Yes, it’s Happy Birthday to…. my new right Achilles!
Today - October 14th - marks the first anniversary of my ATR. Okay, so I’ve jumped the gun slightly time-wise; it’s now (checks watch) 13.39 UK time and, strictly speaking, I should wait until approximately 20.30 UK time before truly calling it, but so what? A few hours surely doesn’t matter. At around 20.30 tonight, I just might pour myself a glass of wine and toast a very significant anniversary. My wife’s out and both my children will be/should be sound asleep in bed, so it’ll be a few moments of quiet reflection, but I’ll enjoy those moments. At 20.30 on October 14, 2009, I was sitting, crumpled on the floor of squash court 1 in my local leisure centre, head turning from the direction of the spectator balcony/gallery (”who threw that rather hard object into the back of my leg, knocking me to the floor?”) to my ruined AT and the sickening, panicked feeling as the realisation of my injury became clear. My squash partner may have been telling me I’d torn a calf muscle, but the absence of my achilles tendon - in its place an area of soft, fleshy skin - told its own story.
Those first few weeks were hard. I mean hard. And for those of you on this site who are in that stage, I can truly sympathise and empathise and tell you, from my experience, that there is no way around this period. No shortcuts. It’s a time to be patient, to slow down, to listen to the advice you are given, to bite down on the frustration you feel. To not expect those around you - friends and relatives, though I’m sure many of yours are helping - to fully understand what you’re going through. To use this website, because it’s the best support network you’ll find.
But I’ll also tell you this: know that it gets better, because it will. I had some ‘fun’ in those first few weeks: back at work after a couple of days, I forced myself to crutch to a nearby supermarket to buy some lunch, arriving sweating and out of breath, arms throbbing, before realising I couldn’t carry my lunch and walk on the crutches, so I turned and went back. I got so teared up at the sight of my AT and ankle three weeks in - first cast removal at the hospital - that the nurse quickly offered me sweets to make ‘you feel better, pet’ (I was 34 years old). The total feeling, in general, of being helpless, useless, a burden. The disagreements with my wife, who suddenly couldn’t depend on my support in all the usual areas of running the family home and let me know about it (in all seriousness, it wasn’t a great time and, even now, when it’s recalled it leads to tension). And, later, when I had my boot on, the time I had to catch the bus home from work, missed my stop, didn’t realise for some time and then eventually had to get the driver to stop about two miles from where I needed to be. I trudged home, in my boot, in the snow. And haven’t told anyone (at all) until now.
If you haven’t read my previous posts - and I haven’t posted on here for at least six months, though I’m a frequent visitor to read blogs and updates - I opted to go non-op and though I fretted about that decision for ages afterwards, my recovery went smoothly, or at least has for a year. I was fortunate to be able to call upon BUPA treatment through my employer to arrange physio sessions and my physio was absolutely brilliant, my salvation, in many ways. Sessions were weekly, then fortnightly, then monthly, then alternating between her offices and the gym. I guess I had the best part of six months of physiotherapy, and then I was done.
Now? Well, I haven’t done anything bold. Perhaps I should. I’m asked - quite a lot - if/when I’ll play squash again, and I’m adamant that I won’t. I miss it, because I enjoyed it and I played against a good friend, but it’s tempting fate too much to play again, especially now I know what I know and that’s actually a high-risk sport for ATR. Instead, I’ve bought a bike, which hasn’t been used too much but certainly will when Spring comes around again and now I’ve taught my son to ride without his stabilisers. Also, I’ve started running. Not huge distances, but I’m building up and, surprisingly, enjoying it more than I thought I would. First few times, I did feel soreness in my AT, but that’s lessened and lessened and I think the running has done it some good. Last time out was two days ago, and I felt no reaction.
I do get the odd reminder about the injury, and it’s always after something unexpected. Recently, I had a pretty active weekend - nothing strenuous but just two bust days, lots of walking, gardening, a long drive back and forth to London on the Saturday, a night out with friends which saw me standing up most of the time, and, come the end of the weekend, I did feel sore. A quiet Sunday evening and it quickly settled.
In many years, it’s been a long year but in others, I’m surprised how quickly it’s come round. I’d say month 1-5 was quite slow; from 5-6 months onwards it’s been like normal life again. Which it has. Truthfully, I don’t think my right AT will ever be like it was, but I expect further improvement over the coming months and I think about it all much less.
From time to time, however, I do think about how it’s all mended, the process my own body went through to repair itself and, actually, it takes my breath away. Every time. When I think about it, it’s pretty amazing. The thought of it never fails to move me.
So that’s the update on my survey. To old friends on here, I hope your recoveries continue to go well. And to new friends I haven’t yet met…. I wish you all the very, very best. You will be fine.