1 year and 3 months later…

This is a word of encouragement to all of you newbies. Here I am, over a year after my AT rupture, and I am STILL ALIVE. Believe me when I say that I though my life was ending when this first happened. I was 16 years old and playing volleyball meant everything to me. I ruptured my AT in the second week of our 5 month season and had to sit on the sidelines for the entire time. I was literally devastated.

The process of healing took longer than I wanted, but faster than anyone else expected. The injury happened in January and I began playing light beach volleyball again by the very end of May, then I dove into a full high school season of indoor volleyball in September. This included practicing 5 days per week and often tournaments on weekends.

I’m currently nearing the end of the “club” season that I missed out on last year. That’s right, one year later and 2 seasons under my belt. I am completely back to my regular active self and doing everything I used to do. There are occasions when I do get sore in the AT, but it is not often and usually only if I have worked it really hard beyond normal. Icing helps pretty quickly.

My point is that at first, this seemed like it would never end. But I have conquered the task and I encourage all of you to do the same. I followed protocol strictly, pushed ahead where I was able, slowed down when I needed, and never gave up. Most of all, I found it very necessary to keep a positive attitude through the whole process. I don’t know if your case is the same as mine, but I’m sure this injury has some sort of affect on you. I want to encourage you by saying that there is light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can’t see it just yet.

As a young athlete, I learned a TON of lessons during this time. The main thing was that even though I felt like I was going through hell, there is always someone else who would trade places with me in a second if they could. I learned to stay positive, even if I had to fake it sometimes. I also learned that when I am motivated, I can accomplish incredible things. I had a goal: to get back to volleyball before the season was over. I didn’t reach that goal but I shot high, fell short, and still accomplished more than anyone expected of me. One last thing I learned was that I was defined as Jen the volleyball player. However, what I had never considered was that things can be taken away from you in an instant. Now being an athlete is not WHO I am… it’s WHAT I do. It’s a privilege that I’ve been given and I now appreciate it every day.

This blog is a fantastic place to find support from other people who understand what you’re going through and also to seek advice or opinions. Recovering from this injury was probably the most grueling and  dedicated work I’ve ever done, but the satisfaction of overcoming it is beautiful. I hope that someone reads this and feels just a little bit less crappy and a little bit inspired. Good luck to you all in your journeys!

5 months and playing volleyball!!

I’m now just past the 20 week point, the 18th of June will mark exactly 5 months post-op. Big news: I played a beach volleyball tournament this past weekend! I’m so excited about this! My partner and I originally set our goals for this tournament to be strictly for fun and to expect to lose every game, but we actually came 7th out of 16 which we decided was not too shabby for my first time back! I even think it’s possible we could have done better as we had several really close matches that ended in losses.

My main concern was that I might not be able to make it throught the 10 hour day, but I did! I didn’t do much jumping at all (maybe only 2 or 3 jumps the entire day) but I was running and sprinting around just fine all day. I had no close calls or scares which was another thing I was worried about. My legs are still somewhat sore 3 days later though, I guess because I haven’t worked them that hard in a long time. The achilles was extremely stiff the next day.

The mental aspect that comes with this injury takes a lot of work to get around. The other day my PT asked me to jump over a cone (very similar to how I originally injured myself…) and I couldn’t get my head around it. I stared at it for a while until he took it away. I felt pathetic but terrified. I just freaking brain fart every time and my head can’t make my foot work.

4 months

Last monday marked 4 months since surgery. I’m really excited about my recent progress and I feel like the one-hour-per-day rehab that I have been doing for the last couple of months is really beginning to pay off. To be more exact, I am 18 weeks. This is what I have achieved so far:

-I am able to walk almost normally. Sometimes I walk perfectly, but there are also times when I relapse into my regular slight limp if I am tired or sore etc.
-I can ride the stationary bike 
-I’m able to balance on one foot well
-I am able to do one-leg heel raises without aid (woohoo!)
-I can jog for about 15 to 25 steps at a time, at which point I suddenly have to stop and take a break before trying again
-I CAN JUMP! I have done some skip rope as well as hopping up one stair at a time, all with 2 foot take off.

Most of these were achieved in a short time, I was unable to do a one-leg heel raise about 2 weeks ago but now I am able to do that as well as the things listed below it. I have been working extremely hard at range of motion and strength ever since I was allowed to start and although it felt as if nothing was changing for a long time, my work is finally beginning to pay off and my slow slant of progress is now making a sharp turn upwards. It’s really exciting and encouraging for me to actually SEE some change.

