Since my surgery my life has been somewhat of a balancing act. Everyday my foot feels a little stronger and is slightly less swollen. I am therefore more and more tempted to try to jump back into my normal daily activities. However, whenever I try doing too much, my foot protests by puffing back up and hurting like crazy. Pushing myself to be active again seems to be detrimental to the healing process, but if I just lie around the house being useless it’s very hard on me mentally. I start feeling restless, confined, and antsy. Though I continue to struggle to find a good balance between letting my body heal and going absolutely crazy, I have discovered that some activities appease both my mind and body.
Since most of the people that undergo tendon repair surgery are physically active, like me, the balancing act I am currently undertaking is probably a common dilemma. So for the benefit of any of you who will be having a similar surgery, I will divulge what I have learned in the last month. Also, while I am on the subject of physical comfort, I have come up with a list of items that can significantly improve your physical wellbeing during the surgical recovery period.
reading a book up the canyon
If you are getting surgery to repair a tendon in your foot here are a few things that you may want to have on hand to help you through the rough days of your recovery:
- Cough Drops or Hard Candies: Your throat will be very dry the day of surgery because of the breathing tube they use when you’re under. Candy or cough drops can offer some relief.
- Night Lights: Finding your way to and from the bathroom in the middle of the night is much more difficult and dangerous on crutches.
- A Few Cheap Pillows, Pillowcases, and Sheets: You will need a few pillows to elevate your foot. Casts and boots can tear up your pillowcases and sheets, so I recommend not risking ruining your nice bedding. Wal-Mart carries inexpensive bedding; it’s a good option to use for your foot in the months following surgery.
- The Crutch Pal: It’s an ingenious little pouch that attaches to your crutches and allows you to carry your keys, cell phone, etc. It takes a little bit of the frustration out of crutches. The Crutch Pal can be purchased at: www.crutchbuddies.com.
- Flat Footwear: Most of you men probably have plenty of flat soled shoes (And you only need one pair of shoes anyway, right?) but many of us girls don’t have a whole lot of shoes without some sort of heel. After surgery flat or platform shoes are a must-don’t worry, it’s a good excuse for some guilt free shoe shopping. Also, putting on shoes is a very tricky operation these days so I would recommend snug fitting slip-ons.
- Ice Pack: Icing isn’t recommended while in a cast because of the risk of getting it wet. But with a boot, ice feels great! There are few joys that equal the sublime delight of putting your foot up after a long day at work and sticking some ice on it.
- Shower Chair: At first I was dead-set against getting one of these. The thought of using a shower chair made me feel a million years old. But, I’ve been using one for the last couple weeks, and it’s a lifesaver. I don’t recommend taking a shower until your cast is off; a bath is a much better option for the casted. But once your cast has been removed, the doctor will advocate taking showers instead of baths, to prevent your incision from getting too wet. This is when your shower chair will become one of your best friends. I purchased mine at Walgreens, but most drug stores probably carry them.
- Chenille Socks: These may be too girly for you men, but ladies, they feel fabulous inside your boot. I tried using an Ace bandage and I tried a regular sock, but I had problems with both. The Ace bandage would slide around sometimes during wear and bunch up uncomfortably, and normal socks were too tight and painful to put on. Since I already had some fluffy chenille socks I thought I would give them a try and it turns out that they are perfect for the boot. They are extremely soft, comfortable, non-constricting, and have a loose band. Perfect! That’s all I wear with my boot now.
- A Temporary Handicapped Parking Permit: These are easy to get. Just tell your doctor you would like one. He will fill out a form, you take it to the DMV, and voila, you have a parking permit. In the first few weeks after your surgery, when you will definitely be feeling lousy, the parking permit makes life much easier.
- A Good Engrossing Book or Book Series: Having a book you just can’t put down is perfect for your post-operative recovery period. It helps you forget that you really haven’t left your bed much in days. I have been reading the Twilight series and have quite enjoyed it.
