6-month anniversary!

November 4th, 2011

It’s hard to believe I got this far. I remember sitting on that hospital bed on May 4, trying to hold back tears as the surgeon told me it would be about 3 months to walking without a cast, 6 months to functioning comfortably, and a year to full recovery. I know it’s been a while since I’ve been here; life is busy once again, but I thought I would post an update. I’ll be forever grateful for the support and information I found here.

If I can offer one tip: don’t rush it. *There is no way to speed up the healing of a tendon*, and it is not worth the agony if you re-rupture. I remember thinking I HAD to get moving again, I was frustrated at the pace, and annoyed with my doctor for not letting me out of my cast when I knew there were others here who had moved to two-shoes sooner. It didn’t mean they healed faster. The risk of re-rupture starts to drop at 12 weeks post-op, and he was keeping me as safe as possible until that time. I know how those weeks and months seem to be stretching interminably ahead of you, but it’s really not a lifetime. I feel silly now for being so whiny about it. Get back to your life as you’re able to: arrange for rides, do your work from home, go on outings, take your scheduled vacations … get on with things, and soon enough you’ll find they are getting back to normal.

I will add one caveat to the “don’t rush” tip: Studies have shown early PROTECTED weight-bearing is good for the tendon and even more so, for your quality of life. Do try to get into a walking cast, and do aim to be PWB from about two weeks post-op or as soon as possible. Read the studies, talk to your doctor; you will be much, much happier once you can ditch those crutches.

Do try and keep your hips level. Even with my attempts to keep things at the same height, I had plenty of low back pain because I was way out of alignment in the boot. Thanks to a chiropractor, my massage therapist and plenty of stretching exercises I am almost back to normal.

So here’s where I’m at now. For the most part, I have very little pain. First thing in the morning and when it’s cold, the tendon still feels tight. Otherwise, I am walking fine, and recently added jogging back into my repertoire. This weekend, if the weather holds, I’m going hiking.

I’m still going to PT once a month: she checks my gait — it took a while to get rid of the limp — adds more exercises (this time it was skipping), and does massage for the scar tissue (ouch!), ultrasound and mobility exercises.

I don’t have issues with swelling anymore, but the tendon is still about twice as thick as my good one. My PT says the scar tissue will continue to form, pull away and reform until 10-12 months post-op (which, btw, is what hurts when I do have burning or twinges of pain). These next six months are still important in getting it back down as close to normal as I can. That’s why I’m also regularly seeing a massage therapist (double ouch!), and continuing faithfully with my PT exercises.

As I thought it would, yoga has been amazing – exactly what I needed. I started with Restorative as soon as I was allowed out of the cast. Restorative yoga takes place lying down on the mat, in fully supported poses. It helped ease the alignment problems I was having in my spine, and just to feel calm and healthy again. Now back in my hot class for 2 months, I’m finding the chair poses (squats) and balancing poses to be working wonders for the tendon and calf, and my physiotherapist agrees that since going back to yoga my progress has been excellent. Next I will return to “flow” or vinyasa yoga. I have left it longer because of the poses that stress the Achilles (like downward facing dog for any yogis out there), but now that I’m at the six-month mark, I feel ready to push a little further.

Finally, SHOES. Today I’m wearing boots with heels. (Yay!) Granted, they are only a couple of inches high, and thicker than the designer heels I’m aiming to get back into by 12 months post-op … but I’m getting there. My physiotherapist has green-lighted this occasional wearing of heels because she knows I’m not ready to give them up for life, so it’s time to start getting used to them again. She doesn’t want me to overdo it though; the tendon could still heal short. So I have to mix it up. I did plenty of research, by the way, and it’s true: Crocs are by far the most comfortable shoes while you’re in recovery. Thankfully, they have many styles other than the original clogs, for men and women. I now have a pair of slip-on flats, a pair of sneakers and a great pair of boots — I could not have seen myself saying this a year ago, but I love them. Nothing else comes close. You can order them online if you don’t have a Crocs store that carries all the styles where you live.

OK, that’s it for me. Hang in there, newbies, it will go by much quicker than you think.

Happy healing everyone, and thank you for being here.

