Six months after surgery

This week marks six months since my surgery, and I’m very grateful for the progress.

I plan to play golf for the first time next week (it’s too wet here to play this week), although it will be some time before I can walk the course. I’ve been to the driving range a few times, and it feels great. I remember the day I was injured - I tried taking a make-believe golf swing and fell over - that convinced me I would need surgery.

I can’t run yet. My PT told me I can start running when I can do 20 calf raises using only the injured leg. I can do many on both legs, but can’t yet do a single one on the injured side. I’ve been going to the gym, using their seated calf raise machine to build up the injured leg. I think that’s the last piece of the puzzle, but it may take several more months of work. I can walk with hardly a trace of a limp, and my walking endurance is increasing steadily.

I can’t wait to be back to 100%, but I’m very happy with the progress to date.

Also, I want to say thanks to the folks who run this blog. It has been very helpful and informative, especially in those dark days right after the injury.

Started PT yesterday

I’m just shy of six weeks post-surgery, and I started PT yesterday.
After an evaluation (strength and mobility testing), the therapist gave the
area a pretty vigorous massage to reduce the swelling. I was then led to
an “anti-gravity treadmill.” They had me put on inflatable pants, and the machine automatically weighs me and adjusts the inflation to reduce my weight by half
(I haven’t weighed 102 pounds in about 50 years). I then walked on the treadmill for about ten minutes.

Then back to the table for a series of exercises - squeezing a ball between my feet, isometric presses of the injured foot in every conceivable direction. Several reps and sets of each exercise left me pretty tired. I was iced down and sent home with a list of exercises (the same ones) to do twice a day as homework.

I’m on schedule for PT twice a week for the next two months or so. The PT agrees with the orthopedist that I’ll be able to play golf in May, about six months post-surgery. Overall I’m very pleased. I’m supposed to get rid of the boot next week, if all goes well.

Hope all of you have a recovery as smooth as mine has been going so far.

5 weeks post-surgery

Tomorrow is 5 weeks since surgery, and I’m very happy to have chosen the surgical route.

I was in a splint and on crutches for two weeks, and then went to a boot. I saw the orthopedist today, and he is very happy with the progress. He wants me to start PT now, and in three weeks, when I see him again, the boot is scheduled to come off. I’m pain-free, and, needless to say, very grateful for what has so far been a smooth recovery.

The doctor told me I can start using an exercise bike as long as I stay seated, and can do any weight exercise that can be performed seated on a bench. I want to work off the pounds I gained during the last five weeks of inactivity. I can also now take a shower standing up (I’ve been crawling into the tub and showering from a kneeling position), as long as I use common sense and caution.

I hope the recovery process continues to go as well as it has, and wish everyone else a speedy recovery in addition to a happy holiday.

I’ll report back after I start PT.

Howard

Two weeks in the boot

It’s been just over two weeks since the splint came off, I put away the crutches, and started with the boot. I’m allowed to put weight on the injured foot, as long as I don’t overdo things, and never put weight on that foot unless the boot is on. I was told not to take long walks in the neighborhood or at the mall, but otherwise I’m pretty much unrestricted.

The biggest problem I had with the boot was the added length it gave to my left leg. The wedge they put in made the left leg considerably longer than the right, and I looked like Walter Brennan from the Real McCoys (sorry, young people - you can look it up) when I walked. As a result of the imbalance, my knees, hips and shoulders all started to hurt.

I went online to Shoebuy and bought a pair of Skechers sneakers that seemed to have a high heel and sole (remember the ugly 70s, when you could see men’s shoes with one-inch heels? Yuck). I also bought a heel insert that adds an additional half-inch of height. That pretty much evened things out, and walking got a lot easier.

I don’t wear the boot to bed, but have to put it on every time I get out of bed. I thought that would be a big nuisance, but I got used to it right away. To shower, I manage to maneuver myself from the boot to my knees in the bathtub, and shower in a kneeling position (sorry for the visual). Other than that, life has been very normal.

Since I haven’t tried to do anything without the boot, I don’t really know how the healing process is progressing. I hope to get some information on that next week when I see the orthopedist again. I suspect he’ll send me to PT at that time. I’ll report next week.

I had made plans for a ski trip to Jackson Hole in February. Obviously, that ain’t happening. Right now I’m trying to convince American Airlines to return my frequent flyer miles to my account without a $150 penalty. I’m sending them a note from my orthopedist. Maybe the low fuel prices will put them in a good mood. I’ll report back.

Got the surgery

My surgery was scheduled for November 19, ten days after the injury. I live alone, so I made sure I had a house-full of things like paper plates and utensils, and easy-to-prepare foods like tuna fish. Luckily for me, my sister lives very close by, and could do shopping for me, in addition to her role as Florence Nightingale.

The surgery took place in an outpatient center. Things went quite well, with a few minor glitches.

When the nurse set up in IV line in my left hand, she didn’t tighten the connection well, and I noticed a leak. I mentioned it to the anesthesiologist before the surgery, and he got very upset. I guess I can’t blame him - if I woke up screaming during the surgery because of the leak, he would be the one in trouble. The  anesthesiologist explained some options to me, and suggested a spinal block, plus something to put me to sleep, rather than a full general anesthesia using gas. I had no basis on which to disagree, so that’s how we went. It was a good choice.

The surgery itself went very well, and the surgeon said that it was indeed a complete rupture, and that he repaired it and removed some bone spurs in the heel.

After a spinal block, you’re not supposed to go home until you can go to the bathroom. That just wasn’t happening, so they let me go around 1pm (the surgery was around 9am), with the proviso that if I couldn’t go to the bathroom by 6 that evening, I would have to go to the ER at the nearest hospital. That wasn’t a problem, and I had to go as soon as we got into my sister’s car for the ride home.

