Hello to all those who are interested in hearing how I tore both achilles at the same time and traumatized the entire region of both lower legs….calf to foot and the rest of my experience.
My story is as follows:
I was doing calf raises in the gym with too much weight. 600 lbs to be exact. Add my body weight, momentum, and heavy metal music and you create the recipe for a double disaster…..to the tune of about half tone or more of loading. At first I thought the machine broke and then i noticed my lower legs were numb and my toes were pointed towards the ceiling with my heals touching the ground and I was standing straight up. It felt as if a large rubber band had snapped inside my body. People in the gym heard it and within about a minute I hard a large group of people around me. To make matters worse, I had an upset stomach earlier that day, but now I could not make it to the restroom. Bad day huh? I turned pale, started pouring sweat and stayed on the floor for a while. They wanted to call an ambulance, but with an emergency clinic across the street I felt that was silly. They put me in a desk chair, wheeled me to a vehicle and took me across the street.
The shock wave went up my calf and down to my foot. It felt like a had vice grips or plyers on my entire lower leg. This happened at about 6pm (Nov. 3, 2010) and I finally got some pain meds (dilaudid) at about 9pm. The pain was the equivalent doing a set of an exercise in the gym to failure and the burn you experience at the end….just multiply that by about 5.
My doctor gave me dilaudid, script for pain meds, a set of crutches, splints, and set an appointment with a surgeon. Yes, he gave me crutches. So for about a half of a day, I walked around (with crutches) on 2 completely severed tendons. My surgeon said WTF are you doing and had me in a wheelchair immediately. Surgery was scheduled for a week later…..so seven days with severed tendons in a wheelchair. This turned out to be a good thing, as I quickly learned that staying at my house was not an option. My best friends parents set me up in a 1 room guest house and helped to take care of me. Surgery was Nov. 10 2010. One tendon would have been fun compared to what ensued. For those of you who have never taken pain meds long term…..they constipate you and create many other problems. So how did I go to the bathroom or do anything, such as bath, or do just about any daily routine task? You improvise and quit feeling sorry for yourself very fast. I was bedridden for approximately 3 days. How do you do anything when you can’t put your feet down? You adjust….and use your upper body strength and you use creativity and shear will. I could not go anywhere unless someone took me. Being in a wheelchair is kind of like driving on a long trip ….say East coast to West coast without being able get out of the vehicle and stretch and doing this for about 4 months. Going to the bathroom in a handheld urinal. What do you do when you wake up at 2am and you have to go?
An important decision that I had to make prior to surgery was whether to opt for general or local anesthesia. There are concerns with both. For my hernia operation, my doctor said I was talking to him during surgery….I had an epidural (local) with sedation. For the achilles, I did not want there to be any chance of being awake so I opted for general. The problem with general, as described by the A-ologist was that I may be in pain when I woke up….well I was. When I woke up, I could not move anything. I could only feel and think and I was told they would not administer morphine until I awakened. To make matters worse, I thought I had awakened in surgery because they were moving my legs around and using technical terms. I have seen documentaries where people awakened during surgery and could not communicate to the doctors that they could feel pain and this is what I thought was the case. I was, however, in the recovery room.
Coming off pain meds after several weeks was brutal for a couple of days. I had chills, fever, flu-like symptoms and mild depression for a couple of days so I decided to take more and taper off. I took dilaudid, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and fentanyl during my achilles’ adventure. The hardcore drugs were in the hospital/doctor’s office. Fentanyl made me less nauseous than morphine….I have heard others say the same. I also found the oxycodone lasted longer than the hydrocodone, maybe an hour or 2 at the same dose. Maybe that was just anecdotal, but worth mentioning.
So I get out of the hospital and then the real fun began. For the ride home, I left my legs below my heart for too long and when I got home I experienced more pain than was comprehensible…..don’t do this. I was hyperventilating and the person taking care of me was going to call an ambulance. 2 pain pills and 45 minutes later I was back to planet earth.
I had multiple appointments and had several different casts and splints. One thing I can tell you is that you feel very vulnerable “out” of your casts and that you may want to take some pain meds prior to staples being removed. For me, about half as bad as a bee stinging me with just about every staple and about the same when they pull the staples (or stitches….can’t remember) through. I had worked up a sweat by the end. I was in my casts for several weeks longer due to the casting technician being gone for christmas vacation. My calves had atrophied to the size of a 6 yr old’s calves and it looked like I had leprosy…..it was winter time and my skin had dried out. After my casts came off, I went straight to PT and realized that I had lost my voice (I got bronchitis around new years) after about 5 minutes with the therapist. I had a million questions and could not ask them.
My recovery was a long and arduous journey that was both physically and psychologically taxing. I did not have a good leg, so they wanted by my feet at about 10-15 degrees, that is past 90 degrees, before weight bearing. They considered 90 degrees as 0. I finally stood up sometime at the end of February…beginning of March. Long periods of time on my feet compressed my ankles and they would swell, I would ice them, and have to get back in the bed or wheelchair. I was walking in March with regular shoes, but looked very odd in the process.
The scariest part about therapy was that they had me doing calf raises for rehab. The more that you use extend and contract your calves and tendons, the faster they will heal and elongate. It has taken me about a year to get my left calf back to where it used to be. I can run and do everything I used to do, but I don’t run because there are man other options for cardio other than running, which I don’t want to risk doing this again. It is still in the back of my mind….maybe that will never go away.
When you go through your achilles rupture you have a decision to make from surgery to rehab and that is are you going to do everything you can to heal or are you going to feel sorry for yourself and why me it? There are a lot of people who have a lot worse than you out there and you gotta get in gear and have a positive attitude.
I think it is worth mentioning that I took Cipro (antibiotics) about 9 months prior to the ruptures and remember doing calf raises while I was taking them despite the black box label (for fluoroquinolones) and the doctor’s warnings of increased risk of achilles rupture while taking them. It is not going to happen to me, right? For those of you not aware of the increased risk of tendon rupture associated with these antibiotics just surf the net for Fluoros and tendon rupture. The preponderance of the evidence I found suggests that the achilles seems to be more prone to rupture than other tendons.
There was a lot more to my experience than what I have written, both good and bad. I guess that we will all have to go through some sort of trauma in our lives…..there is no way around it. This was my test and it only made me stronger….you don’t realize it when you are in the middle of it. I can’t remember how many times since my achilles ordeal where I have been presented with a seemingly, major/impossible challenge that was trumped and trivialized by my achilles ordeal.