strengthinumbers’ AchillesBlog

5th Week Post Op!
April 20, 2011, 3:38 pm
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The end of my 5th week post op is finally in the bag.
Last weekend I went out for round two f climbing. I was much more confident this time out and managed to get around with a lot less apprehensiveness. I led 14 routes in total ranging from 5.6 to 5.11b! Needless to say I had a great time and I have been utilizing my boot in a much more efficient way on climbs instead of just letting it dangle helplessly in the air. I’m still extremely cautious when it comes to situations where I might fall (I have not taken a lead fall yet thank god), so I stay to routes where the potential for such a hazard is minimized.
On the healing front, I saw and felt my tendon for the first time this week. The scar tissue and swelling have all receded to the point where I can actually see what looks like my old tendon. It feels good, strong, and more importantly in one piece! My poor calf muscle looks like a deflated balloon however, a sight that brings me much sadness. I can flex my calf, but the rigidity of the former muscle has been completely ravaged by time. I’m not quite sure what to do to remedy this yet, so I continue to walk as much as possible in my boot, and flex my calf whenever I am engaged in range of motion activities. I have an appointment with my doctor next week (the 6 week milestone) who will evaluate my progress and let me know if I can shed the boot and start walking in regular shoes. I keep stretching the tendon whenever possible and everyday it feels more and more flexible (read normal).
For now, I just look forward to gaining more strength in my tendon without aggravating it and am planning another outdoor adventure this weekend. The weather here in Washington is beautiful (a little crisp/cold) and as long as the sun is shining I’m going to try and get outside. I’ve adapted to the boot quite well, but I still get a very angry heel after hiking for some distance which is always soothed by getting out of the boot and off my feet. I really hope that I get some sort of PT assigned to me by my doctor on this next visit because I’m really at a loss as of what I should be doing to regain strength in my calf muscle and what a transition from my boot to normal shoes would mean for my recovery and rehab.
I really had no idea where I would be at 5 weeks, and I’m happy to report that I feel as though in another 6 weeks I should be completely back to ‘competitive sports’ (as the doc put it). In all reality I would just love to get back to hiking, running, and climbing the way I used to. I could really care less if I never play basketball again (it was more of a fun hobby than a serious sport for me, at least in the last 3 years), but I do realize that a lot of people have mentioned I now need to worry about rupturing the other tendon (yikes!!). Any helpful hints in making an efficient and safe transition from boot to shoe would be much appreciated, and if anybody has any tips about maintaining a healthy ‘other’ Achilles tendon while healing I would love to hear them.
Thank you everyone, I hope you are all enjoying life while in a boot/cast and staying as active as you can. I’m sending my healing energy (what is left of it) out to you all!

Week 4 Post-Op Comes to a Close
April 11, 2011, 3:34 pm
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Well, I must say the weekend was definitely a break from what I am used to lately.  But a much needed retreat to normalcy.

I was a tad ambivalent as I made the drive out to Vantage this weekend with my girlfriend.  Vantage, a popular climbing area in Washington, was not always my favorite place to climb but is definitely one of the more friendlier places to engage in this kind of activity whilst sporting a nice plastic boot.  I’ve been climbing around in the gym lately (one footed) being cautious not to fall on my ATR foot (even though it is encased in my boot).  So far it’s been going well and I thought, “What would be the harm of doing a little outdoor climbing?”. 

I stayed religiously to routes that were well below my skill level and all in all I was pretty successful on everything I got on as well as having a blast finally being outside engaged in the sport I love!  I managed to lead 6 sport climbs from 5.7 to 5.10a and top roped four more from 5.9 to 5.10b.  I was quite pleased with how much climbing I was able to do with one foot and I never felt any pain or strain on my newly repaired tendon.  The hardest part really was hiking to the climbs.  Going up hill is still a bit dicey, but I always pay close attention to how my body is healing and absorbing the extra work it has had to do because of this injury. 

I’m taking a rest day today, since the weekend was definitely tiring, but I’m still doing ROM and I need to start sticking to a more consistent icing regiment.  My incision is healing up nicely except near the bottom of my leg where there is still swelling and some redness. 

