For the love of the boot ­ 11.5 weeks

July 25th, 2011

Weeks ago I met a fellow ATR sufferer in the airport in Vegas — he was 10 weeks post-op and I was 4 — and I was amazed at how smooth his gait in his air cast was. He had virtually no limp at all, while I was still staggering around like a drunk chimpanzee. “Don’t worry,” he said. “You’ll get there.” He was right! Now that I’m about ready to ditch this boot I find I have mixed feelings about letting it go; I can really move fast and far when I’m wearing it, and have spent the last couple of weeks working, teaching and traveling and haven’t felt held back much at all. When I do take it off around the house and in my office, I slow down to a snail’s pace, carefully scanning the ground ahead for landmines (like LEGO blocks left thoughtfully on the living room floor by my five-year-old.)

So I’m viewing the coming weeks with some trepidation. I’ve become so reliant on my boot that my aunt joked I’ll still be slipping into it for outings on uneven terrain 17 years from now. I hope not, but I do feel far less anxiety while wearing it. Two weeks ago I took part in a media trip to wine country, and found I could even navigate vineyards in it. It’s great on flat ground, even better going downhill, but hard to climb in. Because the front plate prevents ankle movement, it’s almost easier to turn sideways while going uphill. During one particularly hilly vineyard tour I ended up riding sidesaddle on an ATV (the most excitement I’ve had in weeks!) but otherwise I found I could keep up with the group just fine. Then last week I was teaching a summer journalism course to teenagers at a local university. I was on my feet more than when I’m sitting at my desk in the newsroom, so I mostly wore the boot, but I tried to switch it up because I was finding the ache on the bottom of my foot by the end of the day to be agonizing. Happy to be back at my desk this week (wearing sandals)!

So, onward. On Thursday I have my first PT appointment with the official OK to move to shoes. I expect lots of hard work ahead to strengthen my calf, ankle and tendon, and I’m looking forward to it. I hope it will give me more confidence to ditch the boot for good.

* Edit for a new question: For those of you with an injured RIGHT achilles, now in two shoes: how long until you felt comfortable driving with your injured leg? I’m too scared to try. What if I have to brake hard?

As an aside, I tried to comment on Lawrence9’s blog, but didn’t get approved. I wanted to say that I don’t think there’s much similarity between treatment of this injury and the prescription of antibiotics (a comparison made by another commenter). That protocol is universal (finish the prescription even if you feel better), while ATR treatment varies widely, as do the results. Blindly following doctor’s orders ­- without doing any research, follow-up or getting a second opinion if you are suspicious that your treatment isn’t the best for you — can actually be detrimental to your recovery. You are your own best advocate; be cautious, of course, but DO take an active interest and don’t be afraid to question your doctor. I have found the progress tracker helpful as one factor (*along with* my doctor and PT’s advice of course!) in helping me decide when to take next steps in my recovery
( I’ve erred a bit on the cautious side, but it’s nice to know when others have been PWB, FWB, into two-shoes etc.

8 Responses to “For the love of the boot ­ 11.5 weeks”

  1. Daisy Darlington on July 27, 2011 9:19 pm

    As someone who has just transitioned from fiberglass cast to boot, I found your blog remarks very interesting and helpful. Thanks, Deana! So great to learn one eventually learns to walk more smoothly with it!

  2. deana on July 28, 2011 12:02 am

    Thanks Daisy,

    Yes — have faith, you’ll be rocketing around in that thing in no time, especially once you remove any heel wedges. Happy healing!

  3. Daisy Darlington on July 28, 2011 12:45 am

    So good to hear that, Deana! Thank you for the cheering news. Currently I walk like a big Russian circus bear. SIGH

    I just read that Jeopardy host Alex Trebek ruptured his right Achilles Tendon in San Francisco this morning. Poor man! Wishing this new member of our very exclusive club all the very best in his upcoming recovery.

  4. polly on July 29, 2011 6:05 am

    Yesterday, I put two shoes on all day and it was great!.. until late afternoon, when the swelling really kicked in. Then, I had it up and iced and berated myself for pushing too hard. That was dumb. My PT said: 2 hours a day in 2 shoes. I said: Peshaw! I can do 8 hrs– well, no, clearly I cant. I agree with you 100%- taking an active part in your recovery with research and peer consultation is important, but its also crucial to listen to the pros who have an active role in your recovery because they are more informed about your unique healing and can assess your progress live and in-person. Sidebard: The winery media tour sounds like it was marvelous!

  5. polly on July 29, 2011 6:07 am

    “sidebar” (not sidebard)– gosh, my typing sux

  6. Daisy Darlington on July 29, 2011 1:16 pm

    Hi Polly!

    Thanks for this great post about your 8 hours not 2 in your shoes! I’m not to that point yet (still PWB in the boot)but it sound exactly like something I’d do! A great reminder to me to listen to the PT!

    I enjoy all your posts — so upbeat and cheering!

  7. Stuart on July 29, 2011 4:21 pm

    Just caught this post Deana. I am away at the moment and haven’t had much time to catch up on how people are going. I did my right AT and when I went to 2 shoes I asked my physio about driving and she felt there would be no reason why I couldn’t but suggested I get a clearance from my doctor. That was 7 weeks ago and am still waiting for his letter. I have a large 4wd and was a bit concerned about braking like you but it ended up not being the pressure I could put on the pedal because modern cars don’t need as much. For me it was the lack of dorsi flexion that made it uncomfortable because of the position I had to put my foot in to push the pedal. It will be different for every car and person. If you don’t feel safe then don’t do it but I would suggest things will be OK. I was super sensitive to everything going on around me and kept things slow, starting around the quiet streets. Keep a better than good distance from the car in front, read the traffic well ahead and if you have to slam those brakes on then just do it. It might hurt a little but less than a collision. At 12 weeks your tendon should be pretty well knitted up so a re-rupture is less likely. It took a couple of weeks to feel comfortable driving again.

  8. deana on August 3, 2011 11:27 am

    Thanks Stuart! Your encouragement was just what I needed. I went out right after reading that and gave it a try around my neighbourhood (oops, Canadian spelling. I mean NEIGHBORHOOD :-) ). You’re right, it was not as difficult as I thought. As for the dorsiflexion, I find if I lift my whole foot to change pedals, rather than flex, I’m fine.

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