Broken Ankle Weeks 7–8
6 weeks after ORIF surgery and 7 weeks after injury my cast was taken off. This was a really strange appointment and I was so grateful that they let my wife stay by me. My ankle feels really vulnerable. I appreciated the med tech joking that she’d just cut my leg off and then showing me how she removes the cast (before she removed it).
After the cast was off I was sent, with my bare vulnerable ankle, crutching back down the hall to the waiting room to sit and wait for x-ray. That gave me some anxiety because the last 2 times I had seen and touched my ankle were (1) dislocated and broken at the bottom of the stairs in our house and (2) between splint and stitches removal and then cast.
The dry crackly skin and the incisions and the steristrips made me catch my breath and pause. Feeling and seeing my usually strong calf, now skinny and not looking strong, and my usually flexible achilles tendon, now feeling as inflexible as stone, I cried. It’s not easy to cry in public, in a waiting room, with 2 masks on due to COVID.
I pulled myself together and started massaging my achilles tendon and waited for x-ray. When the x-ray tech called my name I pulled myself up and went into a room and told the x-ray techs that I felt scared. They were really understanding and and helped me move my foot ankle leg into place for x-ray. It didn’t hurt, it was just frustrating and difficult to move my ankle into the angle they needed. Eventually it felt like a good stretch while my nervous system was overwhelmed by the immensity of what I can and can’t do.
Since I’m a highly organized person, I really like how organized all the metal looks in my ankle. The surgeon told me that I would need 3 more weeks non-weight bearing because the fibula isn’t not filled in enough yet. I was told to do dorsiflexion (that’s been difficult) and plantarflexion (that’s been easier) and then start to bear weight in 3 weeks.
This means a total of 9 weeks non-weight-bearing. I’m getting better with mobilegs crutches and wear padded biking gloves with them now. Crutching around has strengthened my upper body and my non-injured leg.
She (surgeon) said that weight bearing will probably feel tingling and painful on bottom of foot and that’s normal because foot is used to being used and has basically been hibernating. Somewhere I read on the internet that the feeling when you finally bear weight is like a massive electric shock and you just have to push through. I’m anticipating.
Before I left the hospital they put (yet another) splint on. While the med tech was putting on the splint, my wife went downstairs to see about getting a boot. The med tech said to me, “women partners are so much more helpful than men, I always see men just sit there helpless and see women get up and get things done.”
Surgeon said I could get boot there at hospital but it’s a special insurance deductible and charge is around $1000. She showed us the same boot to get on Amazon where it is $48 and I ordered that.
The first CAM boot I ordered, size Medium, and it felt too big. At least I could take the splint off and run water over my ankle. That felt amazing. I just poured water over and over and over and over and over.
I managed with the medium CAM boot and ordered a second CAM boot, size Small, and it felt too small. Humans have such variety — some of us aren’t exactly small or medium but somewhere in between. I have settled on the small size and decided to just deal with it. I ordered an “Even Up” leveler for my other shoe and will start using that when I am weight bearing.
I continue taking Aspirin, since I’m middle aged and not yet walking, as well as a high Vitamin D dosage (10,000 IU) every day. I can stop taking Aspirin 9 weeks after surgery when I start weight bearing and can probably lower the Vitamin D dosage around 12 weeks after surgery.
A neighbor, who went through this same injury and recovery, helped me figure out how to fit boot. I wasn’t sure how to sleep at night since my ankle feels vulnerable and has been sleeping with a cast or splint for so many weeks. She suggested wrapping an ace bandage lightly around my ankle for familiar support feeling and that has been working.
I am gradually removing all the pillows I had been sleeping with to get my ankle used to sleeping again without pillows and support. Strengthen up, ankle, I need to use you again!
I had already scheduled weeks of PT and decided to go to one PT visit and then wait 3 weeks (until I’m allowed to bear weight) to start regular PT.
I needed this one PT visit to help me get a plan in my head for when I will walk again and it did exactly that. The physical therapist answered all of my questions, told me not to focus on skinny calf because that will regain bulk easily and instead focus on mobility. She gave me dates for when, as I do the work, I can expect to walk with cane, walk without cane, run, walk on beach, and so on. I was surprised to find out that walking on a beach will be one of the most difficult things (goals!).
When I dorsiflex or plantarflex my ankle feels wobbly like it did when it originally was dislocated. The physical therapist said it’s the swelling of soft tissue that makes it feel wobbly.
The most helpful thing the physical therapist did was have me take my sock off and talk through how normal, in her experience/opinion, my ankle and foot look based on what has happened, and understand how difficult it has been. Whenever someone sees the mental anguish this injury has caused, and meets me there, I am so grateful.
Now every day I am dorisiflexing and plantarflexing between sessions with cold therapy machine while I sit on zoom in work meetings. It’s a life.