D-Day…… Or the story of how I snapped and partly healed my achilles!

August 1st, 2012

This is for therapeutic purposes and it also helps relieve the boredom of sitting around! Wish I’d found this site 10 weeks ago…..

MAY 19th 2012 Day 1: Watching the mighty West Ham win the play off final against Blackpool Town,  I jump up and down to celebrate and feel a ‘pow’ in the back of my leg.  I immediately stop jumping because I think someone has stood on my leg, or kicked me.  That’s how it felt, and as I try to walk it off  realise my foot isn’t properly connected to my leg and won’t do what I want it to.  Off to A&E on a Saturday evening, they put it in a pointy cast with an open back and tell me that I’ve ‘probably stretched my achilles’ and I’ll need an Ultrasound at some point in the coming week but the technician isn’t in today! Given crutches, told not to put any weight on the foot and sent home.

Day 2: Ultrasound Technician calls on Sunday and says he is free, can I come in and have the scan?  Off we trot to hospital - scan reveals a complete rupture of the achilles tendon approx 6cm from the back of my left ankle.  The picture is really interesting, all swirly ends and a big gap between them!  Once again I’m plastered up and sent home, awaiting an appointment with a consultant on the following Friday.  I spend the week trying to hop around one legged in agony!

Day 7: Off to Fracture clinic to meet the consultant.  I wait for ages (1 and 1/2 hours) and finally get chaperoned into a cubicle where a nurse tells me I’m going to be put into plaster.  I ask about surgical options and she seems really put out and huffs off to get a doctor.  The doctor is very negative about the surgical option; risk of infection & waiting times and explains that there really isn’t a difference in healing times between surgical and conservative treatments and no real benefits to surgery.  He does say that I can have surgery if I want it but that I will start the treatment from day one again. By the time I have the op 2 weeks will have passed so I will need to consider that.  I opt (although it doesn’t feel like there’s much choice) for conservative treatment and am put into an Equinus cast (ballet pointe) which is at least comfortable and is a pretty green colour with glitter!

At this point I have an appointment for 3 weeks time and am told I should be able to walk on it by then.

Day 21: Back to hospital: We go in to get the cast off and start hobbling around.  After 3 weeks of NWB I am sick of crutches, have blistered hands and sore arms and shoulders.  I’ve been stuck in the house and not seen anyone.  My hubby is going nuts because he’s having to do the housework, the dog walking and cooking.  I point out that it’s role reversal and he doesn’t find it as funny as me! Can’t think why….  Get the cast off and the very lovely Orthopaedic Nurse tells me that I’m not going to be walking for a long time yet.  The leg will go back into a NWB cast but my foot is pushed back from pointed and it’s agony!  I get to see the bruising on my foot for the first time and it’s swollen but not black and blue.  Years ago I sprained my (other) ankle and it went purple from toes to knee, all ligament damage but not much pain.  This time I have lots of pain and not much bruising.  My leg is put into another NWB cast, purple and glittery this time, and I have almost 4 weeks to wait until my next appointment.

I give up trying to hop about and finally borrow a wheelchair.  At least I can go to the pub because I’m not officially allowed at work.  I couldn’t get there anyway as I can’t drive but I’m a teacher and so there are Health & Safety issues about me being responsible for a class of teenagers when I can’t walk.  The school ‘facilities’ are upstairs and there are no lifts so this is an added complication.  I beg a lift when I can and pop in and out to try and finish end of year stuff.  They ask when I will be back at work and I can’t answer because I don’t have the information.  It feels a bit like I’m making it up and I’m not sure that people believe me when I say that I can’t tell them when I will be walking.  Very Awkward.

July 2nd: Day ???: Appointment day - I finally see a consultant who tells me that I am looking at 3 to 6 months recovery!!!  I ask about walking (it’s been about 7 weeks) and he says not yet.  Back in a cast I go, again my foot gets pushed into position and it hurts like hell.. It’s a flat cast and I’m told I can put it on the floor but can’t put weight on it.  It’s all a bit confusing.  I get given a velcro shoe to protect the base of the cast which looks fabulous!  Another appointment in another 3 weeks.

July 23rd: Week 9.  Cast off!  The tendon has apparently healed.  No scan is done but the doc squeezes the leg and my foot twitches so apparently it’s joined.  My leg has wasted away and  I can’t stand on it or move my foot.  I need physio so I’m referred and sent home.  No exercises, no advice, I’m given an Aircast boot to support the ankle which is so much more comfortable than a cast.

I get home and have a proper bath - first one without a plastic cover in 2 months!  No one warns you about the effects of being in a cast for this length of time.  It’s very traumatic to see the layers of skin peel away and I spend a few days ’sandpapering’ my foot to get all the dead skin off. Gross!

July 27th: See the physio!  She gives me some basic exercises to do, as often as possible to get a range of motion in my foot and to build up my calf muscles.  I have about 10 degrees flexion and no rotation at all.  My leg buckles if I put weight on it.  She tells me my crutches are too low (they are the height that the hospital set them at) and I need to rock my weight from heel to toe as  I walk.  I’m only Partial WB, don’t want to re-rupture or damage the tendon.  Still on crutches, next appointment August 17th!!!!

