“Johnny Hopalong”

The Four Hundred Dollar Man (*)

August 21, 2008 · 8 Comments

“We can rebuild him. We have the technology.”

I am simply amazed how many people keep asking me about my iWALKFree - especially when I take my dog (Hugo) for walks in the off-leash park. No one has ever seen it before.

During my walks, I’ve noticed that a lot of people like to stop and stare at my leg. Initially, this behaviour really bothered me because I consider it to be rude. However, at this point I don’t care anymore. I simply hobble along with Hugo and try to get through the 1 Km route we have going at this point.

I make a lot of jokes about my iWALKFree these days. I sometimes make the point that I’ll be a pirate for Halloween. (I’m simply missing the eye-patch and parrot on my shoulder.) Other times I refer to myself as Col. Steve Austin of the Six Million Dollar Man TV series. Sure, there’s no na-na-na-na-na sound being played when I walk around. However, I like the opening scene:

* The iWALKFree cost me $400

→ 8 CommentsCategories: Observations

The iWALKFree and Me

August 13, 2008 · 18 Comments

About a month ago, I ordered the iWALKFree and I am absolutely loving it!

For those of you who haven’t heard of this device, the iWALKFree is a hands-free crutch. I like to think of it as a peg-leg; sort of what a pirate might have (way, way) back-in-the-day. It straps to your injured leg and has a supportive platform to rest your lower leg. (Check out the link above for photos and more information.)

The iWALKFree gave me back my life. Since I ordered it, I have been able to do the following list of things entirely on my own:

  • Mow the lawn (3 times)
  • Walk my dog (4 times, 1 hour each time)
  • Load & unload large pieces of luggage for a road trip
  • Carry groceries into the house (with both hands!)
  • Change and care after my 4-month old son
  • Resurface my garage floor with an epoxy shield (!)
  • Trim and re-seed bare patches on my back lawn
  • Walk up a flight of stairs in less than 10 seconds
  • Go shopping with my family for 2 hours

When I ruptured my left Achilles tendon, I made a promise to my wife and I that I would try my best to continue to help out around the house. I ordered the iWALKFree about 3 days after my injury. With shipping, it cost me about $400 CAD.

The iWALKFree is the single, greatest piece of equipment that I have ever owned. It gave me my life back.

One of the biggest advantages of the iWALKFree over standard crutches is that the iWALKFree is a hands-freee crutch. This makes getting around a lot simpler. For example, going up & down stairs is way, way easier with the iWALKFree because you can place one of your free hands on the railing. Conversely, standard crutches are a total balancing act. They suck - especially when you’re going down a flight of stairs. Leading with your injured leg - that cannot/should not bare any weight - is a tough thing to do.

The iWALKFree is also great because it allows me to use my hands while walking or doing work around the house. For example, carrying food from the kitchen is pretty tough with crutches. And drinks? Forget it. Crutches make this an all-but-impossible juggling act. A couple of spilt coffee cups on the floor made the decision to buy the iWALKFree a total no-brainer. Given the list of chores (above) I’ve done in the past 4 weeks, I would totally recommend this device to anyone who is feeling guilty about having his/her partner weigh on you hand & foot. Being an independent kind of guy, I love the fact that the iWALKFree allows me to “fend for myself” and get back to the things I enjoy doing in my spare time.

For those of you who are active and hate crutches, this is the best alternative out there. 100%, no question. If you have recently ruptured your Achilles tendon, this is the device for you.

If you have any questions about the iWALKFree, please feel free to ask. I’m happy to provide you with any opinions, insights, or tips & tricks about its use. (I have many since I’ve been using for about a month now.)

→ 18 CommentsCategories: Observations · Suggestions · Technology

28 Days Later (Minus 20 Days. Oh, and the Brains.)

July 17, 2008 · 1 Comment

At eight days post-ATR, I’m already extremely positive about my ongoing recovery. My leg feels great and I’m already looking forward to my physical therapy. However, as I shuffle from place to place, struggling to do so in a somewhat graceful manner, I can’t help but see myself as a brain-eating zombie.

