Overconfidence leads to re-rupture

So, here I am writing this blog because I found myself going in for a third procedure related to my left Achilles’ tendon. I’ll get to the third procedure later but first let me start by explaining my story. I’m a 30-year-old male who has never had any medical problems my entire life leading up to this. I’ve been a pilot in the navy for eight years including multiple deployments and thousands of flight hours. I rely on my legs to work like you can only imagine. I am in fairly good shape although prior to his injury I found myself getting back into running more than I have been in the last few years which may have contributed to my injury. Instead of boring you with a full story, below is a timeline summary of the events leading up to today.

11 Oct 16 - I was scheduled to fly from Nashville to Corpus Christi on return training event. I am a instructor in the T-6B, which is a smaller training aircraft the Navy uses for the primary training of new pilots. When I got to the plane I  needed to move it and didn’t have time to wait for the groundcrew. I decided to move it via brute force, which is acceptable but for reference the plane’s weight is about 5500 pounds. As I went to push on the wing to get it rolling and under a full load of weight my left leg slipped back sharply, quickly extending my Achilles at which point I felt and heard the snap. Now I had no clue what I had actually done. I could walk flat-footed afterwards and was in a rush. To spare the details I somehow managed to fly all the way home before I finally took my boot off and realized how bad it was. Needless to say I had some explaining to do to the commanding officer.

18 Oct 16 - after being referred to a specialist in town it was confirmed by her that I had indeed ruptured my Achilles although I didn’t really need the confirmation considering you could see it missing and no movement during the Thompson test. Had the surgery done as an outpatient procedure and was home that night.

First 3 weeks- Even though I couldn’t fly it was a busy time at work I was crutching into work basically six times a week to prepare for an inspection, obviously pushing this more than I should have as you learn later. The recovery seem to be going well with a splint and two casts before I was put in the boot.

Week 4- 7 - recovery seem to be going great and I was very confident at how quickly I’d be back to flying. After four weeks in the boot I had an appointment with the surgeon at which point she told me I could start walking in shoes and begin physical therapy. The words “it’s pretty strong at this point” were stated and I attribute this to my demise.

Week 8 - RE-RUPTURE. So I was feeling good after a week of PT and increased ROM and I decided my leg was ready for a duck hunt.  Well, I was being extra careful sitting in the blind, no issues and feeling great. Decided to get up and go retrieve a duck. Stepped in some muck and felt a “pop” and flipped out. When I finally got my boot off I was gushing blood from a small hole in the back of my leg.  Got the bleeding stopped and did some tests. Thinking I was an expert at this point I decided it was just a “stitch popping” and tried to convince myself I was ok. Called the surgeon just to confirm. She didn’t seem too worried and told me to come in on Monday.  Spent the rest of the weekend thinking about it and feeling it out. By Monday I knew I was doomed. As the surgeon looked at it she wasn’t convinced it was ruptured again but sent me for an MRI just to be sure. Despite our wishful thinking the MRI doesn’t lie. Looked like a 75% or so rupture and she recommended surgery again.  My main question every time was “what’s the  quickest way?” Without question it is USUALLY surgery….USUALLY.

29 Dec 16 - Merry Christmas to me, Surgery #2 and A Happy New Year. So second surgery done. Luckily  she could still attach the ends so there was  no donor tendon needed   She used a heel anchored bridge this time which is stronger. Kinda wish she had done that the first time. Again, I was home that night and counting down, or up, the days.

Week 1-4 (round 2)  I was determined to do it right this time. I was done with busy work and did well on the inspection so I had nothing to worry about and a direct order from my CO to stay home. 1 splint and 3 casts was the plan. Cast one and two, no problems. cast two came off and it was time to get stitches out. First time she used dissolving stitches so this was a first.  As they came out she stopped by and her positive attitude quickly  turned to concern  there was a small 1cm hole in the back of my leg where the wound had not healed. I had never been so down and frustrated about myself and I knew this wasn’t good.  She had the third cast put on with an access window so I could receive wound care at home.

