Snap – there goes my Achilles - thats exactly what happened!
May 23rd 2010, on a fine Friday evening, I went to play footy with mates on an artificial surface.
I turned up late, so didn’t get a chance to fully warm up and secondly I was wearing mould-studs.
Yeah sounds crazy – but I reckon these are contributory factors.
I disagreed with the nurse when she said I was middle-aged and ‘happens at your age’. I politely informed her I’d been playing football since birth, could run a mile within 6 mins, muai thai-box and regularly climb Britain’s highest peaks. As for the middle-aged bit – give me credit I’m only thirty something!
Within 20 mins of starting, I remember stretching out for the ball, turned and then… SNAP. I collapsed! Everybody heard it snap. I’d thought I’d dislocated my ankle or snapped my tibia or fibula. Rookie-style I would normally get up and carry on; this time I couldn’t. I slowly walked to my car thinking I could drive home – silly me. I couldn’t. My (left) foot just flopped on the clutch.
I went home, showered and then by the scruff of my neck my wife dragged me to the hospital. Imagine A&E on a Friday night?!
Fortunately, from triage to see a doctor took 15 mins. He confirmed I’d ruptured my Achilles but to what extent he wasn’t sure. He performed the calf-squeeze (Thompson) test as expected,
He said they would have to put me into a cast and arrange to see the orthopaedic consultant during the week. Nowadays Achilles tendon ruptures (or otherwise abbreviated as TA – Tendonitis Achilles) are so common – they don’t bother with scans, they just open you up and fix what needs to be done on the day.
The options are – surgical repair or allow natural healing – either way you’re in a cast for 6-8 weeks. So far I’ve met 4 consultants with each belonging to a different school of thought on treatment options.
Some recommend a fixed-position cast for 6 weeks, others prefer a cast with changing positions of the foot, starting from a pointing down position (plantar) moving slowly up, others use a removable boot which restricts movement in certain directions and eases the pressure of taking off on the heel.
I read a number of papers and no method provdes quicker or better recovery compared to the other. The only conclusive finding was that re-rupture without surgical repair was higher. Those who wish to resume contact sports are highly recommended surgery.
I opted for the surgical procedure. It can be done with one major incision from heel upwards towards calf or via several smaller incisions – depends on the consultant and facilities. As always they remind you of the risk of infection and complications with surgery – in other words giving you glad tidings of MRSA.
The procedure takes 3 hours and is performed under general anaesthesia. You spend a few days in hospital until you pass water and a bowel movement. I had neither but told them I did. I was sent home in a fibre cast which is much much lighter than the plaster of paris casts, a pair of crutches and some tramadol (pain killers). They tried to fob me off with some codeine – I said NO! Having not eaten properly for a few days – codeine would have added to my constipative-woes.
The discomfort and inconvenience is at times, unbelievable! I bought a Limbo product to cover the cast whilst showering – it’s alright, it does what it says on the tin. Stairs, sleeping, loo – it’s all problematic. I always felt as though the stitches were pulling.
After two weeks, I had my foot position raised. I asked the nurse to insert extra padding on the ankle bones and a dressing over the stitches – this would help prevent friction and resulting pain. The first night was painful but settled out after that.
Before my second appointment – I purchased a CAM Walker Air boot online from Chaneco! The cast was just inconvenient and lame. Having read many reports that some consultants prefer a boot from day one – I decided to take matters into my own hands. I took it along to my appointment and talked the consultant into agreeing to the boot instead of a cast. I gave my sob story of inability to shower, sleep – it worked. The consultant was cool, he said no walking though!
The CAM walker Air boot can be varied in foot direction and has an air inflater to maximse comfort. I’m enjoying my showers and sleep these days Alhamdullillah! It is easy to wear and very comfy although takes a while to adjust all the straps.
My leg seems to be shredding lots of dead skin – apparently it’s normal to do so. They recommend frequent application of a good emolient cream. The colour and general appearance of my leg is strange. The calf muscle seems to have flopped – muscle wastage. It’s been 5 weeks since the injury and 4 weeks since the operation. I think it’ll take another 4 to start walking without aids and maybe another 4-6 weeks after that to start exercising properly.
I hear physiotherapists are ruthless. Oh no…..
I’m recovering albeit painfully slow.
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