Wow- what a difference having your foot at 90 degrees makes! Guess I was nervous going into this appointment for a few reasons. First, would all that stinging around the stitches lately signal bad news? When they took the cast off, would I be prepared to be re-united with my useless floppy foot? How much, if any, progress was being made?

Turns out that 8:30 in the am is an awesome time to have an appointment. Not only is there parking galore in the hospital garage, I only had to wait about 5 minutes if that.

Ushered in to the oh-so-familiar back examining room area and they started removing the cast immediately. Had some issue with it so it took two people and a bit of time. Apparently my cast wasn’t as ready to part from me as I was from it.

icast

First stark realization- wow, muscle atrophy acts fast….. my poor calf muscle now looks like your Granny’s tricep!

Once it was off they had me flip over to my stomach and keep it raised. Guessing all that red around the stitch area is why it’s been stinging/burning so badly lately. Looks a little lumpy and swollen too (and well, to be honest, more like an amputated leg here than an ankle/heel).

2legs

As I waited for the doc to come back and check it, couldn’t believe how light my leg felt so…ever so slowly, I tested it out. I was surprised that it felt OK. It still moves and the parts are at least communicating…. Phew!

Because of the whole red/swollen area closest to my heel, the stitches coming out felt like someone pouring rubbing alcohol on a fresh wound….sting! Thankfully though, it wasn’t the horrifically painful experience a couple of colleagues had warned me about. Guessing I’ll have a scar but how much of this scene goes away over the next month?

scar

Once they were out I could sit back up and wow… my leg felt so free!!!! I can only imagine the feeling of getting the cast off for good & slipping into a boot. Here’s where the really odd sensation kicks in.  Foot is feeling Ok and you’re super excited to actually see it again… but you’re kind of frozen, afraid to move anything for fear of injuring it in some way.

bareleg

Now the biggest decision of the day- so many choices for colors on the new cast.  Are the colors pretty standard or did you have more options?

image-41

So then we tested out the leg — flexed it up to a 90 degree angle to set the cast and while not painful, you could still feel the strain in the tendon. While your mind is saying "please don’t pop,…please don’t pop" you are also grinning ear to ear realizing your ankle is holding strong and is not fighting you on where it should be. We’re making progress!!! I can actually see AND FEEL progress!

Then the sad part as they re-cast you.. First time I’ve actually seen them put a cast on since I was knocked out cold the last time so it was cool to see the process..

new-cast1

The new cast was set, it dried faster than the one that covered the windowed check-up post surgery, and the doc gave his approval so we were officially off on this new month-long journey!!

Getting it checked in two weeks but wow.. what a difference already. Maybe part of it is mental in that you are relieved that everything is OK and progressing as it should but I swear the 90 degrees feels so much better physically.  My leg hangs better while walking with the crutches, getting into the car and driving is more comfortable, and being 3 layers lighter, this new cast feels all nice and cozy like a snug sock. Now once the burning/stinging stops harassing me, we’ll be set.

Day 1: Definite improvement in my mood :-)


Posted by: onhiatus | June 18, 2012

Getting the Stitches Out Tomorrow- what to expect?

Two weeks in, getting the stitches out tomorrow and goodbye cast #1… hello cast #2!!

Anything I should be expecting? Any questions I should be asking of the doc?  Thanks for any tips!

Posted by: onhiatus | June 18, 2012

Day 15: This is Really Getting Old Already

This weekend once again taught me why I love (and miss) running so much. It’s my sanity and my antidote for all things stress.

Being able to just lace up my shoes and go out for a run is what keeps my head clear from everyday stresses but it was key in keeping me functioning through those months of my simultaneous divorce, dad’s final days of cancer, and brother’s cancer diagnosis. Looking back I don’t know what I would have done without the ability, on a sleepless night, to go hit the treadmill at 2 am to get the anxiety out.

