I don’t expect anyone to read through this whole thing. I’m jotting these things down so I can go back and remember things that were worrying me and/or happening. Also hoping it will help some random surfer to realize they aren’t alone and/or my experience mirrors what they are going through. I know I would have loved to have read a timeline of events so I could have known what to possibly expect.
Day after surgery to week one: In a splint, no pain. no swelling. Kept leg elevated and iced as much as possible. You would be shocked at the penetration that ice can have through a splint. I would not have believed it, but I would surround my leg with ice bags and after a while it would really work, I strongly suggest it. I never got the blood rushing to toes feeling when I stood up. No red or purple toes.
Only symptoms I felt were a sensation of blood trickling down my leg inside the splint, and some small muscle spasm type feelings.
Week one to week 2 - same as prior week.
First post-op visit - at the 2 week mark. Well technically was at the 13 day mark. The Doctor took off the operative splint and my leg was shaking like crazy. The doctor didn’t use staples or stitches, so there wasn’t any of that to remove. Just some surgical tape holding the incision together. He examined the incision - looked good. Did the Thompson Test - yep, it’s attached. Again, he said looks good. My husband was in the room, however, and while he said my foot definitely moved he could tell the weak and stiff muscle was preventing it from really jolting. I was put into a removable splint, still NWB, and told to take it off twice a day to do a very basic range of motion exercise. I was to sit with my foot hanging over the edge of the bed, gently lift my toes towards my shin (using my shin muscles, not the calf) and then let gravity pull the foot back down…so, almost letting it be dead weight and then just fall. Does that make sense? Oh, and by the way, that blood tricking feeling I was getting, where I was almost certain it was the incision? It wasn’t. Who knows what it was, but once the splint was taken off there was no sign of any blood trickle.
Week 2 to Week 3: Terrified to begin exercises, but did. I could barely move my foot and it was scary. I gradually got used to it throughout the week and it became more flexible, but for the first time since surgery it started to swell. Not a lot, just a tiny bit. Also, this week I started to feel a soreness right in the tendon. The only way I can describe it is a soreness. Not a pain, but more like an ache that needed to be rubbed. I also, this week, started to get the red toes that people spoke of. Again, it wasn’t painful at all, and I never got the “rush of blood feeling” but I definitely would have purplish toes about 30 seconds after getting up to do anything. They would subside within seconds of elevating, so I figured the recent soreness and red toes had to do with my recent exercises. Albeit tiny movement, it was still movement nonetheless. Still NWB
Week 3 to Week 4 - More of the same as the week prior. Although now I noticed a hardness at the bottom of my calf area, almost above the incision site. It was a pretty hard area. I didn’t know what to think - I thought clot, scar tissue, etc. I also realized that it could have been there all along and I just never noticed it before. Anyway, something I was going to bring up at the next visit. Still NWB. (oh and by the way, I still got that trickling feeling that I was getting post-op, and since I could now SEE the incision I for surely knew it wasn’t blood…guess it’s just some weird nerve sensation. Nothing big, nothing to worry about.)
Second post-op visit: 4 weeks post op, well actually, 25 days after surgery but who’s counting?
Got the splint removed and was put into the boot with two wedges. I was scheduled to begin physical therapy on the following Monday (week later). Initially the Doctor told me to go ahead and just start walking in the boot. Then he said, actually, stay off it another week and then let the PT assess me on Monday. Fair enough. I’ve said it before that I’m not one that is too worried about getting back to something too soon. I want this to heal and heal properly,so I’m cool with not pushing too much too soon. He told me that the incision looked great, I could now shower without the boot, but have the boot on at all other times - even bed. He also told me there was no clot, the soreness was from the recent movement, and the tight/hard feeling was something to do with where the calf muscle meets the tendon, and that the tendon is used to getting worked and when it doesn’t it tightens up, or something like that. I don’t know I was half listening to the “why” and more elated that it was normal. Oh, and he also did the Thompson Test again and this time (since I had been working my leg a little bit for the weeks prior) - my husband said the foot jumped at the same sort of velocity as my good leg. Woo hoo! I left there with instructions to see him back in six weeks.
