June 24, 2024

Ankle Surgery ORIF Part 1

Diary of a broken leg/ankle survivor – to quote one of my favorite movies…   Day By DayBy Day!

(My Hope is that my story will help someone, who like myself, spent hours searching the Internet for advice and other experiences dealing with life after ankle surgery…  If google brought you here…  I can relate!!! ) 

On the morning of August 21, 2012 I dislocated my ankle while getting ready to host a back to school party for a few of my kids friends.  I was out setting up a back to school scavenger hunt in my yard with my phone clipped to my belt.  I came around the side of my house in the grass with orange flip flops on and slipped on the grass.  As my body was twisting and heading down I heard and felt a loud crack.  As I was heading to meet the ground my mind automatically went to the thought, “crud, I don’t think I will be running for exercise this week.”  When I hit the ground both my feet were in front of me.  I don’t recall if I landed on top of my feet I just remember them being in front of me.  When I looked down at my left leg and foot I was quite shocked.  My foot was disconnected from my leg.  Luckily the leg bone was not protruding from the skin.    I immediately started to shake and remembered that I had my phone attached to me.  I called a few friends, my mom, my husband, and 911 since there was no way I could move… my foot was not connected to my leg.   Soon a few neighbors and friends were in my yard; helping me and gathering my two children.  I was able to rest my leg on a pillow until the local Ambulance arrived.  The wonderful EMT’s lifted me onto a stretcher (probably one of the most painful experiences of my life – although it lasted about five seconds).  Once in the ambulance, the morphine began flowing.  At this time I was feeling the pain but very comfortable.  Comfortable enough to take this picture.  No, that is not swelling that is the bone trying to escape my skin!  It looks a lot better in the picture than it did in person. 

The doctors were all amazed that the bone did not come through my skin.  Looking back and thinking of the many blessings that God gave me that day; this is definitely one of them.  If that bone would have gone through my skin…  I know I would have passed out on the grass and would never have been able to use my phone (another blessing) to call for help and 911.  My friends (biggest blessing) would have found me on the grass when they arrived 45 minutes later for the party.  Thank you God for your mercy!  Back to the cell phone…  You know those commercials in the 90’s where the old women falls and says, “Help, I’ve Fallen and I can’t get up!”?  She has on a little clip with a button she can push to call for help.  That was my cellphone with the Otterbox Clip attached to my shorts.  Wear your cell phone at all times.  You never know when it may save your life or at least get you out of pain more quickly. 

Once I was at the hospital many more drugs were given and painful x-rays were taken.  My mom and husband stayed by my side for the hospital festivities.  My kids were safe at home with some of my good friends and their kids..  They even went on with the party.  Finally a team of doctors made what seemed like a football play to relocate my ankle.  I do not remember any pain when it was relocated.   I was pretty drugged up.  I just remember the nice ER nurse telling me to put my head back and then she said it was done….  I looked down and no longer saw this…  I saw what looked like a normal leg and foot.  My first thought, “I will be able to walk out of here! It feels so much better!”   Those drugs do great things…  Soon the doctor was back and explaining that I had broken both bones in my lower leg, broken my ankle, and done some tendon and nerve damage.  I would need surgery where they would need to insert 1 long plate, 10 screws to attach the plate, and one large nail…  oooo, five days before my 37th birthday and I was going to be getting some bling as an early Birthday present.  LUCKY ME!!!!!  
I would have surgery in a few hours because another blessing…  I was too busy getting ready for company that all I had in my stomach was COFFEE…  no food to digest.  Last time I ate was the night before. 

This was my first ever surgery.  I was excited!!!  NOT!!!   Actually I think the wonderful anesthesiologist may of knocked me out earlier than needed so I would stop asking her; “Now, I am not going to feel or remember the surgery, right?”    I think the last thing I recall is asking the question and kind of looking at her thinking… this medicine is not working I am totally awake.  Next thing I know after a 2 hour surgery by Dr. Welker, I wake up crying and the feeling that my leg was on fire.  The nurse was there and kept asking me why I was crying and I kept saying, “I don’t know.”   The surgeon told my husband that the surgery went well and that my leg bones were strong and the plates and screws held well.   I stayed overnight at the hospital unable to get out of my bed till the next morning…  I HATE Bed Pans. 