Until now…

Yesterday I got some stressful news & my body was instinctively ready to go work/ sweat it out. Then I remembered….can’t go for a run. So I thought about the punching bag in the garage where I practice kicks for taekwondo. Again, not an option. How can you kick with one leg? Go take the dogs out for a walk around the block? Nope. Head out to the boat? Can’t hop on down from the dock. So one by one, my options faded. Arghhh…… Sigh.

Day 15 and I’m already starting to severely lose my patience. This is seriously going to be one long, long road to mobility. Hopefully I can figure out an alternative plan to keep my sanity intact.

Posted by: onhiatus | June 15, 2012

Day 12: Most Miserable /Painful Day Yet:

Woke up feeling great. With all those miles I put in schlepping around on the crutches last night, my body felt like it had a good workout and was telling me how much it missed being active.

Found a spot at the commuter lot, hopped on the metro (Ok, literally & figuratively here) and was happy to be back to a normal routine. The one thing I wasn’t prepared for though was scary escalators. Those suckers are totally planning to do me in.. I can feel it.

Leg sore but kept it elevated and even had enough juice left to make it about 4 or so long blocks up and over curbs, around stopped traffic, etc to where a coworker had her car so I could grab a ride home. It’s kind of awesome at how running has trained me to tune down the tired and tune in the finish line. One more block arms, you can make it. Don’t stop. Keep going. You’re just as wiped out crossing the finish line, too.

Made it home just as my body apparently decided to enact its revenge. Python leg reared its ugly head along with tens of thousands of bees stinging me in the back of the ankle. Add the left leg from the arch through the hamstring sporadically twitching and seizing up sending bolts of fire through my leg and it was downright pleasant, just as the good right leg decided it was jealous and wanted to seize up too. Found myself on my back like an overturned turtle trying to figure out what to try and work on first.

Definitely by far the most miserable experience of the whole adventure so far. Hopefully Marcus Luttrell in his new book Service was wrong when we wrote “the only easy day was yesterday.”  ughh. if that’s the case, then this T-shirt is even more appropriate:

life is crap

Posted by: onhiatus | June 14, 2012

Rest Days & Is this Stinging Normal?

It’s amazing how much even the smallest activities like doing laundry or emptying the dishwasher can easily drain you. Just like you need rest days with running, I’m learning you definitely need to factor in recovery with ATR recovery too.

Promised to help lead a blind runner around to a couple of local running stores on Thursday to help promote a fall 5k. Figured I could still make it on crutches so assured them I was still in…..but after my first day back to work the day before, I knew I’d have to bank some recovery time first.

Took the day off to relax and keep my leg elevated but the stinging in my leg is starting to really get annoying. Is that normal? Is it the tendon healing or something with the stitches (they come out in 5 days)? Feels like 10,000 bees are stinging you in the back of the ankle simultaneously & then when you rest it, you rest it right on the back where the stitches are so more stinging. Then j ust when it stops, you relax and then your leg twitches and the spasm starts more stinging. Ugh.

Made it to the hotel to pick up the runner and hilarious how he knew I was coming down the hall by the clickity clack of my crutches. Wow..maybe I can spend the next month with these things working on my echolocation skills. If you thought maneuvering with crutches was a challenge, try doing it with a guy gripped on your right elbow and shoulder at the same time. Pretty cool in that it totally teaches you situational awareness though. You really become aware of every curb, ramp, step, etc. He noted that before I could even tell him about a step or stop we were about to take, he could sense the change in my body/crutch motion first.

But how pathetically sad is this? This is me watching all the runners head off on their Thursday night fun run & enviously eyeballing all the shoes I won’t be wearing for any time in the near future.

running store

Put some definite miles in tonight though so knew I would pay for it but felt good to be kind of getting in some form of a workout of sorts.

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Posted by: onhiatus | June 13, 2012

One week Surgiversary: So this is commuting

I had planned to make Tuesday my first day back to work… but then rain interceded. As I googled “how to keep a cast dry” I pondered the various choices. Would it be sexy garbage bag fringed with duct tape or instead, perhaps the always elegant saran wrap variety? I then also realized rain means super slippery metro platforms. Eeeek. As enticing as that sounded I decided to wait a day.

