back to back years, back to back Achilles tendon ruptures

I find myself back on this website again and find it therapeutic in a way. I found this site very helpful during first my recovery process and appreciated all the stories and comments I’ve read. I will try my best to share every little detail of my experience and please forgive me for not using the proper medical terms. So lets begin…

July 16, 2017. I was 32 years old at the time and been playing in a Sunday flag football league for the past couple of years. I was the wide receiver and caught a pass in stride at midfield and after a couple of strides, I fell down and immediately grabbed my left ankle. At first I thought my legs got tangled with the defender, but he was about 5 feet away from me, so then I assumed it was just a sprained ankle. I’ve sprained my ankle many times before playing basketball so it was just automatic to me that it was a sprained ankle. Everyone was asking if I was okay, and I said “yes, just a sprained ankle.” I was able to walk with a limp. Later that night, I’ve started to realize this doesn’t really feel like a sprained ankle, it feels a bit worst than that. So I started examining my ankle and felt there was a 1 inch gap on the back of my Achilles tendon. At this point I knew it was serious, but did not know it was THAT serious. I went to go see my primary doctor the following day (Monday) and she referred me to a foot specialist. Saw the foot specialist Wednesday and he confirmed it was ruptured. I was definitely not prepared for the unfortunate news. This was my first serious injury (sprained ankle was my worst injury before this) and I was in disbelief. I kept on asking myself “why?” He gave me the run down on my 2 options which are surgical and non-surgical. Surgical has a quicker recovery process and obviously non-surgical has a longer recovery process. He put a splint on my left leg and told me to think about it over the next couple days. I went home and googled the crap out of ATR. I was reading stories/articles left and right…surgical vs non surgical, recovery process, professional athletes who had ATR, and what exactly is Achilles tendon. I also youtube ATR and reached out to mutual friends to see who had a ATR. Found out there was one guy in my flag football league who ruptured his Achilles 2 years ago. Called him up and got his feedback and experience. I had a friend who was a PT and I spoke to him. He was also the one who said I should act fast on my decision, because the Achilles tendon can roll up to the calf and that will be harder to repair. That Friday, I informed my doc I wanted surgery. He then scheduled me for surgery for the following Thursday July 27. The surgery process was smooth and quick. This was my first surgery and my first time being put under. Man was I nervous. Being put to sleep is such the weirdest and coolest feeling ever. From what I have seen from the movies, the surgeon would put the gas mask over your mouth and ask you to count backwards from 10 and I thought that was the procedure. That wasn’t it. The last thing I remembered were the nurses and Surgeon talking about Lebron James and then I felt this cold rush started from my arm with the IV and it quickly spread through out my body. It was such a weird feeling and I remember thinking to myself “what the heck is that!?!?” The next second I was knocked out. I remembered as I was just beginning to wake up, I was so scared to open my eyes. I heard the nurses talking in the back ground and I thought the surgeon was still operating on me! I tried to force myself back to sleep but started regaining my senses and was freaking out. One of the nurses came over and informed me I was in the recovery room. HAHA! That was it? It literally felt like I closed my eyes for only a few seconds and then I woke up in a different room. I think the surgery only took about 30 mins. Coming home that day, I was in a splint and on crutches. I was so nauseated and just wanted to vomit. I was told it’s a normal feeling because of the anesthesia. I was prescribed Percocet to manage the pain. These were definitely necessary for the first few days. Once the nerve block wears off, it was extremely painful.  After the first few days, the pain was minor and tolerable. It was also very uncomfortable to sleep. So be prepared for the lost of sleep! The doc said to keep the leg elevated. The only way to keep it elevated at night was to put a pillow or two under the injured leg, but it did not feel comfortable at all. I was so paranoid the wound would open, because the pressure was coming from the back of the leg due to the pillows and that’s where the wound is located. I always found myself waking up in the middle of the night to reposition my leg and that was so annoying. The first week was the toughest, I was sad and was thinking how the heck will I ever recover from this and will I be able to play sports again? I missed walking on 2 legs! I started appreciating the littlest and simplest thing in life. Something as simple as grabbing a glass of water for myself and I couldn’t do that! I was googling everything about ATR on my phone and I think I came across this site during this time. First post op visit was about 10 days. Saw the doc and had the splint removed. I saw my foot for the first very time since the operation and it looked gross! 12 staples and the incision was about 3.5 inches long. They casted my foot and positioned it at a neutral position. I was told to come back in a week. During the early stages of recovering, I would get excited to come back to see the doc for each follow up appointment. I was eager to get this process over with. Second post op visit, cast was removed and staples were removed. Foot was casted again and this time my foot was positioned closer to a 90 degree ankle. Came back a week later for my 3rd post op visit and I was put in to a walking boot without a heel left. First feel days in the boot, my foot was sore  and I couldn’t walk without crutches. I was able to walk after a few days in the boot. I think it just took some time for my foot to get used to the boot. I was in the boot for about 2 weeks and saw the doctor for the 4th post op visit. He said the boot was not needed anymore and this was the best news ever! The best feeling was to be able to wear two shoes and walk! I was in a split, cast, and walking boot for a total of 6 weeks. I did the typical PT 2 times a week for 4 weeks, plus I was putting in my own work at the gym. The first pt session, I was so disappointed that I couldn’t do some of the exercises due to the stiffness of my Achilles tendon, but it got better and better each week. I would go to the gym about 2-3 times a week. My routine at the gym were leg press on both legs, and then I would do single leg (injured leg), calf raises on both and then single calf raise, quad machine, warm up on the stationary bike for 10 mins, elliptical for 10 mins, stair master for 10 mins, ran mile on the treadmill, and then end my work out using a foam roller on my injured leg. Every year my friends and I would play flag football on Thanksgiving day and on this day, I was about 4 months post op. This was my first ultimate test to see how my Achilles will hold up. I would say I was about 65% at this time and was able to run, but not pain free. I was pushing myself and playing through the pain. To be honest, now that I look back on this day I was very stupid and should have not played on this day. I actually sprained my injured ankle on this day. I do not know how true this is, but I was told by my good friend who is a PT that if I was able to run up and down the stairs, my Achilles was good. I used that as my indicator for progress. At 6 months, I stopped going to the gym and resume playing flag football in the Sunday league. I was at about 80% and able to run and do cuts. There was slight pain, but it was so minor that I didn’t really think about it when I was playing. At 9 months, I was still playing in the flag football and was probably at 90%. At 1 year, I was at 100% and I was feeling great! My left leg has regain the calf muscle back. Still playing flag football and making some hard cuts. At this point I wasn’t even thinking about my injured leg.

