First two weeks from operation

I had an operation to reconstruct my Achilles on 16 January - some 10 weeks after the original accident - after an intense end of year workload on my job.  It was a delayed diagnosis so by that time all the pain had gone.  It was an almost complete tear of the AT.   Once I’d seen the surgeon in late December I was reassured: surgery was the only option and despite the delay in treatment the surgeon instilled confidence that it would be successful.  The operation was done privately (company scheme)  in the late afternoon and went well.  I stayed overnight in hospital and came home in the early afternoon (so about 24 hours in hospital altogether).

I’m British, 61 years old, of medium weight, not as active as I’d like to be, but I do pilates and in the past yoga and Alexander Technique so although not very fit  I have good body awareness and reasonable core strength which helped immeasurably in the post op period.

The physiotherapist at the hospital decided I wasn’t getting the hang of using crutches in the non weight bearing phase, so I was issued with a zimmer frame which was no doubt a wise call but didn’t do my self-image any good!  Our house is a bit cramped for space and my experience this was a sensible option.

I learned to get up and down stairs on my backside (wouldn’t ever risk crutches even now) and to crawl on all fours - learning from my grandchildren! - where the frame was simply not practical.   Moving about was tiring work so I tried to set up a base in a particular room.  My wife took holiday from work to look after me for the first week, which was invaluable.  As my children live away from home I didn’t have the demands of a young family which must be hard for a younger ATR parent and their carer/partner.

I would say I coped well, and continued to work on my office job, more out of necessity rather than choice although it was good to take my mind off my condition.  I had to be resourceful about posture in the early period, trying to work with a laptop lying on my back with legs elevated, supported by pillows, cushions, sleeping bags, etc.

Here are some other reflections about this period:

  • Be careful!  I became a bit complaisant after a few days and getting up to go to bed managed to slip and fall, hitting my bad foot against a wooden floor in the process.  This was both a shock and a great worry as I thought I may have damaged the operated tendon.  I had an anxious day trying to contact the surgeon who eventually confirmed that most likely I would be OK as the cast would protect me and I didn’t report pain.
  • Be philosophical - healing takes time, you need to accept the limitations of mobility, etc.  I found the experiences of others from this site both reassuring and inspiring as it became apparent just what recovery from surgery entails.
  • Be imaginative and resourceful - there are often ways around problems and useful advice on this site.  I managed to do far more than I expected.  Crawling seemed a very good and safe mobility solution for me anyway.  Dealing with being either very hot or very cold in the operated foot (it’s winter here although although more wet than cold) requires flexibility both in waking and sleeping hours.
  • Get help - fortunately I have a very caring and practical wife, but I do wonder how people cope living on their own or without much support in the immediate post op period.
  • Be informed - it’s surprising how little I was told to do, at least in writing by health services.  I guess their objective is that you take good care of yourself (e.g. don’t fall!) and take medicines like the subcutaneous anti-coagulant injections.  They rely on you asking them questions relevant to your situation.  Again sites like this one are very useful, because you may not otherwise know what you will need to ask about!
  • I was told I was lucky having the operation in winter rather than summer.  Comfort must be a huge problem in hot weather.  I visited my GP a week after surgery and the short “walk” to the practice brought me out in a sweat.  On the other hand I feel cold easily, especially in my feet, so keeping them warm was sometimes a big challenge, as was providing enough rest/elevation while working.

After 2 weeks, on 30 January, I had the first cast removed and a partial weight bearing cast fitted, moving from equinus position (c 30 degrees) to about 10 degrees.  By that time, I felt life returning to the ankle and was ready for partial weight bearing. I know treatment regimes and timescales vary, and I recently spoke with a colleague at work who was in the first cast much longer only a few years back.

4 Responses to “First two weeks from operation”

  1. Wow! How did you manage to get around before your surgery? Your reflections are spot on. I didn’t know what questions to ask either but I now have a list of questions for my next visit to the orthopedic surgeon on Feb. 21st. I ruptured my achilles on Dec. 16th and had surgery on Dec. 31st. I was non weight bearing for 18 days, then fitted with a boot. I started out with 5 wedges in the boot and am down to 2. I’ve started walking a bit with no crutches or walker while in the boot. My OS didn’t give me any explicit instructions so I’m doing it on my own and with suggestions from this site. This site is very informative.

    Happy healing!

    Vicki (grannygoose)

  2. Most of us have decent, though ugly, locomotion without an AT. Limpy-gimpy, but it gets us there.

    Nboxon, it all sounds good, and smart, to me. Keep healing and strengthening!

  3. Vicki, thank you for your comments, and all the best for your recovery too. I got by because I had an automatic car and a fairly sedentary job. Unwisely I didn’t go and see my GP after several weeks of pain, thinking it would just get better. I put that down to 1. stereotypical male behaviour 2. “too busy” at my work and 3. the strained health service in the UK makes it difficult to get seen quickly. By the time the ATR was detected I was getting by just limping and the pain had subsided. The big lesson for me is to see a doctor when in doubt.

  4. Norm, Thanks, that’s interesting. I must say I was in a state of shock when told I had a torn AT as I assumed it was something else given I was getting about, albeit limping. I was also very concerned about the delayed diagnosis for surgery outcome, but my surgeon said he’s treated other similar cases. This was a massive relief.

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