my ATR - achilles tendon rupture

a blog about my story and experience

    • bennet has completed the grueling 26.2 ATR miles to full recovery!
      Goal: 365 days from the surgery date.
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Back to posting… long time

Posted by bennet on September 29, 2009

Where do I start?  The last time I posted, I was struggling with pain in my leg and trying to figure out whether I had a blood clot or infection…  Turns out it was an infection but I have a long, long story to tell before finally reaching this conclusion.

I spent the first few weeks of June 2009 seeing 4+ doctors.  Each one had a different diagnosis and a different treatment protocol.  1) Infection - IV Antibiotics  2) Suture Allergy - Do nothing  3) No infection and no suture allergy, but take antibiotics  4) Infection - Take antibiotics.

While trying to decide on which doctor to listen to, the scar began getting very red and raised.  Within days, the scar had opened back up.  Blood tests and cultures were all normal.  I finally called International SOS and spoke to a doctor who recommended that I fly to HK to get a second surgery and debride the tissue.

So off to HK I flew.  Was pretty down that I had this major setback and that a second surgery was required.

Arrived in HK and had my pre-op with my surgeon.  He said most likely was an infection but couldn’t be for sure.  What!!!  Why can’t any doctor give me a solid diagnosis!  I suddenly realized that I didn’t want to get a second surgery.  I was heading back to the USA for the summer in 2 weeks and would wait to get a second surgery then.  I would monitor the infection or whatever it was and ensure medical help if the infection got worse or if I started getting a fever, etc.

So came back home and decided to take matters into my own hands…  For the past few weeks the scar had opened up and I was having trouble closing the wound again.  I decided (since I had nothing to lose) to try a old home remedy which was to apply whole leaf aloe vera directly on the wound.  Every night, I put a leaf onto my open wound and held it in place with my dressing.  Every morning, I would change the leaf and apply another one.

Within 5 days, the wound had closed almost 100%.  Two weeks later, the wound had healed 100% and the pain was completely gone.  I was still in a boot and using crutches though and taking it very easy.  I booked 3 doctor appointments in the USA - 1) Orthopedic Surgeon  2)  Podiatrist  3) Sports Medicine Doctor.   All of them gave me the same diagnosis - Was an infection but since wound has closed and looks good, NO SECOND SURGERY required!

I was told to ditch the crutches as soon as possible but continue to wear the boot.  Incidentally, I was most impressed with the Podiatrist.  He did a thorough historical review and suggested that I get another MRI to see how much damage the infection may have caused.  He was the only one to suggest this.

So I scheduled a MRI and to make a long story short, results were - tendon still intact although infection did cause a partial tear.  Recommendation was to remove boot and begin physio.  Only way to make the tendon stronger and repair the partial tear is through physio.  AT will either rupture again or get stronger.

SO, I began my physio on August 4th.  I was officially 2 Shoes although I was walking with quite a limp.

Almost 2 months later, the calf muscles are still pretty weak.  I’m concentrating on doing calf raises and trying to build up the muscles.  I can walk at a normal pace although there is still an unevenness to my gait.  Once I can get to one legged calf raises, the real fun begins (or so says my physio).

I am on the path to recovery and will begin playing golf this weekend.  Yes Life Is Good again.

Lessons learned through this ordeal - You can’t trust one doctor’s opinion and you know your body the best.  If what a doctor says doesn’t make sense, you need to trust your body and get 2nd, 3rd, 4th opinions until you agree with the diagnosis and treatment.

The healing time has been much longer than what I ever imagined.  But it’s also added a new perspective in my life and made me focus on living a better and healthier life.  As with all things in life, there is always a silver lining…  This one has just taken me longer to find.

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Signs of Blood Clots

Posted by bennet on June 3, 2009

So my newest theory of the pain in my leg is that it may be a blood clot.  A quick google search on the symptons resulted in the following:

Symptoms may include the following:

  • Swelling
  • Gradual onset of pain
  • Redness
  • Warmth to the touch
  • Worsening leg pain when bending the foot
  • Leg cramps, especially at night
  • Bluish or whitish discoloration of skin

I have swelling.  I have gradual onset of pain.  I have redness.  I have warmth in the area.  I have worsening leg pain when bending the foot.  I have leg cramps, especially at night.  I have whitish discoloration of skin.

I emailed my surgeon today and he said blood clot is unlikely.  He said that there were no signs of blood clots when he examined me yesterday and that clots are usually NOT painful.

Anyone have any experience or thoughts?