This last weekend was my volleyball nationals which I was not quite prepared to play for and it was difficult to see my team lose in the quarter finals and end up 5th, but I know if I got out on that court something would have gone wrong. That was monday, and yesterday (tuesday) I began playing beach volleyball under the instruction of my PT. I didn’t try to jump but I was able to run around in the sand and play pretty well suprisingly. Today my whole leg from the calf down is extremely stiff and sore but that is the best kind of rehab I’ve done yet :)

The sand is pretty forgiving since it falls around my foot when I push through it and it’s a whole lot safer than running around on the indoor court (there is very low risk of rolling an ankle etc.). It was a great workout, good for strengthening. If you’re at a similar point as me I might recommend asking PT about getting into the sand, there’s so many good things about it including the fact that it’s a low impact surface for running/jumping and it helps out with ankle stability as well. I think in my case it’s also a good start to regaining some confidence in my game, of course at this point my reaction time is very slow and playing on the beach is a good way to ease back into it.

I will continue to gradually ease back into volleyball using the beach courts during the summer, and hopefully by september I will be able to play back on my high school team again. My current mindset is that hard work pays off eventually. I will get better!

Haven’t updated in a while…

Well progress is still going smoothly. However there is a small glitch I am wondering about. I am trying to do one legged heel lifts, and at this point if I use my arms to take off some of the weight (on a table or something) then I can do it. This is how I initially got to heel lifts with both feet and gradually used less of my arms until I was all legs. Every once in a while I’m doing this and I hear and feel a sort of “pop”. POP is not exactly the word I want to use to describe it, but it’s the most fitting. Maybe like a click or something, but closer to a pop. It isn’t really painful but I do lose some strength and I get pretty stiff for the rest of the day. Anyone got any tips or experience ?

Other than that things are going well. My walking strides are starting to smooth out at a regular walking speed, but as soon as I try to speed up I get more limpy. That would be because I don’t have the strength to push off yet. My AT is nice and loose again though, I can move it around with my fingers pretty nicely. It used to be hard as a rock! The scar looks great (for a scar) and my calf looks a lot healthier but still pretty disproportionate.

My boot is on my trophy shelf

Well, I’m staying on track that’s for sure. I’m walking pretty well now with 00 aid. Sometimes I get pretty limpy but there are times in the day that I look like a normal person. Stationary bike is my best friend and I’m tackling the leg press too.

I’ve got the two legged calf raises down really good. I’m trying to transition to one legged which is difficult. The leg press is there to help, when I straighten my knee I can just push with my bad calf to simulate a calf raise with less weight. PT also has me going on the edge of the stair then doing a double calf raise and trying to come down on only one. I have to hold on to the rail to take off some of the weight but I’m getting better.

Stairs are funny. Going up is easy but coming down I’ve gotten creative. I just don’t have that ankle bend yet. My PT isn’t a big fan of ultrasound and prefers to literally scrape away at the scar tissue that has formed in the surgical area. It is DEFINITELY the most painful thing I’ve chosen to put myself through. He uses a piece of wood or something that is in the shape of a comb and honestly just scrapes away. It’s worth it though. The change in restriction is instantaneous. Now that my calf is activating  he also went through and separated the muscles the other day… ugghhh. PAIN.

Oh, and my boot IS on my trophy shelf :)

1 shoe, 2 shoe, red shoe, blue shoe

Well hello there to all my left shoes that have been burried in the back of the closet for the last 2  months :) Well, maybe the high heels will stay back there for a while longer… but hey I’m not complaining!

It’s official, the boot can go. What a relief. Seems I was just getting used to it too…

I have a friend who had a major ankle sprain a while back and said her physiotherapist was amazing. He got her back on the basketball court in 3 weeks instead of 6. I had already started with another PT when she recommended him so I didn’t really bother to look into it. The guy I began with is very young and seems very inexperienced with the achilles rupture, I believe I might even be the first one he’s dealt with before. Over the last few days I decided that if I want to get better fast, he wasn’t the right one because with inexperience comes a conservative protocall. Not what I want. So yesterday I made an appointment with the PT my friend recommended just to see if things might change a little.

Now, of course this is no simple ankle sprain, but he is AWESOME. He clearly knows what he is doing and has a much more agressive approach than my original PT. He gave me only about 3 exercices but told me to do them as many times as humanly possible every day and I will make good progress. He has told me that if I work excruciatingly hard that there’s a chance I could be playing a LITTLE bit of volleyball by the end of May (a.k.a MY NATIONALS CHAMPIONSHIPS). I will probably not be able to play at my normal level of 50+ jumps per game, but possibly some defense and serving which basically requires me to stay on the ground for the most part but still involves quick movements and short sprints. I’ve decided to set the goal, hope for the best, and expect the worst.

But for now: walking! It’s getting much easier. I currently wear 2  1/8inch heel lifts. I can walk almost normally with them in (and it’s rapidly improving with practice). Everything has been going happily for the last couple of days. I have a new and improved PT, I’ve ditched the boot hopefully for the last time, and limping is turning into walking! Not too shabby.

