Normal shoes

It’s been 15.5 weeks since my surgery and last week, I was finally promoted up to normal shoes with no heel lifts. Although I still walk with a limp, the walking motion is starting to strengthen my ankle and my normal gait is starting to come back. I still have trouble walking down stairs normally so I have to point my toes outwards so that when my knee bends, its bending side to side and not front to back — because if it bends front to back, as I step down, my ankle dorsiflexes too much (the direction when you pull your toes upwards). The doctor says that this is normal and that my sole focus is to increase the strength in my calf, ankle and achilles. This is best demonstrated through the dreaded heel raise exercise.

Its unbelievable how weak my foot is. I cannot lift my heel off the ground off of just one foot, I need to be holding on to something, and even then it takes all my effort (and pain) to lift it an inch or so. Currently, my PT exercises are two foot heel raises with controlled lowering on my weak foot. I push so hard just to get up that I’m afraid I’m going to re-injure something, but both the doctor and physical therapist assured me that when you push down (in the gas-pedal down) position, you are not risking any re-injury. But this kind of exercise is only possible after your tendon has pretty much fully healed and is nice and thick — when I was reading these blogs, I used look at what exercises I could work on during my earlier weeks, but this is NOT the kind you want to jump into. Definitely wait to get the all clear from your doctor.

I’ve been doing these heel raises for a week or so and I can slowly feel more stability in my ankle. I can’t believe its been 4 months — looking forward to the next few months of PT so I can get back to walking without a limp all together.

Big scare and note on flying

Its been 10 weeks since my surgery and my doctor said that there should be no problems with flying, so last week I took a trip to see some family. Being 10 weeks out, I am in a walking boot and have felt pretty confident getting around, not much pain in my foot, decent balance and walking speeds at 60-70% my normal pace. Overall I felt good and was overconfident about the strength and condition of my foot.

But while I was walking in the airport, I was looking back to check something while walking and someone cut in front of me with their luggage so while my body was leaning forward, my bad foot could not step properly and instead of landing on my heel, my foot came straight down on the ball of my foot. As you know pressing the ball of your foot while leaning forward causes significant strain on the achilles and the moment my foot touched down, I felt this strange release of tension in my foot. Now any sort of sudden change of feeling in my foot seemed like it would be a bad thing, so I sat down, took my boot off and checked my foot. Everything seemed ok, but when I squeezed my calf with my hand, my foot wasn’t moving. It didn’t hurt, but it felt strange that my foot wouldn’t move with my manual calf squeeze.

I went home and did a full Thompson test and it seemed like my foot wasn’t responding so I got freaked out and messaged my doctor to see if I had damaged anything. Thankfully, there was no damage ( I must have done the test wrong or missed the movement) , but the 3 days waiting for the appointment felt like forever and the thoughts of redoing surgery, cast, etc. was almost too much to think about.

The moral of my story is that you must always be mindful and protective of your foot, even if (or maybe even more) you feel like its recovering well and things feel fine. Be more extra alert and aware of your surroundings - especially airports. I had been fine walking through train stations, bars, Costco, etc so I thought the airport would be no different, but it is very different. Airports are more dangerous than most public areas because everyone is constantly moving, generally in a hurry and they have carry on bags which bump into a lot of things. My scare happened at the gate where there’s a mass of people just waiting to board and moving as a herd whenever there’s any announcement. Also, don’t be afraid to use the wheelchair service when getting your boarding ticket. They are very friendly and helpful and will wheel you all the way to your gate, which is sometimes a pretty long walk for a walking boot.

When I first got hurt, I read a lot of blogs and people’s experiences with their recovery so I hope anyone that flies with this injury will be a little more alert at the airport or anywhere there’s a high density of people moving really fast.

2 months in

Its been 9 weeks since my surgery and I’ve been doing PT for the past 3 weeks. The first few weeks were primarily ankle range of motion and leg exercises — my achilles was still very fat and with such little use, it felt incredibly tight , even when just standing on it. But the range of motion exercises really loosen that feeling up. The current challenge is the calf strengthening exercises. Ironically, when I first tore my achilles, there was no sharp or tearing type of pain — it just popped like a rubber band snapping. But the current calf exercises that have me going on the balls of my feet (using two feet) and slowly coming down on my bad ankle literally feels like someone is ripping my achilles. Sharp, knife like pain that makes me sweat and my ankle throb after a few reps. Apparently, that is the tendon stretching and/or the fibers realigning themselves because they have healed in a hodgepodge of directions.

