On healing: 7 weeks out

Today is (finally) Friday.

I had my first physical therapy visit a week ago Wednesday, my second yesterday, and I have  my third today. When I saw the doctor last (May 2), I was one day short of 5 weeks past surgery date. He wanted me done with the crutches by May 9, and out of the walking boot by May 23. I would be able to drive shortly after May 23. At that point I was still relying on the crutches completely, as I was being a good girl and following directions.

Well, that information set me free. I have been working from home since February 13, and the last time I drove was February 12. I had had enough. By May 4 I was finished with the crutches, and I haven’t used the walking boot since May 11. I will be practicing driving Saturday (in an empty parking lot), to make sure that my ankle will tolerate it.

I have been seeing the same physical therapist for the past 6 years (not just the same practice, but also the same therapist – he knows my joints quite well by now), and today I will be starting at a new practice. Because I have not been able to drive, my awesome husband has been chauffeuring me around for the past 3 months. To be honest, we’re both tired of it. However, it has to be done. Anyway. The new PT location is a mere 15 minutes away, whereas the old PT location is about an hour away, next to my office. It was perfect when I would go to PT then go directly to work – it cut down on the commute time significantly. But since I’m working out of the house (for another couple weeks), I can’t lose half of a day due to commuting and PT. It’s not quite convenient.

I’m nervous about seeing a new physical therapist, because Dave – the old one – knows me so well, and we have a good friendship as well. We talk books, we talk munchkin and his kids, we talk life. He gets it. He knows me. How will it be with this next person? Will we end up with a good camaraderie, or will I simply go to physical therapy, do my exercises, report on how I’m feeling, and go home? I spend so much time in physical therapy – in the past 6 years, the longest I went NOT in physical therapy was from February (or was it March?) 2011 to now. I spent 6 months straight at one point going to PT at least once a week. It’s just what happens when I so easily injure myself (I’m working on that).

I spent 20 minutes by myself with munchkin Monday night (while he was awake) – the first time I had done that in 2 months – followed by a couple hours later on that same evening (while he was asleep). It was nice to be able to have the ability to take care of munchkin on my own, and to know that I was trusted enough to do it.

***Fast forward 3.5 hours***

I had PT this morning with a new therapist, Justin. Things were very different from the last place. Old PT is one big room with lots of tables, and nothing is quiet. New PT is lots of little rooms for consults, and then one big room for exercises. At first I thought  – Hey! this isn’t normal. It’s weird! – but then I realized I preferred it. I don’t need everyone knowing my business. There was one other huge difference. Whenever I went to old PT, I made sure to bring a book because I was often on my own for a bit icing or with heat. For an hour appointment, I would really only have Dave to myself for about 15 minutes, and it was definitely not 15 minutes straight through. If I needed to ask a question, I had to either wait until he wasn’t with a different patient, or had to interrupt. I don’t know why they book every 20-30 minutes if appointments last 60. With new guy – Justin – I had him to myself. He worked with me, and I had his full attention the entire time. It was a great change. Justin also focused on things that are going to get me back to where I need to be more quickly, and better – I know all physical therapists are different, but it seemed like new PT had a better handle on what I need to recover to the best of my ability.

So here I am, 7 weeks out from surgery, walking in sneakers, and really in a much better place than I ever anticipated. I’m happy, healthy, and on the right track to being 100% healed.

What have you done better than you ever expected you could?

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On healing – one week out

***If you’re grossed out by incisions, don’t look at the photos. Or just skip this post. They’re not bad, but just a heads up.***

This past Friday, I had surgery on my ankle.

Surgery was a little different than we had expected – some things that were expected to be done were not done, some other things that were not expected to be done were done. I have an extra scar: two on the outside of my ankle, one on the inside of my ankle. More than expected.

But let me back up.

Friday morning we had to be at the hospital by 6:15. AM. Yes, I asked to clarify that when they told me the arrival time. Thursday night we had met my mother halfway between their house and ours – and she took munchkin back to their house, to watch him for the first weekend after surgery. It was a huge weight off of our shoulders. Friday we were up and out early – up at 445, out by 530. We’re not morning people, so it was impressive. We got to the hospital, and they said I was up first. They brought me back to the holding room, where I changed into the fashionable johnny and waited for what was next. They filled me in on the details – they were going to put in an IV for general anesthesia, but in addition to that, they were going to put in a nerve block – numb me below the knee along the nerve line. In addition to extra comfort immediately following surgery, the catheter for the nerve block would stay in for a couple days, giving me up to two to three days more of a numb leg. I was all for it.

I woke up after surgery, still a bit out of it, to find my leg looking like this:

My leg, post surgery, with catheter above the knee.

My leg, post surgery, with catheter above the knee.

I had no idea what had happened. I had no idea what was going on. I was very out of it. After a couple hours (I think? I was out of it!) of coming out of the anesthesia and getting used to the bulk of my leg – leg wrapped in gauze, topped with a splint, topped with more gauze, only to be topped with an ace wrap – we were released to go back home. In that couple hours, I have little memory of any conversations that I had or anything I was told. All I knew was that the parts of my ankle that needed to be repaired were in fact fixed, and there were no issues during surgery. That’s all that I needed to know.

