15 Weeks - Feeling mostly normal

Hello all. I haven’t been on here much the last few weeks, as things are progressing well for me, and I sometimes forget about my surgery and the recovery process. I’ll just point out some milestones I’ve hit and would love to hear comments on whether or not I’m pushing things too fast.

Big milestones:
1) Back to golfing! I was cleared to play “flat footed” around 9 or 10 weeks, but my first time out was at 11 weeks. It was great! My swing needs some work, but my foot felt mostly good. Only issue was the my scar tissue was still healing, so my spikes rubbed it and made it uncomfortable towards the end, but that’s now gone done. I’ve gone to the driving range a few times since, and it feels great!

2) Back to yoga. Also a good milestone for me around 12 weeks. Lots of stretching, but I felt good up on one foot and working on my balance

3) Started jogging (slowly) at 14 weeks. My PT said I could jog when I felt like my strength was up and I wasn’t limping. I’m going slow, but I jogged about a mile at a 10:30 min mile pace. I’m watching my footing, but it feels nice to just do something a little more normal. Definitely not running, but it feels like a whole new world now that I can at least have both feet off the ground at the same time.

4) Two weddings with lots of dancing and zero discomfort.

5) Slowly getting two single footed heel lift. Right now I’m still 100% supporting myself, but I can feel the strength coming back bit by bit.

Overall, I feel really lucky at how everything is going. I know many people have complications and recovery is definitely hard, so I am trying not to take anything for granted. I’m very happy with how things are going.

Hope everyone is having a great summer. For those just starting the journey - it’s long and hard, but there is hope!


Almost 10 Weeks - Time does fly

It’s hard for me to believe that it has been almost 10 weeks since surgery and 12 weeks since I ruptured my achilles. On one hand, it is a very slow recovery process with incremental improvements week over week, but on the other hand, it does seem to fly by and those early memories of being laid up 2 weeks and the miserable 3 days of pain post-surgery are distant memories.

In general, I feel very fortunate to have had a great recovery process thus far. I haven’t experienced many of the complications that others mention; I’ve had minimal swelling (haven’t iced since week 5), I was in two shoes at 6 weeks and got through the transition slowly but well, I removed the last heel insert last week so I feel somewhat “free” from shoes in doors and the type of shoe I can wear… Generally all good things, which I’m trying not to take for granted given all the complications I’ve read about and hard recoveries others have had.

Just wanted to write a quick update from the past 4 weeks. Apologies for not writing more for those that are looking for recovery paths and some good news to look forward to.

I moved from the walking boot to two shoes at 6 weeks. I had 3 inserts in my right shoe and was instructed to remove one insert per week for 3 weeks. Learning to walk again was much harder than I thought it would be. I looked like a grandpa and would flinch any time someone got too close to my foot. Walking into the grocery store to buy groceries was like walking into a war zone for me - My head was on a swivel, as I could see someone inadvertently bumping into me with a cart. Luckily I got through that trying experience.

I started PT in week 6. My PT started with very light ROM exercises and focused on massaging the scar tissue / achilles. It felt great. As I mentioned, my walking was very slow to start, and I had to go down stairs one step at a time because of how tight my foot felt. My PT said this was all normal and encouraged me to take it slow but also to keep up the ROM exercises every day.

I saw significant improvements the last 4 weeks. I feel like I’m walking mostly normal. I can sense a little limp, but most others cannot. It feels great to just be able to walk around! Stairs are pretty normal – I went to a baseball game and had to walk down to my seat and was able to generally keep up with the flow of traffic. I would not have been comfortable trying that 2 weeks ago.

At week 8 I was cleared for light stationary bike exercises and for some hip strengthening. Last week the PT said I was ok to swim if I wanted as my wound was almost entirely healed up and she felt like the risk of infection was pretty low. For those wondering, I was also cleared for golf at 8/9 weeks but told it’d be flat footed and to be careful where I stepped. I am going to try a round next week, but I’m excited about that.