Is this what other people felt when they first started doing calf strengthening exercises? I’m probably pushing it a bit more than I should by putting most of my weight on the foot as it pushes up, but I wanted to see how weak it really was. Overall, I think its starting to get stronger, but this is the first serious pain that I’ve felt since the surgery and hope that its one of those “growing pains” in the rehab.

Happy New year!

I haven’t updated this as much as I had hoped, but with the start of a new year, I figured I would drop an update.  It has been ~4 weeks since my surgery and last week, I got my cast off!  Now, the cast was a hassle and it feels great to be able to stretch my foot, but now the problem is that I need to be even more careful with my foot.  I am constantly in a walking boot, but during showers or when I wake up, there are a few times that I don’t have a boot which means absolutely no protection on my foot.  If I step too hard or I slip and stretch it the wrong way, I risk a tearing it again.  I’m sure its not fragile, but I’m paranoid about making a small mistake and having to go through the past month again.

On a more positive note, I start physical therapy this week, which I am very excited about. I want to keep pressing forward, keep working towards my recovery and can’t wait to get out of this walking boot. It will probably be 1-2 months in this boot, but I’m hoping it goes by quickly.

Surgery went well

I had my surgery this morning, bright and early — we had to be at the hospital by 6:30am, as we were the first case of the day.  Thankfully, everything went smoothly — the nerve block is still fully numbing my leg a good 10 hours later, but the doctor said that it will wear off overnight at which point the pain meds will take over.

At this point, I’m relieved that the recovery process has officially begun — I haven’t been able to test my iWalk or knee scooter with the cast because my leg is so numb, I can barely control bending my knee, but acclimating to my new normal is my goal for tomorrow.

day 2 post

I saw the doctor on Monday and he confirmed a full tear — although he offered a surgical and non-surgical recovery option, I’ve pretty much set on the surgical one and my surgery is scheduled for this Thursday.  On a lighter note, my boss was extremely understanding and told me to work from home and rest for the next 2 weeks, which was completely unexpected.  I had originally planned to take Thursday and Friday off, but now I can recover without fear of bumping my foot on my 1hr, train + uber commute.  I went into work yesterday using crutches and it was exhausting, I’m not sure how long I could continue to have done that.  I also bought the iwalk2.0 because regular crutches were already starting to hurt the bone in my palms and under my armpits — hopefully this will give me more mobility during the cast/non-weight bearing portion of the recovery.

The one thing I found interesting was that the doctor said I could actually put pressure on my foot right now because there wasn’t much more damage to be done.  But when I did that, my foot started to swell more and there was a dull throbbing pain.  So if you are pre-surgery, I would recommend staying off the foot as much as possible and keeping it elevated because once I elevated my foot, a lot of the swelling and subsequent paint subsided.  Also, this is a good time to practice a non-weight bearing system of crutches, scooter or whatever because I’ve realized that while I was not as prepared as I thought.  Practicing with the iwalk2.0 and orienting my scooter around the house makes me more confident for the NWB time that is to come.

Day 1 post

I’m a 36yr old male that has been playing recreational basketball for most of my life and I never thought this would happen to me.  I’m not sure if that’s a normal thought or an arrogant one, but I basically figured that I had a good feel for my body and how to avoid pushing it too far.  In either case, I was playing basketball this past Saturday and while making a routine curl, I heard an unmistakable pop and the tell-tale feeling of being “kicked in the back of the leg” that I had heard about.   I initially thought I tripped on someone, but when I looked around and didn’t see anyone within 3 feet of me, my heart just sank and I knew it was serious.

I keep replaying the entire day from the way I warmed up, to how I stretched,  to the exact movements I was making and nothing stands out in terms of any deviation from my normal routine.  And I still shudder when I replay the popping sound in my head…mainly because I know what it means.  Surgery, the long recovery, the logistical challenges and everything else entailed with a serious medical recovery.  I spent most of the day after feeling pretty sorry for myself, but now I’m trying to focus on the road ahead and looking at the things to be positive about.  Thankfully, it was my left foot so I can still drive – and I’ve had a serious medical recovery in the past, so my wife is prepared for the journey to come – my wife even had a friend, whose husband had the same injury 2 years ago, so they lent me their crutches, ice pack, bike scooter, etc – and I am blessed to have insurance so this won’t cause too much of a financial strain.  While I can’t say I’m happy about any of these things, years ago, when I had other medical issues, I learned to trust in Proverbs 3:5 and I will continue to lean on that.

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