August 22 – The next morning the PT and OT met me.  The OT showed me how to use the crutches and how to get up and downstairs on my bottom.  That was an eye-opener.   “So, this is how I am going to get around for six to 12 weeks.  What an idiot, what the heck was I thinking…”  Let the self pitty party begin.  I think dealing with feeling bad for myself and then listening to my inner voice telling me think of all the people who have it worse than you and you are crying about this little hurdle, you should be ashamed of yourself and more thankful of what you do have – that was the hardest part of the first few days of recovery.  “Poor me, but o, wait… what about the people that loose legs and use wheel chairs all their life?”  I would beat myself up for having pity parties for myself.

All was clear for my release from St. Claire Hospital until the nurse took my vitals and I had spiked a fever of 100.1.  I might not be going home today!!!   Shoot me now!   My doctor gave the ok to go home and watch the fever at home and return if it hit 101.00 or higher.  The fever remained for about three days and finally disappeared around the 27th!   I  guess they say you can spike a fever because your body is not use to the foreign hardware that is now inside of it.  

First Week of Recovery –
First two days home were hard.  I won’t lie…  It sucked!   I am a very independent person, a runner, a mother to two wonderful children, and a doer….   I felt like all these gifts were pulled out from under me.  I could not be that person I was on the 21st before the accident.  I am a big believer in positive thinking and praying often.  I kinda forgot about those parts of my personality for two days.  I was angry at myself, a little at God, and I was just sad for my kids. 

The minute I got home and tried to navigate the front stairs up to my house with assistance was an eye-opener for me.  I couldn’t do it.  So into the basement stairs we go…  I went up on my bottom and realized that this exercise seen at http://www.redbookmag.com/health-wellness/advice/dips-arm-exercise#slide-8 (Place your hands on the edge of a chair, fingers facing forward, arms straight. Lift your hips off the edge, keeping your abs in tight. Bend your elbows, lowering your butt toward the ground, then push back up, straightening your arms as you extend your left leg forward, as shown. Repeat, kicking out with the other leg.)   I really should have done these everyday had I known this would happen.  It would have helped me fly up and down stairs…  but my exercise routine lately has been running 12 miles a week with no strength training.  Who has time, it is summer!   O, how I wish I would have known.  You should do these!!!  We should all have strong upper bodies.

I also realized that probably the less weight you carry the more easily it would be to deal with a leg injury like mine.  So I vowed no treats and keeping my calories at 1,300 a day till I am mobile again.  I really can’t afford to gain weight and lugging any extra around just kills me to think about. 

O, yeah…  I am a mom who has young kids who will be starting school after the weekend…  that hit me too.  How will I get them  to the bus?  How will I make their lunches on crutches (you can’t carry a thing when you are on your crutches)?   How will I get up the stairs in the AM to wake them up for the day?  Luckily, my husband (which takes the vow in sickness and in health better than I could) has helped me with this first week.   He is amazing.  We have a routine down.  He packs their lunches (he has never done that in the five years of our son’s school years).  He gets their snack ready and is almost thinking about going to a PTA meeting so he can debate the Peanut free snack time rule.   He can’t stand that a 4th grader has to have only certain snacks they can bring to school mandated by the school.  LOL!!!  It never really bothered me.  

