Drivin’ Me Crazy

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 I ruptured my right AT and my car is a manual transmission, so I was pretty screwed when it came to driving after my injury.  I’m guessing a few others who have ruptured their right AT know the feeling.  The topic of driving has come up a few times on achillesblog.com sites, so I thought I’d share my experiences.

I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful girlfriend who shuttled me around after the injury.  I owe her big time, and I’m guessing she’ll remind me from time to time!  My parents also live relatively close so my father helped with transporting me to and from work.  This worked out pretty well although I felt like a terrible burden no matter how many time my parents and partner insisted I wasn’t.

At around week 6 post op I started to feel very restless and was sick of being completely dependant upon others.  So, I decided I wanted to try and drive left footed.  As a little background, my father ruptured his AT (right side) about 12 years ago and he started to drive left footed shortly after the surgery.  He couldn’t work from home and he had a long commute, so it wasn’t practical for my mother to drive him.

Anyway, I figured if my father could drive left footed, then I should be able to as well.  The only problem was that both my partner and I drive manual transmissions.  Fortunately, my father could sympathize with my situation and he agreed to swap cars with me.  We went to an open parking lot one Saturday afternoon, just so I could get comfortable driving with the other foot.  Within a few minutes I was out on the open road, feeling pretty comfortable.

My partner was not to thrilled with me driving left footed, but I think she understood my restlessness.  I agreed to limit the driving to my daily commute and to not drive when it snowed.  I also decided to drive the speed limit for the first time since getting my driver’s license.  I thought that might make up for any reduced reaction time.

I drove incident free with my left foot from week 6ish to week 9.  The toughest part was getting used to driving my father’s car that had a much more sensitive gas pedal.  It was actually kind of fun driving around following the speed limits, although I’m sure the cars stacked up behind me weren’t all that thrilled!  In so many ways this injury has forced me to slow down.  While driving slowly, I was able to tell myself that getting to work a couple of minutes faster just didn’t really matter that much.

At week 9 I was able to transition out of the boot and back into regular shoes.  I was also getting a little tired of driving my father’s larger, less fuel efficient vehicle, so I decided it was time to get my car back.  I had regained enough range of motion that I felt I could handle driving my manual transmission.  What I didn’t appreciate, however, was just how much calf strength I had lost. 

For those familiar with driving a manual transmission, it takes a bit of practice to feather the gas pedal just right to avoid peelin’ out or killin’ the engine.  Having lost a bit of agility after being immobile for so long, it was a little awkward driving my car again.  Not wanting to stall the car, I would attempt to hit the gas a little harder than usual.  However, lacking calf strength, I quickly realized that I was barely giving the car enough gas to keep from stalling.  I’m sure it probably looked pretty funny to anyone watching.  It took several days to get the right touch back, but now I’m driving comfortably again.  I even took a 5 hour road trip this past weekend.

So, driving left footed is possible.  However, I absolutely don’t want to make it sound like I advocate doing so.  If you have other means of transportation, it is best to use them.  I think your reaction time is slowed when driving with your left foot, so high speed driving should be avoided.  As with everything else during the recovery process, you should consult with your doctor before trying to drive.  Also, you may want to contact your insurance company to see if there are any coverage issues with driving left footed. 

5 Responses to “Drivin’ Me Crazy”

  1. For those considering driving with their left foot, I would check your insurance policy to make sure that you are covered if you do so.

  2. I ruptured my L AT and I have a manual transmission. I hope to get the boot next week and see what happens.

  3. Tom - I am very glad that you were able to drive left-footed safely. It does sound a bit dangerous.
    Also, I thought there was some attachment to the pedals that you can buy so that you can drive with your left foot. I think it was a bit expensive though, so probably not worth it for just a couple of weeks..

  4. Yes the driving aspect is a bitch needless to say. I did my left AT with a manual tranny, live alone, and was practically stuck inside and dependent on others for three months!! (I borrowed a friend’s crappy automatic that had all kinds of reasons for me to get pulled over). Finally at the end of Week 11, I put my hiking boot on and tried to push on my clutch-no pain!! I also sat on a pillow and pulled the seat close to the pedals so my foot would not have to stretch too far. Freedom!!!!! I have been driving everywhere this week just for fun. I tried to clutch with the cam boot and it was impossible and unsafe. wait until the tendon and calf feel like they can handle it. April 7th completes 12 weeks post-op for me. It is difficult to walk again with shoeSSS, but I am taking it slowly …I still have a long way to go, to get to where I was- mentally and physically. I am very active and this injury is a dooozy! wish me luck and same to all of you….

  5. Maya - Glad to hear that your recovery is coming along well. Walking again can be frustrating. You’re so happy to be out of the boot, but you still can’t get around like you want to. I constantly have to remind myself to walk slow and proper rather than limping around flat-footed. Definitely rough when you’re used to living life in the fast lane! Best of luck to you. Keep us posted on your progress.

    Cheers!

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