Ankles, Labradors, Opiates, and Gear Deals

It’s been 25 days since my ankle surgery.

On the one hand, I had expected to be up and around and back to some type of "normal". On the other hand, being "down" (literally) has allowed me to learn why the "R" in the rehabilitation acronym "R.I.C.E." is a bit longer when ligaments and tendons are completely hacked up and sewn back together.

If you’re new to the blog, here’s the Cliff Notes: I went on a walk in June 2006, took a little fall and hurt my ankle, flew home, went through rehab, hurt it again, mad an MRI in December (verifying elongation and tearing of the anterior talofibular ligament from the fibula and same for the calcaneofibular ligament, along with a suite of other "things"), decided to do surgery, it started snowing, rescheduled surgery for spring, skied all winter, and had surgery May 9, 2007.

Day 0. The surgery was a modified Brostrom procedure, where the two ligaments were repaired (the ATFL and CFL), a gaggle of scar tissue was debrided, and a new problem was discovered: lateral tearing of the peroneus brevis tendon, which was also repaired.

Days 1-3. Missing due to hazy weather.

Days 4-9. Watched movies about the British mafia on my laptop while sitting in bed and experimenting, often successfully, with various cocktails of prescription drugs. Maia (our black lab) would come sit by my by the bed, sniff my ankle in its splint, and whine. She knows something is wrong, Stephanie would say.

Day 10. Replacement of the post-operative splint with a walking boot – and a first step while using crutches – bearing only about 5 lbs of weight on the foot, which about sends me through the roof with pain shooting out my molars.

Day 12. My first "foot wash". Before washing, my foot smelled so bad from festering inside the post-op splint that when I removed my walking boot prior to soaking the foot in the tub, Maia found the whole scene so endorphin-provoking that she managed to lick the entire lower leg clean of its fungus, skin cheese, and dressing grime before I even had a chance to put it in the tub. Gotta love Maia, if for no other reason than the fact that her love to you is totally unconditional.

Day 13. I’ve ditched the crutches entirely and the new limp marks the beginning of the end for the rest of my muskuloskeletal structure to due the badly misaligned gait – back pain, knee pain, hip pain – in both sides – are we having fun yet?

Day 14. I realize, at 4 am, that my foot feels like it’s on fire. Probably from the boot insulation combined with the normal accumulation of heat at an injury site.

Day 15. Muscle spasms in my lower calf and foot wake me up while I sleep and cause the entire lower leg to contract. It hurts. Add cyclobenzaprine to the bedside.

Day 22. Muscle spasms are not as noticeable, primarily because they’ve been complemented by an intense throbbing cord of pain from the shin down to my big toe – an irritated nerve. All my toes are numb.

Day 23. I get issued my four-week splint, which I can now wear at night, and get cleared to start a mild regime (bike exercise, massage, and dorsiflexion) of physical therapy. I go home, try out my splint, and bear my entire body weight on my ankle. That hurts.

Day 24. I walk around the house – with my small splint – and am able to put my body weight on my ankle. It’s inredibly weak – but no pain. I realize that we’re actually going somewhere now. We had a garage sale today, and I think having my foot propped up and wrapped in a walking boot scored major sympathy points among the buyers, but I may have blown any chance of real profit by spending the morning hopped up on painkillers, which I took after being upright all night last night setting up the goods. It wasn’t until later that I realized our shoppers went home really happy with the deals I gave them. One lady brought up an armload of goods and said, how much? When I stared at the overwhelming pile, I said, I dunno, how’s two dollars, thinking to myself, two bucks is sure a lot of money. she about fainted from happiness trying to get two dollars into my hands before I changed my mind.

Day 25 (today). Spent most of last night awake, with muscle contractions and spasms in my lower leg causing fibrillation of the entire foot in dorsiflexion. Quite unnerving to wake up to your foot bobbing back and forth uncontrollably at a frequency of about 120 Hz, with each cycle shooting a bottle rocket through the middle of your talus. As I write this, I’m enjoying the simple but effective pleasure of a sleeping ankle wrapped in ice and propped on an ottoman.

Conclusion: making progress – in a forward direction!

"Phase 1" is over with physical therapy starting next week. Hiking is about the furthest thing on my mind right now, but … trip planning is not! What I’m enjoying the most are the photos and trip reports everyone is emailing me about the awesome times you’re having in the backcountry. Thank you, and keep’em coming!