My second ATR

I was 44 and playing in a men’s volleyball league when I leaned forward to return a serve and heard the POP echo in the gym as my left Achilles snapped apart. I had no idea what happened. Just the pain. I had surgery where the ortho overlapped the broken tendon, and after months of great physical therapy was back to normal strength and range of motion, with just a slight bump in the tendon at the overlap.

Now it is 21 years later. I am volunteering in an after school program with middle school students and am watching them play kickball. I take a step backwards with my right leg, put my weight on it, and there goes the POP again. I immediately knew what it was. You don’t forget the sound and the pain even after 21 years. Paramedics got me to the ER where they did an ultrasound and x-rays and misdiagnosed it as a partial Achilles tear and tried to get me to walk on it, which of course I couldn’t do. They didn’t even do a Thompson Test. Just wrapped me up with an Ace bandage, gave me crutches, and sent me on my way. No splint, no cast. Suggested I see an ortho and get an MRI.

Next day I went to the ortho practice that did the surgery on my left Achilles 21 years earlier, and they immediately did the standard Thompson Test and said surgery was needed immediately. So I had a spinal and a nerve block (thank goodness for the nerve block which lasted a good 36 hours), and the surgery was not quite the same as the left leg. The result of the first surgery was extreme plantar flexion because of the overlap. This time the plantar flexion is not very noticeable.

My first post-op doctor visit was 3 days ago and I was put into a Bledsoe Achilles boot with only 2 wedges. From the first, I knew this wasn’t going to go well. From the aluminum frame, to the yards of Velcro sticking to everything I came in contact with, to the strange wedges. Went home to take a nap which was impossible. I immediately phoned the Vacocast people and the next day had the Achilles Pro, a spare terrycloth liner, and the Even Up shoe cover on my front porch. I know that my health insurance will only pay for the first boot, and the Vacocast will have to come out of my pocket, but the difference is like night and day.

Biggest difference between the two ATRs is that I am now 21 years older, and the crutches are not nearly as easy to handle. I had just finished 2 months of PT for pain in my back and right arm caused by cervical disc problems, and after two days on crutches, all the pain was back again. To limit any further problems, I got a knee scooter for home, and one for my office so I can eliminate most of the use of crutches. The scooters bother my right knee, but I ice it a couple times a day and it is bearable. There is the issue of the Vacocast boot vacuum valve being just below my knee, and at times I kneel on it which isn’t pleasant. Having the standard velour liner and the second terrycloth liner is great because one can be laundered while using the other. Also, while I am at present NWB, when I do start some weight bearing, the sole of the Vacocast is easily removable so that at night I won’t be carrying into bed all the crap I may have stepped on during the day. And they provide 2 different soles. The Vacocast has other advantages. It is designed with the end user in mind.

Not looking forward to the next few months, but I have to remember to take it slowly, which I find to be very frustrating. Now that I have been overusing my left leg, the Achilles which had been repaired is becoming sore. That has me very worried.

2 Responses to “My second ATR”

  1. So sorry to hear that you’ve “joined the club” again. Sounds like you have a leg up (no pun intended) on many of us in that you’ve done this before, and sounds like you are making great choices in terms of the things that will be necessary to assist in your recovery. The Even-Up has helped me immeasurably, and agree that knee-bikes are huge difference makers.

    I am at day 49, FWB, learning as I go. In any case, good luck in your recovery, and thanks for posting.

  2. At 18 days post-op and 4 days after getting boot, had swelling in foot and it began to ache. Have been NWB since surgery, so I iced it and elevated it. Don’t know if swelling decreased, but ache was reduced. Also took naproxen sodium which seemed to help. Doc wants me to start to press foot in plantar flexion on a weight scale up to 25 lbs. Tried it last night and could get about 15 lbs. Was hesitant to try harder. No pain associated with the exercise, but I’m just so worried that I will not heal properly or will hurt the Achilles again. Wasn’t this way with first ATR 21 years ago, but I was 21 years younger then. Doctor seems to be more aggressive with recovery process than they used to be.

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