It took several weeks to be convinced that I should share my recovery with the world. However, my healing has been aided by others who have blogged about their ATR experience, so I thought it would be good to try and pay it back. Unfortunately, some of the details may be lacking because I waited so long before starting this blog. I will start by trying to bring you up to speed with how I got to this point.
January 3, 2008 - It was a chilly evening in Minneapolis as I set out for the first volleyball match of the season. I hadn’t played indoor volleyball for a couple of years, but was looking forward to a way to pass the time during the cold Minnesota winters. Our team is a rag-tag bunch as we play in a pretty non-competitive league. The time at the bar after the game is more important than the game itself.
Anyway, about 10 minutes into our first game I heard the now infamous snap of the Achilles tendon and the feeling that someone kicked me in the ankle. After confirming that there was no one around me, I knew immediately what had happened. I’ve heard several stories of athletes suffering AT ruptures before and my father ruptured his while playing softball about 12 years ago.
Any pain that I felt subsided within a minute or two. I think frustration set in at this point, knowing that I’d be out of action for awhile. The thoughts of whether I’d ever get back to a competitive level also set in. I knew I wouldn’t be running any marathons this year, but started to get depressed by the possibility of this injury forcing me to a more sedentary lifestyle.
The injury occurring 10 minutes into our first game leads me to believe I may have prevented it if I had properly stretched out. However, if it hadn’t happened on January 3, it probably would have happened sooner or later. I believe my tendon has degenerated from years of abuse and a rupture was inevitable.
My partner drove me to the ER that evening. I ruptured my right AT, so I was not able to drive myself. A family connection was able to hook me up at the ER and get me in to see a doctor right away. I was put in a plaster splint, handed some crutches and a script for Vicodin and sent on my way in about an hour. I didn’t experience much pain, but I took the Vicodin as a precaution.
January 7, 2008 - I was given a referral to meet with a very talented orthopedic surgeon to discuss my options. I had done quite a bit of research prior to my appointment and knew that I would probably opt for surgery unless the doctor saw a legitimate reason not to. After a good discussion about my options, I decided to go with surgery and it was scheduled for two days later.
January 9, 2008 - I arrived at the hospital at 6:00 am for my 7:30 surgery. After checking my vitals and changing into the fancy gown I was wheeled up to meet with the anesthesiologist. The only complication I had with the surgery was that it took the nurse five tries to get my IV in correctly. My arms were pretty bruised for a few days. But, once the IV was in it was only a matter of minutes before I was off in LaLa Land. I remember rolling into the operating room and the next thing I remember is waking up in recovery. The actual surgery only took about 45 minutes and it took me an hour or so to get my faculties back. I believe I was out of the hospital by 10:30.
The days following surgery were pretty uneventful. I spent two days at home trying to keep my foot elevated as best as possible. I took my pain meds for a couple of days, but wasn’t ever in any excruciating pain. It was more to help me sleep than anything else. It took about a week before I got a complete night of sleep. I returned back to work the Monday following my surgery, 5 days post op.
January 23, 2008 - Met with my ortho surgeon for my 2 week post op visit. The incisions were inspected for any signs of infection and the surgeon gently felt the repair site to ensure the tendon ends were beginning to heal. I believe the surgeon also performed a Thompson Test to show me that the tendon was indeed reattached.
The surgeon replaced the post op plaster splint with a fiberglass hard cast. My foot was set at 20 degrees plantarflexed following surgery and then adjusted to 10 degrees in the new cast. I could feel this slight stretch of the tendon for about the next 48 hours. Again, no major pain, just some discomfort in the calf. I continued to be non-weight bearing at this stage.
February 6, 2008 - Went in for my 4 week post op visit. The surgeon again inspected the incision area and was pleased with the progress. My foot was recasted in another fiberglass cast, this time with my foot at a neutral position. I was given a shoe to wear over the cast and allowed to start partial weight bearing. The surgeon described starting with about a quarter of my weight and gradually increasing as I felt comfortable.
February 20, 2008 - Back to the doctor for a 6 week post op visit. My cast was removed and the nurse gave my leg a nice wash - felt fantastic! The ortho fitted me into a walking boot and gave me the okay to start full weight bearing. I had started to crutch around with one crutch for a few days prior to this visit. It took me about a day or two to completely ditch the crutches and walk unaided in the boot.
I was not sent to physical therapy, but my surgeon suggested some exercises I could do to start to regain the range of motion in my ankle. We discussed beginning PT after my 10 week post op visit. The doctor also instructed me that I could wean out of the boot after a few weeks, if I felt comfortable. At 8 weeks post op I started to walk around inside, short distances, without the boot. At 9 weeks post op I had fully transitioned back into a regular shoe.
March 19, 2008 - Had my 10 week post op visit and officially put the boot to rest. The ortho was very pleased with my progress. I have about 80-90% of ROM back in my ankle and now need to work on building the strength back in my leg. I will start PT as soon as I can get an appointment.
I’ve been walking unaided for about a week without too much difficulty. The tendon is still very stiff, especially in the morning. I find it important to remind myself to walk slowly. It’s not too difficult to limp around, pushing off of the heel, but I don’t believe this helps much with rebuilding strength in the tendon and the foot. I try and walk slow to make sure I use a regular walking motion, rather than flat footed walking.
I’m sure I’ve left out a ton of details as it’s amazing how quickly we forget little things that seemed sooo important just a few weeks ago. I’m happy to try and answer any questions you have regarding my recovery, so feel free to comment.