Pins & Needles

Nearly 3 weeks ago, I finally made the injured list. I’ve been injured before, don’t get me wrong. Usually through some ridiculous shenanigans; this story is no exception. Turns out my Achilles is in a bad way. How did I manage this? Tag, of course.

I spent a week visiting a friend who is teaching in Tuluksak, a remote village in Alaska. There’s no road system (people travel by bush plane) and the temperatures were rarely above zero, so going for a run was out. Middle school PE was going to be my only physical outlet during the week, so I was not about to miss out on it! Plus, games are fun.

On Tuesday, February 11, Sharks & Minnows was the name of the game. It was the last round of the day & I was “it.” After tagging several students & getting a good seaweed garden going, it seemed like the day had been a success.

And then…

I lunged to run & tag a student on my right, but I couldn’t move because my right leg (which was behind me) had suddenly stopped working. Not knowing why the back of my leg had burst into flame, I stood on my left leg to assess the situation. Instinctively, I knew I could not bear weight on my right, so I sat down slowly. The dizziness faded into nausea as I fought to maintain my wits & composure; fought to self-diagnose; fought to hide the pain. I gestured to my friend that I was out, I was done. He said, “You okay, Fuegs?” I said no. I’ve never said no.

Right away, I could feel that it was my Achilles. To my shame, I downplayed it and let myself believe it was just a swollen ankle - only as injured as a solid punch. I hobbled around on it (partly because there was no doctor in the village to order me not to) for the rest of the week. I hobbled through airports, public transit, and the 2-mile walk to my parked car, all while shouldering an extra 30-40 pounds of travel.

All of this because a boy had run full-tilt through my outstretched leg when it was fully coiled & pushing off. The top of his foot hurt so much that he limped for a day and a half. I didn’t get off so easy.

The day after I returned, I went to urgent care. They took x-rays that came back clean and I let them put me in a padded walking boot at 90 degrees for a week. Every day got worse. When I finally got to the sports med specialist 19 days post-injury, the bruising was still impressive. After failing several strength tests & a visible loss of tendon definition, he rolled in the ultrasound machine to take a look. Neither of us liked what he saw.

To cut this long story short, he said:

“There’s what we call a partial tear and a complete tear; yours is somewhere in between. I’m going to have you get an MRI so we can see ¬†what there is left in there for us to work with because I hardly see any fibers left intact.”

He sent me out in an aircast and almost added crutches to the caboodle when he saw my gait. Later that morning, the country music in my headphones drowned out the jack-hammering of the MRI and I slept deeply. When I awoke, the MRI techs wished me luck and sent the results to the doctor. That was 3 days ago. Forever ago. My follow-up is tomorrow morning and I will be grateful to end this period of not knowing. Recovery is a long road, but I’m ready to know what I’m recovering from and what kind of path I’m taking.

7 Responses to “Pins & Needles”

  1. I am happy for you that you found this site before you had your surgery or your recovery as some people don’t go the surgery route. The people here re great and will be a wealth of knowledge and support!

    Good luck to you! Melissa :)

  2. Good luck - I hope you have your results now and have a plan for recovery. To echo the comment above, whether you end up with surgery or non-op treatment you will find this site really helpful.

  3. Non-op is often a viable route, but it is most successful when the injury is identified quickly, and the ankle is immobilized in plantar flexion as soon as possible. You’ve been walking on the injury for so long now that I fear surgery might be required to initiate proper healing. Good luck!

  4. I’m the leader of the non-op Glee Club here, but I’m with Ryan. All the successful non-op studies treated only fresh ATRs (<14 days), so you’d be navigating uncharted waters, not evidence-based. I’d get the op.

  5. BTW, almost ALL of us THOUGHT we’d been clobbered on the back of the leg, but you really WERE! Very unusual!

  6. Yeah, I wish I had a time machine! But I’d probably waste it on the 80s or something & forget I wanted to skip the visit to urgent care, go with my gut, & call orthopaedics & sports med the very day I returned from Alaska! Not that I’d have avoided surgery for sure, but walking in so much pain for so long as it got steadily worse should have made me a little pushier to get this diagnosed right proper.
    What a freak accident! Who knew? Tag!

  7. Thank you so much for the support & well-wishes, btdubs.

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