6 month update and goodbye

So last Saturday marked the 6 month date from my surgery. I feel like my leg is about 80% healed and I really have very few problems or issues any longer. It still feels a bit stiff and tight some days, but I have pain only occasionally and don’t generally even think about my Achilles during a normal day.

I am back hiking again, steep hikes over rough terrain. I feel an ache in the Achilles going up a very steep slope, but other than that it just gets tired quickly and I need about a day after hiking for it to recover.

I am also back playing volleyball. The first time was very stressful and worrying and I barely moved on the court. However, I have played 4 times since there and I am moving around well, almost at pre-injury levels. I haven’t done any jumping yet, but I can play and go for the ball without worrying now.

I did a 5km race last week. I didn’t run at all, but I walked it at the same speed that I walked last year before the injury so that felt good. I had no pain during or after the walk.

So over all I feel mostly recovered. I have managed to run across the road and to catch a bus but haven’t been running yet. But that is not something I usually do anyway. I still can lift my heel only a short distance off the ground as a single leg lift, but at least I can get it off the ground for a reasonable time now.

Some things that I think have helped a good recovery:
being forced to stay in hospital for the first 2 weeks, which meant that my leg was elevated 24 hours a day during that time
having daily dressing changes during the hospital stay also meant that the scar healed well
doing exercises early - I think riding an exercise bike early on after pwb started (in the boot) helped
walking - I did a lot of walking starting from the pwb time, always slowly and carefully and I stopped if it got painful but I think this walking helped with recovery
heel drops - since doing single legged heel lowering exercises daily I have noticed a significant improvement in my calf strength

This website was amazing early on during this injury and it really helped me during the recovery stage. However, now that I feel pretty much recovered I rarely visit this site. I am too busy going out and doing things these days! I might pop in occasionally to see if there are questions I can answer, but I (hopefully!) won’t be here posting on here again.

19 week update

I haven’t updated recently as I haven’t had easy access to a computer, plus I have been on vacation, but today is 19 weeks since my surgery and I am happy to report that life is pretty much normal again!

My walking is normal and except when I get occasional heel pain seems to be limp free. I can walk normal speed again and can even walk fast when required. While on vacation I even managed to jog to catch a train.

I can walk downstairs properly again. I have been able to put one foot on each step since being in 2-shoes. However, I was always going heel first with my bad leg. About 3 weeks ago I started trying to walk normally downstairs, putting my toe first and then dropping the heel down. It was very hard at first and even when I could do it without difficulty I still had to think about it else my heel went down first. Now, I can do it without thinking and am comfortable going downstairs without a handrail again.

On holiday last week I did a lot of walking and standing so I had swelling each night, but very little pain. I also managed a short hike, only about 15 minutes, but it was on a proper uneven hiking trail with stones and I had no problem.  I plan to start real hiking in the next month, although I will start with easy ones. I usually hike with poles anyway so they will help.

I am also hoping to start playing gentle volleyball next month. I can do squats without any trouble now and even squat right down to the ground (useful for the local toilets!). I am riding a bike to work daily and can even make it up the hill to my apartment on it.

I am doing squats including one legged ones, lunges and heel raises for exercise everyday. I can comfortably do a 2 legged heel raise without any support. I am lowering on one leg but I can’t do it from the top of the raise without some support yet. I can’t do a single legged heel raise although I can get my heel off the floor finally. I have a slight sign of visible calf muscle but it still needs lots of work to get stronger.

I won’t be jumping or running for a while yet, but they are not things I really do anyway.

I don’t think about my Achilles most of the time anymore. I no longer have to wonder if I can do something or not, I can just go and do it which is very liberating.

Overall I am pretty happy with my progress.

14 week update

Tomorrow will be 14 weeks since my injury.

I am walking pretty normally now. I have some pain in my achilles/calf which comes and goes. When it is pain free I don’t have a limp and can walk at a normal speed too. When the pain comes I can only walk slowly without limping.

I will be heading out on my bicycle starting this week.

I am walking up and down stairs like a normal person now :) and no longer have to use the lift to get to my 3rd floor classroom.

I had a session with a physiotherapist last week. He spent most of the time on deep massage as he said that is more effective than stretching. It really helped to loosen up my muscles and made walking easier. If it wasn’t so far away I would try and have it regularly. Instead he showed me how to do it at home, which is less effective but better than nothing. Basically, I press and roll my leg on a rolling pin.

He also gave me some core muscle exercises to do. And suggested doing ROM exercises (front to back, side to side and rotations) standing on the bed to give an unstable base. Also standing on one leg on the bed as well as on the floor.

