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.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

OK this sort of sucks

Let's see - a year ago I was rejoicing because my doctor said I could get out of that damn boot for Christmas!  Well, yes, I am a year out of the boot but  - silly me - I expected my life and leg to be back to normal by now.

I am beginning to slowly realize, and accept, that my ankle and leg may never be the same again.  I mean, my doctor basically told me that, but I think I blocked that part out of my psyche.

Good news - I can walk without a limp.  Bad news - I still limp anytime I have been sitting for awhile, or when I get up in the morning.  I limp because - IT HURTS.  However, after 8 or 10 steps, the tendon loosens up and I can walk with little or no pain.

Even better news - long, arduous walks and even hikes don't make my leg hurt any worse.  In fact, walking makes my leg feel BETTER.  So...I guess that's good, right?

Fifteen months after surgery, my calf is still a little smaller than the other one, but honestly, no one could tell unless they are scrutinizing my leg.  And if that's the case, well look all you want - I'm not ashamed of my gams!

The scar is definitely there - but it lends an aura of adventure.  It's not an eyesore.  It's just an anklesore.  OK, bad joke, but I'm serious about the pain.  Locally, right around the scar, and all up and down the tendon, it really is very sore even now.  One of my biggest paranoias is that someone will run into my ankles from behind with a shopping cart!  That, my friends, would take me to my knees, howling all the way to the floor.

I'm glad I had the surgery - I'm still much better off than without it.  But, I guess it's just difficult to get my head around the idea of a permanent adaptation, and not a positive one, to the only body that I have.

Ah well - life goes on!  And a fine life it is.  At least I HAVE achilles tendons, right?  ; )

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yes, Virginia, there IS life after surgery!

Well, it's been a few months since I posted here - and the good news is that's because I've been so ACTIVE that I haven't had time!  I finished my physical therapy in March, and continued to stretch and walk and do some of the exercises I learned there at home.  (It's July now and I still do the stretching and walking part.) 

Here's the good part - and I will post a photo which pretty much says it all:

At the Eagle's Nest summit in Germany, June 2011
We just returned from two weeks in Europe, and we walked an average of 4 hours a day - up and down mountain trails, on rocks, on cobblestones, you name it.  Not only did my ankle hold up well - it actually felt BETTER the more walking I did.  Absolutely no swelling, and very little stiffness (though it does still feel stiff and slightly sore when I get up each morning). 

Nine months out, here's my status:
  • The scar looks OK.  I mean, it's not pretty, but I wouldn't call it disfiguring.  It's obvious I've had surgery if you get to looking at it, but it's not something anyone would notice right away.
  • My left ankle (the one with drama) is 1/2 inch thicker than my right ankle.  But since the thickness is around the back, it's not noticeable from the front.
  • Due to this thickness, I have to be a little more careful about the style of shoes I wear.  For instance, those cute "Roman-style" sandals with the strappy ankle and back?  No way! But stilletos?  ABSOLUTELY!
  • My left leg is still weaker than my right, but I see slight improvement as each month goes by.  The left calf muscle is nearly back to it's original size, but it simply isn't firmed up like the right side. I can really tell a difference when I squat down and then try to stand back up without using my arms.  I mean, I can do it - but it ain't pretty. 
  • The worst thing about this whole ordeal is that I've gained about 15 pounds over the course of the year I've been dealing with this injury.  I expect to be able to walk this off, but considering that it's July in Texas, and the outside temps are over 100 every day, and start out in the muggy 80's even at 6 am - I'm probably going to put off that hot and heavy morning walk for a few more weeks.  I am confident though that I can get this weight back off.
One trick that seems to work well as I walk around - and something I did which really helped get me ready for all that vacation walking - is that instead of defaulting to that limp which seems to shorten each step (hard to explain, but it seems like my left foot's range of motion is inhibited), I make a conscious effort to push through each step from heel to toe on that foot.  Hope that makes sense.  I mean, my left foot WANTS to stiffen up and create a shortened step and consequent limp, but I make myself "roll" through the entire step - and this has really helped me overcome a noticeable limp.  Ask your physical therapist about this - don't just take my word for it.

Keep the faith!  Keep your physical therapy appointments!  And KEEP WALKING!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

26. And you thought torture was against the Geneva Convention...

Take a look at what fun I've been having in physical therapy. Imagine that you have a large, bumpy, tender scar on the largest tendon in your body. Now - imagine someone forcefully scraping a stainless steel instrument the size of a butcher knife up and down that scar, with the sole purpose of "breaking down scar tissue." Good times...

