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.

2 Responses to “Rupture and surgery”

  1. Thank you for sharing. My daughter taught English for a year in Korea and was taken ill twice. While it was nothing as serious as what happened to you, she found the Korean doctors and nurses to be very efficient and she was very impressed even though she didn’t speak Korean. The experience that I had with my hospital stay for my Achilles tendon surgery was not good and this was in the U.S.

  2. Michael67, yes I have been pleasantly surprised by the level of health care I received in my local countryside hospital. The hospital is not at all fancy but the care was good and soooo quick.

    I am sorry to hear that you didn’t have a good experience in the hospital for your Achilles surgery.

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