The only small issue I have is that shoes with low “backs” to them, e.g., my tennis shoes and sperry type boat shoes have been rubbing on the bottom of my scar and bothering it. I’ve been wearing more low-calf boots for work to alleviate the constant rubbing of walking around.

Like I said, I don’t have a whole lot to discuss as I haven’t had any major complications (knock on wood and thanking my lucky stars). I probably stupidly have been trying a few “jog steps” and cannot believe how weak my leg is. My PT said she does not want to start banded stretching or any strengthening beyond isometric exercises until week 12, at which point she said, “Things ramp up quickly and we start doing the real work.”

For those just starting the process - It’s definitely long and trying and I know I’m nowhere close to the end, but there is hope! One thing I cannot wait for is for people to stop asking me, “So how’s the foot?” and “Hey, looks like you’re walking better.” - I know people are just trying to be nice, but for some reason this is bothering me so much because it’s the same answer every time, and it’s a constant reminder. I know it’s my own personal issue, but I can’t wait until those questions/comments stop.

Hope everyone else is recovering well.

6 Weeks and 2 Shoes?

I had my 6 week post-surgery check-up yesterday, and my doctor put me into two shoes with a heel lift only in my right shoe (ruptured side). The heel lift has 3 separate lifts stacked to 1/2″ or so I think, and I was instructed to take out one lift each week.

My doctor said I healed very well and that he’s very happy with the progress to date. I was FWB after 4 weeks with a 5 degree plantar flexion / dorsi flexion in the boot, so I’ve been “walking” for 2 weeks. Two shoes is an entirely different ballgame though. I’m very nervous about a re-rupture, so I’m taking it pretty slowly. Walking slowly, one step at a time upstairs to my bedroom, limited stretching of the achilles as I’m walking, etc.

6 weeks into shoes seems pretty fast based on the different blogs I’ve read, but my doctor was pretty confident I was ready. I start PT tomorrow and I’ll be doing 2 sessions / week for 4-6 weeks. Next appointment with my surgeon is at 12 weeks.

Wanted to get the communities take on something - for showering and going from the bed to the bathroom (maybe 25 feet), I’m not using my shoes and just going bare foot. I walk very slowly, but get in and out of the shower without shoes. Is that what others have done as they’ve been moved into shoes? I’m planning on buying “house shoes” so I can move the heel lift into something easier to get on and off.

Overall, I”m very excited to be in 2 shoes, and I’m cautiously optimistic. Thanks for all the comments and guidance. Always helpful to hear how my doctor’s protocols compare to others out there.


4 Weeks Post Op

Saw my surgeon 5/28 for my third follow-up appointment. I was told everything looks great. There was a small issue with my boot (some bending), but they fixed it and changed it to 5 degrees plantar flexion (I think).

I was told I can put as much weight on it as I can bear and when I feel comfortable, I can stop using crutches all together. Great news as I hate crutches!

I was told at my next appointment (6 weeks post op), that I’d be moved back into a normal tennis shoes with heel lifts. I was told I’ll start PT after my next follow-up (so start it week 6/7). Based on reading other comments and recovery stories, this seems pretty fast. It might just be the idea of being in a tennis shoe with no protection for the achilles that makes me nervous. However, it seems like he’s following closely with this protocol: http://www.uwhealth.org/files/uwhealth/docs/sportsmed/SM-27399_AchillesTendonProtocol.pdf

So far so good. It was nice to be able to make dinner and not worry about putting too much weight on the foot. I still have swelling at night and keep it raised when I sleep.

Any thoughts on the timing of the recovery and my doctor’s protocol? Does this seem overly aggressive or is this following some of the more recent literature on getting back to normal as quickly as possible?

I still need to figure out these widgets.

