Post-surgery recovery: The waiting is the hardest part

Ugly, perhaps. But my ankle surgeon says my left ankle is healing nicely.

Ugly, perhaps. But my ankle surgeon says my left ankle is healing nicely.

I’m happy to say that my ankle surgery Dec. 18 went smoothly, and so have the last three weeks of recovery time. My pain is so minimal that I can’t complain (yes, sometimes I still do). And my ankle surgeon says he likes how the ankle is healing, even if it looks swollen and purple.

I now have a month more of getting around on my scooter and crutches before I visit my surgeon Feb. 7 to see if I can start walking again.

So I must wait. However, I am back at work, exercising as much as I can without putting (much) weight on my left leg, and catching up on my reading. In other words, I’m trying to make the most of my time with reduced mobility.

The surgery seems like a long time ago now. My surgeon, Dr. Eric Powell, said he was surprised at the mess that was inside my left ankle. He had to remove considerable scar tissue and other debris before setting up the fusing of my leg bone and foot bone. To do that, he used tiny screws and other metal devices — which I know are in there but don’t really feel.

Net-net, he got the job done. I have a much stronger left ankle. When it’s all healed, I will have to handle the limited movement and flexibility. That was the payoff for a healthier ankle and reduced pain long-term. I agreed to it. As I explained in my last post, ankle replacement surgery, rather than this ankle fusion surgery, was a more complicated and costly option, with no guarantees of success.

I wear my boot everywhere; it's the same boot I wore after my 2011 surgery.

I wear my boot everywhere; it’s the same boot I wore after my 2011 surgery.

When I ran races in the last six years, my running motion from right foot to left foot felt like, “Ker-plunk, ker-plunk, ker-plunk, ker-plunk,” as I moved along. That type of motion will now be permanent. I knew that would be the case, and can deal with it. No, I will never be seen on any running videos teaching people correct form.

But the ability to run again will be awesome, if I can make it happen. First up is walking, however. (Then bicycling.) Baby steps.

Life on a scooter, and more

Here are some random musings from my last three weeks:

  • The first four days after the surgery were pain-filled, though I managed the pain with Oxycodone pills and slept most of the time.
  • But on the fifth day, the pain seemed to vanish. I got off the opioids, started sleeping normal hours again, and felt much better.
  • The people from my workplace, Allytics, sent me flowers the day after my surgery. It meant a lot.
  • I had a cast on my ankle and foot for about 10 days, then a wrap for a week to protect the stitches. When I got my stitches out Jan. 3, I was able to shower again without wearing garbage bags around my lower leg. What a relief!
  • Getting around on my scooter is interesting. I have to be vigilant about watching for curbs, sidewalk cracks and pavement issues, etc., to avoid spills. So far, so good. (Knock on wood.)
  • Loaned to me from our HR director at work, Jennifer White, the scooter includes a front basket that is a godsend. It looks funny, but I put just everything in there so I don’t have to carry things.
  • That said, loading the basket with too much weight, and then shifting my own weight too far forward, causes the scooter to tip over forward. This has happened (fortunately, I wasn’t carrying hot coffee).
  • Also, the scooter doesn’t make U-turns or go in reverse as well as I would like.
  • Speaking of weight, I have barely gained any, despite an inability to get much exercise! Boy, was I happy to see that when I first weighed myself more than a week after the surgery.
  • Yes, I have been exercising some. Instead of walks or runs, I do scoots — jaunts of less than a mile on my scooter. I feel calories burning; I also feel my left hamstring and hip getting sore from kneeling on the scooter too long. Surprisingly, this is more work than you think.
  • I just started riding my stationary bike this last weekend. I did five miles on Saturday and again on Sunday. Don’t tell my surgeon; he may not approve.
  • And I’ll be frank. My scooter and crutches can’t get me through tight spots in my bathroom and bedroom. I find myself putting limited weight on my left ankle, as it does not hurt. I try hard to be careful, but still, don’t tell my surgeon.
  • Last but not least, I have to thank my wife Liz for carrying stuff for me, opening doors, and getting me through this. Thanks, Liz!

The reason I need to stay off my left ankle is to let the fusing process play out. It takes about six weeks, according to not only Dr. Powell, but everything I’ve read online. Since I want the fusing process to be a successful one, I am careful. But it seems impossible to avoid putting some weight on the ankle.

The waiting, as Tom Petty once sang, is the hardest part. Fortunately, time is passing quickly.

Will I be ready to ride in the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Chilly Hilly on Feb. 25? It would be 10 weeks after my surgery. We’ll see.

Thanks for reading!

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About monteenbysk

I am not an elite runner or bicyclist, though I am friends with many. I run, walk, and bike for fun and the health benefits. I can get you to the finish but probably not to the Boston Marathon (and especially not to the Tour de France).
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