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.

One Response to “Got the surgery”

  1. Your blog brings up a lot of good points, and makes me wonder why doctor’s offices don’t better prepare their patients for this life after surgery. My doctor: zilch.

    My surgery was just two days after yours, so it will be interesting to compare progress. I, too, have had practically no pain so far, but that may change after starting PT next week.

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