Even with all these items to help make the recovery process as comfortable as possible, if you are an active person like me, the inactivity will probably start wearing on you.
Here are a couple things that I have found help work out the jitters while still allowing your body to rest and heal:
- Going for a ride. When I start feeling antsy or just sick of being in the house I get my sweet husband to take me for a ride. My favorite place to go is up in the mountains. Although I prefer to see our lovely Utah mountains from the seat of a mountain bike, since that isn’t possible at the moment, I’ll take what I can get.
- Reading a book in the back yard: just going out in the sun and fresh air does wonders. The reclining, lounge-style, patio chairs work fabulously for this. If you put your foot up on a pillow, while chilling in one of these chairs, it’s elevated nicely and you can enjoy some sweet sunshine.
me soaking up some sweet sunshine
I found out, unfortunately, that my claustrophobic tendencies were aggravated by my cast. Those of you that are claustrophobic understand, without any explanation, why a confining, tight, uncomfortable cast, which can’t be removed, would make me crazy. Those that don’t suffer from claustrophobia are probably thinking that only a weirdo would have panic attacks from wearing a cast-I can accept that. I wasn’t expecting this side-effect from cast wearing so I wasn’t prepared to deal with it. In the weeks I wore my cast I found, through experience, that the best defense against claustrophobic cast attacks was just spending as much time outside as possible during the day. And if a panic attack did occur, going for a ride somewhere seemed to alleviate it. All you cast totting claustrophobics have my deepest sympathy though, the weeks I was in a cast were definitely rough for me!
I hope this information will be useful to those of you getting ready for surgery. You’ll need all the help you can get!
By the time I got my cast off a couple weeks ago it was well signed, colored, and decorated by all the friends and family members that stopped by to visit me. I want to thank all you altruistic acquaintances that brought over dinner, treats, or just your entertaining selves. Jas and I truly appreciate your kindness and support. So thank you for making this wearisome experience more bearable!
my autographed cast
I have been an avid runner, soccer player, and bike rider since my early teen years and as such my legs have always been my powerhouse. But sadly, after only a few weeks of forced inactivity, my left calve muscles have atrophied an enormous amount. Although this is normal for someone in my circumstances, it’s depressing that muscles that took years to develop can disappear in a matter of weeks. My left calve has become remarkably skinny and jiggles now like the flabby underarm of a sedentary 80 year old. It looks disturbingly scrawny and out of place attached to my thigh, which has retained its muscle mass.
My oddly paired calves.
Although my leg has gone south surprisingly fast, one group of muscles has definitely benefited from this whole ordeal. My arms have never been very strong; they were always a bit reminiscent of the underdeveloped arms of a T-Rex. But now, thanks to crutching around and pulling myself up the stairs, my arm and shoulder muscles have become amazingly solid. Since these muscles became much more defined very quickly I haven’t quite grown accustomed to them. They seem very foreign to me, like they don’t really belong on my body, almost as much as my atrophied leg.
Look at those guns!
It will most likely take months for my leg muscles to return to normal. In the meantime I will enjoy my new arms. I plan to continue regularly working them out, to keep my new found muscle mass, long after the crutches are gone.
Do you remember as a child how you thought it would be so much fun to break something and get a cast or get to use crutches? You imagined no doubt that this would get you endless attention, treats, and special privileges. You would of course get to skip your chores, and, if you were lucky enough to break your right arm, maybe you would even get out of doing homework. This seemed like an ideal situation, right? Well, now after my first cast/crutches experience let me tell you…your childhood self was stupid, stupid, stupid!
My cast is enormous!
After surgery I was stuck in bed per the doctor’s orders: foot elevated, doped up, and lethargic.
After a few days of watching bits of movies between drug and exhaustion induced napping, I was feeling better and ready to start using my crutches for more than just going to the bathroom.
My little toes in my big cast.