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A Step Backwards…

Posted by bennet on June 2, 2009

Things were progressing so smoothly.  This past Saturday I removed my last heel insert and my foot was 90 degrees.  It was a bit difficult to stretch the tendon to get it to rest flat but it wasn’t too painful.  I thought to myself that in a few days, my tendon should be good to go and I can ditch my crutches and move to FWB.  I’ve had almost zero pain since Day 2 so everything was looking good…

I worked out Sunday doing my stationary heel biking and my leg lifts.  I felt great after my workout but by Sunday night, both sides of my incision were swollen, red and painful.  After doing some research, I concluded that it might be an infection.  By bedtime Sunday night, I was not even able to walk in the boot with crutches.  Very painful.

Monday morning I went in to see a doctor.  He said no open cut on the incision so probably not an infection.  He called my surgeon who asked him to do some blood work to check for an infection.  Blood results came back negative so doctor told me that most likely was not an infection.  Pain continued all Monday and I basically rested on the sofa all day.

Tuesday I went to see my physio who told me it may be an infection or it may be due to the removal of the last heel insert.  We put the heel insert back into the boot and I told him that I was meeting with the surgeon later on in the afternoon.  Met with the surgeon and he said that it was not an infection but still wanted me to take antibiotics.  I took the prescription but don’t plan on taking them.  He also put me on another week of painkillers.  His explanation was that it is a normal sympton of surgery.

I can buy that the removal of the last insert created some swelling and pain and that is what I am going through now.  We’ll see if in 2-3 days with the heel insert back in, whether the pain goes away.

But if it isn’t the heel insert, then I don’t think the surgeon’s explanation makes sense.  I’ve been painfree since Day 2, and now all of the sudden I start having strong pain.  I am 3 weeks Post Op.

If it’s not an infection and not the result of removing the last heel insert, what can it be?

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2 week Post Op Dr Visit

Posted by bennet on May 27, 2009

Yesterday was my 2 week Post Op visit with my surgeon.  He walks in and says, “Let’s take a look!” and proceeds to rip the dressing/bandaid off my leg.  Here I have been changing the dressing every 2 days and gently pulling the dressing/bandaid off in fear of ripping the skin and opening the incision again.  So it hurt a bit when he ripped off the dressing/bandaid but the pain quickly went away when he announced, “Hey everything looks good.  Take out the stitches.”

So I had my stitches removed and now back in my aircast.  No pain at all and I am putting more and more weight onto my foot so have declared myself PWB now.  I hoping to ditch the crutches soon but the physio wants me to work on my quadricep muscles before taking them away.  So I’m starting to do leg lifts on the weight machines everyday now.

And I passed the Thompson test yesterday meaning that my foot did move on my left leg so looks like the surgery was a success.  Movement was not as great as my right leg but this is normal.

So having a good day so far and ready to hit the weights and start getting my life a little bit more back to “normal”.

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Third Physio Session - 10 Days Post Op

Posted by bennet on May 24, 2009

Yesterday I went to my third Physio Session.  Same procedures as the first two sessions but yesterday he asked me to get on the stationary bike and pedal for 20 mins.  WOW.  Felt very weird to be using the quadriceps and pushing off on my heel but no pain.  After about 2-3 mins, I was enjoying it and felt “normal”.  Great to be exercising.  So starting Monday, I’ve been cleared to starting lifting (upper body) and biking with my boot.   I am happy to be getting back to my normal routine…

I have one remaining insert in my boot and that will probably come out in the next 4-5 days.  Hoping I can ditch the crutches soon after that and hobble around just in the boot.

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Second PT Session - 8 days Post Op

Posted by bennet on May 20, 2009

Today I had my second physio session.  For the past few days, I’ve been trying to put more and more weight on my aircast.  I’m still only 10-15% PWB and if I try and put any more weight on my foot, I feel pain.  Oddly enough, the pain isn’t from the achilles tendon per se but from the incision, especially right around the ankle.  So I am staying at 15% PWB and expect that as soon as the wound heals, I’ll be able to put more and more weight on it.

PT removed one insert in my boot today so now I am down to only one insert.  Definitely feels funny but by afternoon, my AT had stretched down and can comfortably touch the single insert now.  This is good news.

I’m trying to stay diligent on the PT as one of my friend warned me about a friend who skipped out on PT and now walks like a banana stuck up his A**.  Please someone rupture my AT again if this happens to me.