Other exercises I am doing regularly are theraband stretching, standing heel raises on two legs (these are getting easier but still difficult and uncomfortable), squats, standing on one leg and cycling on the exercise bike.

All in all I am happy with my progress. I wish there was a bit less pain, but it is not too bad and not always there. I feel I need to really work on strengthening my leg now so that I can get back to doing sports and hiking after the summer.

11 weeks - 2 shoes

Today is 11 weeks since my injury and tomorrow will be 11 weeks since the surgery.

Yesterday I walked outside in 2 shoes for the first time! It was rather scary but otherwise fine.

For the past week or so I have been comfortably walking around in my apartment without the boot. I have been taking it off at the door like a regular shoe and not using it at all at home. I was walking around in bare feet most of the time and occasionally putting on 2 shoes for a bit of practice. I have never had any heel wedges for my boot, so it just seemed natural to walk in bare feet at home.

I also managed to get rid of the chair for showering and to stand up and take a shower like a normal person which was a good feeling.

On Wednesday I walked to work wearing my boot. It is just over 1.5km and it only took me a couple of minutes longer than pre-injury. I saw the doctor last night and he told me that my tendon looks nearly normal and is strong so to start walking without my boot. That is a lot earlier than his original prediction of 3 months on the day of my surgery. He also told me that it wasn’t too long ago that he gave people casts for 3 months after this surgery!

So I decided to finally brave going outside last night. There is a supermarket about 5 minutes walk from my house at normal walking speed. The road to it is not too uneven apart from the steep hill up to my house at the end. My husband met me at the shop with my other shoe and my hiking poles and I took off my boot and walked up the road. It was completely terrifying but not painful. I changed back into the boot to get up the hill as it is still a bit hard to do it even in the boot.

This morning, I walked down the stairs (bad foot first), down the hill and to the supermarket all with 2 shoes and without my hiking sticks. It took me about 10 minutes instead of 5 so I am quite happy with that.

I put my boot back on to teach, as someone has polished the floor in my classroom and it is super slippery. But since classes finished I have been walking to and from the teachers’ room in my regular shoes.

I feel a bit unsteady in my shoes and a short walk is much more tiring so I will continue to use the boot sometimes for a week or so, but I hope to finish with it soon.

I have also found a physio to visit next weekend. It is about 4 hours away on the bus, so I am hoping that they are good and can give me plenty of exercise tips to take home.

2 months - first few steps without the boot

So last Wednesday marked the 2 month date since my surgery. I saw the doctor who told me that my walking in the boot was normal which was excellent. I feel comfortable walking in the boot now but I still can’t manage to get much past 1km in a single walk. I am still trying to increase the range slowly but my leg gets tired and sore at about that time. My walking is slow, but as long as I take small steps and think about walking then my gait is pretty normal. I am lucky that my boot doesn’t have a very big sole so the uneveness between the boot and my shoe is pretty small.

I am comfortably sleeping without the boot now. And I have been standing in bare feet for about a week and gradually transferring my weight onto my bad foot. But I hadn’t taken any steps without my boot.

On Thursday morning I wanted to get a sock so I could put my boot on. The socks were about 3 steps away and I really didn’t want to put the boot on to get them and then take it off again. So I decided to go for it and take the steps without the boot, but using my crutches for security. I had no problem putting most of the weight on my bad foot but I was shocked by how weak the leg felt.

Since then I have been increasingly not using my boot around the house. I can manage to get around without crutches now, but I don’t feel comfortable with walking yet so I think it will be a while before I go outside without the boot. I don’t have much of a limp but every step seems like a big effort. Although the first few steps with the boot were the same and now walking in that is easy so hopefully it won’t take long for improvements to show up.

I haven’t had much pain. I get occasional short pains in the Achilles but they never last for more than a minute or so. My heel sometimes feels sore, especially when I walk a longer distance. My calf muscle ached terribly for most of last week but has eased off now. I am still getting knee pain some of the time too.

For exercises I am doing the following (by myself not PT directed):

cycling for 2o minutes per day using the boot — I am up to level 4 on the resistance now (my husband tells me level 5 is like normal flat cycling)

walking about 1km per day in a single session (trying to increase this distance gradually)

30 leg raises and clam shells

stretching using a latex band (plantar flexion, inversion and eversion)

dorsiflexion stretches without the band and ankle rotations

making a bridge

My PT has hinted that he might give me some exercises when the boot comes off. If he doesn’t then I shall stop going. I wish I could find a better one, but it is not possible where I live. At least there is useful information available on the internet.

Overall I am happy with my progress, but I also feel like there is still a long way to go. As they say in Korea " 이팅 (f ighting)!".