Rupture through 4 Weeks Post Op

I’ve been meaning to write this for awhile, but once I got back to work, things have been moving so quickly that I haven’t carved out the time to fully write this out. My quick statistic: 29 year old male, I’d say I’m in generally good shape. Before the injury I was doing Crossfit twice a week, playing basketball once every week or two, and yoga the weeks I was too sore from Crossfit or basketball for a third workout. I’ve been married for 11 months, and before the wedding was in the best shape of my life, so not that far removed from a more rigorous schedule. I usually run a half-marathon once a year and a few 10ks. I’ve run one full marathon – best/worst day of my life. So, in general, active.

The day before the injury: My name “bad timing joe” comes from the fact that the day before the injury, my wife and I signed to purchase a house and close in 4 weeks. A very exciting time for us, but I quickly found out how fast things can change.

After writing the entire post, I want to summarize for people that are just looking to skim and get a perspective on healing time and protocol:
ATR Rupture: April 19
Surgery: April 30
First Follow-up: May 6 - removed hard cast, put into removable splint for showering purposes)
Second follow-up: May 13 – removed splint, removed staples, put into walking boot at 15 degree inflection. Told to “toe tap” to get the feeling of swinging my leg with the crutches for May 13-May 20. From May 20-third follow-up I was told to put 25% of my weight on my boot.
Third follow-up: May 28 (today) will update after this appointment

So here is my story:
The day of the injury: I think I jinxed myself. The morning of the injury (a Saturday), I was feeling pretty good and thought it would be fun to get together with friends and play basketball. I had actually stopped working out for a week because I had some lingering knee pain from Crossfit, but I did stretches/squats in the morning and a few lunges to see that everything felt good. Before I left the house I told myself, “I just cannot get hurt right now. That’d be the worst timing I could imagine.” – So yes, completely jinxed myself. When at the gym, I stretched extra (20-30 minutes of stretching) for the very fact I didn’t want to get hurt.

The injury: First game of the day, five minutes into the game. I went to make a quick move, thought someone kicked my heal extremely hard, and instantly fell down. When I looked around and saw no one was around me, I knew something very bad had just happened. I tried to convince myself it was just a sprain and the fact I could walk on my heal made me think it was “ok” and I just needed rest. The first thing I said as I was being helped off the court, “this can’t be happening right now.”

The prognosis: After consulting WebMD and 3-4 other websites, I knew it was a torn Achilles. The “pop” feeling like I was kicked in the ankle, and even the lack of pain all pointed to it. I was so upset with myself. Luckily I live close to a very good orthopedic center, so after calling my sister-in-law (a physical therapist) to get her opinion, I went into the center.

This is where things got a little interesting. I finally saw the doctor and he confirmed it was a complete rupture just based on feel. He was the former head of the local University’s orthopedics program, so I felt like he knew what he was talking about. He told me, “There are two ways to treat this. You can do it non-surgical and it’d require 2 months in a hard cast for the summer and a higher likelihood of re-rupture, or you can do it the right way and have surgery.” – I told him I preferred non-surgical (I’m on a high-deductible plan, and I work for a healthcare company that is focused on reducing waste in the healthcare system), but he told me, “That’s the wrong decision. You need to see a surgeon. We have the best in the country right here.”

Meeting with the surgeon: I met with the surgeon 5 days later. He was a bit more open to non-surgical, but highly recommended surgery based on my level of activity. We reviewed the MRI together and he noted a complete tear and showed me the gap. It seemed like a small gap, but I don’t MRIs. He quoted a “30-40% more likely to re-rupture in the first year” statistic, and he reiterated the longer healing time. Given I wanted to get it done and enjoy the summer, I opted for surgery.

Surgery Day (12 days post injury): I wanted surgery to happen sooner, but my surgeon was completely booked. He’s been doing the surgery for 20 years and had great reviews. The local orthopedics center manages all of the Minnesota sports teams, so I wanted to stick with him, but I was a little frustrated by the timing.

