Today, 5am, I woke up from a nightmare remembering it vividly: The doctor is examining me to see if I re-ruptured my Achilles tendon. He performs an incision right above the top part of the foot, and we see bubbles of blood and some yellow liquid coming out of it. The doctor decides that it is fine, and my wife (she’s a doctor too) concurs, but I don’t understand how come; after all the tendon in the back of the heel, not the front… I ask them but the dream fades away. I wake up knowing that the night is over for me.

Going back to March 24, 5 weeks post my ATR repair, I went to see my surgeon. He was all happy about the healing and asked if I was ready to start pushing some pressure on it. “Of course” I said, and got the green light to start walking, with the splint on. “Keep the splint on for another 6 weeks”, said the doctor, “Oh, and you don’t need to see me again”. How happy I was.

You don’t want to go there“. That is what several people, most of them doctors, told me. They meant that I better not re-rapture my Achilles tendon. It requires another repair and the recovery process is much slower with a higher chance of complications and future ruptures. I thought I understood. Did I really?

Sunday, March 29, a few days after I started walking, I went to the walk-in clinic in the hospital where my wife works. My heel was swollen and there was a questionable infection. The family doctor wasn’t sure if the infection was only superficial or not, so she gave me antibiotics and recommended that if things get worse I should see my surgeon again.  I think the infection wasn’t deep, but later that week I had some blood and yellow liquid coming out of the incision scar (probably the image that I saw in the dream) and my physiotherapist recommended to air it as much as possible so it can dry and heal.

During the following week I was walking more, with high expectations to see a rapid improvement, but still with some redness and inflammation that bothered me. Taking the physiotherapist advice, I didn’t wear the splint at home, trying to air the incision scar, let it ‘breath’ and maybe, subconsciously, convincing myself that I’m healing fast enough to have the freedom of walking without the splint while at home. I did, however, put it back when I had to walk out.

One of the challenges of the injury, is to learn how to handle basic activities, like showers, walking up and down the stairs and even making and carrying a cup of coffee. Most of us are not thinking about such day-to-day activities, but as soon as I started using my contraptions, I realized I had to think about almost every movement, and especially in potentially risky situations (like stairs) where one little mistake can become an injury.

Tuesday, April 7. I just finished the antibiotics, and after some more physio sessions, things felt good. I had a busy morning at work, and I was sitting at my desk the entire morning, not wearing the splint. Then I heard the bell ringing and I knew it was the delivery service bringing the new headset I bought. I knew I had minute or two to get there before the delivery guy leaves, so I got up and rushed to the door, carefully walking down the stairs. I got the package and said thanks. The delivery guy said ‘Bonjour’ and left. I started climbing the steps while thinking about the ‘Bonjour’ and looking at the package. In the second step I collapsed while feeling a sharp pain in my injured heal and the sensation of tissue stretching and tearing. Oh-my-god, I thought, that’s it. I just did the mistake I was dreading. One moment out-of-focus, and I was instinctively trying to climb a step using my injured, unprotected (no splint on) leg, putting too much pressure on it. If I was focused enough to think about my steps I would be more careful.  If I hadn’t rushed to the door I would probably realize that I’m not ready to handle stairs without the splint on. If I was a bit more careful, I would still be with my splint on during the day, as the doctor suggested, but now this might all be too late. I will have 24 hours to think about it again and again and again, unable to escape the torturous thoughts.

1 Hour later, I’m at the hospital, with my wife in her clinics, being examined by other family medicine doctors. They can’t determine if I re-ruptured or not. Thompson’s test looks negative, but we all agree it’s not very reliable. I am sent to do an Ultrasound. This is the first time I realize my heart is pounding as I am lying on my stomach and the ultrasound technician is checking me. I really accepted my first injury in peace, and was very positively thinking about recovery. But now I feel like an idiot, and fear the worst. I don’t remember being so nervous. After bringing in another doctor to see the imaging, they both tell me that they can’t determine weather it is OK or not. Unbelievable. What is the next step? MRI? well, your surgeon will decide.The Ultrasound technician is direct enough to conclude: “Well, if it is torn you will be operated again and then you will be like a saint for a year”. My darkest fears in simple words.  So I walked back to my wife’s clinic and call the surgeon clinic to get an appointment for the next day, 1pm. Oh boy, this is going to be a hard day (and night) to go through.

