2 months post op….Riding again!

November 2nd, 2010

I got my cast off finally, just over 2 weeks ago. What a relief! I had to use my crutches to leave the hospital! Very weak at first, but have been gaining strength & flexibility daily. I’ve been having physio 3 X weekly..about an hour each time & the stretches & massage are becoming less painful each visit. I’ve carried on with my gym work (3X a week) & last week in addition to the bike, I got back on the cross trainer too. I started with 3 wedges, worn in the heel of my trainers; my surgeon did not advocate the use of a boot, but straight back into 2 shoes after my cast was removed. I am already down to 2 wedges (’talonettes’ in French)& walking almost normally again…with still just a slight limp. Walking is painful over any distance more than about half a mile; my heel starts to hurt; but this also is getting easier daily. Today I went out for an hour’s bike road on the road & have suffered no ill effects at all; the terrain is quite hilly where we live, so it wasn’t effortless & really got me tired. I’m riding my horse again too: to start with I rode without stirrups as using them put too much pressure on the achilles; but it’s 2 weeks later; & yesterday I successfully attempted some canter work again!My horse is slowly getting fit again with me.

I have my fantastic Hand Free Crutch (http://www.iwalk-free.com/) for sale if anyone’s interested! I spent £300 on it……so; make me a sensible offer. It was the most brilliant piece of kit for continuing my busy life as far as possible, normally. I run a B & B & holiday cottage business in France, so using the iWalk I could cook, serve guests, make beds & even look after my horses; it really did do exactly what it said on the box! I can post this from the UK next week if anyone’s in the market for a top invention. I only used it for a month; it is almost as good as new & I can supply photos as required.

So: I’m carrying on with icing my leg 2 to 4 times daily; stretching & exercising. Hoping to be playing tennis again by the end of Jan! Right now moving house, from the North to the very far South of France. I’m very grateful for my health & hope to have a full recovery from this injury, in due course.

More exercise you can do whilst in a cast….The Gym!

September 16th, 2010

I waited until I’d had my stitches out & my cast changed from the original one, to a lighter weight, resin / fibre cast, before starting back at the gym. Yesterday was my 1st hospital appointment & they took off the original post op cast & I finally got to see my scar, which is only about 2 or 3 inches long & very neat; I was impressed. My surgeon re-cast my lower leg, with the foot in a more natural position; I’d say it’s at 4 O’Clock if my knee is pointing to 12 O’Clock (if that makes sense!). It didn’t feel uncomfortable being re-adjusted up into this position; my old cast had broken down a fair bit & my foot already had quite a lot more movement than I would think was recommended at this stage, so I was glad to have the new protection on to prevent any more over-use. I am a very active person & always prone to doing more than is allowed! I think if I was in a boot, I’d be risking my new achilles! Also, driving home was easier with the more natural position & to celebrate, I swam again in the afternoon. My French surgeon looked rather surprised when I told her I’d been swimming already, several times, but didn’t tell me this was a bad thing, which I took as a good sign to carry on.

So, with my protective latex cast cover, I’ve swum most days & can now do breaststroke using both legs equally & front & back crawl & i’m swimming for around half an hour each time. I then continue, time permitting, with aqua exercise moves from my days as an aqua aerobics teacher….I can highly recommend ”Fantastic Water Workouts” by MaryBeth Pappas Gaines which has been my bible for the last 15 years….you can still buy this book on Amazon & there are dozens of brilliant floating exercises you can use, even with the leg in a cast.

So; today I ventured back into the gym: on my crutches & with my one training shoe on the right foot. I got a few funny looks & had to give my ‘Je me suis cassé le tendon d’Achille’ explanation a couple of times, but mostly I was left in peace. I didn’t try the stationary bike, although I will try it tomorrow…..but I managed to do plenty of upper body work, with free weights & weight machines, stomach & core work & also legs (hamstring curls, with most of the emphasis on the good leg), inner & outer thigh squeezes & quadricep leg extensions & then a good stretch out afterwards, obviously being careful to moderate any stretches which could have pulled on the AT.

I felt hugely encouraged after this session, which only lasted about half an hour, but left me feeling invigorated. I did have to have a lie down on the sofa this afternoon! I read Tom’s blog on exercise just before writing this & just wanted other sufferers to realise that life doesn’t have to be on hold while you are recovering: you can keep the rest of your body strong & gradually move onto cardio, once you can ride a bike as well.

If you have never used a gym before & the whole idea intimidates you, then get in a pool instead….swimming feels wonderful & I never want to get out as once back on land, I’m heavy & cumbersome on my crutches again. But not for much longer! As my cast is going to be on for another month (my surgeon looked blank when I suggested ‘une botte’ & just asked me to bring training shoes & heel inserts with me in a month’s time for my next visit: she gave me a prescription for the heel inserts from the pharmacy), I decided to buy the iWalk Free Hands Free Crutch which was ordered from the UK yesterday. My crutches are my biggest woe; they hurt my hands, my arms are bruised & they are so tempting to ignore & hobble instead, short distances indoors, which I’ve expressly been told by the surgeon, NOT to do. Hopefully when my husband returns from the UK to France tomorrow, he’ll have the new ‘peg leg’ with him; I’m VERY excited about this! Watch this space for an update once I’m using it!If it weren’t for this site, I wouldn’t even know of it’s existence.