Today (27 Jan 17).  The cast came off and I was told that the wound was endangering the tendon and that if I were to get an infection I would have major issues. She said the “quickest way” was to go in for a surgical debridement.  Then get a wound matrix and hope it heals up quickly.  Here I sit getting ready for my third surgery in 4 months and I needed an outlet to help me keep positive so I sat here and shared all this. If you read to this point thank you and I hope this story has helped in some way. The thing I didn’t mention yet is that I have orders to move for a new assignment and I need to leave in a few months. This has been a serious test of my patience but I know I will get back to my life and be flying again soon.

One thing I can say to this point is that advice on this site can help and not to take others stories lightly. Below is some quick advice I wish I learned the first time:

1. Ask questions and do reasearch. It’s harder not knowing what is going on when a simple question can clear all doubt.

2. If you are a active person like me get yourself prepared for a sedentary life for a while. Although enjoyable for a week that fades into sheer boredom and frustration. Find hobbies, do work from home, read, play video games…whatever you can do to keep your mind at bay.

3. Don’t forget your support system. God bless my wife, she has put up with crazy work schedules, moving, deployments and now this. She has been amazing and more helpful than a wife should have to be. I owe her a lot and she has helped me keep my sanity.

4. DO NOT RUSH or Push your recovery.  I was way too confident at 8 weeks and I have paid for it dearly. It’s ok to be aggressive within recovery protocol  but overconfidence will put you back under the knife.

I’ll be in for the procedure on Tuesday and due to the chance of infection they will keep me there for a few nights.  I’ll post some updates as things progress and considering I’ll be in a bed for a while feel free to ask questions and I’ll do my best to answer.

Thsnks for reading and I hope your recovery goes better than mine has gone.

-Matt

4 Responses to “Overconfidence leads to re-rupture”

  1. Ohhhhhhhh you poor thing!!! I feel for you. Like you said patience is key and it’s soooo easy to just want to get back to normal. I ruptured on 26th October and here in the UK the usual way to resolve is no op. So I’ve been patient and had my leg in a cast and then boot for 9 weeks and have been in 2 shoes gradually building up walking again since then. SOOOOOOOO tough as my mind want to do so much more than my body can deliver. I’m limping alot and my back is a bundle of knots due the the limp. I started a new job in London 2 weeks after rupture so have been having a crazy 4 hours commute each day paying out for taxis in and out each day to avoid the crowds on the train. Reckon It’d another 2 to 4 weeks before I’ll feel confident enough for the train. You story does remind me to take is easy. Thankyou. It is so easy to forget and just go for it.

    I so hope you recovery is better this time, take your time, read and plan where you wan tot go on holiday and what activities you want to do when you’re better. I need goals and find this helped me. I usually cycle alot, but too scared to aim for a bike event and not be able to do it I have entered a long swim, 14km to give me a challange that won’t hurt the achillies - join me!! Find local swim event and change your focus for a bit til your achillies heals.

    Good luck!!!

  2. Wow, you have been through a lot. I’m sure you know this but don’t ever push a plane again! Many have ruptured pushing or pulling a boat on a trailer or a car or something very heavy. I assume you have heard it’s 6 months to a year to get back to normal and 2 years for some to have all their strength return. I had surgery November 9th, returned to work Monday the 14th on a knee scooter. I was placed in a boot on November 30 and told, ok you can walk now!! Truth is I barely walked the first couple weeks it was icy and snowy and I was scared, I still used the knee scooter which was painful with the boot digging into my shin. I went back to the doctor December 21 with crutches and they told me to lose the crutches and I would be hurting my recovery if I kept being afraid. I pushed myself and walked a lot in the boot, transitioned to a brace about December 30th (I had a big scab at the bottom of the incision area that finally went away) and got a blister on January 2nd an inch or two away from where the scab was on the medial? (inside) side. The blister was hindering me and stressing me out…it was popped 3 times by doctor and PT and it kept coming back…of course I have been working this whole
    time. There is still some remains of the blister, it now looks like calloused skin. Reading about a hole in your foot with blood coming out sure got my attention after dealing with a scab and a blister that I hope won’t come back. I had an infection years ago after I had an appendectomy, it was several weeks of wound care…I have a friend who has had years of wound care after a series of surgeries. Take it easy and keep posting!!!

  3. Thank you! Yea, I no longer feel invincible like I had to this point in my life. Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!

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  4. Thank you. I went with the surgery as I am still fairly young, although I don’t feel as young as I did before this and it was the quick way to getting back to flying. I hope your recovery is going well! Hang in there and get better soon.

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