Overall, the day of the surgery flew by. My surgery was scheduled for 7:30am, and I was out of the hospital by 11am. I don’t know how long I was out. No pain when I woke up. I was prescribed Norco for the pain and told to take it before the pain started, but that the nerve block would last 12-24 hours. I slept most of the day, but our hockey team was in the playoffs Game 7 that night, so I got myself downstairs to watch the game. We won, made the day feel that much better. I started taking the Norco around 10pm to “Get ahead of it.”

1-day post surgery: Worst pain of my life.
I set an alarm for 4am so that I would wake up and take my next dose of Norco. I didn’t make it that far. The pain woke me up at 1am. Hard to describe it as anything more than feeling like a knife was cutting directly into my heal. I quickly popped 2 more pills with little benefit. I was awake from 1am-7am with the worst pain of my life. Looking back, I wish I would have started taking Ibuprofen right away for the swelling. The entire day is a blur looking back, but I was popping as many pills as was allowed and just trying to sleep the pain away. Norco (which is similar to vicodin I think) definitely made no impact for me. For future surgeries (hopefully I have none) I will demand Percocet or something stronger.

I’ll just try to summarize each of the weeks after surgery:
Week 1 (0 – 7 days post surgery). I was told I could shower and move around to get food, but to keep it elevated at all times after that. I was probably too active. I was staying at my parents house because my wife had to work, and went home on Saturday. I was so ready to get out of the house that we stopped for lunch and bought a fan for the new house at Menards. I was definitely moving around without it elevated for a good 3-4 hours. I stopped taking vicodin 4 days post surgery. It was doing nothing for me.

First follow-up: 7 days post surgery:

Was told everything was healing really well. Swelling was low. My hard cast was taken off (it was more of a splint) and a new removable split was put on. I was told I could take the splint off to shower but to keep it on other than that. No driving, lots of elevation, and rest were still required. I started working the Monday after surgery (surgery was on a Wednesday), because I can work from home from my computer. Was good to keep my mind off of my lack of mobility.

Week 2 (7-14 days):

Uneventful. I was able to shower without a bag on my foot which was nice. Other than that, a lot of sitting with the foot elevated as much as I could. I left the house a few times with my wife for dinners, church, and other 1-2 hour excursions.

Second follow-up (14 days post surgery):

Was told everything looked really good. The doctor tested if I could push down at all, which I could. A tech removed the staples, and I was fitting for a CAM walking boot. They angled it at 15 degrees. I was told I could take it off for showering and sleeping, as long I wasn’t a “violent sleeper” and would kick or jump up in my sleep. Luckily I am not.

I was told to adhere to the following protocol:

Week 3 (14-21 days): Very light touching down of my toe as I’m walking with crutches. “light tap” to get the movement of walking in. I followed this pretty closely. I had some bleeding from the incision. I don’t know if it’s because they took the staples out too early or if this is just normal from an injury. It only lasted a day or two.

Week 4 (21-28 days): 25% of my body weight while walking with crutches. I started out at 25% and was pretty good at following this. At first it felt uncomfortable, but I quickly got the hang of it. We were moving into our new hours at day 25, so I was anxious to be able to put more weight on it. I definitely started to push the limits, occasionally walking without my crutches for very short distances, standing in place without my crutches, even helping to move a table (mostly forcing the weight onto my non ART leg and using my arms). I’m hopeful that I haven’t pushed things too fast too quickly. It just feels good not to walk with crutches. I’ve put very light weight on my barefoot (again, just to steady myself, no real weight). It definitely feels good to put a little weight and to feel that the Achilles is actually working.

Third follow-up is today (28 days post surgery). I will write another blog post after my follow-up today. I just didn’t want to wait any longer.

Overall, I’m feeling very hopeful for my recovery. Everything seems to be going great. While I don’t necessarily feel the “surgery is the only way” advice I was given was right, I’m glad I went with one of the best orthopedic centers and a surgeon that knows what he’s doing (at least I think he does).


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