Week 4 to Week 5: I continued to stay off it and do my range of motion excercises. Although, I considered myself PWB, because I was putting TINY amounts of weight on the boot whenI would get up to go to the bathroom, etc. PWB wasn’t possible before with the angle my splint was on. I have to say that I had a whole new confidence in the boot. Not only did I feel good because it seemed one step closer to the finish line, but it just feels more sturdy than the cast. My toes don’t stick out, and that makes me feel confident. Ialso noticed during this week that the red toe thing did not happen at all. And that achilles soreness area- gone. I think it had something to do with being in the splint in that weird position, and possibly having the ace bandage too tight. I don’t know - all I know is this week all that was gone. Oh, and I am at 90 degrees with my foot/ankle. When I’m doing my excercises I can firmly plant my foot at a 90 degree angle on the floor…minimal weight of course!
Beginning week five - Physical Therapy
Today is Monday, and Wed. will be officially 5 weeks. I went to my first physical therapy appointment today and there was really nothing “physical” about it. He basically talked me through some stuff, massaged my leg for about 30 minutes and then iced me down. I like him though, and I feel good about his background so that’s good. I’ll be going there 2-3x per week, and he says I should easily be in two shoes in a month’s time. He, however, wants me revert to NWB for at least another week. So, I guess my tiny little PWB has to shift back to a strict NWB. Again, I know some people are in two shoes at four weeks and FWB. I’m fine with my slower more conservative pace if they think that’s what’s best. His school of thought is that at 6 weeks post-op the tendon is pretty much near 100% healed, so why stress it out any sooner.
Other points of interest:
I started out in pity city doing the “why me” crap. then I transitioned into the reality of my situation and fear started to creep in. Then, I think the depression started to creep in around week 3. I went through the tired of being inside, tired of not being able to do things for myself, tired of leaning on people, blah blah. I guess it’s normal to go through that, but it sucked. Finally by week 4ish, I tried VERY hard to leave a lot of those feelings behind. Sure, I visit pity city now and then, and sure fear creeps in at each new step, but I realize that God has a plan. I firmly believe that. And, I also believe that things aren’t in my control so it’s better to just surrender and keep living. I also realize that in the scheme of things I’m lucky that this is my only problem. People recover from this, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It may be a lonnnnnnnng ass tunnel, but at least there is light, which is more than a lot of people can say for situations they are in.
Have I gained weight? Probably. I haven’t weighed in, but I decided to try and do something about that and began doing some chair excercises last week. My doctor also told me I could do one legged stationary bike, which I have yet to do, but will. It’s all about trying to live in the moment.
Good luck to anyone going through this. It’s not an easy road, but at least the road leads to recovery.
Sorry - one more point of interest to mention. I’ve opted to use a wheelchair as much as possible. I’ve been told that women don’t have quite the upper body strength as men, which would explain why crutches were such a pain. Yes, technically I could do it, and I was using them prior to surgery, BUT, I was worried about having an accident with them, so I rented a wheelchair for the last month and it has helped me a lot. Our house is all wood floors, so it makes it easier to wheel around, plus I can carry things, and it gave me such a greater sense of freedom than the crutches did. Also, I’m a business consultant, so I’m able to work from home which means I don’t have to struggle with a wheelchair in an office environment. If I had to go into an office, then perhaps I would have re-thought the whole thing. I know I’m not the norm with that decision, but whatever works for the individual. I will, however, now that I’m in the boot start to crutch more than wheel.
Lastly - a huge shout out to my husband. The most amazing and supportive man on earth. Honestly, without him I do NOT know how I would be getting through this. His moral and physical support are unwavering. I hope everyone has a good support system through this journey.