Transitioning to FWB (week7/8)

I saw my doctor last Tuesday and he told me that I would be able to lose the crutches within 2 weeks. I was a bit skeptical at the time, but made a conscious effort to put more weight on my leg with each step. On Wednesday and Thursday there was an ache in my calf muscle, presumably because it was finally being used!

On Friday, I had a free afternoon at work so I decided to try walking down the corridor using only 1 crutch. I carried both, but managed to take a few steps with only one crutch and not resting too much weight on it.

The next day I was walking comfortably with 1 crutch and managed to take a couple of wobbly steps without leaning on it at all. They were really more like a shuffle than walking but it was still FWB.

By the beginning of this week, I was comfortably walking around the house without my crutches, but was walking much better when I was using 1 crutch.

For this week, at work I am still using 1 crutch (it helps fend of the little children and is good when I get tired), but am happily walking without it and as long as I take small slow steps, my walking is fairly good and no longer a shuffle.

So I didn’t really believe it would be possible when I saw the doctor last week, but I have successfully transitioned to FWB.

I have little pain in the Achilles, although it does feel tight. It is also quite swollen at the end of the day, but the swelling goes down quite quickly. I have had a bit of ankle pain and quite a lot of knee pain (a residual effect from my previous ACL surgery combined with the fact that my quad has shrunk a lot).

I have been using my exercise bike daily to try and help build muscle strength, especially in my quad. And walking about 1km per day as well.

So at this stage, I am happy with my progress. I hope it continues to go well.

6 weeks after surgery

After being allowed to go home from the hospital 18 days after having surgery, I mostly just rested at home with my leg elevated for another couple of weeks. My husband did a good job of looking after me and when he was away on a couple of trips I managed ok by myself.

I used a computer chair on wheels to move food from the kitchen to the dining table. This also gave me somewhere to sit and rest while I was in the kitchen. And a chair covered in a large trash bag for sitting and taking a shower with another bag to cover my cast.

My apartment has some tricky stairs to negotiate to get in and out of it and it is at the top of a small hill. I don’t have a car so all of these have contributed to me not getting out and about much during the first 5 weeks after surgery. Now I am more confident on the stairs, although still wary, and I can walk down the hill to the main road and catch a taxi so I am able to go out other than to visit the hospital. This definitely helps with a feeling of getting back to normal.

On 6th May, not quite 4 weeks after the surgery my cast was removed. The doctor looked at the Achilles and said it was healing well and I could go into the boot. I don’t know the kind of boot, but it has a metal rods attached to a wheel on each ankle which allows adjustment of how much the boot can flex, and lots of velcro straps.

It hurt putting the boot on for the first time, as with the cast my foot was pointing downwards but t he boot is set in a near normal foot position. The pain was just from some stretching and it didn’t last long. I was told to be PWB but I was rather tentative at first.

I did have terrible knee pain for a few days. My knee had severely stiffened up from being in the cast and it took about 1 week of doing knee exercises to get the full range of movement back in my knee.

I started physiotherapy the Monday after getting the boot. This consists of heat, interferential electrotherapy at the same time as infrared therapy. All these are supposed to improve circulation. After the heat therapy sometimes the physiotherapist massages my leg. There is one spot on my calf which is very painful during the massage, although it does seem to be improving slightly. I was also told to do ROM exercises (just move my foot gently up and down) at home. I am having this physiotherapy 3 times a week.

I have also been doing leg lifts (without being told) ever since the surgery. Lifts lying on my back and on my side wearing the boot and the cast before that. I am still PWB, but am trying to increase the amount of slow walking I do. I can manage about 500m before being too tired. It has just got really hot here which doesn’t help. I have just ordered an exercise bike and plan to start using that daily from this week.

Last week I went back to work which was rather scary. I teach at elementary school and I was very worried about the students running into me. But they have been very respectful of the crutches. Apart from being exhausted at the end of each day, it has gone very well.

So now I am 6 weeks post surgery. I am still PWB in the boot and have been told I will ditch the crutches within 2 weeks. I am trying to increase the amount of weight I put on my foot but I haven’t been brave enough to try FWB yet.

I have pretty much a full range of motion back in my foot, after it is warmed up. I have a little swelling around the Achilles which increases to a lot if I have my foot down for too long, but goes down quite quickly on elevation. I am still sleeping in the boot as it doesn’t bother me and I move around a lot during the night.

Rupture and surgery

I ruptured my Achilles on April 9th playing volleyball. I wasn’t doing anything impressive just stepping forward to receive the ball when my leg collapsed. I didn’t hear a pop or feel like I had been kicked, my leg just gave way. When I stood back up my foot felt wrong so I was pretty sure I had done something serious. It was pretty painful too.