Welcome to the world of physical therapy - and the Graston Technique.

I'm slapping my jaws about it, but the reality is...I think it works.  It's a bit too early to tell for certain, but I think I can see some improvement after two of about ten sessions I'm scheduled for.

I started PT this past week and have been twice.  The first time was basically an evaluation.  Good news on that front - I'm healing very well.  In fact, my range of motion is EXCELLENT - so - that shows that all that gentle stretching I've been doing has paid off.  One less thing to worry about.

Apparently my marked limping is not due so much to the tendon as it is to my weakened calf and ankle muscles.  I can buy that.  I wore some form of a boot or a cast for nearly 8 months - that right there will weaken your leg significantly, even without surgery.

So - the great news is that the tendon itself is completely healed.  YAY!  Now - two problems still exist.

1.  The scar is very raised and bumpy, which is not good if I ever want to wear cute shoes again.  Which I do.  So - we've got to minimize that scar.  Even if it wasn't for cosmetic reasons, a scar that is swollen and uneven can cause undue stiffness, so it's gotta go.

2.  My entire left leg is very weak.  This creates balance issues, as well as all sorts of aches and pains that come with favoring my right leg.  So - gotta strengthen that leg up.

The leg strengthening thing is easy - though tiring.  Basically, it's just a lot of different exercises meant to strengthen my calf and ankle muscles.  They actually feel good and even after just two sessions, I can tell a difference.  Of course, I'm doing some of them at home as well.

That scar stuff?  DIFFERENT STORY.  The Graston Technique is, quite simply, very painful.  This is coming from a woman who had four kids without anesthesia!  When I say something is painful, I mean it.

It does make sense though.  If you've ever had therapeutic massage, you know that the therapist often uncovers sore knots in your muscles.  This is part of what is worked on in the Graston technique, and though it's tender and can be painful, you know it's doing some good.

The sucky part is when the therapist starts scraping, rubbing and bearing down on that Achilles tendon and scar.  OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH.  She kept saying to me, "You doing ok?  I need you to talk to me.  You ok up there?"

Finally I gasped, "Stop.  Listen.  I can't carry on a conversation with you going to town on me like that."  She said, "I can stop, or ease up if you like."  I twisted around and looked at her and said, "Let me ask you something.  Will this be over sooner, in fewer sessions, if you just have at it and I suffer through it?"  "Yes," she said ruefully.  I sighed.  "Then tear the roof off the sucker.  I want to see light at the end of the tunnel!"

So off we went into Agony Land. 


25. January update - three months out from surgery!

Well, it's been awhile, so I figured I better update this blog and give out a little more sunshine and light for all you Achilles Tendon Injury Sufferers.

To summarize - things have gone very well for me.  October 15, 2010 was the surgery.  My cast was removed in just a few weeks and replaced with the biggest boot in the history of mankind - an instrument of torture that I grew to hate with every fiber of my being.

But right before Christmas, I was liberated from DAS BOOT, as we called it around my house.  At that point, my doctor told me that I was not to do ANY sort of exercising other than gentle stretching, and walking carefully in flat shoes, resting whenever I felt pain or had swelling (which I did through the first few weeks of January).

I've noticed a couple of things.  First of all, though the scar has healed nicely, my tendon is still significantly swollen, so wearing any sort of shoe that puts pressure on the back of the ankle is impossible.  I didn't realize that even most athletic shoes put a lot of pressure on that area.  So - I've invested in several pairs of clogs, which are fine in the American South - just throw on some cute woolly socks and you're stylin'.  I have also found that I can wear loose, soft boots - but no heels, and no shoes with any sort of stiff material around the back of the ankle.

I've also noticed that once I get up and walking, my ankle doesn't hurt much - but notice that word "much."  One dissappointing thing is that three months out of surgery, I still have constant, albeit dull, pain in that pesky tendon.

The biggest frustration for me right now though is that I still have a limp.  It's lessening, but still definitely there - and if you've ever walked for long with a limp (and I'm sure most of you have at this point!), you know that this eventually causes all sorts of other aches and pains - tricky knees, an ankle prone to twisting, and even a stiff back and neck.  So yes, I've got all that going on!

So where's the sweetness and light?  Here it is - I AM OUT OF A CAST, OUT OF A BOOT, AND WEARING TWO MATCHING SHOES AND WALKING.  Considering that some of these recovery times for this injury and surgery can drag on for up to a year, three months out I'm feeling pretty dang good about everything!  Next post - physical therapy, because that's what's now a big part of my final stretch of recovery.