Now that I have been using these annoying devices for a couple weeks I have realized that they, along with my enormous purple cast, make everything ridiculously hard to do. Only those who have been forced to use crutches and cope with a cast can truly understand the magnitude of this annoyance. Since this has been my first experience with casts and crutches I had no idea just how much they would drive me crazy!
Me seeking some sanity from a ride in the mountains.
For those of you who have never had this joyous experience let me help you visualize how your life on crutches would be. Imagine you have no hands (You can’t hold anything, duh…you are holding your crutches.) and that you have only one leg. In place of your second leg you have a deadweight that is tender, heavy, cumbersome, and useless. Now imagine trying to go about your daily tasks with your one useful appendage. You want to go shopping? Good luck. How are you going to hold your purse? How are you going to walk around a huge store? How are you going to push your cart? Or perhaps you just want to stay at home and take a nice hot shower. Well, too bad, you can’t. Unless you want to cover your cast with a garbage bag, tape the top to your skin with an overabundance of duct tape, try to somehow maintain your balance on one leg as you shampoo and soap up, all the while holding your other leg in an extremely awkward position in a useless attempt to keep your cast dry, only to realize in the end that you still got it wet and have to spend the next hour, following your exhausting shower, blow drying it. Sounds fun doesn’t it?
Yes, let me assure you, casts and crutches are not worth getting out of doing your chores.
Here are some of the more frustrating things about this unwieldy duo:
Stairs the Rachel way.
Since we have a two-story house I regularly have to go up and down the stairs. I have found that the easiest and safest way to do this is by sliding on my bum, dragging my crutches in one hand and balancing myself with the other. It looks and feels completely silly, and wears me out.
Our friend Jacob doing stairs an unsafe way.
If you have a cast or are getting one on your leg it is my solemn recommendation that you do not try to take a shower while casted. No matter what you do, no matter how many rubber bands and rolls of duct tape you use, no matter if you triple bag it, no matter what! If you take a shower with a cast your cast will almost inevitably get wet. I bagged, banded, and taped my leg absolutely comical amounts and still my cast somehow ended up wet. My suggestion is that instead of a shower, you take a bath. While bathing is still obnoxiously difficult, it requires less effort than a shower and is not nearly as risky as far as cast wetting goes. I recommend you follow this procedure when bathing with a cast on your leg: bag and tape your cast, have some sympathetic volunteer (that your are willing to let see your blubber) assist you in getting into the tub (If you don’t have any acquaintances that fit this description, good luck getting into the bath without assistance.), put your casted leg up on the side of the tub, fill the tub (I advise not getting the bath too full so you don’t risk getting your cast wet.), bath, drain the water, then seek help in getting back out again.
Jas blow drying my cast after my first showering attempt.
If you have crutches there is only one way, and one way only, to carry an item thicker than a piece of paper-hopping. Yes, that’s right; you put your crutches down, pick your item up, lift up your decrepit leg and hop on your good leg until you reach your desired destination. This is hard work, if you don’t believe me give it a try, you will be panting in no time. Last week I had to transfer a vase of flowers a coworker had kindly given me from my car to the kitchen sink, to get some water for the thirsty flowers, and then to the living room where I wanted to display it. Since no one else was home to help me I was forced to hop all that way. Good thing I’m in shape is all I can say. I have hopped more in the last two weeks than I have the entire rest of my life put together.
Simply put, sleep doesn’t happen. In the last two weeks I have been up tossing and turning in bed until 5 AM or later nearly every night. An uncomfortable position and an uncomfortable leg are not conducive to sleeping.
I have been trying to figure out some cure for this dilemma, taking Advil PM seems to help.
Writing my post
Having a cast and crutches does get me out of doing my chores and many of my normal daily tasks so I guess in that way all those childish dreams were accurate. However, instead of actually doing something productive with my energy I get to use it all crawling up stairs and hopping around like Thumper. So if you still think having crutches would be a blast let me know and I’d be happy to break your leg.