Saturday & Sunday - In a vacuum of information, no firm diagnosis, no treatment plan etc…I start to trawl the net for medical texts, blogs and the like. Some of this is useful, most of it just downright terrifying. As near as I can tell I’m looking at 6-8 weeks in a cast followed by the same or more in the mysterious CAM walker + painful rehab and after a year I may get back 80% of the use of my leg. Holy shit, this can’t be happening, I’m a young fit guy, I cycle, hike, do weights etc.. on a regular basis. Now it seems like I could be 38, jobless, homeless and partially disabled. F%$K!
About this time I start to think about how I’m going to cope round the house. I’m a relatively recent transplant to the US from the UK and have no family close by and due to a punishing work schedule few friends. Ironically part of the idea behind the tennis was to try and regain some work life balance and widen my circle of acquaintances. (Over the next few weeks it turns out I have more friends than I thought and ultimately I’m very grateful for their support).
Safeway online takes care of my groceries and I start looking at maid services in case I need it. I work out a method using ropes and haul lines to get laundry down to the garage & back (I’m on the 2nd floor) and after the first hideous attempt at showering I rig up a shower stool with the cunning use of an Ikea foot stool and a couple of large garbage bags. These small victories make me feel a little better. Also I’m adapting to the crutches, figuring out stairs and ways to carry stuff which is hard. There’s no way I like the crutches, but luckily I have reasonable upper body strength and good coordination so it’s not as much of a trial as some people have told me it can be. A friend comes round on Sunday night and takes me out to dinner at a local Indian Restaurant. I don’t feel like eating much, but I appreciate the gesture.
I also email my boss and team at work to let them know what’s happened. They are all very understanding and will in fact really help me out over the next few weeks with doctor’s appointments & the like. I feel very guilty about the whole thing, but it looks like at least I will have a job. I’m fortunate to be able to do a lot of work from home, it’s not ideal, but better than nothing.
Monday – I ring three orthopedic surgeons, two have no appointments for at least a week. The third, the one recommended to me is the same, but a colleague in his practice has an appointment for Wednesday, 4 and a half days after the injury, but the best I can do so I take it.
I’m actually quite glad to get this guy. Over the last day or so I’ve had a chance to read between the lines of some of the blogs and other material out there. It’s becoming apparent that there’s no set way to treat Achilles ruptures and a lot depends on which doctor you get. I’m determined to be on an aggressive rehab protocol. Reading a couple of accounts of people who’ve been out of a cast and into the walker in a few weeks has given me hope of a speedier recovery and I know that’s where I need to be. The Doctor I finally see consults with local sports teams and theatrical performers and is known to favor quick rehab. I’m reassured and spend the next few days trying to catch up with work and prepare for what I hope will be a speedy surgery date.
Wednesday – A work colleague who lives nearby generously gives me a ride into the doctor’s office in the morning. As soon as I meet the doc I feel good. He quickly confirms the diagnosis of ruptured Achilles with another Thompson test (No MRI or ultrasound required), tells me that recent studies have shown surgery has quicker and better results than non operative care and that he firmly believes in getting patients in the walker and weight bearing as soon as possible. This is absolutely what I want to hear and gibes with what I’ve been reading. In addition he checks and it seems there’s a possibility that he can get me a surgery slot the next day. I spend more time waiting while the slot is confirmed and booked than actually with the doctor, but that is surgeons for you I guess. I ask about protocols and he tells me that he will aim to have me out of the cast and into the walker in a week with weight bearing soon after depending on circumstances. I also ask about driving and he’s basically non committal, seems like he does not forbid it on medical grounds and that it’s basically a case of how confident you feel with the awkwardness of having your driving foot in a cast. I decide to raise it again as an issue after the walker goes on. For the time being my driving privileges are revoked.
I take a cab home and prepare in earnest for surgery. The doctor has allowed me to keep the cast off so I take long luxurious bath. Then I set up my bedroom moving in laptop, radio, bottles of water, snacks, books, tissues, Advil tabs and anything else I think I might need. Finally I do as much house cleaning especially in the kitchen and bathroom as crutches will allow. At 7pm I have last meal and go on fast for the anesthesia. In the morning I take another super long shower anticipating the cast and change bedclothes so I have as pleasant an environment to come home to as possible.