Week 17 - The Feeling of Recovery and Progress… so I go, yes I go!

For 2010, I made a strong commitment to myself to make a real push to get better… I don’t want to call it a resolution, though it’s essentially what it is.

No more sitting back for the doc, time for action.

January 2 I renewed the gym membership and started going to the pool 5 days a week for at least 30-45 mins (going immediately after work is a schedule that works for me so I don’t feel like just being lazy at home). And good news that one pool is saltwater (I felt like I stank of chlorine for a few days when I started at another gym). I try to walk back and forth lap to lap or swim to re-build the cardio and some semblance of fitness level from the stagnation of doing nothing.

I was meant to go back to the doc the first week of January but a work meeting conflict forced me to move it and the doc’s next availability is not until Jan. 26. He can take a hike for all I care, though I may have also chosen some stronger words for him.

Considering the long delay to next appt, I went a step further. Last week I started physio on my own terms with a physio place near work that I have used for other issues I’ve had. I’m getting manual massage around the tendon and calf, and received stretching exercises and guidance from my PT and the “workout” on the muscles feels great after each session. She also validated a lot of the good things I did on my own (i.e. walking through water to minimize gravity and start gradually stretching the tendon again).

I regret not trying to push PT sooner with the doc, but we can’t change the past. All we have is now and the future.

Key exercises for me:
1. stand on one foot - try to get balance, build strength in leg - use wall/hand on side if needed
2. stand on one foot, close eyes - try to build body’s awareness of balance that has been lost - I find this challenging!
3. lean on drawer with forearms on drawer, do heel raises slowly up and down. As I get more comfortable with this, gradually have less lean until *eventually* I can stand up and do heel raises - I can feel myself slowly getting stronger here
4. Stretch tendon - use towel around foot and pull - will help stretch out that scar tissue and get tendon more limber again

So I go, yes I go!

Here’s hoping that you all are going on the positive side too!


Week 10 - “These things have a habit of getting better on their own”

Quick report from another doc appt at hospital…

Doc: Start walking in 2 shoes, keep rotating foot, come back to my office in 6 weeks.

Me: That was exactly what you said the last time.

Doc: Yes, so keep doing it.

Me: What about physio?

Doc: No, not yet. These things have a habit of getting better on their own. Just take it easy, it’s Christmas time and they’ll probably be closed anyway.

Me: But isn’t physio better to help get better faster?

Doc: Okay, come see me in 4 weeks.

Aughhhh! What the heck doc?

Well, considering I’m 2 weeks since getting back in 2 shoes, I walk with a slight limp still, but not too bad. Almost a real walking stride when I really focus, but not really.

This first song sort of expresses my frustration in music. :)

And wanted to post another song from a new band I recently learned about: Frightened Rabbit, from Scotland. Their album is fantastic!

All the best to everyone in their recoveries! I am thankful with where I am in the process, though I still wish I could get better faster.  I’m going to take it easy over the next while, so hope it’s not too premature to say Happy Christmas, Hannakuh and Holidays to everyone! I love this time of year!  Cheers!


Week 8 - “Graduation Day”

…so my doc said. To 2 shoes. No diploma, but I’ll take it. Unfortunately that’s all I have to say about the milestone.

I actually may use my aircast at times (more so for outdoors) because I was really confident and loving the speed I could get walking normally with it (not that it didn’t look awkward with the limp, but I could still move). I will miss it, as I’m really slow when limping cautiously in 2 regular shoes.

I’m supposed to see doc in 2 weeks again, with my only guidance being to practice rotating the foot gently in water.
No physio yet, per doc instructions. Doc just said that there’s no reason to rush it.

I do know that my tendon is still rather tight/hard, so this may be why. And where the tendon joins the calf muscle feels a bit weird, like there’s a bit of a bump between where they joined. I’m wondering if this is from the surgical re-attachment. Does anybody else have that? I don’t know, maybe I’m just paranoid! :)

Oh, and I’ve noticed that my left foot is a bit too big for my shoes, I guess it’s still a bit swollen, though it doesn’t look that bad for me to look at it.

Ah well. But what’s with the constant doc review? It feels like my doctor is never gonna give me up to physio.

Cheers, everyone!


Week 6 - Nah much…

Well, not much to report. Actually I forgot what week recovery I was in today! I guess that means I’m in the phase called “acceptance”. :) I’ve abandoned my idea of aggressive recovery based on feedback from others. So thanks again folks - Djcarranza, 2ndtimer, Smoley, for keeping me practical and safe!

Tape was falling off mostly so I just took the hanging pieces off. Scar is not bad.

Scar healing...

Scar healing...