On a different note, want to remind everyone to be thankful and grateful to your spouse/partner/friends who are helping out.  My wife who has been doing a fabulous job taking care of my every whim, shared with me the stress that she is going through given my immobile life-style -staying home more to care for me, single-parenting our kids while I sit on my butt, etc.

I decided (for once) to do the right thing and just say “Thank You”…

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3 Days Post Op Status

Posted by bennet on May 15, 2009

So you can probably tell I have some time on my hand.  My week’s vacation that I took ends today so I hope I can continue to blog daily on my progress as I go back to work.

Anyway the house is quiet.  Kids at school, wife at yoga and I’m stuck on the couch.  A friend brought over some good movies and will watch a movie later on today while doing some of my exercises.

So my wife asked me if this injury was a life-changing event for me.  I had  told her that it looks like I am retiring from squash, basketball and other high-risk ATR sports.  The thought of going through another rupture really scares me and I’m going to be happy just playing soccer with the kids and swimming/golfing/biking instead of the “aggressive” sports.  So I guess, this has been sort of a life-changing experience…

Maybe it’s the final realization  that I’m no longer 18 years old and can disregard my body.  But when I told my dad that, he told me that I was still young… Guess it’s a matter of perspective!

To help with the healing process, I’ve been going on a high protein diet.  Since collagen is the protein in the body that helps with the recovery of ATR, I’ve decided to add in some protein powder into my diet.  I’m taking 2 tablespoons of protein powder along with some green powder in the morning with my smoothie as part of my breakfast.  No huge appetite these days but need to get the body the necessary nutrients to heal faster.  I’m taking a Japanese enzyme called nattokinase as my blood thinner as I don’t like taking aspirin.

So feeling like my diet should be pretty good in aiding my healing process.  I’m also tempted to look into doing injection of platelet rich blood into the injured area to help with the healing.  Several baseball/football players have done this with very good results.  Especially since the achilles is a poor blood flow area.  Anyone with any comments here?

I’m finally down on my boot inserts.  Believe we’ll be taking one of the inserts out next week so I’m happy with my progress.  Three days ago, I couldn’t even get my heel down on the inserts.  Now I’m resting comfortably on the insert so my achilles tendon has stretched naturally.  Still trying to get to PWB.  I’m still a bit tentative.  Will continue to practice today.  Trying to push but if I feel any pain, will back off and wait another day.  It’s still early and although I want to push the body, if there is pain, I will respect my body and try again the next day.  Wow, perhaps this has been a life changing experience!

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First Physical Therapy Session

Posted by bennet on May 14, 2009

So went to my first PT session today.  He has me doing some light plantarflexion exercises (point toes down and allow for the toes to naturally come up) and toe curls.  4 times a day, 10 reps each.  He then did some light calf massage (which felt really good) and then hooked me up to the machine that gives the electrical impulses on my calf.  Then 15 minutes of ice on the achilles heel while applying heat pads on my calf.  That felt kind of weird having both heat and ice applied at the same time.  I will see him 3x’s a week for the  first two weeks and then 2x’s a week for the next few months.

Wasn’t expecting too much this early on after the injury but guess the massage and electric impulses will do the leg good.

I’m putting more weight down on my boot today and almost have my heel down on the boot inserts.  I’m probably putting about 10% of my weight on the foot.  Both Dr and PT want me to be FWB without crutches in 7-10 days so need to try and put more weight on it in the next few days.  Maybe tomorrow or the next day…

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At Home Finally!

Posted by bennet on May 13, 2009

Finally got back from the hospital after yesterday’s surgery.  Physio put me into an aircast with 2 heel inserts.  They want me to begin PWB but I still can’t get my heel down onto the heel inserts.  Trying to slowly stretch and put pressure down so my heel can rest on them but not sure if it’s mental or physical, but I feel like if I do, my Achilles Tendon would snap again.

I’m going to PT tomorrow and will see how far I get.  I’ve been crutching around with a very light step on the injured foot but wouldn’t called it PWB at this time.  Will keep trying and try and get to 20-30% by tomorrow.

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Can you straighten out your leg?

Posted by bennet on May 13, 2009

So i had surgery done almost 24 hours now.  Still waiting for the physio to give me my air cast so i can go home.  While on crutches this morning, i noticed that my left leg (the one that had surgery on) seems much shorter than my right leg.  My left foot is pointed down and I can’t seem to straighten out my left leg to make it even with my right foot.  It’s almost like the surgeon “shortened” my tendon too much…

This is probably normal and through PT, you gradually lengthen or stretch out the tendon but seems very weird right now.  Thoughts?

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