1 Month in; Looking back and forward

As an aggressive skier and mountain biker,  I am no stranger to injury.  This most recent impairment has been somewhat more daunting than previous experiences, however.  I guess this is the case for most of us, hence the popularity of a blog site dedicated to ruptured Achilles tendons.

My ruptured my Achilles a little over a month ago skiing Hakuba, Japan’s backcountry.  I was caught in a rather large (Class 2-3 Canadian scale) slab avalanche and, either from the torquing of my skis in the tumble or from the awkward position of my leg and foot when I came to rest, I fully ruptured my left Achilles tendon.  Because of the nature of the events, I heard no pop nor felt no pain.  In fact, I did not know I had injured myself until several minutes after the event, when I tried to stand after being unburied by my ski partners.

While I had a long limp out over avalanche debris and a creek crossing, I was somewhat supported by a ski boot.  When I finally made it to flatter terrain, I was able to call on the help of snowmobiling friends, who I knew were in the area.

Because of some good luck and skilled friends, I have had a death sentence commuted to 8-9 months of hard labor, so I really am grateful.  Sometimes I need to remind myself of this when I start to feel sorry for myself.

In the 4 days I had between injury and going in for surgery, I did a lot of cram work and my biggest concern was the potential for Japanese doctors to follow a very conservative approach, such as full leg casts and the like.  My experience here is that they tend toward conservatism and dated methods in many things.  My fears proved unfounded, however, and I followed the well trodden path of 1 week cast, 1 week splint, vacoped at 2 weeks with 5 degree improvements every week.  As this is my third surgery in Japan, I was fully prepared for the complete absence of pain medication, so it didn’t come as a surprise when I wasn’t given any.  Luckily, this wasn’t the most painful of my operations.  Putting 7 pins in my shoulder and collarbone proved far worse.

So here I am at 4 weeks and a bit.  I am at 25degrees flexion, partial weight bearing and looking to drop another 5 degrees and a crutch in the next couple days.  I started light stationary biking last week with a return to upper body gym work. Right now the biggest hurdle is my mental state.  I am an active person who does a lot of adventure/adrenaline sport but not a lot of specific fitness activity, as I find it quite dull.  I also have a 4 month old baby who’s main entertainment is to be carried around, something I cannot do on crutches.  I try to focus on small improvements in my physical state but sometimes it seems to slow and a return to the things I find stimulating too distant.  The frustration of not being able to console my crying son is also a trial.  I just need to keep reminding myself how much worse it could have been, I guess.

Better still, I need to start looking forward.  I sadly had to cancel my annual Whistler Glacier summer terrain park ski trip in July.  I am hoping to be well enough to do a Colorado/Utah MTB trip I had planned for the high desert in mid Oct, but that would be exactly 7 months post surgery, so possibly somewhat overly ambitious.  I read a post by a guy who started MTBing in his boot quite early in his healing process, so I may look into that in a couple of months.  Until they, I will just keep on keeping on, dropping degrees of plantar flexion (I am never sure of the terms, having all this done in Japanese) and adding weight.  My first real goal is dropping the crutches so I can carry around my little boy.  That may just make all the difference.

2 Responses to “1 Month in; Looking back and forward”

  1. Well you have the best rupture story I’ve read so far! An avalanche…kind of exciting way to do it. I love how you expressed it as a death sentence commuted to hard labor…brilliant analogy!

    You’re protocol looks great, early and progressive. YAY for the Japanese Docs! …and congratulations on becoming a father!

    Facing this injury and months of rehab is hard, and will be hard for some time, it’s just part of the injury…each phase has it’s own challenges to overcome, however, you’re attitude will determine how you experience each phase. How you see things so to speak. The choice is always ours.

    Also, I’d suggest a papoose, day pack, sling…some kind of pouch to carry your son when you are FWB without support, you both might enjoy that closeness. Best wishes to you…

  2. We are close in timeframe, as my surgery on my right achilles was on March 17. I just went to partial weight bearing today, day 30, and expect to be full weight bearing gradually over the next few weeks. I am in my fifth cast since the procedure with a flimsy little shoe on top of it. My big victory was that I was able to drive today for the first time…ah, the small victories!

    I have been keeping a journal, which has been helpful in that it helps me see progress that I would otherwise perhaps overlook (I tried to use the timeline on this site but was unsuccessful, not sure why).

    Anyway, sounds like you are doing great, are already into rehab, which is great! Good luck, and hang in there!

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