Early Wednesday, June 16th (my one week “surgiversary”), all focused, I set off to park in what I thought would be the multitude of handicapped parking spaces available at the metro lot. Not so much. I usually walk to the metro from my house so this drive commute thing was all new territory. Pulled in and all spots taken.. all other spots taken except for those reserved till 10 am, too. What to do? Drove around considering some options when my leg started throbbing so I threw in the towel on attempting my first metro commute and decided just to drive into work.

I’ve driven in with neighbors and friends before but with your left leg throbbing & stinging like a fiend you find your patience with all the other cars thinning and ready to snap just like your Achilles. Slowly inched my way in across the river and through the streets and at one point I remember being so frustrated at the new am commute traffic patterns I gripped my crutches balancing across the passenger seat. I was ready to slam them down saying “But I just want to make this left” or something to that effect when what comes on the radio? “You Can’t Always Get What you Want” by the Rolling Stones. Ha! Seriously hilarious timing so I absolutely lost it in a round of giggles . Thanks for the reminder. This whole process has definitely taught me a lot in less than two weeks so maybe the Stones are right…. It may not be what I wanted, but maybe it’s a lesson I needed.

Felt good to be back at my desk catching up on stuff and to be back among people again but the first day back also brought lots of new tips learned, too.

1)You still have to keep your foot elevated to help alleviate the pressure & keep it from turning that nasty deep purple. That works fine when you’re at home and in shorts but not so much when you’re in a skirt & trying to balance one leg on your desk while typing on your keyboard. Resume alert: new skills added

2) Don’t assume every entrance has those helpful push this button the doors will open option. Also remember heavy doors are not only a beast to open, those suckers like to sadistically grab the bottom rubber tips of your crutches & keep the crutch there while trying to send you flying.

3) You know how it’s always chilly in the summer in the office and you need that sweater? Consider an extra sock for your casted foot’s toes too.  Keep your poor guys from freezing like mine did.

By late afternoon though, all the exertion was wearing on me and I could feel the leg just throbbing and stinging more & more. Couldn’t wait to just get home, relax and keep it elevated. Waited out all the HOV restrictions thinking if I left later, I’d make it home sooner. Guess again. Not even 15 minutes out of the parking garage, my leg felt like a python either had itself gripped around my leg smothering it or had its jaw gripped around my leg just under the knee and wouldn’t let go. Either way, this is where all that yoga, inhale/exhale, training came in handy. Drive. Brake. Breathe.

The other interesting takeaway from the day was experiencing the various reactions people had to seeing me injured & on crutches. Most annoying were definitely those individuals who use YOUR injury as an excuse for why they can’t/won’t be active themselves.

I summed it up in my facebook status that day: “Haters… As a coworker first sees my cast today: “so NOW have you learned anything with all your crazy adventures?” My response: “Absolutely. a whole new level of respect for the disabled.” I know what response they wanted to hear… but nope. My buddy Charlie P, the blind runner, put it best during our call this am “Do I want to hit every single rock going down the stream? No. But do I want to sit on the riverbank instead & watch it all go by? Absolutely not.”

So I am encouraging by all the awesome stories of recovery here.. and particularly by GottRunKZO’s “recent What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Faster” post.   Bring it on.. I’m not slowing down once I’m mobile again. Sure I may be more cautious on wall running but I’m definitely still going to stay active. That’s what I love about this ATR group. You guys get right back up and swinging too.  Thanks for the continued inspiration.

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Posted by: onhiatus | June 10, 2012

One Week Injury Anniversary: Getting to Know Your Body

The one thing about not taking any of the medications is that you are keenly in-tune with every crazy new twitch or jolt of electricity searing through your leg at random times. You even start imagining what it means–like that tingling around the inside of my ankle just above the heel is probably just a stitch healing. The vibration rocketing through my lower leg is probably nerve related, the painful bag of rocks that just seized up and is now being wrung out like a towel is probably just the Achilles mending. You also realize how nuts the whole thing is when you are longingly wishing it was ONLY a broken bone.

