My ATR Story…and Subsequent Re-Rupture

On the evening of June 26th I fell down a 4 foot high set of steps I had just constructed in our back yard. Extreme pain but no “pop” that I recall. Just the sound of me hitting the deck below. No blood (except my forearm and a cut in my mouth from hitting a large retaining wall boulder). No bone sticking out anywhere. Do to the pain, I was certain it was broken. But after about 15 minutes the pain subsided somewhat and I was able to stand on it without any increase in pain, although I couldn’t walk normally. Hmmm, no blood or bones protruding and I can walk on it (sort of). Must have sprained my ankle or strained my calf muscle I thought. After a couple of days I decided it must not be that serious since I was still able to get around so I thought I’d give it some more time to heal on it’s own and continued to finish building the deck and going to work every day during the next three weeks. (First mistake!) After three weeks it wasn’t getting any better so I visited my Dr. and her diagnosis was achilles tendonitis. She prescribed a walking boot and some topical ibuprofen drops to apply to the achilles area. She offered to have me see a specialist if I wanted but I declined. If my Dr. thinks it’s tendonitis and doesn’t think it’s serious enough to even have it X-Rayed then that’s great news, right? (Second mistake!) After all, it’s not broken and apparently there’s no torn calf muscle like I suspected. A ruptured achilles never crossed my mind since I’d always heard that you couldn’t walk if you ruptured it. And it wasn’t broken since I could walk on it (somewhat) without much pain. I thought I’d be good as new in a couple of weeks. Two weeks later - still not getting any better. Still can’t walk normally. Leg is still swollen. Back to the Dr. and requested to see a specialist. Hobbled into the specialists office a week later and a quick glance and ultrasound showed a complete achilles tendon rupture with about an inch of space between the ends of the tendon. (Finally figured out why it wasn’t healing!) The surgeon’s schedule was booked and it was two more weeks before I had the ATR surgery on Sep 7th, 10 weeks and 2 days after the injury. (Time is not your friend when it comes to ATR surgery I was told). The surgery went well. Stitches came out at 2 weeks. Went into a walking boot after 5 weeks and then 2 shoes at 7 weeks. There was light at the end of the tunnel, finally! The PT referral got screwed up somewhere between the surgeons office and my insurance so my first PT appointment wasn’t scheduled until Nov 20th so for three weeks in two shoes I resumed my normal daily activities without any PT. On Nov 17th, a week before Thanksgiving and ten weeks post surgery, I was delivering a letter to the mailbox in front of my business and slipped on a railroad tie that I stepped up onto (Third mistake!). I knew instantly that it wasn’t good. The pain was exactly the same as my first rupture. I raced to the surgeons office and waited for an hour for him to show up at his office. He saw me without an appointment and confirmed my worst fear. Totally ruptured again! Devastated! I DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN!!!! My second surgery is this Wednesday, Dec 14th. The tear is in a completely different spot just below my calf muscle. The surgeon will be taking the tendon from my foot and a cadaver tendon to repair it. The prognosis is that once I’m 100% recovered in 6 months to a year, I’ll only have about 30% of the strength of my other foot. Not even sure if it’s worth going through another surgery and lengthy recovery (and being away from my business) for only 30% usage but I’m hoping the surgeon is wrong and that I can have greater strength with a lot of hard work. The thought of wearing knee high logging boots for the rest of my life in order to protect the tendon is not very appealing! So, that’s my ATR surgery story - so far. I’m writing this blog in the hope that anyone reading it will learn from my mistakes (and to get some frustration off my chest). First Mistake, not seeing a doctor right away! Thinking back on it now, my Dr. probably didn’t take the injury seriously because I didn’t. I believe that the 10 weeks from injury to surgery is the main reason I re-ruptured and believe me, you don’t want to go there. Second Mistake, if your Dr. offers a second opinion take that as a hint that he or she may not know what they’re talking about! Third Mistake, do not take unecessary risks during recovery. The simplest things will trip you up if you’re not extremely careful. If I had just stayed on the flat sidewalk going to the mailbox instead of taking a shortcut across a flower bed I probably would not be staring a second surgery in the face right now. Wishing everyone a speedy recovery wherever you find yourself in this marathon.