Kicking my (boot) habit - 13 weeks

August 4th, 2011

For the past three months it has seemed all I can think about is getting back in shoes, and doing the work I need to get strong and “normal” again. Well, here I am. My physical therapist seemed unimpressed with my plan to use the boot for excursions and uneven terrain. “You’re ready to ditch it,” she said. “It’s time to get that leg moving.” It is just as challenging as I imagined it would be, but I’m not complaining. I said to my husband last night: if my injury happened yesterday, and the result was exactly this stage I’m at now, walking in shoes but with several months of work ahead to get back my strength and flexibility, I would likely be depressed. But after three months in a cast/boot, the work ahead feels welcome. And I’m happy that when it comes right down to it, I haven’t wallowed in my misery. I may not be the cheeriest ray of sunshine, but I’ve gotten on with things and I try not to whine.

Here’s where I’m at.

First up: my flexibility. My surgeon’s protocol was early into a boot and weight-bearing (10 days!), but not officially into two-shoes until 12 weeks, when the risk of re-rupture starts to drop. The upside: a very solid tendon. The downside: a very solid tendon . . . my ankle is not moving much at all, which means my walking gait is pretty screwy. My PT, who I like, says we will first work on flexibility with daily warming and stretching, plus practice on a rocker board. Once we have flexibility back on track, we’ll work on strength. Don’t think my eyebrows have shot into my hairline as many times in 45 minutes as they did at my last PT appointment, when she demonstrated the stretches I am to do. All of them are activities/exercises that would leave me feeling nauseous even to think about over the past few months. Now here I am stretching it out daily. Amazing! I also pedaled away on the exercise bike at the gym yesterday for 45 minutes, which left my ankle feeling much looser, so I plan to do more of that.

Other than tightness in the morning and after periods of inactivity, I am able to get around without too much of a limp, even in bare feet. But my foot, heel, ankle and tendon all start to throb after 20 minutes of walking/being on my feet, and after an hour the swelling gets painful, so long walks are still dicey. I’ve tried several different running shoes, slip-on Sketchers, Birkenstock-style sandals; none have really solved it. Until, I finally caved and went to check out Crocs. I have never been a fan of the original style, but they do have others. I bought some simple black slip-ons with that signature spongy sole and aaahhh, relief! As an aside, they do make men’s versions that are reasonably stylish as well.

I was still driving left-footed until last week. I didn’t trust the strength in my repaired right tendon to work the pedals, especially if I had to brake suddenly. After some encouragement here (thanks Stuart!) I decided to give it a shot on quiet streets nearby, and found it is much less an issue than I expected it to be. It’s true: modern cars don’t really require that much strength for the pedals and though I find I need to lift my foot a bit to switch from gas to brake, it’s fine. So I’m back to driving “regular foot” instead of goofy (snowboard lingo), and that’s a relief. I suspect it’s even good exercise for the ankle and tendon.

My fear
This might be my biggest issue at the moment! My boys are at bike camp right now and I hate picking them up. Small children and bicycles send the red flags and warning signals into overdrive, as does the grocery story and all those negligent shoppers just waiting to drive their carts into the back of my leg. Clearly, I’m going to have to get over this — but my mind is constantly spinning over all the potential landmines and hazards that lie ahead of, and more importantly, behind me.

Pain relief?
After weeks of being relatively pain-free I am finding that all the extra movement, exercise and PT is leaving me pretty sore by the end of the day -­ which I’m happy about! My PT assures me that my repair is good and strong now and I’m unlikely to rerupture; these twinges I feel are NOT the same as the slight twinges I felt right before the injury. And this soreness will lead to improvements. But to make the rehab easier I’ve been taking a (regular strength) Tylenol when the swelling and pain get to be too much (as well as elevating and icing, of course). Any thoughts on this? Is Advil still a no-no for an almost healed tendon? Just wondering what my best option might be.

Thanks for any feedback. Happy healing everyone.

ATR Jeopardy

July 28th, 2011

Just read that Alex Trebek ruptured his Achilles chasing a woman who was robbing his hotel room. The news story said he “is expected to be in a cast for six weeks.” Yikes. That ain’t the half of it. Should we break the bad news to him?

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
(http://achillesblog.com/atrpt.php). 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.

9 1/2 weeks. (Sorry. Nothing like the movie.)

