Broken Ankle Week 2

Surgery day

  • I was at the hospital for 7 hours for outpatient surgery and it was the first time I ever had surgery. I had half of a century of life without broken bones or surgery.
  • Checked in and change into hospital gown and grippy sock
  • Nurse brings me warm blankets to add to the blanket I brought
  • Lots and lots and lots of questions asked of me
  • IV put in my hand — ouch! I’d never had IV in hand before. At ER the IV was put in my arm at elbow.
  • I was glad that they didn’t use a catheter
  • Anesthesiologist comes by to do a nerve block. That was fascinating — they use ultrasound to find the nerve in my leg and then use a needle to put in something to numb the nerve. The needle HURT. Once the nerve was numbed I had the first relief from pain since I’d fallen down the stairs.
  • I talked with anesthesiologist about nausea and vomiting. They gave me an Aprepitant capsule to swallow and put a Scopolamine patch behind my ear and said they could give me Zofran in IV throughout surgery.
  • I was wheeled into OR and was surprised to see so many people in there (I think I counted 8 or 9 people). I didn’t have time to ask questions. I was moved to a different table and a mask was put over my mouth and that’s all I remember.
  • When I woke up from anesthesia I kept asking the same questions because I would forget I’d already asked them.
  • Between waking up and leaving for home, I got lots of instructions and paperwork, and managed to use the bathroom.
  • Using the bathroom is a new challenge with bulky splint, keeping weight off that leg, and the throbbing pain I feel when my ankle is not elevated.

2 days after surgery

  • Peak pain
  • I was told that the nerve block would last 10–18 hours. It lasted 36 hours for me. It was such a relief not to feel pain during that time and really weird to not be able to move my toes.
  • I keep my ankle elevated and wrapped in frozen gel pads (like this one) for 30ish minutes at a time. The splint is thick so it takes a while for the coolness to reach my ankle. The gel pads don’t melt or get any liquid on the splint.
  • I keep track of all the meds and timing of meds in Evernote. It’s easier for me, when I wake up in middle of the night with pain, to look in Evernote for what I took last and then know what I can take now. The meds have different schedules — every 4 hours, every 6 hours, every 8 hours. I thought of getting a pill tracking app but I’m too worn out to learn a new app.
  • I can manage sleep 2–3 hours at a time before pain wakes me up. I am very careful to slowly lower my ankle when I need to get up. Getting up results in throbbing and swelling that isn’t helped by any of the pain meds I’m taking (oxycodone, ibuprofen, acetaminophen). I only get up to use the bathroom right now.
  • My wife and daughter refill my water bottles, bring me meals and smoothies, and my wife plays iPad Scrabble with me.
  • So far I haven’t felt any nausea!
Leg, in a splint, elevated on pillow
Toes above nose! My view from couch looking towards a mirror

4 days after surgery

  • I’m worn out from the activities of the past 12 days and not sleeping well (usually I’m a good sleeper).
  • Days 2 and 3 after surgery were the worst for pain.
  • By day 4 the horrible terrible pain has subsided.
  • Much fewer pain meds now with alternating lower doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  • Leg is elevated most of the time on a couple pillows (following doctor’s instructions). It’s take-a-deep-breath painful, with swelling pressure, when I move leg to sitting or standing (hanging down) or bent on knee scooter. The doctor said that’s normal (my favorite phrase) and suggested moving my leg every once in a while.
  • Sometimes the cast puts pressure and causes discomfort so I fidget around to get cast in a different position.
  • Toes have some pain that is similar to how they used to feel after going for a long hike. I wiggle them and massage them a bit and that helps.
  • Constipation (caused by pain meds, anesthesia, stress, everything) was managed with daily colace and high fiber diet and lots of water, and then, on Day 3, one dose of milk of magnesia (which worked within 6 hours).
  • I need to take a shower. The last shower I took was 5 days ago (garbage bag and saran wrap over splint). A friend recommended a “leg condom” and I got this one. I’m not using it yet because the pressure of pulling it over splint, while I’m sitting, is painful.

7 days after surgery

  • 2 full nights of sleep and I figured out how to arrange pillows, to keep ankle elevated and sleep on my side.
  • Showers are still a challenge. Washcloths and the sink are barely sufficient.
  • Even fewer pain meds needed. I didn’t take any yesterday. I only took 400mg ibuprofen today and likely won’t need more.
  • Yesterday I got outside with a friend using these mobilegs crutches. It felt good to move around a bit and I want to use crutches more to get some exercise.
  • A panic attack gripped me a couple nights ago because my toes felt stuck to the splint/cast and I kept checking and they weren’t stuck. The splint/cast can feel so uncomfortable. Xanax helped. The next day my wife went to one of our neighborhood dispensaries and got some CBD:THC tinctures for pain and for anxiety. Those are helping.
  • Toes are the most uncomfortable. They want to be free. I meditate to calm them down.
  • I created a routine for managing the bizarre instant swelling when standing up: let leg dangle off chair for a bit while ankle swells up like a balloon, take 10 breaths, get on scooter, take 10 breaths, continue onward and breathe.
  • There is a new pain sensation on top of my ankle that feels like rug burn when ankle swells up. Doctor says it sounds normal and that’s all I need since everything about this experience is new and strange for me.
  • Always needing to ask for help is a skill I am improving. I’m usually the one getting things done, organizing, planning, and I really super duper appreciate my wife and daughter attending to everything I need.

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