Cast Claustrophobia is real…and it’s Terrifying.

I lasted 6 days in my full cast. Six of the most harrowing days of my life.  This is a difficult story for me to tell.

I never considered myself claustrophobic. Sure, I don’t care for the tiny tunnel that is the MRI machine, and you’ll never catch me caving in those damp, dark, narrow tunnels of West Virginia.  But generally, I always considered myself fairly well adjusted.

And then they put a cast on my leg. Not a splint, not just plaster on the back with a friendly elastic ace bandage holding everything together. But a hard, formed, never ending, all encompassing cast, that you can’t get off.  Can’t get away from.  Can’t get out of.  Ever. It started with nausea, then dizziness, then uncontrollable shaking and crying. And sleeplessness. Long, dark, lonely nights trying to figure out what was happening and how to stop it, how to busy my mind, how to focus on something else.  And failing.  Then panic. Frantic panic.  A racing heart, and such heaviness in my chest I felt like someone was standing on me, until I couldn’t breath. I could not physically suck in air.  Never have I felt so trapped.  So terrified.  So horribly wrong.   Finally, after 6 days of not eating, not sleeping, intense anxiety, fear, and a torturous wait for the weekend to be over, I made yet another call to my surgeon’s office, and with a little begging and pleading, and help from the most wonderful nurse, I am now in an air cast boot.  And with permission, yes, actual permission from my surgeon, to take it off whenever I want. Whenever. I. Want. I sobbed when that cast came off. Laid there on their bed, like a child, and sobbed. It was such an overwhelming relief.

So here I am, sanity intact, 18 days post op from Haglund’s Deformity removal and Achilles’ tendon reconstruction. Still NWB for 2.5 more weeks, but that, I can do.

For anyone who has never experienced this, you’ll think I’m grossly exaggerating. For anyone who has, you’ll know that I’m not. And I’m sorry. Sorry for the torment you endured.

For anyone who may ever stumble across this who is trying to figure out what the heck it is that’s happening to you, tell someone. Tell your family. Tell your friends. TELL YOUR DOCTOR. No matter how many times you’ve already called them, how many other complaints you’ve already made, no matter how much of a bother you feel you’re being, tell them. They can help you. They are health care providers. They went into this field to help people. They will help you.

7 Responses to “Cast Claustrophobia is real…and it’s Terrifying.”

  1. I’m sorry you went through that! I pretty much forced them to put me in the walking boot at 3 weeks (and the doc and a tech said I would be in a walking boot at 3 weeks which I reminded everyone in the cast room when they put me in a plaster splint (but only for 2 days - LOL!)). The nurse promised to check with the doc (he wasn’t available when I was in the cast room) about the walking boot and she did. I told them they would be changing it again in 2 days if I didn’t get the boot. I got the boot. Still couldn’t walk for another 3 weeks after I got it - but I could take it off for showers. They also gave me a plantar fasciatis splint to wear at night since there is no way I would get ANY sleep with that big, clunky walking boot. I still have to wear that night splint until my next appt at the end of April - though I’m walking in the boot now and start 2 shoes on Friday. I can’t wait to sleep with a naked foot again!

  2. Holy Cow!! I went through that as well. It only lasted a couple of days thank goodness but I so feel your pain. My foot just felt trapped. Moving my toes up and down seemed to calm me a bit and then that weird feeling just finally passed. The boot is much better. Glad you are doing better

  3. Glad you found some relief. I had two casts over the first three weeks after surgery and the second one, in particular, was horrible. The last two nights with it nearly drove me crazy, to the point that I was seriously considering cutting it off and dealing with a ticked-off doctor.

    It’s hard to describe how good it felt to take my boot off that first night, prop my foot up on the couch, and relax. Of course, that first shower was nice, too! Congrats on getting out of the cast stage.

  4. When they took my cast off after 3 weeks there was a horrible moment where they thought they didn’t have any boots in stock to give me, and they asked if I was OK to go back into a cast for another week.

    Fortunately a kind nurse had a dig around in some cupboards and found one. I was so relieved!

    Glad you’re through it :)

  5. I think your experience of this would be as bad as I have ever read. I lasted a week and had to take Valium to keep me calm. Sweating, hold then cold. It is horrible. It happened to me years before when I broke my arm and the cast was put on very tight. The Valium did work but I hate taking it as it is addictive. The boot was a much better option. I have worked out my claustrophobia is not related to confined spaces as much as restricted movement. I have crawled through small caves and scuba dive (which also gives a claustrophobic affect) and the MRI is OK as well. Thanks for sharing. Yes it is very real.

  6. Thankyou for the support everyone.

    Stuart, I was given a couple of anti-anxiety tablets, but even that wasn’t enough. I had the hot/cold thing too, right out of surgery. I applaud you for being able to scuba dive - that’s definitely on my don’t need to do list! And yet, I’m a great swimmer and love the water. Can’t wait till I’m a little further along and can get back in the pool.

  7. Wow, I had no idea that can happen… Sorry you experienced it as it sounds horrid. Glad you are better and can concentrate on your recovery now!

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