July 11th, 2011

I don’t know why I even have to show up at the clinic for my monthly check-in with my surgeon. He has a formula and he is not deviating from it. He phones it in. Twelve weeks, that’s when he decrees it’s time to put shoes on. As he demonstrated the danger move for my tendon, the “push-off” that your back foot does while walking, I decided against telling him that I’ve been wearing shoes around the house for more than a week, and though I’m very cautious, my push-off is feeling pretty good. I left feeling irritated (again). I waited an hour for that. This time he didn’t write a note for the PT. So I’ll just tell her that weight-bearing is allowed now, and I am to take “the next steps” in my therapy, and just see where that gets me. Don’t get me wrong. I have great respect for him and for his training and skill. I do understand that the tendon is still fragile and requires A LOT of strengthening before walking in shoes (to be honest, some of you five- and six-weekers just out of a cast are totally freaking me out) but I’m at 10 weeks this Friday, I have been working with my ROM exercises, elastics, towels, then standing/shifting weight for SEVEN weeks now. I wish he would tailor his approach depending on the patient and their progress, but I guess he prefers to wait until the magic 12 weeks, when the risk for re-rupture starts to drop.

On a happier note, I met a winemaker from New Zealand recently who had an ATR four years ago. He told me that it didn’t REALLY improve — get stronger and more flexible — until he got back to his yoga practice about one year after his surgery. Now it is as good as the other one. He said in hindsight, he thinks he should have added it in much sooner, like around six months post-op. I’m ecstatic. In March I did a 30-day yoga challenge and felt stronger, fitter, more toned (not to mention calmer) than I had in years. I was a total convert, and was crushed to think I wouldn’t be able to get back to it for a long while. I even emailed my studio and asked what class would be suitable once I’m ready to return. (They said start with Restorative Yoga, followed by Yin, Pilates and Hot. None of them do too many series/poses that stress the Achilles. Vinyasa will have to wait until later.) I hope to start in about six weeks.

The best news of all is that my four-month long regimen of probiotics and vitamins may be paying off. The past couple of years had been one long blur of infection/antibiotic cycles: sinusitis, bronchitis, Strep, repeat. It may or may not have contributed to the ATR (see Cipro/Levaquin debate), but even before my injury I was looking for ways to strengthen my immune system and had started working with a naturopath. I was disappointed when I got Strep throat on Thursday, and then wondered if my self-diagnosis might possibly be wrong when it started to improve on Saturday. On Sunday at the clinic, my doctor said she thought it was strep throat, but since I appeared to be on the mend, no antibiotics needed. Still waiting for the result of the throat culture, but if that’s the case, I feel a bit like I won the lottery!

Oh my. Yoga and naturopathic medicine. What’s happened to me?


July 2nd, 2011

This morning I was standing in bare feet, shifting my weight forward and back, hanging onto the counter and rolling my foot up as directed by my PT, and my husband said, “Why not try it in shoes, just to see how that feels?” So I did. And let me tell you, IT FEELS GREAT. And I know I said I wouldn’t try and walk without the boot, but then I took a step. And another one. And then I started crying (happy tears). Now I’ve been doing slow and careful laps around the kitchen, and showing off my scrawny, walking leg to my kids, our tenant … anyone who will pay attention. I’m going to go finish my home therapy now (towel scrunching toe move, scar massage and vibration with the handheld massager) and then I will put my boot back on and go grocery shopping.

Funny thing about perspective.

July 1st, 2011

When I asked my surgeon about his protocol at my 10-day post-op appointment, he said “Every doctor will tell you something different. Another surgeon in this same hospital would come in here and plan a totally different treatment for you. But mine is quite aggressive, and I think that’s what you want. It has worked well for my patients, I get good results.” And I guess when I read stories here of people who are casted for weeks or months with no weight bearing, he is aggressive. But yesterday I had my first appointment/consultation with a new PT (I wasn’t super happy with my first), and she looked at his instructions and said “Dr. X is pretty conservative. He doesn’t take his patients out of the boot until 12 weeks post-op.”


Anyway, I am thrilled with this new PT, except that she’s quite a bit further away, harder to get an appointment with and is more expensive (which means my insurance won’t cover as many appointments). My GP recommended her, but I couldn’t get a quick appt. so I had booked in with a PT across the street from my office. The first one was lovely, but she was following Dr. X’s instructions to the letter, only allowed to flex with theraband, no weight bearing w/o the boot. This new PT immediately got a sense of my frustrations. She said my tendon looks good, though the scar is a bit “sticky” with adhesions, so I am to do scar massage often to try and loosen it from the tissue underneath. My range of motion is also good. She added:
- seated heel lifts, to get my foot and the tendon used to the motion of rolling up through the foot from the floor.
- Crunching a towel up under my toes.
- Standing up without the boot (!!!) and rocking, very gently forward and back, side to side, again, to get my foot and tendon used to movement again.
- Standing and holding onto a counter and lifting my heel, rolling my foot up.
She also advised me to add an orthopedic footbed into my boot. She said it’s just so flat in there, not good for the rest of my foot, and for many people they come out of the boot and immediately get plantar fasciitis. Did that — now I have to figure out how to compensate for the extra height in my other shoe. Again.