Good luck to all you fellow sufferers…I hope many of you will be inspired to use exercise to save you from going mad in a cast, which I know I would be, if I couldn’t do it. If you cannot get to a pool, then buy a set of free weights, or use bags of sand & use them at home & do stomach work on a floor mat; anything, rather than sitting around feeling like your life’s over!

Day 12…..more swimming & waterproof cast cover info

September 12th, 2010

Today was bright & sunny & warm & I swam again in the Valognes outdoor pool; this time for a good 45 minute session. I keep telling myself, ”You are not ill, you are merely incapacitated” & I ignore the interested stares of the French (they are a nation of starers in any case) as I gingerly negotiated my way thru’ the changing rooms & onto the pool side in my bikini & enormous, blue latex cast cover. For me, being able to swim is an absolute treat, after all the sitting around & I stayed in as long as I could, swimming as far as I could, in the knowledge that the moment I got out of the pool, I’d be back to being a cripple, moving labouriously once again, on my crutches. ‘Cripple’ is prob politically incorrect, but since I’m talking about myself, I reserve the right to use this word.

As I swam up & down; slightly more slowly than usual, using mostly just one leg, but moving sleekly though the water & feeling the delicious feeling of (almost) all my muscles & limbs working as they should do & inhaling great lungfuls of beautiful, fresh air, I watched a severely handicapped guy with a terribly deformed body, swimming as well as he was able, in an adjacent lane. His wheel chair was parked alongside my crutches on the side of the pool. His condition is permanent & I felt humbled to be making such a great big fuss over my injury; temporary & tiny in comparison with what he has to deal with, for his entire life.

I’ve added a link (I hope) to the eBay page where I bought my cast cover. It says it’s good for 4 weeks of use: at £21 delivered to France, in just TWO days I think this is a complete bargain. Slightly cheaper in the UK. Hopefully, in another 4 weeks my 2nd cast will be coming off, but if not, I’ll just order a replacement when this one starts to get weak. You just pull it on like a big sock, squeeze the air out as you enter the water & bingo; off you go. Thanks to Norm for his suggestion to put some absorbent cloth like micro-fibre inside the sock to catch any water which does manage to get in, but so far, in 2 uses, it’s been dry as a bone when I’ve taken the cover off again, after showering in the changing rooms.

I don’t know whether being in a cast is an advantage for me: it means I cannot accidentally move my AT whilst swimming: I’m looking for positives in this situation! I guess if you are in a boot, you need to check with your doc. if swimming is a good idea ?

Day 11 post op…..I went swimming!

September 11th, 2010

This morning my waterproof cast cover arrived in the post from a super-fast seller on eBay.co.uk  (precisiondippings, item no. 32055871493)…I was slightly dubious that it would keep the water out; it looks like a giant swimming cap. I got my long suffering husband to drive me to the local pool, help me with my 1st attempt & on my crutches I lowered myself gently in, squeezing all the air out of the cast cover as I entered the water. It works an absolute treat! I swam in various strokes; backstroke using just my good leg was most successful, but I also managed arms only front crawl, one legged breast stroke, plus a number of floating aqua aerobics moves; I tried anything which enabled me to increase my heart rate to above 140 & keep it there, whilst not stressing my achilles repair whatsoever. I checked the cast cover every few mins, but no water at all entered it & the inside was completely dry when I’d finished swimming.

I got out of the pool after this trial which lasted no more than 20 mins…feeling FABULOUS & inspired! I can exercise safely & effectively like this, every day if I so choose……such a relief as all the sitting around has been utterly dreadful.

I’d love to know of other ATR sufferers experiences with swimming; prior to starting rehab……I’ll be back there again tomorrow…………

Is driving 2 days post op, going too fast ?

September 10th, 2010

I had to get back into my car pretty quickly; my husband works away a lot in the UK & next week he’ll be gone again, so only me here to take our son to school. On Thursday, 2 days post op, I had a little test drive of the VW Polo on the drive. It’s a manual (stick shift to our American cousins!) & I successfully managed a couple of 3 point turns without pain.  

I didn’t actually need to drive anywhere until Thurs ( 8 days post op) when I picked up Oscar from school. This I acheived (hooray!) without incident: no pain, no problems whatsoever. I’m wearing my 1st cast with my foot pointing down slightly. On Wed next week I have to get back to the hospital in Cherbourg, so I needed to know I could get there under my own steam as I didn’t know who to ask otherwise.

I’ve ordered a waterproof cast cover  £17.00 from a seller called precisiondippings on ebay.co.uk. After my initial depression at being so disabled & helpless, I decided to stop being so pathetic & get organised. I figured if I could cover the new cast, when I get fitted with it next week, then I could swim lengths of the outdoor pool in the next town, for general body fitness, even if I refrain from using the recovering leg (note my use of words: ‘recovering’ rather than ‘bad’ ; think positive!), I can still exercise the rest of me. This will have the effect of improving my mindset, regaining my general fitness, aiding circulation & giving me a good workout whilst suspended in water; all great for rehab.