But then there’s the stuff that is kind of driving you crazy because you can’t do anything to ease it. The quad & hamstring muscles you try to massage out but realize your efforts really aren’t all that effective–if you could just get below your knee. Then the poor plantar fascia that is seizing up just screaming to be rolled out. You forget for a second and start to get up to get a tennis ball to release it but then you realize, you can’t… and then the reality of the scale of recovery and rehab that awaits start to set-in.

But on the one week anniversary of my injury, rather than feel sorry for myself I actually made plans to visit my neighbor’s troops up at Walter Reed. Hard to selfishly feel sorry for yourself because you can’t run around for nine months or so when you are meeting twenty year old kids who have lost mobility and limbs…. in an explosion.  They’re here stranded in a foreign city, many without their friends and family so again, it’s a good gut check as to what’s really important in this process. Learning to keep focused on the larger picture and stay thankful for the little things.

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Posted by: onhiatus | June 8, 2012

First Follow-up Appointment & Rounding Out Week 1:

First thing I noticed the day after surgery was things were slightly more painful but still tolerable. Little did I know it was because the nerve block hadn’t yet worn off. Wow, when that sucker wears off, you really miss it.  The first night after surgery is when I had to finally dip into the pain meds and take a Percocet to sleep through the night.

Two days after surgery, had my first follow-up appointment with the doctor.  They “windowed” the cast so they could check the stitches and while I had googled it enough times to prepare myself , it’s a whole new ballgame when you see that long zipper-like scar running up your own leg.

castwindow1 windowedcast2

Everything looks OK so they closed up the cast & I’ll get the stitches out in two weeks and get my new cast. The mental thing to prepare for here is instinctively you get excited when they start sawing to open your cast. Your mind wants to believe it is being completely removed and you’ll be up and standing in a minute. Not so much. Made even worse as you have to lay there even longer as the new part of the cast sets.  I must have looked pretty pathetic laying on my stomach propped up on my elbows talking to the doc about next steps because before he left he stepped back to pat me on the shoulder as if to reassure me it’s going to be OK.. or then again, maybe it was more of a wow, I’m so glad I’m not you right now.

My leg’s definitely feeling heavier but I was able to run errands including a trip to the DMV to get a handicapped parking tag. Again, I am extremely thankful my injury’s on my left leg so at least I can drive and be somewhat mobile. Even made it out to dinner with friends on Friday night (yet another new lesson: revolving doors are more menacing than you’d think).

Spent the weekend thankful for awesome friends and neighbors and coming to the realization that I am far less mobile physically than I am mentally. Looking forward to when those two spectrums once again meet

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Posted by: onhiatus | June 7, 2012

Post Surgery Low Point & Reflection:

While I’ve tried to keep a positive spin on the whole thing and keep trying to only look forward towards getting the cast off and getting mobile again, hit a definite snag on Wednesday night, the evening after surgery.

The low point that night was when the leg suddenly just felt so heavy and my body was just so tired from all it had been through. Wasn’t hungry and didn’t want to move but knew I had to eat to keep my strength up so the crutches wouldn’t take me down.  Made it to the kitchen but couldn’t manage to stay standing long so actually crawled from the kitchen to the living room dragging my plate & glass of juice along while trying to keep my two dogs away from my dinner. Crawling on all fours through your house is overrated but it definitely kicks you in the gut in teaching you a lesson: never take anything for granted.

