I’ve been postponing writing while I’ve tried to get the courage to take a photo of my foot, but I’m not there yet. Even with a scar running from my heel to my calf, I’m still so vain that I won’t let anyone see my foot until my beauty therapist will wax it - and on Thursday, she still refused! So I still have a really handsome furry boot coming halfway up my left leg!
So what did I mean when I said that my foot was pretty? To say that my surgeon (let’s call him Dr D) was astonished when he saw how good my foot looked when he saw it last Tuesday, for my 8 weeks-post-op appointment, would not be an exaggeration. Even I’m not totally grossed out. I had not been doing anything but elevating it as much as I could, which has been:
a. at least half the weekend;
b. every day from 7pm until I go to sleep at around midnight;
c. 2/5 weekdays almost the entire day (I’ve pushed working at home to 2 days a week, in a very unofficial way!).
Dr D told me that I could go straight to FWB. “Really? You know I haven’t even put it on the ground yet, right?”. He was for serious! I can’t describe how liberated I felt - and that was before he said that in the next three weeks, he wanted me to go from FWB in the boot with 2 crutches, to FWB in the boot with 1 crutch, to FWB in the boot, to no boot but to two really sweet chunky heeled John Fluevogs I bought when I first tore my achilles (admittedly, he didn’t remember that they were Fluevogs).
Honestly, that’s a tip for the ladies: John Fleuvog makes great, supportive, nicely heeled shoes. They are expensive, but you can often get them on special. Actually, they make mens shoes also. Check them out online: http://www.fluevog.com/
Anyway, after 8 weeks hopping around on crutches, it is a great relief to be able to put my foot on the ground and to even pretend to walk (but for the crutches I’m leaning on for support). My PT isn’t sure whether or not we are going to make this all of a sudden ambitious goal of my surgeon, but we’re going to try. When I saw my PT (let’s call him “A”) last, my foot was at -3 degrees. A told me that it was at -21 when I started, and if it is to get to where my right foot is, it’s got to get to +19. So I’m almost halfway there.
My daily stretching routine is:
a. flexing and pointing my foot up and down for 5 sets of 20 slow and 20 fast, alternating sets lying down with my leg in the air and then sitting down with my leg ahead of me. When doing the sets on my back, I need to hold my leg up in the air for 5 minutes;
b. foot exercises with a blue band, pushing right with left resistance, left with right resistance, and back with forward resistance; and
c. doing this crazy new thing whereby I try to isolate my big toe and move it to the right 20 times, and then isolate my left toe and move it to the left 20 times (activates foot muscles); and
d. holding both ends of a towel (one in my right hand and one in my left), looping it around the bottom of my foot, and then pulling my foot back to get the biggest stretch that I can, and holding for a minute, twice.
I do a, b and c at least twice a day, and d. 5 times a day. Most times, I now rub some mederma (scar reduction) gel into the wound (but for that little part that is yet to completely close up).
Every night, I wrap my foot up in a bandage creating something of a splint to hold my foot in a not-quite-uncomfortable stretch, and I unwrap it each morning (unless I do what I did last night, which is unwrap it in the middle of the night because the bandage was digging into the palm (?) of my foot!
I go to see my PT on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. I started on the exercise bike on Wednesday: I lasted 4 minutes before my achilles was exhausted (I never knew that you used your achilles to ride a bike - I’m quickly realizing that you use your achilles to do almost everything!). A told me that prior to each PT session, I should now come in for heat and a ride of the bike. A wanted 10 minutes on Friday. I did 15! I’m planning to up it by at least 5 minutes per session from now on. Maybe this week I’ll get to break a sweat!
How My Surgeon Dealt with a Shrunken Achilles
When I saw Dr D on Tuesday, I remembered to ask him “what it had looked like in there”. He explained that because my injury was 9 weeks old, two things had occurred:
a. there was a lot of scar tissue around my achilles; and
b. the two ends of my achilles had shrunk away from eachother.
Both of these issues had to be dealt with. The first was easy: he just scraped away the scar tissue, leaving “fresh” achilles with which to play. The second was more difficult. The two ends of my achilles were too far away from each other to just be pulled towards each other; they wouldn’t make it. So he did something that he assured me was a recognized surgical technique: Imagine one of those elastic resistance bands we use for strength building. Cut it in two horizontally, and put the pieces a foot apart from each other. If you stretch them, they won’t meet each other. But if you cut a “V” shape in the top one, you’ll be able to pull it down to meet the bottom one. That’s the technique: the surgeon basically inflicts a second acute tear on your achilles (albeit a much prettier one than you did yourself) to enable the two ends to be brought to meet each other and sewn together. The new tear is also sewn back together. Both tears heal at the same time (although I’m guessing that the second one heals quicker). Interesting!
I found out at PT on Friday that I’d not been putting enough weight on my foot; A told me to go for it more. Was initially apprehensive but eventually quite excited to be given permission to do so. Yesterday, I walked from St Marks Avenue and Flatbush to the Prospect Park market (and back), and in the evening I walked from 6th Ave & W15th St to W23rd between 5th & 6th. Felt just fine. I’ve spent most of today working on the couch. When walking, I’m trying to rely on my crutches as little as possible, walking just like a regular person (apart from the props!). I’m finding that my ankle is a bit thicker than it has been when it was not suffering under the burden of my (now increased) weight, but that must be to be expected. I’m told that once I build my calf muscle back up again, the swelling will subside.
I’m finding myself looking foward to my PT sessions every couple of days, even though A spends at least 5-10 minutes each time digging his fingers into my scar to break up the scar tissue underneath. Now that I can ride a bike, I’m scared at how much I’m looking forward to it! Maybe tomorrow I’ll bring my Ipod . . . !