1st August - today: - a long road so far.  Not a lot of info given up front.  I was amazed when I found this site, wish I’d had the access to all of your experiences when I started, would have had surgery and asked about the boot much earlier but hindsight is an amazing thing.  I need to lose the weight I’ve gained through being so inactive so that is another battle in my recuperation.  I can now walk up and down my local high street using crutches and have been out a couple of times with friends to do shopping.  The little things are really important.  I got so depressed when I was NWB and people have busy lives, they can’t always visit so I spent a lot of time on my own.  This forum would have been very helpful.  It still is - this is a long blog but very cathartic and I feel like a weight (no pun intended) has lifted.  So - good luck everyone in your healing and I will keep this blog as a record of my recovery.

Got to go and do some exercises now……..

9 Responses to “D-Day…… Or the story of how I snapped and partly healed my achilles!”

  1. sheena on August 1, 2012 6:02 am

    Hi Jaxx,
    just posted on the UK blog for you too.
    The NHS…..fab sometimes flaky sometimes!
    Now you have your boot you need to build up your strength and get your ROM back. Your physio will help but listen to your own body too. No one knows that better than you and I have pushed more than I was told to but always stopped when I felt real pain. Not rehab soreness but real pain.
    Maybe because your tenson was so far apart they didn’t want you weight bearing at all but most people start PWB at two weeks. If you don’t use it you lose it.
    Build slowly but surely and I would be aiming to ditch those crutches ASAP. I have an aircast and it has been great. I am weaning off it now and am in trianers at home all day. I am ten weeks tomorrow non op but my tear was only 1.5CM gap.

  2. jaxx on August 1, 2012 6:18 am

    Hey Sheena,
    It amazes me that there isn’t a standard treatment for this! I know everyone is different but the ranges of times, treatments and supports is very varied.
    Did you have a complete tear too? My PT said I wasn’t allowed to ditch crutches until I see her next. May have to force this one! :) Exercises it is! Thanks for the advice!

  3. eva10 on August 1, 2012 9:32 am

    It really is a wonder how there are so many different protocals being used for this injury. The UWO protocol that my ortho has applied in my case seems to have worked well for me so far. It allowed me to become mobile fast than some of the other conservative protocols.

    Hang in there Jaxx. Keep posting and sharing your story with others! Be sure to listen to your body as well as Sheena suggested. I have a re-rupture scare and I hope nobody has to go through the same. Happy healing!!

  4. joan on August 1, 2012 1:09 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your story since your rupture occurred the day before mine.
    I went the surgical route (no choice was given) so it is interesting to see where I might be.
    I sympathize with your statement about other people having busy lives and spending so much time on your own.
    My kids go back to school in a couple of weeks. I have spent the last 10 weeks dealing with this instead of enjoying outings with them.
    We are referring to this as “The Summer That Really Wasn’t”.
    Good luck and keep us all informed on your recovery.

  5. normofthenorth on August 1, 2012 4:11 pm

    The UWO study proved that non-op rehab can go just about as fast as the fastest post-surgical rehab. Different Docs and hospitals have hugely different preferences, with no apparent rhyme or reason, AFAICS. If we ever follow the evidence and switch mostly to a standard rehab like UWO — especially if we mostly skip the surgery — we’ll be taking all this arbitrary power out of the hands of the Med School graduates, and we’ll probably have better results, at least the vast majority of us.

    Jaxx, you’ll probably heal up fine when you’re finally through. Do Watch Your Step, because you’re following a program that did have maybe 15% or so rerupture rate. But that’s still about 85% chance of escaping. If it does re-pop, God Forbid, you’ll still have the same choice of treatment plans — but GOOD ones! And you’ll have company here, too.

  6. Nathan on August 1, 2012 4:20 pm

    ey Jaxx,

    I’m a Spurs fan but don’t hold that against me…we’re all part of one big ‘team achilles’! On the weight gain, one thing I found really useful was a free app for the iphone called ‘mynetdiary’ which allows you to enter in the food you eat every day and keep track of intake. Because I was moving around less I used this app to count calories and avoid going over 2000 a day - so hardly starvation diet but enough to make sure I didn’t gain any weight. As it turned out I’m now week 6 after surgery and have actually lost 6 pounds. Anyway good luck and keep positive!

  7. strider008 on August 2, 2012 3:17 am

    Best of luck everyone

  8. sheena on August 2, 2012 6:14 am

    Hi Jaxx,
    yes I did have a complete tear.

  9. jaxx on August 2, 2012 6:42 am

    Hey all,
    thanks for all the support and advice, I think I’m heading back to slimming world once I can walk without the sticks.
    Joan - ‘the summer that wasn’t’ Is so true… I think I’m going to make up for it next year!
    Sheena - ouch, glad you’re recovering well, even if I am jealous that it’s quicker than me!
    Nathan -team achilles! Like it. If we were any good we’d have gone up automatically and this wouldn’t have happened… well, then anyway.

    Going to keep going and keep smiling…..

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    ATR Timeline
    • Name: jaxx
      Location: New Forest, UK
      Injured during: Celebrating a football win!
      Which Leg: L
      Status: FWB

      601 wks  4 days Post-ATR
      600 wks  5 days
         Since start of treatment