Today, Monday April 8th 2011, marks the almost 4 week mark since the surgery (tomorrow will actually be the real 4 week anniversary).  I have to say I feel good.  Everyday I feel like I have a little bit more flexability in my ankle and tendon as well as a little bit more strength.  I continue to weight my ATR leg out of the boot and walk around my apartment as much as possible.  I hve yet to get in touch with my doctor with some questions I have about PT and such, so I will post about how that conversation goes.  I also appreciate the comments on my last post.

No PT?
April 7, 2011, 7:22 pm
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The end of my 3rd week post-op is coming to a close. So far, things have been really good. I’ve been walking a lot in my boot, walking (cautiously) around my house without my boot, and sleeping without my boot (which is pure heaven after two weeks of sleeping with it on).  I haven’t been prescribed physical therapy, which I’m not sure is a good thing or not(?), but I do a lot of range of motion and stretching excercises.  I’ve been able to flex my calf and so far I’m just trying to stay as active as I can. 

I have a desk job so this injury has really not affected my work schedule (except for the time off I took for the surgery and subsequent recovery).

I would love to know what people do to stay in shape endurance-wise.  I do a lot of upper body work outs that involve crunches, push-ups, pull-ups, and free weights, but I would love to get a really good sweat on like when I was trail running full time. 

I’m also very curious as to how long it actually takes for a tendon to heal after being surgically re-attached to itself.  With the Achilles tendon being so large I just wonder if it takes longer than other tendons.  My biggest fear at the moment is re-rupture, but I don’t want to fall into the mental trap of beleiving my body will always be weak and vulnerable. 

The worst part of an injury such as this one, especially this being my first tendon rupture, is that I feel like the hardest part will be trusting my body again.  I’m sure it will come with time, and once I start doing the things I used to do again I will eventually forget that fear. 

In any event, I still fnd myself watching television and getting insanely jealous of all those care-free people I see running around like it’s no big deal.  I would kill(!!) to walk around without the assistance of my lovely boot.  In fact, when I get the okay from the doc to not wear this thing anymore I’m going to burn it, ritualistically.  I’m never going to take walking, running, jumping, hell, even standing on my toes for granted anymore.

My Nephew’s Name is Achilles, Irony?
April 5, 2011, 11:54 am
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I’m not sure if it’s ironic, funny, or just plain weird that my 1 year old nephew is named Achilles.

I limped into the ER with more fear than pain coursing through my veins. The obligatory X-ray was taken, along with my blood pressure 3 times, and then a 2 minute consultation from the doctor relieved me (temporarily) of my terrified mental state. My leg was swelling up like a balloon, but the prognosis was a ruptured PLANTARIS tendon. 2-3 weeks and the doc assured me I would be back to rattling the rim with stupefying dunks. 10 days passed, and I didn’t really see any improvement, except for the fact that the swelling had gone down a bit.

Since I was under the impression that it was a minor injury that would heal itself, coupled with the fact that I wasn’t in tremendous pain (just a dull underlying pain, and severe weakness in pushing off and the inability to stand on my toes) I did what every normal person would do and went snowboarding. It wasn’t exactly the best time I’ve had on the snow but I managed some good runs and didn’t come out on the other side any worse for wear.

I kept icing every day and the swelling gradually went away. I still wasn’t able to stand on my toes but driving was fine (pressing the gas and the brake) and I was limping around without any pain. The next weekend I went on a 10 mile hike/trail run followed by more snowboarding. This was a better time, but I still couldn’t manipulate my stride or my board for that matter the way I was used to.

More weekends went by filled with hiking in the snow, camping etc. As the swelling went down, I noticed a big gap in my Achilles. That terrified feeling didn’t just creep back into my stomach, it landed with a painful thud. I got online and sure enough, my symptoms aligned with that of a ruptured Achilles tendon. Still, I wasn’t quite sure why I was able to do all of the things I had done in the past few weeks. Granted I wasn’t doing them at full capacity, but I was able to engage in hiking and snowboarding with little pain. I read about surgery and the impending 6-12 month recovery time. My heart didn’t just sink, it hit bottom and kept going. I’m an extremely active person, and reading about the possible 6 months off I would have to take just to get over surgery was like reading a death sentence with my name on it.

