Six month update.

September 13, 2017

I’m a few days late with this - September 10 marked six months since my surgery. It’s more difficult to measure progress these days. It takes a bigger event or outing to test my leg because I can get through most day-to-day stuff without too much trouble.

Last week we faced a potential evacuation for Hurricane Irma. I thought we might have to board up our windows, which meant getting big sheets of plywood out of the attic and bringing them downstairs. Moving all of the sheets put a fair amount of stress on my ankle and Achilles. Everything was sore that day and the next. We never put up any plywood because the storm turned enough to spare us the worst parts — it all became a creative workout, and I can’t complain about that. Anything is better than boarding up and leaving town. I was happy to come out of the experience feeling like my leg could hold up to moderate to heavy lifting.

Just yesterday I tried jogging for five or six 30-second intervals in the park. I wasn’t planning on it, but after I walked over there (about 10 minutes at my son’s pace) I felt good so I have it a shot. I can’t say that it felt normal at all, but it was a good outing nonetheless. I probably could have run some more, actually, and there haven’t been any negative effects today. So that was a nice milestone: it was the first time in 6 months that I was able to play outside with my son like I used to.

Of course, my Achilles is still stiff each morning and it takes a round of calf raises to walk halfway normally. There’s still random pain off and on, and my knee aches at random times, presumably from altered gait mechanics. I’ve focused more on eccentric calf raises lately and that seems to have paid off. I miss the sense of springiness and bounce in my leg. Playing a sport like tennis, with a lot of quick movements, might be farther out on the horizon. But seeing some decent improvement over the last two weeks has given me more hope. Plus, I have to remember that back in April I seriously doubted whether I’d be able to run at all this year.

Once again, good luck to everyone else and try to stay positive!


24 weeks post-op.

August 29, 2017

I’ve noticed a little more progress lately so I thought I’d update my blog. After 3-4 weeks of feeling stuck, I noticed last week that I was able to walk farther and do more calf exercises. I even managed my first single-leg calf raises, and now I can do those with enough confidence to add that exercise to my routine. I can’t do very many, and it’s not easy, but it’s getting better day-by-day.

I walked about 5 miles total on the day of the solar eclipse, spread out over 3 separate outings walking around Charleston. That was when I realized something must be getting better - a few weeks earlier that would have been difficult, if not impossible, due to stiffness and soreness in my ankle.

I’ll probably attempt some light jogging this week at the gym. Nothing major, just a test. I still get some odd feelings in my ankle and my knee that have me not wanting to rush things. My ankle gets sore, like bone on bone sore, in the front area (near the top of my foot). My knee gets little twinges and tweaks here and there, and I can only guess that my gait is still off-kilter somehow and that stresses the joint.

All in all, though, it’s nice to see progress - even if I’m only headed for another plateau.

Oh, one other random thing: I have a spot on my heel that’s numb about 90% of the time. I don’t know when that started (most likely when a surgeon sliced into my leg lol), but I finally realized that what I thought was an ill-fitting shoe was actually just a strange feeling at the heel of the shoe because of that numbness.


21 weeks post-op.

August 5, 2017

I guess I’m officially in the “Well, I don’t have much to say at the moment” phase, but I thought I’d post a quick update.

21 weeks since surgery, 22 since the injury, and as others have mentioned recently I think progress is best measured month-to-month at this point. I don’t see much difference if I look back a week…but if I go back 2-3 weeks I can see a lot of changes. The big one for me right now is that my calf raise exercises don’t hurt as much, which allows me to do more strengthening work without getting scared that something is wrong. I had some pain in my ankle tendons and the lowermost part of the Achilles that made me cautious; now, as the entire area gets stronger, it all feels better. I’m not quite to the point of a single leg calf raise, but it feels close. (I’m also not rushing that.)

I spent a week in Colorado and experienced my first extended period of time in an area with inclines/declines. I managed okay. Going down trails, especially with little rocks making it treacherous, was an adventure so I didn’t go crazy with the hiking. Mostly it felt good to walk around and feel my leg working. I still think about almost every step, and my ankle feels stiff and uncooperative more often than not, but there’s a lot more functionality there, if that makes sense.

That’s about it! A long road, and a long way to go. Good luck to everyone who’s in the early stages. Well, any stage, for that matter.


18 weeks post-op.

July 18, 2017

A little late with this update, mainly because I seem to have arrived at a plateau and don’t have much to add to last week’s note. I’ll admit to slacking off a bit with my exercises earlier in the week - it’s easy for me to do when my leg feels ok - not great, but ok - and I can go about my daily activities reasonably well. Sometimes I want to ignore the entire recovery process and pretend nothing ever happened. Hey, my ankle’s a little stiff! No big deal.

This week’s plan is to update a weekly exercise spreadsheet I used to print out to track my progress. Something as simple as having a piece of paper taped to the refrigerator does wonders for my workout consistency.