“Brains… Brains… Err, I mean… Coffee! Coffee!”

For those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of moving around on crutches: It sucks. Not only do your hands take a beating because they are constantly supporting your weight, it takes you about 4-5 times longer than normal to get from point A to point B - especially if there are stairs involved.


Oh, those f-ing stairs. They are the bane of my existance.

I don’t know about you but I find “the descent” to be quite the ordeal. One thing is for sure; my balance skills have certainly improved. I’ll make sure to consider Cirque du Soleil once I’ve fully recovered.

I should point out that getting around isn’t a major problem. In fact, I’m finding my mobility to be pretty good at this point. I do find (however) that I’m utterly exhausted at the end of the day because of all the weight bearing that I do throughout the day. This has an added bonus, of course; I haven’t slept this well in years.

On a side note, my iWalkFree is ordered and en route to Calgary. I can’t wait to have my hands back!

→ 1 CommentCategories: News · Observations

The Less-Travelled Nonsurgical Route

July 16, 2008 · 11 Comments

Earlier today, I met with my orthopaedic surgeon who - based on the MRI scans I had yesterday - informed me that his original assessment was (indeed) correct; the ATR occurred very close to my calf muscle, which means that there isn’t anything that he can do. Surgery isn’t an option because you can’t stitch to muscle.

Don’t get me wrong: Part of me is happy not to have surgery. I wasn’t looking forward to having a 9″ scar down the back of my leg. Unfortunately, another part of me is a little apprehensive because I really enjoy sports and like to stay active. My biggest concern now is being able to fully recovery from this injury. This, of course, is easier said/written than done. I’ll be in a cast for the next 6-8 weeks and then there’s a good 6-8 months of physical therapy and exercise before I’m back to 95%. (According to many, 100% is impossible.)

All in all, I’m in pretty good spirits. My leg feels good and I’m able to get around pretty well with my crutches. That stated, I’ve gone ahead and ordered the iWalkFree. It cost me about $370 CAD (without shipping) and should provide me some independence around the house. I’m actually looking forward to helping my wife with vacuuming, changing our son, cutting the lawn, etc.

→ 11 CommentsCategories: News

Weird MRI Scans

July 15, 2008 · 4 Comments

Earlier today, I had MRI scans on my ATR in order to determine if I required surgery. After the scans were finished, the technician entered the room and said, “Well, it definitely looks broken.” Bad news, I suppose. However, I can’t say I’m surprized - especially when your instincts scream “COMPLETE RUPTURE! SURGERY NEEDED!”

As I left Diagnostic Imaging, I requested a copy of the MRI scans. When I got back, I eagerly fired up my laptop and loaded the CD containing these scans. Sadly, it looks like the technician didn’t do a very good job:

I’m not a doctor but I think the Achilles tendon is a lot higher than this!

My othropaedic surgeon has asked me to drop by the hospital tomorrow morning. I have a suspect he’ll request another MRI scan.

→ 4 CommentsCategories: News

Elevation Nation

July 14, 2008 · 2 Comments

Working away on my sofa with my left leg propped up at a 45 degree angle, I can’t help but wonder how many others in the world are stuck in a similar position. It seems like I’ve been like this forever and it’s been only six days since my injury!

Elevation is used to help reduce swelling of the injured area and to promote healing. However, there’s a limit to the amount of elevation I’m prepared to do. At this point, my cast is pressing into the back of my calf, which is starting to make it feel slightly bruised. (I can’t tell if there is a bruise at this point.)

Tomorrow, I have an appointment to see my orthopaedic surgeon and to have my cast cut and re-applied. I’ll insist of having a MRI at that time. I want to be absolutely certain that my treatment is correct and that surgery isn’t an option. Sadly, my gut tells me otherwise. I suspect that I have a complete rupture and that surgery will be necessary. This is based on the fact that when I drop my leg from an elevated position, I usually experience a significant amount of pressure applied to the area just above my heal. This is the area where a few of the doctors I met (prior to the orthopaedic surgeon) had mentioned that they could feel a noticeable depression. I realize that this isn’t a sign of a complete rupture. However, coupled with the pressure I sometimes feel near the the heal of my foot, I can’t help but wonder if the orthopaedic surgeon got his initial assessment wrong.

