I’m 6 weeks post-op and have been reading these blogs from time to time, they certainly have been very helpful in dealing with my mental anguish. Thanks to Dennis for setting this up and to everyone who has told their stories.
On April 6, 2015 I tore my right Achilles tendon while starting to move forward to retrieve a drop shot in badminton, something I’ve done a thousand times. The next thing I knew I was on the ground wondering why I had done a face plant after hearing a low frequency noise in my shoe, had my orthotic broken? Knowing that many badminton players had suffered this fate I felt above my heel and there was my Achilles so I thought I was OK. I had no pain at all. I suppose this is why people like me do not make good doctors.
There was a physiotherapist nearby who squeezed my calf, the Thompson test apparently, then told me to go to emergency.
A buddy took me there and when I arrived they put me in a wheelchair and I waited around for a while. A young boy brought in by his parents who was making a hell of a racket jumped the queue in front of me, and eventually left with a band aide on his arm. I considered suggesting to the parents they take their kid to the children’s hospital down the way where they are quite adept at dealing with these issues, but thought better of it. Then a slobbering and violent drug attic was dragged in by EMS and he jumped the queue in front of me too. I wondered if that guy had paid any taxes or Health Care premiums for the last couple of decades, then assured myself he had been, he probably was just having a bad day. Man did he ever stink.
When nobody else was left in the waiting area the emergency doctor saw me, a very nice guy. It was 2 in the morning and he was more tired than I was. He told me that I had fully ruptured my Achilles tendon. He went on to say that if I was a professional athlete I would get surgery, otherwise I would get the non-operative or conservative approach. This felt somewhat unsatisfying. My only choice was the colour of my cast, hot pink seemed to be appropriate, they casted me, booked me for a meet and greet with an orthopedic surgeon in two weeks, and sent me home in a taxi.
The next couple of weeks were spent researching this so-called conservative approach, I had never heard of it. I spoke with a very experienced athletic trainer who seemed not particularly impressed, a good friend physiotherapist of mine who tracked down the latest research and said it would be fine, and a bunch of other friends who knew nothing at all about medicine but of course had the strongest opinions on the subject, they were all incredulous.
At 56 I’m no spring chicken, but very fit for my age. I do not consider myself a weekend warrior, being semi-retired and able to exercise every day. I do a lot of running and stretching, weigh the same 150 pounds as I did in University (perhaps with some minor redistributions toward my centre of gravity), and can usually break 45 minutes in a 10K. Three sets of 30 jumping squats per week have kept my running knees happy and given me strong legs for my age, and there is no way that this should have happened to me. I think denial is a common problem with many people. I am done with badminton.
I went to meet my orthopedic surgeon at two weeks post tear. My research had given me the opinion that if I made it through a year without re-rupturing, the results of operative vs non-operative would be the same. Unfortunately, of the 3 non-op people I had met in those two weeks, two of the three had re-ruptured, one at 6 weeks and one at 6 months. Now any of you statisticians out there may want to remind me that a group of 3 does not constitute a statistical population, but hey, it’s hard to be objective about my own Achilles.
I had been a bit miserable those first two weeks about this non-op approach, but was resigned to it and all I wanted to hear from the orthopod was that it was “going to be OK”. However I was presented with options to continue with the non-operative approach, or get surgery the next day. You’re kidding me right? So at day 15 post Achilles tear I re-set my recovery clock to day zero, had a spinal, and a scalpel cut through my skin and a very skilled orthopedic surgeon, also a very nice guy, stitched up my Achilles tendon on April 21. He then put me in a splint with a tensor wrapped around it, and said “see you in two weeks”.
Up to that day I had not had a single ibuprofen or acetaminophen since the tear. Enter Percocet. As the spinal wore off these pills became increasingly more important. My first night at home I was completely stoned on Percocet’s, I remember waking up every 5 minutes or so, looking at the clock, and thinking, “5 minutes have gone by, I feel pretty good right now”, over and over again. The following evening I took my 9th and final Percocet, it was time to kick. There were 3 left in the bottle and I thought I should take them to the Pharmacy for disposal, or not. The first week post-op were really quite unpleasant, my body was not working particularly well in a number of areas that I won’t go into, suffice to say the first few days of week 1 sucked, but things got better near the end of week 1.