What I noticed over the last few days of reduced exercising: My ankle and calf actually end up feeling worse each morning, even with the rest. The stiffness and soreness are more pronounced. I guess it pays to continually work and stretch each day after all. :)

I think that’s the tough part of this stage for me. The first three months provided me with plenty of milestones and achievements. Now in the fifth month post-op each week has become basically the same. I do notice more strength in my calf muscle, but that development is happening a lot slower than the earlier progress.

Random details for week 18: I’ve almost retired the compression sock. I still wear it on occasion, and my foot swells without it, but it doesn’t feel necessary now. I’m walking fairly well most of the time. I do get some stiffness and pain (the pain near the heel, or sometimes in the peroneal tendons), so I still end up limping on occasion if I’m on my feet a lot. My ankle is super-stiff in the morning. I do a round of Theraband exercises as a morning warm-up before I even put my feet on the floor. Then I do a set of gentle calf raises, and then I feel like I can walk around.

We have a trip to Colorado coming up soon. That should break up the rehab monotony a bit. I’ll be interested to see how any sort of incline/elevation affects me. Here at sea level I enjoy a nice blanket of oxygen and not a hill in sight!


17 weeks post-op.

July 8, 2017

This week I learned how much is too much when I spent Tuesday working on some long-neglected beds and shrubs around the house. I dragged a tarp full of leaves, mulch, and dirt (and my son) from the back of the house to the front, and that required a lot of pushing off with my legs. I managed to do the work okay, but was quickly reminded that my right leg doesn’t have much power and the lack of strength puts stress on different areas of my leg. At first my right knee hurt below the kneecap, and then my ankle and Achilles hurt. My limp definitely returned in full force.

Nothing about the soreness felt particularly bad…more like a warning. It did take about 3 days for everything to settle down, though. Perfect timing for more yard work this weekend. :)

I treated myself to a pair of Vionic sandals for my birthday. They’re expensive, but they’re pretty nice. I hate wearing socks and shoes all the time - I was always barefoot or in sandals before the injury - so it’s nice to have comfortable sandals. And what better way to celebrate turning 42 than getting orthotic sandals and walking around slowly.

I’ve started one-leg calf raises in the pool. I can do those at about 4.5 feet of water. Any closer to 4 and it gets too tough. Also doing light jogging, jumping side to side in 4 to 5 feet of water. It’s a nice way to ease into those motions.

Out of the pool, I’m putting most of my weight on my right leg when I lower from a two-leg calf raise. I haven’t been as dedicated as I should be with the calf raises. After the yard work issues I decided to make it an easy week.

Aside from the temporary return of the limp, walking has been okay lately. Sometimes I feel a pinch on my Achilles when I push off, sometimes it’s all swollen and stiff, sometimes it’s fine. In a way every day is the same, and every day is different. It’s slow progress and each day the stiffness or achiness moves around.

I hope to get in some more exercise this week. It’s easy to get complacent once things start feeling better.


16 weeks post-op.

June 30, 2017

Sixteen weeks. Wow. Four months since surgery, a little over that since the injury. That feels extra crazy today for some reason.

Steady progress at the gym, with some random soreness as I add weight to seated single-leg calf raises, increase reps of standing calf raises (still 2 legs), and extend my time on the exercise bike. Also have some leg press and leg extension work to tease my right leg back into shape. They have one of those bumpy/knobby foam rollers there so I use that to torture myself. I have one of the smooth rollers at home. Those bumps make a big difference.

I stepped on one of my son’s mini-basketballs with my repaired foot when I stood up from the dinner table a few nights ago. A consequence of my “No playing basketball in the house…unless your mommy’s not here and then we can do it” flexible rule style. Stepping on a ball or toy was a huge fear of mine early on, so when I almost fell I had the fleeting thought - “this is it! re-rupture time!” - but I twisted my ankle a bit and nothing bad happened. Good to get a slip like that out of the way. Everything feels so much stronger around the ankle these days.

On to month number five!


Beach PT

June 25, 2017

Finally got around to working on photo uploads. I made a scar page so my stitches and scar can be preserved on the Internet forever. There’s even a surgery pic.

Here’s a quick shot of my beach PT routine:

beach

That’s my son running away from me at the bottom right, and that sort of thing makes up a large part of my PT these days. He’s still a lot faster than me so I have to keep hitting the gym and working up to sprint work ASAP.


15 weeks post-op. Later, doc.

June 23, 2017

I had my last appointment with my orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday. That was the first time I walked into his office without any kind of assistive device, cast, or boot. It’s amazing to think about how anxious I was during earlier visits compared to slowly strolling in there in two shoes. He liked how everything looked and saw no issues with my self-directed PT plan. Unless something comes up, that’s the last doctor visit for me. He’s had 4 ATRs come in since my injury - it’s a small town Achilles rupture epidemic!

The doctor gave me a rough timeline for the next 2-6 months. He thought an attempt at light jogging would be okay in 3-4 weeks, maybe a return to “easy” tennis somewhere around the 6 months post-op mark. That’s faster than the plan I had in my head, which was jogging by fall and tennis at the 1 year post-op mark. So I’ll proceed along as I have to this point - letting my calf, ankle, and foot tell me when they’re ready to do things. They’re surprisingly good at communicating via stiffness, aches, and random twinges. I’ll probably end up somewhere in the middle of the doctor’s timeline and my original plan. I have my eyes set on a 5K in February and with continued good luck that should be a reasonable goal. No reason to rush the jogging when I’m headed into a brutal southeastern summer.

