op on the basis that my orthopaedic centre was using one of the latest, accelerated, more aggressive protocols - they also had the most up to date boots for the rehab period. My activities include hill and mountain walking so I needed a strong repair too.

I’m 9 months on now and happy with the decision that I took in consultation and after some quick research. I am grateful too for all of the academic and technical research that has gone on in uni’s in Canada and the UK in recent years which have at least meant that non-op is viable for more and more patients.

You’ll be amazed just how quickly time will pass. Read the past postings within this blog - lots of great stuff. However, few if any short cuts - many have been tried and many have failed. Even those who have done everything by the book have failed and moved back to square one. However, the vast majority, especially where you are encouraged to be mobile within the first week or two, succeed brilliantly, and frequently going on to better health after the regime they’ve started and continued with.

Best wishes


Comment by kkirk

November 26, 2012 @ 3:44 am

Good luck with your surgery. Op v. Non-op is your first big decision in this journey and probably one of the most debatable you will make. My ATR never had the chance to heal properly Non-Op, so I had to go the surgical route (see my blog), but I would say my story isn’t standard. My doctor was very conservative in his approach to rehab and weight bearing to (A second big decision during healing). My best advice is trust your body and your instinct, because it will tell you if you have done to much too fast (or too soon). And ultimately (in most circumstances) the decisions are yours.

I wish you a happy healing process.


Comment by darryn

November 26, 2012 @ 4:33 am

Good luck with surgery / recovery. I was very interested to hear that you did get surgery in NZ. I’m a Kiwi (but have lived overseas for 20 yrs), and a good friend in Hamilton had an ATR in June and was told operation was not an option (unless you are Dan Carter … I think DC was also used as an example). He didn’t persist, and has gone non-op. Looks like all working out well as he is out of boot.

As you can read on this site there is a lot of debate about op vrs non-op, but once the decision is made I think the recovery process is similar. (I am 3 weeks out of debridement surgery, so just starting the long process).


Comment by normofthenorth

November 26, 2012 @ 6:43 am

MMHNZ, I’m the head of the non-op glee club around here for normal ATRs caught early, even for us competitive athletes. I’m not “into” Dan Carter myself, but I’m hopeful we will live long enough (even this “geezer”!) to see folks like him skip the surgery, too — maybe.

It’s also interesting that the first of the modern studies that “shook the ATR world” by demonstrating that a fast non-op protocol can produce clinical results at least virtually (and statistically) as good as surgery, was done in NZ in 2007 (Twaddle et al). That report (and its successors?) seems to have transformed ATR treatment in NZ more than any other region of the world has been transformed.

The most recent of the four (and the more recent of the two most impressive ones) was done near here in Canada and published in 2010. I don’t recall any done in UK, which remains a backwater for this “ATR-world-shaking” transformation, along with the US for maybe different reasons.

We’ve had a number of serious athletes from NZ get talked out of ATR surgery, and those that have updated us are happy, AFAICS. One such is bronny — you can just type her name in after achillesblog.com in your URL bar and you’ll see her reports.

In my view, if you play sports (or exercise) hard, and doing that is a big part of who you are and where you get your kicks, then “returning to form” is as important to you as it is to that Carter guy or any other elite athlete. I don’t think any country should allocate hospital resources to maximize Olympic medal count, or the total salaries of professional athletes.

Jumping and running and diving on a volleyball court turns my crank, and I thought the Canadian health-care system owed me the best (reasonably affordable?) chance to get back to it at full speed. In late 2001, that clearly meant a surgical repair; in late 2009, it no longer seemed to mean that — based largely on my fancy sports-medicine surgeon’s private discussions with the authors of “the UWO study”, the then still unpublished Canadian randomized trial that became Willets et al 2010. So I went non-op for my second ATR. And I’m back to competitive court and beach volleyball “at full speed” — YAY!

For me, “full speed” means being able to play 2-on-2 beach volleyball at 67 years old with a bunch of serious players, not one of them older than early 40s! Lots of things hold me back, but neither ATR is one of them. Mostly inconsistent skills, and I still attend some clinics to work on those.

Surgery usually produces excellent clinical results, and non-op with a protocol like Twaddle’s or UWO’s does, too. Neither one guarantees good results much less excellent ones, alas! And either choice is way better than any of the alternatives.


Comment by Hillie

November 26, 2012 @ 8:05 am

Sitting where I am in this “UK backwater” it would certainly appear that our ortho guys have been especially good at not repeating the excellent work done in recent times in Canada, although we may have tweaked some of the protocols for maximum effect. There is a current programme, at University of Warwick, looking at early mobility and better use of orthotics. Some time before that, Belfast medics were leading the way in many respects with ATR treatment.

After reading Achillesblog for some months now, what surprises me the most is just how many in the medical profession (including orthopods), North America included, profess never to have heard about the latest studies or advances in boot technology. For many patients, the automatic solution is surgery then weeks on end in casts - and this is not country specific.

Personally, it is this, and the apparently little effort taken to learn from the best practice of others (internationally) that concern me most. Maybe too, the seemingly poor budgets allocated by some medical trusts to orthopaedic work.

Now, who is Dan Carter? Sorry Dan, I will check Google, after dinner.

Good nght all.


Comment by darryn

November 26, 2012 @ 8:23 am

Hillie, you must really be in a UK backwater if you don’t know who Dan Carter is. He is world-famous in NZ :)

Actually, DC’s achilles is actually in the (NZ) news now. He had a ATR a couple of years ago, and now has just hurt his other achilles (I don’t think it is a rupture).


Comment by Hillie

November 26, 2012 @ 8:45 am

Thanks for that, Darryn. World famous in NZ…

I’ll still be checking Google for his sport.


Comment by Lisa

November 26, 2012 @ 9:38 am

I think he’s world famous for his underwear ad, :-)



Comment by darryn

November 26, 2012 @ 1:08 pm

Hillie, he is famous in NZ so this should give you a good idea of the sport.


Comment by soccergotme

November 27, 2012 @ 2:55 am

I’m just over 4 weeks post-op so I can’t really state which option is better. I went with surgery because my doc said thats the normal course of action for the relatively young and active. Others have gone non-op and are very active without issue so who knows really.
I will say this though, if all the docs kept stating that surgery is for the Dan Carters of the world, that would seem to suggest they think surgery is the best option but reserved for the select few…well I’d like to be treated the same as the select few and given the same care! Good luck


Comment by Hillie

November 27, 2012 @ 7:52 am


When I checked online I noticed that netball was big in NZ but I also quickly spotted which Dan Carter you meant.


Comment by Rebecca G Nabors

June 17, 2020 @ 8:56 pm

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