→ 2 CommentsCategories: Observations

The Occasional Spasm

July 14, 2008 · No Comments

Over the past few days, I’ve noticed the calf muscle of my injured leg will occasionally spasm for a period of 2-3 seconds. This happens about three times a day and usually when my leg is not fully elevated. It’s not overly painful. However, I am apprehensive of having my Achilles tendon move in the slightest; it causes me some concern when my calf muscle decides to complain about its living quarters (AKA, my fiberglass cast).

Is this normal? Should I be concerned?

→ No CommentsCategories: Observations

A Quick Word About “The Pain”

July 13, 2008 · 2 Comments

It’s funny: I’ve been talking to a few people about my injury. Some folks are fine to hear what it feels like while others can’t even bare the thought of it. Many folks believe that rupturing your Achilles tendon is the most painful experience ever. It’s not. Yes, it’s painful. However, I’ve injured myself playing other sports (i.e. rugby) and didn’t find the pain nearly as bad. For example, I tore my ACL when I was 15 years old while playing hockey. That was excruciatingly painful. When I was 23 years old, I suffered a severely twisted ankle. That hurt. A lot.

Yes, a ruptured Achilles tendon hurts. But it’s not as bad as you’d think.

→ 2 CommentsCategories: Observations

Considering the iWalkFree

July 13, 2008 · 2 Comments

It’s been about four days since my injury and I already hate using my crutches. I have a 3-month old son and I can’t stand the fact that I can’t even carry him over to our change table!

Earlier today, I read about the iWalkFree and would love to hear your opinions about it. (I’m happy to spend $450 CAD if it means that I can help my wife out around the house.)

Thoughts? Opinions?

→ 2 CommentsCategories: Technology


July 13, 2008 · 3 Comments

My world changed about three days ago when I partially ruptured my Achilles tendon while playing soccer. About 30 minutes into the game, I turned to chase down a loose ball, accelerated two steps, and felt the classic shot-in-the-back-of-the-leg feeling used to describe a rupture of the Achilles tendon. I immediately tumbled to the ground and began to look around to see who had tackled me from behind. When I noticed that there wasn’t anyone near me, I realized that I had suffered a serious injury. A few folks ran over and asked me what was wrong.

My gut reaction was that it was my Achilles tendon. Thinking back, my subconscious mind drew a picture of an elastic band snapping at the moment of my injury. After helping me off the field, a friend of mine took me to the local hospital where a doctor confirmed what I already knew; I had injured my Achilles tendon. At the time of the diagnosis (3 AM), the local orthopedic surgeon wasn’t available to provide a confirmation so I decided to go home and drop back the following day. That was two days ago.

On Thursday, I met with a series of doctors who were able to confirm that there was an injury to my Achilles tendon. After a short wait, I met an orthopedic surgeon who admitted that surgery wasn’t an option because he believed that it was a partial rupture and that it occurred closer to the gastrosoleus complex. This was based on his observations when conducting tests on my Achilles tendon.

I left the hospital with my left leg in a fiberglass cast that extended from my toes to just below my knee. My toes are pointed downward at a 45 degree angle in order to bring my Achilles tendon closer to the gastrosoleus complex and to promote healing.

Looking back on the time of my injury, I realized that my first mistake was not taking the time to warm up and stretch. My second mistake was not listening to my body. During the game, I could feel my calves tightening, especially in my left leg, which was (ultimately) the one that I injured.

At this point, I am scheduled to meet with the orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday. I have a few questions concerning my treatment. I would also like to have a MRI to confirm his diagnosis.

→ 3 CommentsCategories: Uncategorized