She also said — and I share this with anyone else who was feeling frustrated with their first few PT appointments — that there just isn’t much we can do until the boot comes off. But once it does, boy, we’re going to town. So she sent me home with all these new exercises and advice. If I get to ditch the boot after my next doctor appointment July 11, I will see her the same week. If not, I am to cancel that appointment, and schedule one for after the 12-week mark. She’s trying to save up my insurance money for when it will be most useful. I’m very happy I did a little shopping around.

One thing I’m really enjoying about this injury: every nurse, doctor, surgeon, PT I talk to says, at some point, “ … because you’re so young …” Ha! I turned 40 last year, and felt as old as the hills. It cracks me up that when it comes to this injury I seem to be some kind of spring chicken.

I know many of you are from the US (and the UK and New Zealand), but I still hope you have a happy Canada Day today!

7 weeks post-op. Progress.

June 25th, 2011

I had the second of my PT appointments today. It was fine, but I don’t feel like it’s moving me forward much. The referral form from the surgeon said I could do “active dorsiflexion exercises” (flexing my foot), including with a theraband, and “passive plantarflexion” (pointing my foot). In other words, I am to flex my foot, sometimes against an elastic; and my PT is allowed to move my foot into a pointed position, but I’m not supposed to do it myself. The form also said I am not allowed to bear weight without my air cast on. If the surgeon had spent more time with me at that last appointment I would have told him that I have already been doing dorsiflexion and plantarflexion exercises, circles in both directions and writing the alphabet with my toe for several weeks, and my mobility is quite good (even my PT was surprised at how easily my ankle and foot are moving). I think I’m ready for a bit more. Plus, I notice some patients were starting to get weaned out of the boot at 8 weeks (next Friday for me), but I don’t see my surgeon again until 10 weeks. But my PT is following his instructions to the letter. Since I don’t want to pay to do exercises that are even less ambitious than what I’m doing at home, I am only going once a week. I chose this PT because it is across the street from my office, but my GP recommended I see another who has done a lot of work with ATRs. I made an appt. to see her next week. If she says the same thing, and would stick to his instructions exactly, then I’ll keep going across the street for convenience. (This PT is killer with the massage, after all.) On the other hand, if she thinks I could do a bit more than I’ll travel the extra distance to work with her. I’m not trying to be a difficult patient, but I want the best possible outcome, and a lot of what I’ve read seems to suggest earlier ROM and weight-bearing result in a stronger tendon long-term.

Aches & pains
The most significant of these, since ditching the crutches completely, has been my lower back on the side opposite to the injured leg. I’m certain it relates to the difference in height between my air cast and shoe. I have been playing around with all my boots and shoes and the heel lifts out of the cast. I know, I shouldn’t care about appearances, but there have been a couple of combinations that, while promising mechanically, were far too humiliating to leave the house in. The heel lifts weren’t comfortable in my other shoe, they dug into the sole of my foot and made it uncomfortable to walk, which defeated the purpose. I think I may have it figured out now. I bought inexpensive Dr. Scholl’s “back pain relief” orthotics and put one into my sneaker on top of the factory insert (I wish they sold them as singles!). Now that the heel lifts are out of my air cast I feel like my legs are about the same height. Last night I went out for dinner with friends, and wore a dressy shoe with a short wedge heel, since my sneaker would have looked even sillier with a dress. That also worked fine. One other minor pain, my big toe (injured leg) is sore near the nail bed and I can’t figure out why. At first I thought it was pressure from the seam on my socks, but I’ve adjusted that and it isn’t better. I’ve also loosened the strap across the top of my foot, but that’s not helping. I tried a blister pad covering the area and that helps somewhat, so I’ll just roll with that for a while.

The scar
The Mepiform I wrote about previously certainly seems to be reducing the scar formation. From what I’ve read online, silicone has been used in scar management since the ’80s, and apparently, it works by hydrating scars so that they soften and flatten over time. The bottom stretch of my scar that was raised/puckered because of the way the skin had been pulled together and stitched is now flat and almost all of it seems to be healing up fine. But I almost think the Mepiform is too effective at softening the skin. There’s a small patch at the top of the scar that was healing fine at first, but then became irritated (perhaps by an ingrown hair?) and I think the silicone in the mepiform actually made it worse — it doesn’t allow it to scab up and heal. I took it off for a few days to let that section dry out, and it’s already looking better than in the photo. I will put the Mepiform back on in a day or two.

