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┬áto 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!

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