I’ve started light strengthening work in earnest this week. Of course, all that means is that I’m doing seated and standing calf raises (2 legs only) and slowly increasing repetitions. I’m also riding the exercise bike for longer periods of time. Combined with the theraband exercises, I finally feel like I’m working to get stronger rather than working only on mobility/flexibility. Oh, and I also try to balance on one leg for as long as I can…I do that whenever I think of it, maybe 10 times a day for a couple minutes’ worth of attempts. The stay-at-home-parent life gives me lots of little opportunities like that.

The bike and calf raise work are making a big difference in my walking. My gait feels a lot smoother, especially at that last stage of a step where I’d normally push off. I can’t say I feel any real push-off strength; it’s more like the muscles are waking up and remembering how they’re supposed to move.

I also started up a YMCA membership so I can go to the gym. I’ve always hated gym workouts but I have to say it’s different now. I have a new appreciation for how my body works, and a new understanding of how bad it feels when things go wrong. The simple act of lifting a weight seems miraculous. I picture the muscles and tendons moving and stretching and I marvel at all of the mechanisms involved. We’ll see how long that feeling lasts. I have to say, they sure have some fancy exercise bikes/stair climbers/whatevers these days. I sat down on some kind of recumbent bike and started pedaling - 5 minutes into the program a notification popped up telling me that a cooling fan was about to start. Then I felt a nice breeze out of small vents on the display that I hadn’t noticed. Welcome to the future!

I wear my compression sock about 50% of the time now. Still use an ice pack at the end of the day. Overall, the foot and ankle swelling has diminished. It’s still there, though, so the ice in particular feels good.

That’s about all for this week. It’s a welcome change of pace to feel more relaxed, and even a little excited, about the next recovery phases. The early weeks are such a mess of shock, fear, confusion, and impatience. For the first two months I could barely stomach the thought of walking, running, jumping, etc. Now I have to slow myself down when I’m exercising because I can’t wait to do those things. I know all of our timelines are different - I hope everyone currently healing reaches a similar point of relative calm (however long it lasts) sooner rather than later.


14 weeks post-op.

June 16, 2017

Fourteen weeks and all is well.

I managed a beach trip without too much trouble, so that was nice. Those outings are such a big part of our lives that it felt good to realize I can still go (early on I worried that I wouldn’t be able to go out there much this spring/summer). I won’t be jumping around in the waves any time soon, though.

I’ve experimented with taking off my compression sock at midday. My probably illogical, completely made-up theory is that my leg won’t learn how to pump blood properly if I keep helping it with compression. Therefore, I’m reducing the amount of compression sock time gradually. I don’t know if that has helped at all, but I can manage a half-day without too much swelling or discomfort.

I’m going to try a bike ride around the neighborhood this weekend. Riding with my son (in his bike seat) was one of my favorite pre-injury activities so I hope to start again soon. I won’t go out with him until I’m sure I feel comfortable getting on and off, etc. I want to feel confident that my leg can hold up to a sudden tip or fall in one direction. Which, now that I type that out, might be a few weeks off. Seeing re-rupture stories on the Achilles injury Facebook group makes me conservative about these things.

Not much else to report this week. That’s a good thing! Hope everyone has a good weekend and good luck with the rehabbing, recovery, and maybe even relaxing.


13 weeks post-op.

June 9, 2017

Steady progress this week. I realized on a couple of occasions that my ankle mobility has improved enough to make a difference in my gait. Every other day or so I have an “aha!” moment when I notice a change.

PT this week: walking with my son. Our paces match up well and I can focus on slow, proper steps. I do theraband exercises and simulated/exaggerated steps and slow-motion running motions to work on light strengthening and balance. I’ll probably revisit “real” PT in another week or so. I don’t feel compelled to check in with them at the moment.

It’s funny how quickly I’ve forgotten what the early weeks were like. Last night I started grumbling about how annoying it is to always wear shoes around the house (I never used to wear shoes in the house). What a pain to slip on my running shoes every time I get up! Poor me! Of course, in the early weeks it was the cast that was frustrating. Then the iWalk and crutches, then the boot. I need to remember that this stage is easy compared to living with all of the other devices I’ve had to use.

The thing is, even with steady progress all I really want is to go back to normal. Completely normal. Rewind to March 2 and decide to hold off on tennis for a while. I still have a moment each morning when I forget that anything’s wrong, and it still sucks to come back down to earth and do 5 minutes of stretching and mobility exercises so my ankle doesn’t feel frozen when I first get out of bed. It’s a pendulum, and quite a ride. Excitement, hope, resignation, hope, excitement. Wash, rinse, repeat.

So, my goal for the weekend is to stay in the excited/hopeful zone for as long as possible. The weather is nice, I can get out and about, and if the worst thing going on is wearing shoes in the house, I don’t have much reason to complain.