Uploaded photos below.

In my birthday shoes last year (I'm on the right). These are the shoes I cried over in the ER.

In my birthday shoes last year (I'm on the right). These are the shoes I cried over in the ER.

3 weeks post-op - Frankenscar.

This is my Frankenscar and swollen ankle at 3 weeks post-op. What ankle bone?

7 weeks post-op. The Mepiform is working!

7 weeks post-op. The Mepiform is working!

My sad, shrivelled little calf.

My sad, shrivelled little calf.

Finally, driving
Chuck, I did it! At 7 weeks post-op everyone in my life is fed up with driving me around . . . but no more than I am fed up at being stuck without wheels. I wasn’t especially worried about most of the naysayers, but my husband was not keen for me to try driving left-footed, and since they are also his children I’d be driving around, I bided my time. But this week his schedule at the firehall meant he couldn’t drive us, and my parents were not available, so he finally relented and gave me the thumbs up to give it a try. I went out several times on my own first. There is no console in my Honda CRV and it has a cupholder/tray that drops out of the way, so I slide over and jam my right foot in there. It’s a trick to get in and out, but once in, not too uncomfortable (not to be done in a skirt though, I realized quickly). At first I was WAY too heavy on the brake with my left foot, but otherwise I figured it out quickly. It’s really not hard. The main concern raised by everyone else — that I would step on the gas instead of the brake — is quite unlikely. The gas pedal is the more difficult one to get to for the left foot. And as I suspected, 22 years of driving experience holds true no matter which foot you drive with, my ability to read traffic and follow the rules etc. has not been affected. I’m going a bit more slowly than I would usually, to adapt to the change and because I don’t want to risk even a fender bender or getting pulled over. But oh, the freedom! Yesterday I dropped the boys off at their respective schools and picked up groceries. Tomorrow I plan to hit the gym on my lunch break. It feels incredible to be getting back to my usual routines, and maintaining a constant supply of milk for my coffee in the morning, rather than running out every few days (and nagging my husband to pick it up), will be a giant relief. It was definitely the little things that were driving me nuts!

So … onward. Happy healing everyone!

Six-week anniversary.

June 15th, 2011

What a dubious distinction that is. Hard to believe it has been that long since that morning I decided on a dance class for my day off, instead of my usual kick-ass hot yoga. I took the dance class using a Groupon; it was a good deal for something I only did a few times a year anyway (it’s been two decades since I did ballet professionally). I’m still kicking myself. I know my tendon could have, perhaps WOULD have, ruptured at any time, but it still bugs me that it happened doing something I am so ambivalent about now. It wasn’t even a good class.

I saw my surgeon on Monday, 5 weeks and 3 days after surgery. They don’t spend much time, do they? Next time I will write questions down, because for some reason I can never remember what I want to ask. He looked at the incision, said it looked good, felt my tendon, said I can start PT and to see him again in 4 weeks. On the referral form he said I can only bear weight while wearing the boot, and I can do gentle ROM exercises with a theraband, He also told me that I’m fine to ditch the crutches. The truth is, I dumped the crutches three weeks ago and I have been doing ROM exercises myself at home for almost as long. (I haven’t been sleeping in the boot for two weeks now, either. Lack of sleep was doing me in.) I want to move faster, I want shoes, I want to walk and drive again. Summer is so short here in Vancouver, and it’s killing me to leave my mountain bike and paddleboard in the garage, and to be stuck sitting on my butt. But I know I have to be patient — I am far more terrified of re-rupture than of missing out on some fun, so I’ll wait. I promise.

I walked (limped) the two blocks back to my office from the hospital and stopped in at a physiotherapy clinic on the way and made an appt. for tomorrow. Would have done it today, but it’s my day off and I can’t get a ride there. I will post again after my first session.

Thanks for letting me kill some time. I’m trying not to think too much about Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final tonight. The entire city is excited and about ready to come unglued I think. We love our hockey and a Cup, after 40 years, would be epic. But the news coverage and commentary on the series has been getting toxic. We’re so unused to being near the top that getting hammered by the media feels lousy. (And I say that as a journalist myself. The media sucks!) It is spoiling the fun, to be honest. So I promised myself yesterday that I wasn’t going to read/watch any more stories about hockey. It’s my day off, so I’m doing some easy chores around the house and reading Achillesblog.com until face-off at 5 p.m. PST.