I’ve gone outside a few times, not for very long distance or time. Yesterday started out with the girlfriend and I struggling to figure out something we could do together that wasn’t just sitting indoors. Normally, on such a nice day, we’d go for a nice fall hike on a trail… I admit it crosses my mind about 20 times a day when I see the sun shining brightly, only to get the proverbial hook pulling me back to reality. It became a busy day of shopping, Dragon’s Den and episode of Mad Men (only season finale left!). By the end of the day the foot was sore, but I think mostly from being on my feet for a few hours.

It always feels good to get out of the aircast after you’ve been in it for a while, that’s for sure.

Target Wed. Nov 25, week 8 for what I hope is final doc visit and beginning of physio. Technically I’m supposed to go back to the office full-time on Nov. 23, I’m hoping I can still have at least a day a week from home if I’m also going to be doing physio (I plan to consult about aggressive recovery) to make things a bit more convenient to get back to 100%..

We shall see.

The bright side is that with the calendar year changing over at Dec 31, it should be good balance of my limit for physio expenses through work.

I have to say it is very nice to see others making progress!!

For now, I’ll just be a Dreamer for now and try to keep patient ‘Til I Am Myself Again…

Jenn Grant - Dreamer (great indie-folk singer!)

Blue Rodeo - Till I Am Myself Again (classic Canadian Rock band)

Cheers everyone!

Week 5 - Hey, can’t you see I’m walkin’ here!?

I started off the week frustrated about my status, feeling sort of useless and not knowing my next steps in this healing process.  Aside from some general instructions to wiggle my foot in an up and down motion, I got no other instructions for exercises to start building up the strength or flexibility in tendon or calf.  But I kept having these thoughts that there must be some opportunity to get the muscles going again instead of just letting it sit there and mend by time alone.

I had been exchanging a few e-mails with a work colleague and discovered that he also tore his tendon (once you get the injury, you realize just how many other people have had this injury but we’ve never known, because we’ve never asked!).  He told me he purposely focused his doctors and physio people to get a more aggressive treatment to recovery and through sheer will was walking on the same day that he got out of his hard cast, on his own, immediately after it was taken off at the 4 week mark. I was amazed and inspired, and decided to try. I had to do something!

So I stood up with crutches and tried to test the weight.  I started to notice a few days before that I could balance on the aircast and had no pain, but now I decided I was going to see if I could try some more steps with a bit more weight.  Not so good, but not so bad.

Later in the day, I actually started to get okay!

Last night was the concert for the band Swell Season (some of my you may have seen sample Youtube video from a previous post - look them up on YouTube if you like the rock/folk genre).   This is the first band where I VASTLY underestimated how big this band is - they practically sold-out all 2,800 seats of the beautifully acoustic Massey Hall.  Seats were a bit tight up in the heights, but we managed. I am so glad I got to see this band, what an unbelievable show!  www.theswellseason.com - currently N. American tour!)  The only thing that was a bit of a challenge was climbing the 4 flights of stairs to get to my seats - there’s no elevator in the building to get there).

I think the stars aligned because without the strength or confidence in being able to walk in the cast, I would have had more trouble going up and down stairs and may not have had the strength to last.

Today’s doc appt lasted 10 seconds. I literally did not even know the doc had finished with me.  They took out the lifts so seems I’m 90 degrees now.  The message was “put weight on as comfortable, see you in 3 weeks”.  I had to ask the ortho tech the other questions because the doc had already left.  Aside: answer to white tape removal question: whenever they fall off is fine, no big deal.

Message to my doctor.
Hey doc. Remember me? No, I didn’t think so. Well, if you’d bothered to ask, you’d know I’m comfortable walking around, so that’s what I’m gonna do!   And sorry doc, but you really are poor when it comes to patients.  Though the surgery may be a successful one, and I am happy and thankful for this, you still need to TALK TO YOUR PATIENTS!  It literally would have taken 2 minutes to explain the proposed plan for recovery.

All I really ask is that if there were others in more need, that you spent more time with them and that there was real value and help that was received instead of a nice paycheque that is behind your desire for speedy patient appointments.

I wish there was a way to get this feedback to doctors as a way they could improve. But I guess docs don’t really get performance reviews like we might at work.

Thanks for letting me get that out of my system. :)


Just measured my calves: right = 16″, left = 14.5″ all around.

From here on, I’ll take it slow but plan to see how I can take steps forward (no pun intended) to gradually get the muscles working and more flexibility/stretching of tendon, calf and ankle.  I’m feeling pretty good that with the aircast, I’m going to be able to get out again and be a little more independent again.