For anyone who is going through the recovery process for the first time, be patient and it does get better after week 1 post op. It does get better the first time you are able to wear 2 shoes and walk with a big limp. It does get better after your first PT session. It does get better after 3 months when your Achilles tendon is still tight. It does get better once you are able to jog. I felt each month was a process and a accomplishment.

Now on to the second part of my story…Sunday October 14 2018. I was play in the same flag football league. I was on defense this time and playing safety. Back peddled and jumped for a interception. Caught the ball and landed. As I was gathering myself to sprint up the field…BOOM! I fell immediately to the ground. This time it was my right ankle. I got up and tried to put weight on my toes, and couldn’t do it. I immediately rolled down my sock to feel my Achilles tendon and sure enough, there was a gap. I knew it the terrible news. I was not looking forward to the recovery process at all. At this point there was nothing I can do about it and just accept the fact that I tore my only good Achilles tendon again. I tried setting up an appointment with the doc who operated on my left ankle, but he didn’t take my insurance anymore (HMO). So I was assigned to a different foot specialist and was able to see him on Wednesday. He confirmed it was a ATR and scheduled me for surgery the following Wednesday October 24. Same protocol in terms of getting admitted, to the operating room and then recovery room.  First post op visit was 10 days. Had the splint removed and this time it was sutures and the incision was only 1.5 inch long. Had the cast put on and the doc wanted me to come back in 3 weeks and told me not to drive. 3 weeks in a cast?!?!?! NO WAY. Being in a cast for more than a week already sucks.  I tried making an appointment for 2 weeks but the receptionist did not allow me, because the doc said 3 weeks. So 3 weeks follow up appointment was scheduled. I called back the next day and I was able to schedule it for 2 weeks. Came in for the 2 week check up and had the sutures removed and was put in the walking boot. I still had my walking boot from the previous injury and was able to use it. This time the doc wanted me to have the heel lift inserts. I think a set comes with 5 heel lifts and he only wanted me to use 2. I was told to walk in the boot with both lifts for 2 weeks and then remove one and walk with one for another 2 weeks and then remove the last lift and walk in the boot without the heel lifts for another 2 weeks. That’s a total for 6 weeks?!?! NO WAY. My left ATR I was walking in 6 weeks post op. I set up the appointment for 6 weeks and then called back the next day and scheduled the appointment in 4 weeks instead. Now I understand each doc has their own recovery process and my first doc may have a aggressive recovery process, but I been through that process and was happy with the results.  My current doc said I should feel a slight pull on my Achilles tendon each time I removed the heel lift. I did not feel a slight pull with 2 heel lifts in the boot, so I went home and removed one of the heel lifts. Now I definitely feel a slight pull and was walking with a limp. After maybe a day or two I was able to walk in the boot without a limp and did not feel a pull on my Achilles tendon. After a week, I removed the last heel lift and was able to walk in the boot. After a week walking in the boot without the heel lifts, I ditched the boot and now walking with two shoest. I was only in the boot for 2 weeks and still have my 3rd follow up visit in 2 weeks. This week is my week 7 post op and had my first PT session couple days ago. I am definitely still walking with a limp. Foot still swells at the end of the day. I was barely able to drive last week with my right foot, and now I can drive just fine. . Going through this process for the second time, I am very familiar with the injury and understand the pain that comes with it. I definitely know my limits now in terms of range of motion and weight bearing. I remember looking at my left leg after the cast was removed on my first ATR and it was super skinny compared to my right leg. Now its the other way around, but this time I know the results will be there. I don’t recommend any first time victims of ATR going against the doctor’s orders. You need to go through the process and learn.