First and foremost, a big thanks to Dennis and the bloggers who provided some great info and support by proxy for this reluctant reader.
I’m 48, raised in NY, now live in Ft. Worth, TX, with my wife and 2 kids (7 & 5). For work , my wife and I are partners in a recruiting solutions firm.
I lead a fairly active lifestyle. Exercise has been with an Elliptical Cross Trainer for cardio about once a week (maybe every 2 weeks), always pedaling forward, rarely backward. I now wonder ‘would that have made a difference?’ But not much else in the way of exercise besides summer swimming, playing catch, golf, an occasional game of horse, winter snowboarding, and just keeping up with my kids. Wish I could bottle up their energy!
The state of mind I was occupying a couple of weeks ago to believe that I could motivate my 48-year old body to dive right into playing full-court basketball without any real warmup/prep can only be described as delusional, if not borderline temporary insanity. Unlike the many weekend warriors who have posted, I have not played hoops (or any competitive sport) in 6+ months. So, of course, that’s exactly what I did on Tuesday, Oct. 6th - accepting a friend’s invite to shoot some hoops with some other dads at a downtown church gym. Harmless enough, right? As I left, my wife gave me a wry grin with arched brow as she warned, “Do not get hurt!”
I warmed up for a good minute. We played an easy first game, but I was already winded and took a short break. When I got back into the next game, a strange thing happened as I was getting back on defense. I was backpedaling and just fell on my butt midcourt. Didn’t feel any pain, but legs were definitely tight. Just felt embarrassed for being so clumsy. Halfway into the second game, just getting back some rhythm, feeling my game return after a long layoff, juices starting to flow, I made a quick move into the lane to get free - a move I’ve made a thousand times. As I pivoted, I suddenly felt a pop, as someone had stepped hard down onto my left heel. I felt a sharp pain and quickly turned to see who had tripped on me, and was surprised to see no one was behind me. Still standing, and slightly confused, I tried to apply weight to my left foot and just dropped to the gym floor. A couple of guys helped me to the bleachers and thankfully got me an ice pack to keep the swelling down. There wasn’t a doctor in the gym, so someone took a look at my ankle and said it could be an Achilles injury - a tear or strain. It was then that I also learned that two guys had gone down with ATRs just last year. Hmm, but that’s not me.
After 15 minutes, I got up and tried to walk - actually didn’t feel so bad to step on my left heel, but putting weight on the ball of my foot was impossible and painful. Any thoughts of making it back into the game disappeared. I left the gym disappointed - hobbling away with encouraging words from my fellow warriors. Combined with a relatively low pain level, my lack of knowledge about Achilles injuries and their severity only added to my state of denial. “See you guys next week,” I thought as I carefully eased myself into my car for the ride home.
Growing up as a gym rat in NY - from cheering for Willis, Clyde and the Pearl in the Garden to dribbling on asphalt courts outdoors in the rain to gearing up with a boombox on the subway to play against other club teams in high school gyms around the boroughs - there is nothing like grabbing that leather roundball in your hands, nothing like knocking down a jumpshot or finishing a fastbreak, there is no feeling like stepping onto a polished hardwood floor ready for the next game to start, where, in that moment, all is good and nothing else in the world matters. Those days are long gone, but the feeling doesn’t dim - so the body’s the first to go and the mind’s the last to know.
I kept my left foot elevated and iced the next day, sharing with my wife what had happened. She was not happy. But we had our busy daily lives to lead - filled with work, school, pickups/dropoffs, little league games, and birthday parties - oh, and a U2 concert at the new Cowboys stadium in a few days. And did I mention my planned trip to NY to support a buddy running in the Marathon on Nov. 1? Somewhere in the midst of daily commitments, I began to search the web for any information. I begin to ask ‘Is it me?‘ I had been holding out for a couple of days, waiting for the injury to turn a corner, but saw no progress, and getting out of bed each morning was becoming more ’strenuous.’ And fortunately, I found this site.
After devouring several of the blogs/posts and appreciating the great network of support and inspiration, I finally realized the obvious - that the telltale signs were all present and a visit to a doctor was indeed more important than my ego. I begin to wonder what if it is me. I found some orthopedic surgeons on the web Friday afternoon and started calling, booking an appt with the first one who could take me on the following Monday (some posts here had noted the importance of getting surgery performed within 1-2 weeks of injury). Over the weekend, the many questions of concern I received about my awkward Frankenstein-like gait were accompanied by one ATR story after another - all beginning with surgery and ending with a long path to full recovery. I was very comforted to hear that several friends knew the surgeon I was going to visit.