One thing that I remember clearly is sticking with me, as it refers back to my previous concerns about this fixing it, but only temporarily – by fixing the extra thing that was found when the doctor opened up my ankle, he has reduced the chances of this happening again. And from what he said, the chances of it happening again were reduced significantly. It’s a huge sigh of relief there. Now I just have to make sure that it holds true.

After a weekend of recuperating, taking my painkillers every 4.5-5 hours, sleeping, and watching movies, my sister (the youngest of the four of us) and munchkin came home. I was so happy to see him. I got in a couple quick snuggles and he went to bed. Shortly after, sister C and I went to sleep as well. Monday munchkin went to school and J went to work; sister C and I watched movies (a really bad one that we only made it 20 minutes of the way through, and then two good ones), chatted, and just hung out. It was really relaxing, and was great to hang out with her. We don’t do it often enough.

Tuesday morning I had my followup with the doctor, and they had told me I would be getting a hard cast, though I had no idea if the difference in surgeries would be changing things, changing the plan. We went in, and they took off the wrap and the gauze, and I got my first good look at the incisions and the state of my ankle. I was excited to see it. A little swelling, which was to be expected – a lot of orange, from the iodine/betadine/whatever they used to keep my leg/ankle sterile – and three incisions, instead of just two.

Where they cleaned out the junk - arthroscopic entry.

Where they cleaned out the junk – arthroscopic entry.

Not too bad, but you can see I don’t have much of an ankle, due to the swelling.

The main incisions. Where everything else happened.

The main incisions. Where everything else happened.

They fixed the tendons and removed part of the muscle, which was causing most of the issues.

An overview - the yellow is antibiotic strips. Note the lack of an ankle.

An overview – the yellow is antibiotic strips. Note the lack of an ankle.

After the surprise at realizing I was only 4 days out from surgery because of how good my ankle looks, they stated that it’s obvious I’m staying off of my foot (duh) and following the doc’s orders to elevate (also duh). Seriously… why would anyone NOT follow directions to sit on one’s behind all day and just let the joint heal??? It’s the only smart thing to do, if I want my ankle to work correctly soon. So yeah. It all looked great, and I’m happy to hear that.

Once the poking and prodding was finished, they got me ready to put the cast on.

Note the angle my ankle was at. That was the angle I had been put at after surgery, and I hadn’t moved it. Not a smidge.

Then came the fun part. I had to get my ankle bent to 90* and turned slightly out. Turns out, it wouldn’t move much. I did what I could, but then the medical assistant had to finish it up. It hurt a bit – felt like I was trying to move my ankle through piles of sludge. Thick, concrete-y sludge.

Finally, we got my ankle where it needed to be, and it was casted up. I got blue. It was the only option. But blue is good.

Note the perty blue cast. And my orange toes.

Note the perty blue cast. And my orange toes.

This cast will be on for 2 weeks, and then it will be removed and I’ll be put back into a splint for another 3 weeks.

We took a detour on the way home for the best hot dogs in Maine – Flo’s. Yum. Luckily it wasn’t much of a detour, because I was in pain – we had to drive by it anyway.

That night, my in-laws came over with our nephew so that the boys could play together. Both boys were a bit put-off by the cast, but I think they were able to get over it when they autographed and colored it. They enjoyed that for sure.

autographed cast - lovely artwork!

autographed cast – lovely artwork!

I’m in the cast for two weeks, then back into a splint that will be able to be removed, at which point I will start physical therapy to get my range of motion back – currently, I have virtually zero. It was tough to be able to get my ankle bent to 90*, so I can’t imagine how it’s going to be after 2 more weeks of not being able to move my ankle at all. It’s frozen at this angle pretty well. But since this is the angle that the doc says will help me heal the best, so that’s what I’m doing.

I’m still going to have to stay off of it for the entire time I’m on the cast and in the splint, which will be a total of about 6 weeks. For that time, I need to use crutches. Another concern that I had had was the use of the crutches; last time I had surgery (3.5 years ago) I was 60lbs heavier, and couldn’t support my weight on the crutches. My shoulders couldn’t bear my weight. It was frustrating, it was obnoxious, it was annoying, and seriously – it was demoralizing. It was the heaviest I had ever been, and it was a daily reminder of my failings. Anyway. I have been using the crutches for a week – with absolutely no issues. No problems with my shoulders. No problems with my hands, or with my wrists. No issues climbing the stairs (backwards on my butt) –  last time, my shoulders dislocated. This time, nothing. It’s still early, I understand that – but after a week of absolutely no problems, I’m thrilled. And knocking on wood.

We have had a ton of help since I had surgery, and from the sounds of it, the extra help is going to continue. It’s amazing how awesome people have been. It’s awesome how much help we’ve had. People are amazing.

So far, so good. So far, no problems. So far, provided I keep up with the painkillers, I’m relatively pain-free. It’s good. It’s freeing. It’s a relief – and it’s motivating. I think that these last few pounds – once I can actually work out again, biking and walking – will be coming off sooner rather than later. And my ankle is healing. The turning won’t happen as frequently. It will be better. And it’s great.