As I sat reading through some of the recovery blogs here, I happened upon this from  jls84 and I couldn’t agree more:

“These last 5 weeks have been quite the eye opening experience and I cannot tell you how humbled I am by this injury. I hate to say that I am someone who takes things for granted, but something as simple as walking, well I had been taking it for granted everyday up until the injury, subconsciously. Your Achilles Tendon allows you to walk, and walking seems like such a GIVEN in the lives we all lead. This tendon is something that you depend on without knowing you are actually depending on it. My experience has already taught me that much, and I intend on sharing that with a host of others. Be thankful for your ACHILLES TENDON PEOPLE! Stretch it, ice it, soak it, massage it, and for goodness sake if it begins to hurt do not be stubborn and go get it looked by a doctor! Ok, I’m done preaching, well about that anyway!”

I never thought twice about just walking over to the kitchen to grab some water , take a bowl of hot soup out of the microwave, adjust the room temperature, turn on a light or let the dogs out but I definitely have a new perspective on things now. I’m a lot more mindful of every single action I have to or am in the process of taking. The other thing keeping me in check is all week my friend Charlie P has been calling to check-in on me. He’s a blind runner who continues to keep pushing forward and defying all boundaries by completing marathons, Boston, triathlons, iromans, and even a Tough Mudder. If there’s one thing he keeps instilling in me it’s you can’t be defined by what you CAN’T do.. You can and will be defined by what you DO do. He’s definely been the the kick in my butt to help keep me up and motivated.

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Posted by: onhiatus | June 6, 2012

Day 3: Surgery!

Woke up early, got ready, and we were on our way. Totally nervous & kind of scared. Guess the fear of what awaited me after surgery and whether I would actually be in pain and how the whole game would change was wearing on me.

Signed in at 7:15 am, nice chat about rotator cuff surgery with someone in the waiting room, and spent the remaining time jealously eyeballing the fridge which was taunting me about not being able to have food or drink this am.

water

I got escorted back to the nurses station to sign a few forms and then to the bathroom where they gave me a gown, some socks, and a bag to put my stuff in. Some doctors apparently allow patients to wear shorts. Mine doesn’t. Hilariously, one the nurses asked me how I hurt my leg and when I answered a wall run at parkour, she looked at me and asked “isn’t that just for boys?” My mind froze there for a second, struggling for a response but it ended up being a good way to totally distract me.

They helped me back out, locked my stuff in the locker and escorted me to a hospital bed. This was the absolute worst part… the waiting game.

They hook you up to a saline solution, and take all your vitals and stuff and then you just lay there waiting and thinking. They were nice in giving me a magazine but I couldn’t concentrate enough to even read one page. I just kept thinking of the gruesome Achilles operations videos I had watched the night before & how in mere minutes they were to slice open the back of my leg and do the same thing. Yikes!

Everyone was really cool in coming to check on me but a few times I just quietly totally watered-up, streams of tears flowing down my cheeks. The anesthesiologist noticed and came over to reassure me and tell me I’d be back at 100%, I could do all the stuff I normally would and brought me tissues. My doctor was also really sweet in taking time to stop by and run through what was going to happen, ask if I had any questions, etc. Lots of other nurses, the PA from yesterday, etc. stopped by to check things, mark my leg, answer any questions, and get me ready. The last thing I remember as they wheeled me down the hall into the room was thinking how funny it was that they knock me out first and THEN flip me over for surgery. Good luck with all my dead weight, guys.

First thing I remember is waking up and sitting up with an absolutely  huge stupid grin across my face. Kind of spotty with all of it but remember getting gingerale, sitting in a chair, hearing the nurses give my friend post op instructions, noticing my brand new cast, wondering how I got my clothes back on, and getting wheeled to the car sometime around 10:30 am or so.

We stopped at the pharmacy to get some stuff and can’t thank my friend enough for the suggestions on animal crackers. Hours later they would be the absolute best thing ever! who knew???

Sat on the couch to relax and regroup and ended up waking up something like 4 hours later. Weirdly, one of the best naps ever. Still wasn’t in any major pain which was cool and with friends and neighbors stopping by, didn’t want to take anything that would knock me out again, too. All in all, a huge wave of relief that surgery day was a lot better than expected and I was now ready to start the process of getting back to being mobile & active.

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