I waited in the doctor’s office after months of my ankle ordeal for a very important day in my life. My surgeon was finally releasing me from his care. I was going to walk out of my surgeon’s office on my own two feet. It had been four months since I had fallen off a ladder and broken my ankle. My surgeon came into the room. I was on pins and needles. After examining my ankle, he asked me to stand up and walk. I was so excited. I put all of my weight on my foot to walk. The pain from the top of my tippy toes to the back of my heel was excruciating. Tears welled up in my eyes and I turned to him and asked, “Will this pain go away? Will I be able to walk again? His answer, “I hope so.” That is how I left my surgeon’s office with my husband, Shelly.
First rule to remember: most surgeons do not prepare you for what lies ahead. They have completed “their” job. I am an excellent resource for all of you who are in one of the healing phases of a broken ankle. Let’s start with the first phase.
I want to stress three fun approaches I took to keep my spirits high! You want to try and stay upbeat. It is a long road to recovery. The most beneficial medical decision I made besides choosing my surgeon, was to use a walker to get myself around.
Here are four ways to keep my spirits up post surgery…
- My toenails were painted in a beautiful happy and bright color. I had a pedicure every three weeks.
- A smiley face was painted on my big toe in white polish over my bright polish always smiling at me when I looked down.
- I wore a pink cast that matched my toe nail polish.
- The most important thing I did was stay away from a scooter.
“A scooter will ruin your knee,” said my girlfriends, who had broken their ankles. I listened to them and used a walker. I was doing aerobics all day! I had to use my arms to lift my body. I used my “good” leg to hop forward. I lost weight and several inches. I stayed mentally and physically healthy because I had a daily work out!
The ordeal of healing is not by any stretch of the imagination over when you walk out of your surgeon’s office. Here's why:
- When you fall and break your ankle, you damage everything in the surrounding area -- your blood vessels, your muscles and your ligaments. You then have surgery and become bionic with plates and screws. This is more damage to the foot. Your leg is in a cast, (up to your knee) for weeks with no movement.
It has been six weeks since my leg has been free of a cast or non-walking boot. I am going to level with you. You will be in severe pain when you begin to walk. You have to realize your entire leg has to “be rehabbed.” I am told by my therapist it will be six to twelve months before the swelling will be gone. You will have to live in tennis shoes - so depressing. Do not be afraid of the pain. You have to force yourself to work through it. When you walk, force yourself to take natural steps. I suggest you choose your physical therapist carefully. He will massage your foot and it will be so painful you will want to scream. He has to break up all the scar tissue and loosen your ligaments and muscles. When you walk outside, use a cane as your protector. Do your foot exercises, at home, that your therapist prescribed. I am told there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Some days I wonder. My smiley face is still on my toe to uplift my spirits.
I dream of, once again, wearing my beautiful high heeled shoes. To stand tall and look like I used to look. Each day I wonder how long I will be in tennis shoes. Thank goodness for my smiley faced toe staring up at me. Keep your spirits high and with perseverance and determination, we will all get through it together!