I went immediately to an orthopedic specialist who signed me up for an MRI. Two weeks went by, and finally the MRI. Then, another week, and finally I was sitting in the examination room with the doctor telling me they could operate the next day. This was great news. At this point, it had been 6 weeks to the day since I had torn my Achilles in two! I had gone through a lot so far. Depression, anger, RAGE(!), and finally acceptance. I was just glad to be healing in a positive direction instead of living my life with an everlasting limp. Plus, the doctors assured me that in 3 months time I would be back to my old self, which was great news seeing as how I had mortified myself into a dark hole with all of the things I had read on-line.

I finally had the surgery. It took place 6 weeks from the day that my injury occurred and on top of the fact that for the past 5 weekends I had done everything in my power to traumatize it even further it was a success.

The cause of my sorrow was a pick-up basketball game. I had played basketball for 8 years but for the last 3-4 years I had limited it to 5-6 times a year. However, I had picked it up once again and started playing 3-4 times a week (I know, this sounds like an algebra problem, don’t worry there won’t be a test) for the last two weeks (prior to the ATR).

The night of the injury went like any other night. I spent some time in the weight room, and then made my way down to the b-ball court where a pick-up game had already been taking place. I didn’t really stretch much, I felt pretty warm already, and was invited to play. The first game was fine, I didn’t notice anything (like usual). The game lasted 15 minutes maybe? Then we started to play another game. About 10 minutes into this second game I got a pass at half court, ran down the court and made a layup. When I landed I felt like someone had kicked me in the back of the leg, between my calf and my heel. I literally turned around and said, ‘Someone just kicked me’. However no one was close enough to have done that. I immediately felt a weird sensation in my foot when I tried to walk normally. I had no support when trying to weight my toes and I knew instantly that this was not like any injury I had received before. My ankle was very angry at me and I drove immediately to the ER. And, well, you know the rest!

It has been 20 days since I underwent surgery to repair my ruptured Achilles.

I started this blog because during my pre-surgery angst, and my post surgery boredom I did a lot of research on the web which involved reading about other people’s ATR experiences. I was really shocked at what I had read compared to what I had actually experienced. Some of the main differences I have come across have been:

1) I read a lot about people being in a cast, or boot and not being able to bear weight on their injured foot for anywhere from 3-6 weeks!

My experience has been: the doctor sent me home with a boot and a piece of paper saying what I could and couldn’t do. Bearing weight on my injured foot was one of the first things I could do and it was as pain allowed. This happened to be 3 days after surgery! I shed the crutches completely after 8 days! For the last 12 days I have been crutch free, driving, walking 2 miles a day, working out, and even dancing! (all of this with the boot on of course). Plus, I had to sleep with the boot on for the first 14 days, or basically until I got my sutures removed.

2) A lot of the blogs I’ve read talk about immediate need for physical therapy. My doctor has not once mentioned PT, and I have not been prescribed it. This may change upon my next visit (which will be a milestone for me since I can get rid of my boot!), but so far they just keep telling me to do ankle pumps and range of motion exercises. I’ve even been full weight bearing on it without the boot on (which the doctor frowns upon, but as long as it doesn’t hurt and I don’t jump up and down on it I’ll continue to keep pushing it, lightly).

3) And last but not least, I guess has been just the absolute difference between recovery times. I’ve read blogs from all age ranges (25yrs old-55yrs old) and everyone seems to be in the same boat. My doctors tell me at the end of three months I’ll be playing basketball again, but what I’ve read seems to heavily contradict this. It sounds to me like it will be more like 6-9 months!

Anyway, I guess what I’m the most curious about at this stage is why my experience has been so different from everyone else’s?

This is my first blog post on this site, so I’m excited to keep updating and hearing from people who have or have not been experiencing the same things I am.

For my first update I guess I can catch everyone up.

Last week, two weeks after surgery, I had my stitches and sutures removed. The good news is that my incision was looking good and they were able to take everything out and I can now sleep without my boot on.

Bad news is that I still have to wear the boot for 4 more weeks. But, I can drive, and walk with it so it’s not all that bad. My one complaint about the boot is that after walking around in it for a while my heel is just screaming for a break. I wish the heel had some sort of cushion!

It is April 4th, my surgery was on March 15th, and so far I feel pretty good about my tendon.

Hello world!
April 5, 2011, 1:00 am
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