On Thursday 5th April I had my first (of many, I’m guessing) appointment to check up on how my ruptured Achilles tendon was going. I drove myself to the hospital - driving an automatic is absolutely fine with my left leg in plaster, thank goodness it wasn’t my right AT. The car park that I used 4 months ago, when my wife was here giving birth to our son, is now a building site. Great. I think parking is a problem at every hospital in the world. After a couple of laps of the surrounding streets, I found a space within a stone’s throw of the main entrance. Result.
I crutched across the street, through the main entrance and to the outpatients department, with about 5 stops on the way. Walking with crutches is bloody tiring! Wiping away the sweat from my brow I presented myself at the outpatients reception desk only to be told I was at the wrong outpatients reception desk. Fortunately, the correct outpatients reception desk was directly behind me. After half an hour’s wait, my name was called.
The doctor/orthopaedist/physiotherapist (to be honest I don’t know who he was – I assume he worked there) asked me to describe what had happened and I mentioned it was like somebody had thrown a brick onto my Achilles tendon. The doctor/orthopaedist/physiotherapist picked up on this, emphsising it to the trainee doctor/orthopaedist/physiotherapist who was also present. Apparently, Australian netball player Sharelle McMahon had made a similar comment when she snapped her AT in 2011. In fact, she had been so convinced somebody had assaulted her, she turned round shouting “who the f*ck did that”. I had been more reserved in front of all the Year 12 students.
He read through my file, noting that there is a 4.2 cm gap between the two ends of AT (that sounds big) and double-checked with a colleague that operating was not an option. “You can stitch tendon to tendon. You can’t stitch tendon to muscle”. He then said it was best to keep my leg in the same position, in the cast, and they would see me again in 3 weeks time.
Is that it? Did he not want to examine my leg? Do another ultrasound? X-ray? MRA? Brainscan? Nope. See you in 3 weeks, when I would see the chie f Orthopaedic Surgeon, who had made the initial assessment of my injury. Feeling underwhelmed, I tried to recall all the questions that had been going through my head during the past week. What happens in 3 week time? (The cast might come off, it might not). What happens when the cast does come off? (You’ll have a boot, with wedges to raise the heel). Will I still need crutches then? (Yes). When can I exercise again? (No running for 12 months).
With that I crutched off to get some additional fibre glass applied to my cast, so that it wouldn’t wear away too quickly. (I’ve been leaving white dust and marks all around the house). I opted for boring black thinking it wouldn’t stand out too much, when I’m wearing a suit. I made my appointment for 3 weeks time and started the crutch back to the car.
On one of my rest breaks, a fellow crutchee with her leg also in a cast, sidled up beside me and also stopped for a break. She was an elderly lady and her English was not that good. However, we managed to exchange stories about casts and crutches. She had been in a cast for a month already and they had just decided that they were going to have her operate after all, on her broken ankle. I felt for her but then powered past her on my crutches as I exited the hospital. A small victory perhaps, but I’ll take it. Might be the last for a while.
Below is a photo of the precise second my Achilles tendon snapped. (I’ve not included the shot a few seconds later when my teammate, bundles into me, as I’m writhing around in agony).