PS. I bookmarked Doug53’s blog (Walking in my shoes within four weeks) and I’ve been following some of his suggestions for rehab, with the huge and obvious difference being that I am in my air cast and he was walking in shoes early. But he did suggest a vibrating massager, he pointed to one study that shows the application of vibration while stretching the tendon might lesson atrophy of the calf. So I’m doing it, it feels great, and it makes sense to me that the increase in circulation would also be beneficial for healing. Just thought I would pass that on.

4 weeks post-op. Back from Vegas.

June 7th, 2011

In April three friends and I made a plan to revisit Vegas — a reunion weekend for the four of us since we did a similar trip a few years back. We are all moms of young kids and these getaways are gold to us. We had it planned: June 2 to ­ 5, cocktails by the pool, maybe a show, a little clubbing, lots of shopping, loads of laughs . . . so of course I was dismayed when I got the news about my 6-month recovery. Although my airfare and hotel were not refundable or transferable I offered to bow out; I couldn’t imagine my girlfriends dragging my suitcase/stuff as I hobbled around Sin City.

They wouldn’t hear of it. So on Thursday, I packed my crutches and away we flew.

Here’s how we did it.
• My friend Susanne, a manager who is exceptionally good at organizing people, asked the airline to have a wheelchair waiting for us at check-in. She pushed me to the gate — so we could meet the other two in our party for a pre-flight cocktail — but airline staff would have taken me/us if we’d wanted. This worked best on the return flight; a staff member pushed the wheelchair and took us through all the shortcuts to clear security in Las Vegas.
• I used my crutches minimally. I am fully weight-bearing now, but I’m slow and I get tired, so it was easiest to either get wheeled around (for shopping or sightseeing), or to use the crutches for short distances (from our room to the pool or casino). The hotel let us sign out a wheelchair at no charge and we were free to take this wherever we wanted, in taxis and down the strip.
• Before the trip I crutched around the block from my office to the medical supply store and chatted with a sales associate there. I bought some clear, waterproof medical tape for swimming. Although my incision is pretty well healed, I don’t like to think about what kind of bacteria might be floating in a Las Vegas pool . . . yuck. I was also nervous about going un-booted (I think someone here compared it to taking a turtle out of its shell) I worried I might get kicked by an enthusiastic kid, or taken out by a drunken Jersey Shore hopeful. But it worked out well. I walked up to the ‘lazy river’ in the air cast, and my friends acted like blockers when I was slipping in and out of the water and even while we were floating around on our inflatable inner tubes. Moving my ankle around gently in the water felt terrific, and it was easy enough to dry my leg off and slide the cast back on when I got out of the water. It might seem a bit pathetic to say this: but swimming was probably my highlight of the trip.
• As an aside: at the medical supply store I also bought some Mepiform. Has anyone tried this? It’s a thin, flexible, self-adherent gel sheet that apparently, over time will help soften and flatten scars. I know you told me not to worry, Norm, but I do have that addiction to pretty shoes. Aside from vanity, I have read a few people saying that shoes rubbing on their scars became an issue later, so if it helps to cut down on that I’ll be happy. I just cut a little strip and stick it over my scar. It will need to be changed roughly every 7 days. It’s a bit pricy ($20 for a sheet that I expect will last a couple of months), so if you’re not concerned about your scar, probably not worth the money. I will let you all know how it goes.
• Finally, and I know this is basic common sense, but not necessarily easy in Vegas: I tried not to overdo the drinking. Obviously I didn’t want to take a tipsy misstep and re-rupture. And because I was sharing a room with one of my pals and didn’t want to be undoing the Velcro on my air cast all night (taking it on and off to use the washroom), this paid off in multiple ways. I still had a super time; I have wonderful, funny, exceptionally helpful friends. Next time we travel I plan to be fully functional, but it still turned out to be a great trip all around, even if I did lose $20 on the penny slots.
Worth noting: we’re everywhere! As I was checking in at the airport to return home, a stranger in line asked if I had blown out my Achilles. I wondered how he could know that, until I noticed he had the identical Ossur air cast to mine. He is a fireman from Victoria (our provincial capital, just a short ferry ride from Vancouver). He is nine weeks post-op, did it walking off the soccer field, and looking forward to going cast-less starting next week. It’s an unfortunately small world when it comes to
Achilles tendon ruptures, apparently.


PS. Go Canucks Go! (Not letting last night’s game 3 blowout in the Stanley Cup final get me down.)