You will be in an altered state for many moons...

If your Achilles tendon is ruptured, torn, or even simply inflamed with tendonitis, your life is about to change. Mine sure has - so I decided to chronicle these events, and create a place for others to share their experiences, advice, resources and emotions during our journey toward recovery.

Nothing in this blog is meant to take the place of the medical advice of your physician. Follow the instructions of your medical professionals, not me.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

2. Preparing your home and "cell" before surgery - THINK THINGS THROUGH

When Dr. Langford told me I needed surgery, and I asked him about recovery time, I realized that my life was about to go through a (hopefully temporary!) drastic change.

First of all - I would have to be completely - COMPLETELY - off my left foot for two weeks, and non weight bearing for approximately six weeks, and then in an AirCast (able to bear weight) for another six weeks or so.  Think about that.  Non weight bearing means ZERO WEIGHT on the leg.  This means lots of elevation, a cast, crutches, and all the fun stuff that goes along with those things.  So here's my advice:

1.  Take a look around your house.  Determine where you are going to set up camp.  If possible, pick a room close to a bathroom, but not necessarily your bedroom.  I chose our family room, because it's also adjacent to the kitchen, and the sofa I claimed as my own private territory is able to recline, with a foot rest. 

2.  It is imperitave that you are able to elevate your foot, either in a recliner or at least on an ottoman.  During the first three days, you really should elevate your foot ABOVE shoulder level.  This will probably require several pillows - the firmer the better.  I ended up stuffing two firm pillows into one pillowcase, and combined with the foot rest in the sofa, this elevates my leg high enough.

3.  Find or buy a small table with shelves to put beside the chair or sofa, within easy arm's reach.  I found a great little side table at Pier One that has three shelves but measures only about 18" x 30" and is just a few inches taller than the sofa arm.  I don't think just an end table will work very well, unless it's very large and sitting right beside the arm of the chair rather than to the rear of it.  A TV tray or bed tray is great for your laptop and mealtime.

4.  Get a desk organizer thingie - one of those compartmentalized holders for pens, staplers, etc,  This is a LIFESAVER for all the little things you'll need (more on that in a minute).  Also - you will need a trashcan.

5.  Think about all the things/items that you usually get up to go get or do.  And then think about the fact that you will not be able to carry ANYTHING unless it's strapped around your neck or waist, once you're on crutches.  You do NOT want to try to carry anything in your hand along with the crutches, because this will really throw you off balance and you will probably end up wallowing on the floor hollering in pain. 

Everyone is different, so your list of "necessaries" may differ from mine, but here's what I determined I needed to have at my fingertips:

Cell phone charger
Kindle and Kindle charger
Surge protector extension cord
Disposable wipes
Roll of paper towels
Spot for remote controls
Spiral notebook (great for lists and instructions for your caregiver!)
Oh - you'll need a caregiver : )
Post It Notes
Disposable toothbrushes
Hand cream
Body lotion
Brush or comb
Hand mirror
Fingernail file
Lip balm

6.  I realized that though I would be basically camped out here for two weeks minimum, that I want to be comfortable but I also want to feel as much like my normal self as possible.  After all, I'm not SICK - I'm just immobile.  My husband took two weeks off to help me out, and frankly, I like to be cute around him!  Also, people will drop by to see you - you don't really want your hair sticking up on end, chili down the front of your faded T-shirt, bad breath and body odor, do you?

So - I also packed a little cosmetic bag - powder, eyeliner, lip gloss, and a small bottle of cologne.  I also bought the travel sizes of deodorant and baby powder.

Being the girly girl that I am, I also packed a separate little bag with tweezers, cotton balls, Q-tips, and a few manicure supplies. 

All of this stuff fits great on the little table and the end table.

7.  Buy one of those clapper adaptors for your chairside lamp if the switch is hard to reach from a sitting position.  Be sure that your table, trashcan, chargers, laptop, chargers, etc are all easy to reach and use from a sitting position.  You will NOT want to get up much right after surgery!

8.  Give yourself a clear pathway from the bedroom, living area, bathroom and kitchen.  You will need about three feet of clear passageway to navigate on crutches.

9.  Get a couple of stools  - one for the kitchen and one for the bathroom.  They should be a comfortable height for you to sit at the counter.  This will be very helpful especially in the bathroom - think about brushing your teeth, blowdrying your hair, etc. 

10.  You MUST have a shower chair with non slip legs.  Don't try to make a plastic lawnchair work - they will slip.  If you fall, you will regret it, so don't risk it - bite the bullet and buy one of these ugly things.  Get a hook and hang it outside the shower, to hang up your plastic trash bags that you'll use to wrap your cast in (you cannot get that cast wet!).  Ladies, you may want to invest in a shower cap too.  I know - lovely, huh?  Trust me when I say that the more independent you can be at shower time, the better!

11.  Speaking of showers, remember that you may not be able to reach the interior shelves from a sitting position.  Get a plastic or metal caddy (made for bath or shower) for your toiletries - soap, shampoo, razor, loofah, etc.  Sit it on the floor of the shower if a shelf is not low enough.

12.  Apply non slip appliques or a shower mat to the floor - no slipping allowed!  This is going to be a bit awkward at first.

13.  You will not be able to carry things or climb up on stepladders for 2-3 months, so think about what's in your closet.  If you need to move seasonal things around, don't wait to try to do that on crutches.  Organize your closet beforehand.  Make sure that all you need is at eye level or lower if possible. 

14.  Catch up on all your laundry, deep cleaning, etc - anything that may drive you a little crazy as you sit, and sit, and sit for weeks!

15.  A big inconvenience is the inability to carry liquids while you're on crutches.  My husband had a great idea - he got me a little cooler to put beside the sofa, and he keeps it stocked with bottled water, juice, etc.  Resist the temptation to fill it with soft drinks - you won't want to get up that often to go to the bathroom, and soft drinks are hard on your kidneys anyway.

I also bought two travel mugs - one for coffee and one for cold liquids.  They have secure tops so I don't have to worry about spilling anything from the kitchen to the sofa. 

16.  Which leads me to an important thing to think about - you need to either wear a hoodie with a deep front pocket, or get a bag that you can sling around your neck, to help you carry things.  You absolutely cannot carry anything in your hands while you're on crutches.

17.  Ladies - if you don't have a large purse with a strap designed to cross your body (rather than tuck under your arm), here's your perfect excuse to go buy a new purse!  You won't be able to tuck a purse under your arm.  An across-the-body purse is very comfortable and convenient to use with crutches.   After all, you will eventually brave going out into the world on these darn crutches, so you will need a purse.  Trust me!

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