One of the other members of my volleyball club took me to the local orthopedic hospital, but because it was evening the doctor had already gone home. A nurse gave me a kind of plaster cast and told me to come back the next morning.

I am currently working as a teacher in South Korea so this entire process was conducted in a language which I don’t speak well. Luckily I understand more than I speak so I was able to get by.

That evening I did some research on the internet and I was pretty such I had torn my Achilles. It was pretty sore and I was worrying a lot so I didn’t get much sleep that night.  A Korean friend gave me a ride to the hospital the next day but she had to go to work and my husband was on a business trip that day too so I was on my own at the hospital.

When I arrived they were expecting me. I stand out as the only foreigner patient they have! They gave me some x-rays and the radiographer didn’t look too impressed with my injury. I know that x-rays are not necessarily the best way to identify a ruptured tendon, but they love them over here and seem to give them way more often than other countries in my experience.

I then saw the doctor, who I was very relived to learn speaks English. He took a look at my leg and told me straight away that the Achilles was completely torn. He said that I needed surgery to repair it and that it was a very simple procedure and he could do it that morning. I already knew that surgery was probably the answer from my research the previous night, but I wasn’t expecting to have it done quite so quickly!

I was hustled off for a CT-scan - I don’t know why. Then in to be prepped for surgery. The hospital staff were very nice but only the doctor spoke English so everything else was done in Korean. I was actually quite glad that it was all rushed through as it didn’t really give me any time to worry.

I had a spinal anaesthetic for the surgery. I was amazed that they were able to make my left leg completely numb, but leave some of the feeling in my right leg. It was very weird seeing my left leg in the air as they moved it for some reason, but feeling as if it was still on the table. The surgery took just over 30 minutes and when it was finished they showed me some photos of the Achilles before and after. Then put me in a full leg cast.

It was only at that point that I realised what a long recovery it would be. That was when the doctor decided to tell me that I would need the cast for 1 month and a boot for 3 months.

I was told that I had to lie completely flat and not even lift my head for 12 hours. I found out later that this is to reduce the chance of a headache from the spinal anaesthetic. I was offered painkillers for an extra fee. The price was quite high (about $120) but I said yes. I was sharing a room with a female monk, who told me that I shouldn’t take painkillers until I was in pain, but I opted for pain prevention. The painkillers were in the form of a drip for about 48 hours. I don’t know if they were good ones, or if I was just lucky but I had very little pain in my leg. I did suffer from quite bad back pain during the first day, but I think that was partly having to lie flat for the whole time. I also had a kind of frame to keep my leg elevated the entire time, which meant that I had little swelling.

After 12 hours (about midnight) I was allowed a pillow and some water. The next day I was allowed to sit up slightly, but was not able to get out of bed for 4 days until they gave me some crutches.  I was informed that I was strictly NWB.

I had ACL surgery in New Zealand about 10 years ago. The ACL surgery was on the same leg, but I don’t know if the injuries are related at all. When I had that surgery I was only in hospital overnight, so when I was told I would have to stay in hospital for 2 weeks it was a big surprise. The reason given was that I needed daily antibiotic injections.

Actually staying in hospital wasn’t too bad, apart from the food which was not that good. My husband came to visit every day and several friends also dropped by. The thing that is very different about hospital in Korea is that the nurses do the health stuff only. They give drugs and take blood pressure etc. But family members come to the hospital and often stay there overnight to help with caring. They take patients to the bathroom and wash them, not the nursing staff. People also seem to stay in hospital when they don’t really need to. One of my roommates used to go home for part of the day and then come back to the hospital just to sleep. Another one, an old lady couldn’t be persuaded to go home for several days even though every day the nurses and her family tried to tell her that she would feel better at home.

The hospital had a daily routine. We were woken up by a nurse around 6.30am for an injection in the bum. A drip was started which would continue until early afternoon. 7am was cleaning time and 8am was breakfast. Around 10am the trainee nurses would come and take our blood pressure. Lunch was at 12. Around 2pm the drip would be finished and removed. This was always a good time as going to the bathroom with the drip was a big pain. It was attached to a wheely pole but I would have to push the pole and then take a couple of steps on my crutches. It was so much easier in the afternoon when I just had to use the crutches.  Around 3pm the dressing nurse would come and change my dressing. The day I had my surgery and the cast fitted they cut a door at the back. So every day he would come and take the door off and change the dressing. Around 4pm the doctor would come round and say "any problems, no, good". That was all I saw of him, but I know the nurses kept him informed. Dinner was around 5.30pm and another injection in the bum at about 7pm.

At around 2 weeks I had the stitches out, half one day and the remainder two days later. And finally 18 days after the surgery I was permitted to go home.