In the four months since I last posted about what I said could be my “last hurrah,” I got my surgery plans squared away. It took a few tests to determine what kind of ankle surgery would be best. Now we’re set.
On Monday, Dec. 18, I will undergo ankle fusion surgery at Swedish Medical Center’s First Hill campus in Seattle. I may spend the night there and be pumped full of painkillers for a week or more. I will get through it, undergo a serious rehab, and quite possibly be running again in 2018. We’ll see.
The type of surgery I’m having is a change of plans. Originally, I was to undergo ankle replacement surgery, where a metal device would be inserted to replace my ankle joint. But an ankle scan found that my ankle bone is too deteriorated and peppered with cysts to make this an easy surgery, according to Dr. Eric Powell, my surgeon.
Ankle fusion surgery is the conventional alternative for the type of erosion of the ankle joint that I suffer. It is a fusing of the lower leg bone and foot bone, with the end result being a decidedly limited range of up-and-down movement in the foot. That is precisely what I have now. The surgery, according to Dr. Powell, will make permanent the lack of movement that I have now.
There may be other complications, such as having to step sideways to get up and down stairs. We’ll see. But I shouldn’t have to have another surgery, and I should be done with ankle pain. And I have a chance to run again, though it is unlikely I can make the Olympic team (I will settle for being able to do marathon No. 22, or even race No. 214).
By comparison, ankle replacement surgery would return some of that ability to lift my foot up-and-down. But it is a more complicated surgery, and things have to be right for it to be successful. While my surgeon offered to give it a try, he said it would require two surgeries to complete — one this year just to get my ankle ready, and a second one a year from now to insert the metal implant.
Even then, there are no guarantees of success, and I would not be able to run again. Running would threaten damage to the implant.
Ankle fusion surgery is more conventional, yet it has its own risks. There’s a long healing and rehab process (at least several weeks) before I can even put weight on my left leg. I will be moving around on a scooter, loaned to me by Jennifer White, our head of Human Resources at Allytics (thanks, Jennifer!). I can drive and work, but going up and down stairs will be interesting. Fortunately, I had ankle “scoping” surgery in 2011, so the rehab process is familiar.
The stationary bike will be my friend during rehab. Maybe I will be ready for the Chilly Hilly bicycle ride in late February. It’s uphill until then. Have to be able to walk first. Yes, baby steps.
Thanks for reading. Wish me luck, and see you on the other side. Happy holidays!