Showering is fun too!  We had to buy a chair for the shower and my husband has to assist me into the shower at first when I was having a great deal of pain.  He had to hold the shower head and rinse me.  UGH.  I have progressed and now he just has to set me up in there and then I can do it on my own.  We are lucky to have a bath tub with detachable shower head.    I have one of those shower caps for your legs…  but my leg hurt too much to get it on.  I found that putting a kitchen garbage bag on the leg and wrapping the top with a towel works best.  I hang both legs over the shower and sit on the chair to shower.  Love the chair…

August 27th – I am 37 today.  I feel like I am 67.  What the heck?   My body is tired and I am already tired and frustrated with my new way of life.   The pain is still there but I am now weaning myself off of the Percocet.   I am not a fan of pain meds.  They hurt my belly and make me cranky and tired.  So it’s my Birthday…  It should have really sucked but many people tried their best not to make it suck!  My girlfriend stopped in the AM before work to give me some Starbucks and a hug.   Four of my favorite girlfriends brought over lunch and sat and chatted with me.  They brought me magazines, wine, flowers, and coffee too.  I know, I have the best friends…  Later in the afternoon my neighbor came by with an Edible Fruit Basket.  Those are the BOMB!!!   My parents and brother along with my kids and husband came over for dinner prepared by a friend.   My husband gave me a trip to the spa to use when I am better.   Towards 8:00, I totally forgot it was my Birthday and had had enough and ordered my kids to bed.  I had forgotten we had not had cake and icecream…  O, It’s my birthday.  Hmmm???

So today is August 31st – I am very lucky…  The pain has stopped except for the throbbing and shooting shocks here and there.  I have gotten somewhat better on stairs but still need assistance.  I seem to be getting stronger pulling myself up onto a chair once at the top of the steps.  I am practicing this in hopes I can do it independently and thus walk my kids to and from the bus.  It’s the little things now that would make my day – you know the things we take for granite.  For now, I have wonderful neighbors who get my kids on and off the bus and safely home. 

I also am extremely blessed with wonderful friends and family.  I have not had to cook one meal since I returned home.  My friends took up a list and I have been getting meals delivered since the day I got back from the hospital.  (You can see a sampling above of me being spoiled)  We have eaten very well.  My husband will be very sad when this stops in a week or two.  I also have wonderful friends and neighbors that fill my days with visits, texts, and calls.  This first week home alone has not been lonely at all.  A few of my friends even stopped over one day and brought lunch!   My neighbor brought me a bagel and coffee one AM.  Hmmmm… and I thought I would be getting a lot of Teaching work done???  So far, I have done more socializing than working.  All the treats from my friends and family have also brightened my day.  From flowers to edible fruit baskets…  I am SPOILED!   If you are a personal friend and are reading this… wow!   You have heard this story 100 times and you make it this far.  I love you and God made you great!  Thanks for showing me a little glimpse of him in your kindness. 

Crutches blow…  I am use to running miles on a run and these things tire me out just walking around the house.   Not to mention you cannot carry a thing when you are walking with crutches.    Someone needs to invent cup holders and trays for these things.  I even found myself online trying to find out if such a thing existed.  People on ETSY do make these things…  Great ideas people!   I did buy crutch accessories online that are must have.  One is a carrier that attached to your crutches so you can carry something from one place to the other and the other is fancy padding.   LUCKILY, I found my superhero!!!  He’s black and has wheels – MY COMPUTER Chair.  I can wheel myself around the kitchen on the thing and get the kids lunches made, get dinner dished out, wash dishes, and even bring my coffee from the pot to my desk.  Can’t do that with crutches!!!   Very thankful for my computer chair – I really would be a total frustrated mess without it.  I really should give it a name.  Any ideas? 

If you have broken your ankle/leg get a chair with wheels so you can move things around and do little things like load the dishwasher, wipe down counters, make your kids lunches…  There are many cheap ones you can get on Amazon from 40 to 100 bucks. It is worth it!!!  Click here to see some chairs! 

September 4th – Tomorrow will be my first post opt. appointment.  I am nervous.  I am being realistic and know I probably still won’t be able to drive and still won’t be able to weight on my left leg for a few weeks….   But I am anxious to see how things are healing and to ask some questions…

Why does the top foot from my ankle to my toes often feel like pins and needles are in it?  Also, the shocking pain…  will that ever go away? 