Tomorrow I think I’ll get a haircut. (And much needed one, methinks! :) )

Cheers to everyone on their recovery paths!


p.s. And now for something completely different:

Week 4 - Get on your boot, yeah. (hey hey hey)

Today I “got on my boot, yeah.  Sexy boot, yeah.”  :)  Well, no, not really. Just that it seems to work with the U2 tune pretty well. (Aside: I’m not actually that much of a fan of this song. But I admit after 20+ listens, it does grow on you. Whenever I hear it though, I can’t help but think they’re borrowing from someone else on this song - I can’t put my finger on whether it’s melody or lyrics, but there’s something.  Aside from that, there are so many other better U2 songs - even better songs from new album).

After the cast was cut off and before the doc came back to check it, I was given a washcloth to clean my leg a bit and assess the situation.  I “tested” carefully how much weight i could put on my foot and the answer is not much at all.  Foot feels a bit floppy without something holding onto my leg.  But putting some weight on the foot in sitting position felt like a comfortable next step as a start.  For the first time I saw the extent of calf atrophy. Pretty wild stuff.

Achilles @ 4 weeks (boot install day 10/28)

Achilles @ 4 weeks (boot install day 10/28)

Calf atrophy comparison (boot install day - 10/28)

Calf atrophy comparison (boot install day - 10/28)

Doc said it looks good.  And as recommended by a few of you, I pushed the doc to get some questions answered (thanks again!)   Doc said I could do some gentle up and down movements with my foot as far as stretching exercises but that’s about it.

I was told I could finally wash my leg, but one question I forgot to ask, maybe I’m just being too cautious, but if anyone else who knows can comment, is it okay to get the white tape wet?  I’m still taking baths anyway so imagine I won’t shower until I can get more comfortable on that leg.

Of course the big news today is getting out of the cast and into a boot!  Does this mean I’m officially PWB?!   I know I can finally wash my leg and also been told I can sleep at night without the boot on. We’ll see how that goes! All ’round, I guess it’s a good step forward.

Phase 1 of Conversion to become Bionic Man / Terminator.

Phase 1 of Conversion to become Bionic Man / Terminator.

Week 3 - (Not) CN Tower Stair Climb & Setting Goals

The irony of today is that if I didn’t have this achilles injury, right about now I would have completed my 2nd go of the CN Tower Stair Climb, all  144 flights of stairs, 1,776 steps.  After that, straight to our floor hockey game.  I’ll have to find out how some of my non-achilles injured teammates with similar plans survived.   The positive is that at least I raised some money for a good cause (United Way of Toronto). I’ll follow up shortly to see how my girlfriend Nancy did, I know she was nervous due to her lack of training in advance, but it was her first time.

For me, here I am.  After reading others’ blogs and hearing the stories of muscle atrophy and slow progression of muscle strengthening, it’s starting to settle into my brain just how long the road to recovery will be.   But it is very inspiring with the community here and seeing people support each other as we share our paths and progression.

Initially I was thinking I may target the Climb as a nice goal for next year. That may be a bit too ambitious. Instead, I’ll focus on quick wins and focus on just being able to start walking again normally.  Hopefully next week when I upgrade to a boot, I’ll be able to get that start on muscle stretching and strengthening. What else am I going to be able to get up to sitting at home!?

So here’s my question to you all: what is your next goal? It could be short-term for the next phase of your recovery or maybe it’s a longer term one?  I’d love to hear your goals and share with each other.

Wishing everyone all the best in your recoveries!


Ladies and gents, a new speed record in doctor visit! (Week 2)

2 weeks post-op.  2nd doc appointment at hospital. A new record broken for speed to see the doctor.

And I’m not talking about waiting room part, which was 1.5 hrs.

When I finally got into the room, I believe it was a total of 30 seconds.  He looked at my leg for a second, asked when I last came in (he doesn’t have this info!?), and then repeated the same lines as last week - “come back in 2 weeks to take off the cast and go into a boot”.  Yay, but what… no more info to provide!?

I tried to ask more about his completion of the Short Term Disability form for work but the doctor he was already jetting off to another patient next door, so I had to speak up and ask when I would go back to work and he just said “2 months” and said call his office for the form.

No other clarification. Why did I have to visit to get this?  You have a phone?  Ugh.

Fine. So I guess I’ll just wait here at home on the couch and keep the leg elevated and do nothing for the next 2 weeks.  Wow, this is gonna take a while.

Because I’m getting bored of talking about my achilles recovery, I’ll offer some unrelated good news: I’m starting to make plans to have some sort of life in the real world again. I booked tickets for my girlfriend and I to see The Swell Season at Massey Hall (good news, a sit-down venue) - November 3rd (I’ll be in a boot on October 28th).  For those who don’t know this band, perhaps you’ve heard about the movie Once, set in Ireland, about a middle-aged guy who is a great musician going nowhere who meets a Czech immigrant girl and they bond with their shared love of music. Fun and not very hollywood movie, but the music is fantastic if you like that folk-rock sound like I do.  Both the lead actors are actually musicians in real life and all the music in that movie was the basis of the band.  And out of pure coincidence I saw the movie recently and then discovered they’re playing in concert 3 weeks later. What timing and coincidence!