By the way, if you suffer this injury and do not have an outstanding relationship with your spouse or roommate, you are screwed. My wife has been simply amazing.
At the end of week two post-op I saw my orthopod, the splint was disposed of, and I got an Aircast with 3 x 1.5 cm wedges stacked on top of each other in the heel. My earlier research found some hinged ones available in the U.S., perhaps these are better. Some have a removable piece on the bottom that can be removed if it gets dirty from wandering around outside, a nice option I do not have. I am subjected to a scrub scrub scrub every time I come inside, a small price to pay for the cooking, cleaning, smiles, encouragement washing sheets, etc. that I am the recipient of. A hard man may be good to find for some, but I’d much rather have a good wife, and I’m not referring to that creature on the TV show.
When I got the Aircast at the end of week 2, I was allowed 25% weight, which is “just a little bit”. But a bit is better than none. Press your injured foot on a scale to figure out how 25% feels. The cast could come off at home, I could wiggle my toes and do the dorsiflexion thing that is mentioned on many of these blogs. The Aircast was hotter than hell in bed and I called the nurse the next day to ask if I could take it off at night. No way. So I remove the front part of the Aircast every night before bed and replaced it with a folded socks under the straps, then cinched the straps, this is a compromise that is cooler allows me to sleep. Be careful during those 56-year old nightly bathroom breaks, don’t forget to turn on the light. One crash with a half-cast and you and your new friend the orthopod will have an Achilles reconstruction to deal with.
At 4 weeks I took out 1 wedge, and increased to 50% weight, another incremental improvement that was greatly appreciated.
After 5 weeks post-op the 2nd wedge came out, now 75% weight. I noticed one of our contributors spoke about using 1 crutch on your good side. A great tip, you will move along a lot smoother using this technique, but you probably shouldn’t do it until 75% weight bearing. This also frees up a hand. Going from zero free hands to one hand is a wonderful experience.
As I mentioned at the start, I’m 6 weeks post-op, and will visit my doctor in a couple days. My last wedge came out today and theoretically I can lose the crutches, we’ll see what the doc says. I walked across the kitchen today with baby steps in my boot and no crutches, two free hands, piece of cake. Then up and down the stairs sans crutches, unbelievable! Two free hands are much better than one.
I’m a right-handed golfer with a right Achilles issue. Last night I swung a couple of wedges on the driving range, with my Aircast of course, I’m hitting a straight draw and need to weaken my grip a bit I think, this is exciting stuff, back to my comfort zone of paralysis from analysis on the golf course. I have ordered my Achilles blog t-shirt and am looking forward to sanctioned FWB. Still no PT for the foot other than my simple exercises when I got the Aircast, PT starts at 6 weeks after doctor clearance. No I have not asked the doctor about swinging a pitching wedge.
In retrospect these 6 weeks post-op (8 weeks since the rupture) have not been all bad. I’ve been playing a lot of piano (a bit of a challenge early on with the swelling), and can now play some pieces that I’ve been dabbling with for years pretty well. I’ve also been reading some classics on my kindle, improving my English with the likes of Charles Dickens and Emily Brontë . I have been working my upper body at a gym nearby every two days without fail, a nasty little arms-only machine like bicycle pedals that go round and round, attempting to give my cardiovascular system a workout with my scrawny arms. My upper body is stronger than it has been for many years. I have experienced the kindness of strangers who have opened doors, fetched chairs, offered words of encouragement, and of course told me their stories. I have realized why there are bars and removable hand shower heads in some showers, larger toilet stalls for handicapped individuals, and buttons beside doors to open them up. I have been horrified after surgery touching various parts of my anatomy and feeling nothing, and incredibly thankful when the freezing came out. I really think that I am a better person.
Now onwards with PT!
I’ll report back soon. Good luck to all!
5 Comments »