I intend to gauge what I can I can’t do with the AT , based on pain levels. As yet, nothing has hurt; as soon as it does start to cause pain, I think I can safely assume I’m going too fast.

OMG I’ve snapped something!

September 10th, 2010

Hello to all fellow ATR sufferers; this is my first blog……..Still getting used to this excellent site & the shorthand ways of writing stuff so please excuse me if I am more longwinded in the way I express myself!

I’ve lived in Normandy, France for three years & I’m a British mother of 3 kids. I’m usually very active: I play tennis 3 or 4 times a week & have coaching & also get involved in local tournaments which is a big thing here in France. I also ride my horse, walk & run with our Jack Russell & swim in the sea as often as possible, until it gets too cold around November, when I switch to the local outdoor heated pool. I run a holiday ‘gite’ business (cottages) & I also take in bed & breakfast guests, for whom I also cook & serve dinner. All of this came to an abrupt end last Monday night whilst playing tennis with my husband; I took a step backwards to reach a backhand shot & BANG! Like many others have said; it felt like I’d been shot in the leg or kicked very, very hard; I was in screaming pain! I knew immediately that I’d broken something, but I thought it was a ligament: I knew very little about my achilles until this incident.

Earlier this year, I did a sideways kind of jump whilst playing tennis & I either ruptured my right cruciate ligament, or tore the meniscus, in a tournament in Jan. Totally different injury; had an MRI scan but was prescribed a course of physiotherapy, rather than surgery. Physio (called kinaesitherapute in French) is taken very seriously here & I undertook 3 sessions of an hour each, 3 times a week to strengthen the muscles around the joint. I also used a jointed knee brace so that I could get back to tennis more quickly…..this did have the knock on effect of making me rely more on my healthy left leg, until during a two day tournament in the summer, I was suffering from fairly agonising left ankle pain, from overusing the left leg to brake etc. as I was trying to save the right, injured leg. It has occurred to me that over-using my left leg in this way, compensating as I was, could have been conducive to eventually causing the achilles to snap ? However, the bummer was that when I actually broke the AT, I was playing non-competitively; just having a knock about & not doing particularly dynamic moves at all.

This is not the 1st time that I’ve broken a ligament; my horse reared up & fell over backwards on top of my legs (on concrete) 9 years ago whilst I was pregnant with my 3rd child. I always considered that breaking my exterior collateral ligament as ‘lucky’ since the alternatives could have been far, far more serious, including death. The following year, after our son was born (he was completely unharmed in the riding accident) I had a full replacement, where the surgeon (in Devon, England) used a piece of my hamstring to reconstruct a new ligament. I was in a cast for a few weeks & then later, offered one session of physio, which is about par for the course as far as the NHS is concerned. I did my own rehab with gym work.

So; back to now & the AT rupture…….I got taken by ambulance to hospital in Valognes, the next town; they diagnosed a complete rupture, put the leg in a temp. cast & moved me again by ambulance to Cherbourg, for surgery the next morning. The surgeon, a Dr. Schiedt, was none too gentle when examining me in the morning, prior to surgery. She removed my temp. cast & told me to lie on my front (none too easy with a broken achilles!) ; her manipulation of my left AT left me in tears; her cold-hearted bark ”Madame, c’est necessaire!” did nothing to reassure me.

I opted for a spinal block (described as being like an epidural) instead of a full general anaesthetic; my thinking being that recovery would be faster as in my past experience, a general can knock you out for a couple of weeks. Also, no tubes down the throat; huge advantage! It was strange not being able to lift my legs but I felt nothing during the op which lasted no more than half an hour. I was kept in recovery for a couple of hours afterwards until the middle of the afternoon…..then NOTHING to eat or drink until after 6pm! French hospitals have very different rules to British ones.

Fairly severe pain for he next 24 hours once the block wore off; they gave me paracetamol & codeine which made it just about bearable. I got a set of crutches brought in (French system makes you buy your own) & begged & pestered the next day (Wed) until they relented & allowed me to leave in the afternoon.

And finally; home. Was told to rest, rest, rest & do nothing except keep leg elevated & don’t weight bear on it at all. I slept & slept for a couple of days until finally the realisation dawned of what had actually happened to me…….& how lengthy the recovery could be. At this point (by about Fri) I started to get fairly miserable about the whole thing. My initial cast is an old fashioned plaster of Paris kind & it sheds bits the whole time & started going soft around the foot fairly quickly. I’ve got to wear it until the 15th when I return to hospital for my 1st check up; probably to have my stitches removed & then, hopefully a boot, but more likely another cast. My problem with the medical system here, is that my French is only passable & understanding what’s being explained to me is fairly tricky. This site has been an enormous help as I’m now far more educated about my AT.

More to follow……have to go elevate my leg!

    • emmagiselle has completed the grueling 26.2 ATR miles to full recovery!
      Goal: 365 days from the surgery date.
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