At home I was trying not to think about it, to occupy myself with work. But when my thoughts were drifting back to the injury, I felt like trapped in a vicious circle. Why did it happen? Is it torn? What should I be expecting now? and the horrible echo of that warning: “You don’t want to go there”. Well, I might just did.

The next day, after I woke up from the nightmares, I had to pass though the morning hours before I see the surgeon. Work was the remedy to my stress. Then I drove to the clinic and eventually got into the examination room. Seating there on a corner chair, I waited for the verdict.

I’m OK. My tendon is still connected, thank God. More luck than brains. The surgeon confirmed after 20 seconds of looking at my leg. I asked all sorts of questions but he concluded that I probably just pulled it, and there is no reason to do an MRI. “You have to respect the 6 months it takes for it to heal” he said, not for the first time. I’m being prescribed 2 weeks of no weight bearing, and then start all over again with physio. I accept it with love; after all, this is nothing compared to what was expecting me if the tendon was torn again.

iWalkFree - Indeed

I will start with a semi apology: this is not an infomercial although it might look like one.
I just received my iWalkFree 3 hours ago, and it is great.
I called the company and left a message on Sunday, got a callback from the inventor on Monday morning, and received the delivery on Tuesday afternoon. Tic-Tack-Toe.

Quick assembly, some first hesitant steps, and a few hours later I already cooked myself a meal, standing and moving about in the kitchen, and later even carried my 1 year old son around.

Many have mentioned the huge advantage of getting your hands back as soon as you start using this device. This is all true, but there are other advantages: When standing, there is much less pressure on the healthy leg, the hip and the spine, because you have two leg support. Moreover, before I had device, standing meant keeping my injured leg with the cast in the air, and I began feeling the  strain on my knee (and ligaments) which are not used to carrying such weight for a long time. Now, I feel almost normal while standing so I can stand longer and do more.

I’m sure with time I’ll find out about the cons of using this device, but in the short time I have it the pros have proved themselves.

A week after my ATR

This is the first post of this Blog, in which I will try to summarize my experiences for the sake of sharing the information with others.

It has been exactly a week since I ruptured my left Achilles tendon.

On Sunday, Feb 15th, I was playing with my Grizzlies Soccer team in the Sunday Dome League in Montreal.

After 15 minutes of playing, I stood with my back to the opponents’ goal, and a defense man behind me. I started sprinting for the ball, when I felt a striking pain in the back of my left ankle. I fell on the ground and as I was turning back to look at the ‘criminal’ defense man, it appeared to me that he didn’t even touch me. This is when I realized something bad had happened to me. I knew I tore something, I just didn’t know what exactly. The pain went away almost immediately (5-10 seconds) but the leg felt weird and was slightly shaking.

The next stop was the car, and then the emergency room of the hospital, where my wife happened to be working on a call as a resident. She knew what it was, and another doctor confirmed that I had a complete rupture of the Achilles Tendon (ATR). They did the Thompson test, and felt and saw the gap above my ankle, in less then 5 minutes.

I left the hospital with crutches, and did not apply any ice (as I should have - USE ICE!) in the days before the surgery. However, In the next day I did go back to the emergency room, to put a cast on my leg to make sure the foot does not move and to make it clear that this leg should not bear any weight.

I was lucky to have the surgery set-up for Wednesday, just 3 days after the injury. I believe that doing the surgery quickly has some significance, making it easier to stitch before the muscle starts retracting.

The surgery was short (1 hour) and under full anesthesia. I left home at 12pm and was back around 6pm, which is relatively painless. The surgeon did, however, prescribe a serious amount of pain killers for me, promising my wife that it will be very painful. Well, I’m happy to say it is not so bad. It is more uncomfortable than painful.

The main challenges in this injury, as I see it, are the long recovery period and the motion limitations. Walking with crutches is not only slow and cumbersome, but also requires both hands. So I already spilled one cup of coffee, and I cannot carry my 1 year old baby from one place to another. Luckily, he can walk by himself now :)

Since the end of last week I am trying to figure out what would be the best way to get the iWalkFree crutch. I have high hopes to get one one quickly and increase my level of mobility and interdependency. If you have any tips regarding where to purchase or rent one please let me know.

I guess this is it for today. I’ll go check how my team mates did today and get ready for the Oscar night.