Oh range of motion, come back to me!

Slow. That is the word of the week. Last week I went to my PT and he was impressed with my progress in getting off the crutches, but he thought my range of motion could have been a bit better by that time. This week I’ve been working my rear off to get it going. SLOW. I don’t like that word.

I’ve been doing two or three times more of the work/excercises than I was instructed in attempt to see some sort of significant change. I guess that’s pretty stupid to hope for since nothing has really gone all that quickly so far. By the end of every day it seems like I’ve got a decent amount more movement than I did in the morning, but then by the time I go to sleep and wake up the AT stiffens up again and whatever progress I made seems lost. SLOW.

When I do think back to 5 days ago then I can see that my range of motion is a bit farther, but when I look at yesterday it seems like nothing. This is the kind of slowness I mean, the changes are very minor between days but they add up. New word: Patience. I could also use “commitment” or “focus”. I’m working towards playing volleyball again in the late summer (which I’ve been told is a good goal to work towards) so I don’t have time to get lazy and not do my rehab. It’s hard when it feels like nothing’s changing!

Watching my team lose 15-11 in the fifth set of the gold medal match was another frustrating day. It’s so difficult to sit and watch but at the same time I feel obligated to go support my team. It’s my own choice to continue spending my regular 5 days a week at my volleyball practices and games watching instead of playing and I think I will continue to do so for the rest of the season. I think in the end when I’m back on the court I’ll be glad that I stuck it out.

I have started using the stationary bike at a regular speed now. I just plant my heel rather than my toe on the pedal and it doesn’t affect the AT at all. It feels amazing to get some exercise! I haven’t actually tried putting a shoe on that foot while biking yet, only socks so far. I’m supposed to walk around the house in running shoes at this point which is suprisingly much more comfortable than I imagined it would be. The only sore part is just that the back of the shoe puts pressure on the AT which is still somewhat sensitive to the touch,  but it’s getting better… Slowly.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll get out of this feeling of molasses sooner or later so I may as well just keep putting up with it. I feel more energetic than I have in the last few weeks probably due to the fact that I’m now mobile. At least that helps with staying focused on staying on track and not getting lazy. I’m sure I’m just at a little dip in the road this week, if my grandma were still around she’d tell me to just quit my whining and get over it : )

Baby Steps

I am loving life right now. I’m taking on walking as a challenge who’s butt I want to kick. I’m officially down to one crutch and REALLY enjoying the freedom! It’s been too long since I’ve been able to carry a plate to the table because of lack of hands.

Since I’m still in high school and have to be in the crowded halls a lot of the day, I was pretty unsure how the transition would go from speed demon on 2 crutches to gimp limp on one. I stuck to hopping on 2 crutches for 2 days after I was allowed to be FWB, practiced up over the weekend with 1, and now have the confidence to hold up everyone in the halls just so I can get back to walking :) My foot was pretty sore by the end of the day from trying to walk faster than I was comfortable doing, but I guess if I keep pushing the envelope within reason and bite the discomfort then I’ll make faster progress anyway.

I’m enjoying the progression. I don’t have a care in the world at how goofy I look trying to get around. Finally being able to be less dependant is awsome.

I don’t know how long it typically takes most people with ATR to get from NWB to fully walking but I feel that I’m doing a good job. Over the course of 5 days I’ve gone from completely NWB to walking around the house with no boot and no crutches. And it only gets better every day. Now I can get on the stationary bike and pedal smoothly (but still really slowly) and my exercises are getting less painful. I haven’t had much to complain about lately!

Good-bye crutches!

I can’t believe I would ever appreciate hearing that I’m allowed to walk! I went to see my specialist today and he gave me the go ahead to be FWB. I feel like it’s been forever!

He gave me the freedom to do whatever I like, suggested I continue wearing the boot as long or short as I want and as I gain some confidence (and coordination) get myself back into 2 shoes. I can’t exactly walk, I’ve tried. The boot I’m in was still not at 90 degrees so the tendon isn’t quite stretched out yet and I can’t stand up totally straight, but it’s a start I guess. For now I’ve adjusted it myself to what’s only slightly uncomfortable and am working on a sort of shuffle with one crutch… it looks ridiculous but I really couldn’t care less.

I’ve been told I’m ahead of my protocall. I wasn’t supposed to be weight bearing for about 2 more weeks. This is the kind of news I want to hear!

Big Toe?

Just wondering if anyone has a clue why the bottom of my foot around and including my big toe is painful? I can’t think of anything I’ve done to bruise it or anything and there’s no visual evidence that anything is wrong, but for the last 3 days it’s been painful to touch the area or move my toes.  Any tips?

(I’m 6 weeks post-op still NWB in a boot)

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