The crutches they brought for me were too big, which I didn’t know at the time, and my shoulders hurt from using them. A friend could lend me a set of properly sized crutches, and I used them until I went back to the orthopedist’s office a few days later for new ones. Also, for some reason they all thought I knew how to use crutches, and no one stopped to give me quick lesson before I went home. In fact, I had never used crutches before in my life. Fortunately, I had watched a few videos before the surgery, so I knew some basics about going up and down steps and curbs. Nonetheless, the walk from the car to my house was a scary one.

The two weeks on crutches went very smoothly and surprisingly fast. I’m lucky that I can work from home, so I could be productive, though I spent most of the time being lazy and watching TV or reading. I live in a townhouse with three levels, so there would be a good deal of stair climbing and descending. I decided right away that the easiest and safest way to navigate stairs would be the "tush method" - sit down on the stairs and go up or down on my behind. I never appreciated carpeted stairs as much as during that period. I had practiced doing this before the surgery so I was well prepared. I realized that standing up at the top of the stairs can be a challenge, so I bought a two-step step stool, which I stationed at the top landing. My behind got to the top of the stairs before my legs, so I just kept climbing up the step stool as if it were a continuation of the staircase until my good foot was on the top floor. Then I grabbed the crutches (at first I shlepped them up or down, but once I had two sets, I kept one for upstairs use), turned the chair to the side so that if I fell getting up I wouldn’t go tumbling down the stairs, and stood up. This system worked so well that I eventually gave no more thought to climbing stairs than I did before the injury.

I was worried about keeping myself clean, but I soon learned that I could maneuver myself to a kneeling position at the side of the bathtub, and using a washcloth, towel, liquid soap, and shampoo, I could be just as clean as ever.

I found that I could do a lot of things for myself, except pick up the newspaper in the morning - my sister stopped by and did that for me. Making meals was pretty easy. Moving things from place to place was a problem on crutches. I started to station chairs and stools at strategic spots in the house, so I could transfer items by placing them on one chair, moving over, and transferring them to another chair without having to carry them while moving. It can be a bit slow, but it works like a charm.

I was very lucky that I had virtually no post-op pain. I was given Vicodin, but I stopped using it after a day (much to the disappointment of my arthritic shoulder, which appreciated it much more than my heel did). After that, naproxen (generic Alleve) did the trick perfectly well. I was, and remain, pain-free, for which I’m very grateful.

I stayed home for the most part, but I did get out a few times, without incident. The mild autumn we’re having in Maryland made going out a lot easier.

I went back to the orthopedist on the December 2, thirteen days after surgery, to have the splint removed and to go back into the boot.

I’ll report on that in my next blog.

First Blog

I’m starting this blog a little late, because I just discovered the blog site while searching around the internet. Here are the particulars.

I’m a 62 year old man, and I try to stay pretty active. I’ve had heel spurs for years, and they had been bothering me recently. The story starts on Sunday, Nov. 8, when nothing happened. On that day I played in a touch football game (I’ve been playing in that pickup game for 30 years - I’ve lost speed but not enthusiasm), and then went to the gym where I spent some time on the elliptical machine.
I was very proud of myself and went home happy.

The next day at lunchtime, I went to the same gym for an exercise class (Body Pump). I parked the car, stepped up on the curb, and suddenly went tumbling. I was lucky not to hit my head on the sidewalk. In retrospect, I’m not really sure if the tendon snapped when I stepped on the curb, causing the fall, or if I tripped, and the tendon snapped as a result of the fall. When I got up, I felt some pain in the upper part of my left calf, and had trouble putting weight on my left foot. I actually tried to go to the class, but that didn’t work out well at all (surprised?). I noticed that I couldn’t stand on my toes, or balance on my left foot. I tried a little golf swing, and almost toppled over when my weight shifted to the left side.

Thinking I had torn a calf muscle, I managed to get an appointment with an orthopedist the next day. I had seen him years ago, when my one attempt at surfing didn’t go as planned. The doctor took x-rays, and administered the Thompson Test, which I flunked with flying colors. I had some calcification on the tendon, and I could see in the x-ray that it moved up a couple of inches as the torn tendon retracted. The doctor wanted to operate two days later, but I needed some time to think about it and to make preparations. He put me in a big boot to use until the operation.

I went and got three second opinions. A sports medicine doctor who doesn’t do surgery said I should go without surgery. A podiatrist said I should probably have the surgery, but they should do an MRI first. A friend who is an ER doctor said do the surgery and do it now - he has seen a lot of cases like mine and felt surgery is almost always the best answer. Since he is a friend, and had no "dog in the race" (he wouldn’t get any business from me regardless of my decision), I valued his opinion the most.

I decided on the surgery, and made an appointment for the next week (Nov. 19). I made an appointment for an MRI, and then asked the surgeon if I should go for it. He was quite adamant that it was not necessary. He said that mine was an open-and-shut case. If I were sedentary, he would consider alternatives. But if I want to get back to golf, football, softball, the gym, and skiing, surgery was really the only answer. He said that an MRI would give him no additional information that he could use during the surgery. I canceled the MRI appointment, and spent the next few days stocking up on supplies and watching youtube videos about using crutches.

Unfortunately, all of the doctors I consulted agreed on one thing - I would have to cancel my planned ski trip to Jackson Hole in February. My luck, the snow will be great this year.

I was told that after surgery I would be on crutches for two weeks, followed by a long stint in the boot. He did promise that I’ll be playing golf in May. I plan to hold him to that.

Let me stop here, and get to the surgery in the next entry.

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