When can I expect the swelling to stop?  If I have my foot non-elevated for more than 15 minutes, it starts to swell.  Is that still normal at this stage?

I want to drive…  When do you think I can do that?

Exercise…  when can I start?

PT – when do I start?  Can I go to the one at my gym instead of the one suggested so they can teach me how to use the machines to help my recovery?

Those are a few…

Sept 5th – Just wanted to update you on my Dr.’s appointment since it was good news. Both bones look good and are healing. The hardware is impressive. 12 screws and 1 long plate that cost about $8,000 according to hospital bills (thank goodness for insurance)! Seriously, I could have gotten some serious bling for that price. My stitches came out…  A little uncomfortable but nothing compared to the pain of the break.   I now have two large incisions as reminders… but they are healing well. Yeah!  I am happy to live with those as long as all the rest of the leg and foot resume life as planned. 

I am in a VERY large boot that I can take off to shower and sleep. I can start physical therapy next week for 3x a week for 4 weeks. I start Monday at South Point Bradley Physical Therapy. By the 4th week I should be able to put full weight on my leg. So I will have crutches for a few more weeks. Then hopefully I will go from a limp to a regular walk. It’s a slow process, but I am happy to get it started. Oh, and I can drive next week hopefully to my first appt. for therapy – with the boot. After I saw my left leg today I could not believe how skinny it was. It’s amazing what no weight on your legs for 2 weeks does – my doctor said all the muscle is gone and needs rebuilt. 

Sept. 8th – Life with no hard cast and the air boot that my daughter looked at and said, “wow mommy, you look like a Space Walker.”   The boot is huge and heavy.  I think I look more like Frankenstein.  So, I am allowed to walk on the bad leg with the crutches and like I am walking on glass.  Only 10% of my weight.  I like that I can put a little weight on the thing now.  Getting around is still tiring and you still can’t carry anything.  Sleeping the first few nights without anything on was hard.  My foot is still freaky.  From my ankle to my toes, I am feeling a tingling sensation and it almost feels like I do not have as much feeling on the top of my foot.  My two wounds on the side of my legs still hurt a bit…  My wrist has been bothering me from the crutches…  this is no piece  of cake…  I keep having dreams about walking normal.  My last dream I was teaching a PreK class and walking and jumping with the kids…  O, how I wish!!!   I start teaching on Fridays in October and my wish is no crutches by then. 

A little teacher note:  My daughter brought home a book from library by her favorite author Mo Williams…  She said it reminded her of me.  Yes, my first grader is making a TEXT to Self or is it a TEXT to World connection??? 

 Ha-ha!  Cute right???  Love the book, you can get your copy here! 

INTERNET ORIF ANKLE SEARCH TIPS – Since the day I got home from the hospital, Google was answering my many questions about my ankle…  Recovery questions, crutches tips, exercise questions, diet questions…  I still am googling questions and looking for tips.  One thing I have learned– don’t get too down reading all  the negative stuff out there.  Everyone has a different story and a different way of healing.  You cannot assume you are anything like me or the person’s story you are reading.  Don’t get down because you read that it took someone 2 years to get back to normal with this.  My Dr. told me that one of the biggest ways to recovery quickly is to have a positive attitude and follow your own body.   I just wanted to throw this out there because I think I have read every blog post on ORIF Ankle Surgery and I have cried reading many.  One day I cried from 12 till 4 because I read about a marathon runner who broke his ankle and after 2 years was still having a hard time walking a mile… WHAT THE HECK?   Read information…  but don’t think you will have the same experiences.  Everyone has a different age, body type, break, and doctor.  I am trying my best to stay positive!  It is hard even for myself who is generally a very positive person…  but negative thoughts bring you down… I can do this and so can you.  I plan to come back stronger and leaner – o, and I plan to burn my flip flops when I can run away safely from the fire! 

Click for Part 2!