Monday afternoon (Oct. 12) - Six days after making a simple move into the paint to get free, I saw Dr. Steve Brotherton here in Ft. Worth, a fine practitioner who also has treated TCU athletes for several years. With his no nonsense approach, he reviewed the xrays, examined my leg, performed the Thompson test, and said that there was definitely a rupture and surgery was necessary. He didn’t need an MRI to make the diagnosis. As the news sank in, I asked about partial vs. full rupture and surgery vs. non-surgical. He advised me about recovery stats and re-injury percentages (0-5% w/surgery, 20% w/non-surgical treatment); so, he was confident that surgical repair was the best approach for me to maintain an active lifestyle. Alas, it is me. I was immediately scheduled for surgery at a local outpatient facility that Thursday morning (Oct. 15).
U2 on Tuesday nite (Oct 13) in the cavernous house that Jerry built was enjoyable. My friends insisted on getting me a ‘rickshaw’ driver for the long trek from the parking lot to the stadium… that was helpful, though attention-getting. We wound up abandoning our seats to find better sound and groove in the SRO section. I was getting repaired in a couple of days, so, what the heck? We stood for most of the concert. More than 25 years after War, the band still rocks. Any mild pain or discomfort was soothed by good song and cold $8 bottles of beers. The playlist was a great mix of their standout hits and new songs - the 2 encores did not disappoint. But, my mind couldn’t help but drift to what was to come.
The couple of days pre-surgery breezed by as my wife & I prepared for the day of and post-surgery. Again, the comments on this site were invaluable to help me realize the severity of the impact; and, while we weren’t fully prepared, we were mentally ready for the change that was about to come in our household.
Thursday (Oct. 15), 9 days after injury - I’m told the surgery went off without a hitch. My only recollection was getting the IV line inserted by nurse Brandy, followed by a shot of Benadryl, and then one of the sedative Propofol by my kind anesthesiologist, Dr. Neeben. Yes, he had earlier informed me that it was the same med improperly used by MJ’s doctor as a ’sleep aid’. Everyone at the Orthopedic Pavilion PSC2 was gracious and very helpful. I so appreciate them for helping to make the day as anxiety-free as possible. When I awoke, my dear long-suffering wife by my side, my only and oft-repeated questions to anyone within earshot were ‘how did it go?’ and ‘when can I start working out my upper body?’ My hard cast stretches from mid-foot up to just below my knee. I had no short term memory for a few hours nd was just loopy for the rest of the day.
Today: Monday (Oct 19), 4 days post-surgery - A long weekend of Vicodin/acetaminophen staying ahead of the pain went surprisingly well, and has given way to a couple of ibuprofen when needed. Even got to see my kids’ baseball games and had dinner out on Saturday. My wife has been a true angel, taking care of the kids and me every waking hour. She’s been a gem putting up with my fierce independence and rigid acceptance of help/support. I am grateful for her.
While the doctor recommended towel baths to ensure that the cast remain completely dry, I bought a great cast protector and showered for the 1st time today… man, that felt exhilarating! Sleep has gone upside down for me - awake until 3-4am, sleep until 11am-12noon.
Using crutches are not great for in-house movement, standing. carrying things, late-nite peeing, or walking any amount of distance. I highly recommend looking into a knee walker for getting around. I feel much less hobbled and much more mobile with my rental (Dartmouth Knee Scooter by Bantex). There are several models on the market. I’ve seen rates on the web from $100-150/month). I like the ability to plant my knee/cast on the cushion and then push forward with my good leg, just like a scooter. Whichever one you get, be sure to get one with a handlebar to allow turning. Added bonus, the kids get a kick out of riding on it! And, of course, they’ve tagged my cast with pics drawn in a lovely orange-black Halloween motif.
Key acquisitions: Knee walker (rental), cast protector, shower stool, Ric Burns’ New York documentary box set.
Key needs: Good, healthy crockpot/slow cooker recipes - please share! Upper body exercises (should one start working out while still in the hard cast?)
Next up: Driving w/cast, on-site business meeting, normal sleep pattern, 3-week doctor visit, Halloween.
Canceled: NY trip.
Stretch Goal: To dance with my wife on New Year’s Eve (T minus 11 weeks).
Folks, my apologies for this mad long post. I didn’t intend on being this long-winded. But, writing this post has been so cathartic amidst the crazy whirlwind of activity since the injury. And, while I am wary of what lies ahead, I’m heartened by the amazing words of encouragement offered on achillesblog. Many thanks again and warm regards to Dennis and to every contributor on this helpful site…