Have a listen, no pun intended on this sample song from their new album - “Feeling the Pull”, quite the inspiring little tune.



Week 1 Doc Review (Oct 7)

(Posting a bit late about my first visit with surgeon on Wed. 7th)

Exciting. My first visit with the doctor that performed surgery on me. And finally I feel like I’ll have a chance to sit down with the doctor and have a reasonable conversation about the doc’s plans for me going forward.

Ah… not so much.

I get to the hospital and get checked in reasonably easily at the hospital, get in right on time, in fact.  They put me in a room and I see the surgeon.  Simply directs the “Hospital Helper Dude” (editorial note: I have no idea the exact “title”/role of these people, no one tells me anything and I’m not in the “industry” to know better) to remove my cast.

Once sawed off, I have my first opportunity to view the scar.  I see the staples and begin to realize that what initially “felt” like a 3″ scar is actually more like 6″. And it’s sort of on an angle, I didn’t realize the scar would be so close to my heel.

I can feel the lack of strength in my foot being the cast so try not to move it much.  Surgeon comes back in. Hooray, I think! Finally!  He takes a look at the scar, says it “looks good” and tells “Helper Dude” to take out the staples, clean me up and put on another cast.  He then elaborates to tell me that my achilles tendon wasn’t completely torn off, there were still a few strands hanging on so when he fixed me up, he “weaved the tendon” around the stronger strands.   Good? Bad? Whatever, just help me get better, please, is all I ask.

Then he says I’ll be in this cast for 3 weeks, then I’ll move to a boot, otherwise keep the leg elevated, and I should see him next week… and before I could even get a question out, he was gone like the wind to the next patient.

Total time with actual doctor: 2 minutes.

I was hoping to ask about the plan for weight bearing, longer term plans… when I could start putting some weight on, the process he figures I’ll be on and length of time to recover to 2 shoes.  I guess not.  I asked Helper Dude if he could get the doc back and he just said to ask him the question, but he’s not much help.  He says, just ask next week.

The lack of time with the doc wasn’t entirely unexpected, based on my search on the web and excellent find of the website ratemds.com!  And the score of 3.2 out of 5 was ok, opinions were + and - but you can see the bias based on successful and unsuccessful surgeries.  Overall he seemed good enough and I didn’t have much ability to question or feel like I had the time to get second and 3rd opinions all over the city given my immobile situation.  Regardless, any negative dealings I’ve had seem to be more issues from the “process” and not the doctor.  The doctor has been very nice to me other than lack of time.  So for anyone else going through this process or just prior to starting, check out the website here.

Final thought: What a brutal health care system we have.  I wonder if this blog turn into one more about our health care system than my actual injury. I had always known that our system had issues, and I’m glad that people with more critical injuries are given priority and rushed through to key people, but for health issues which are not that severe and for which are the majority, we really need to step it up.

I can see how doctors focus on the OHIP $$$ so they’re raking in the dough. And I recall chatting with doctors about how they’re actually limited to a certain number of visits or surgeries per day, so the government thinks docs are just taking advantage of the system.  Though this may be true, the sad part is they also limit the number of doctors!  So the process is slowed down because of the government’s need to stick to a budget, rather than finding ways to treat people and get them healthy.

Argh, enough ranting. I’m THANKFUL on this Thanksgiving weekend that I am on the positive side of health and the road to recovery looks good.



Reflection - 1 week Post-op

Here I am on the couch.  One week ago at this very time, I was waiting and eager to be discharged from the hospital. Tomorrow is first doc appointment and I’ll finally hear about what the heck I’m supposed to be doing right now!

I’ve been NWB the whole time as a good boy should.  I’m a bit nervous standing up for a period of time with the pressure on the foot, so trying to minimize it as much as possible.  I guess that’s the next step. But I have so many questions it’s frustrating not knowing what I could be doing to get better.  I’m also a bit nervous wondering how my tendon has been doing and if they’ll replace my cast with another clean one.  Ah, we’ll see.

At some point I’ll need to start work again, so probably tomorrow. Lucky for me, I could do some of my IT work from home, though some work is better suited to meeting with people in person, but I’ll have to make due.  Since then I’ve watched a ton of movies, borrowed from friends. And surfed the net quite a bit. If I couldn’t at least keep my brain active, I’d go mental.

I realize I have to take things slow and let my body heal, so I’m just trying to figure out what I can do in the meantime.

I think I’ll go read over others’ blogs and see how others have dealt with this early next step.

Take care everyone!