I decided to heal at my mother’s place – it was large, had some of the equipment that I needed and was close to the hospital. There was also some degree of comfort being there. When I got back from my surgery and I was tired, and sore and a little disoriented, no place in the world felt safer to me than her room. I plunked myself down on the bed and settled there for just about 2 weeks. The day prior, I made arrangements with my mother’s former caregivers, and women that I consider almost like family, to come in for a few hours most days to help me shower and take care of me. I also made arrangements for some things that I thought would be helpful – more about that later.
After surgery, you are in a white soft-ish plaster cast for two weeks that you cannot get wet and the surgeon told me that I was not allowed to bear weight on my leg at all. He stressed, that it was important to stay quiet and not do anything jarring, so bed rest it was! I had many people doubt that I could handle it. People said – oh, it’s going to be tough for you. I knew that in order to have the recovery that I wanted though, that I had to do everything that I was told to do and that was my priority. The first two days after I had the surgery were pretty hard. I was feeling weak, unsure of what I could actually do for myself and I discovered that I was allergic to prescription pain killers. They all gave me hives – so no codeine and no Percocets. I had to make due with plain Tylenol or Advil. Most people will not have that problem.
The things that I insisted on – showers (cleanliness is next to godliness and after three days of little more than sponge baths, I was eager to be squeaky clean) and brushing and flossing. It sounds dumb, but it gave me something normal to do. I did have to do something to make sure that my brain didn’t turn to mush so I decided even before the surgery to work from home. It was something that I could do to help pass the time. I was also lucky enough to have plenty of people visit. I think it was over 50 people in the 6 weeks that I was non-weight-bearing.
The first Saturday after my surgery, my sister was sick from her chemo and I had to lie there and couldn’t do anything to help her. I started to cry, because at that point, I not only felt helpless, I felt useless. Once I cried myself out, I thought about my mother and how she had to cope with being in bed for 16 months. She was so strong, so happy to see people when they came by and so positive. It was at that very moment, that I decided that I was going to get through the next 6 weeks, and make something good come out of a rather crappy situation. There was a lot that I missed out on – like concerts that I really wanted to go to. I missed out on a couple of parties and the last little bit of my favourite season – summer. First world problems but still…
Anyway, after two weeks of staring out the window, working and entertaining guests, I went for my first post op check up. It was also the first time that I was going to see my leg and incision. The leg looked pink, but that was from the iodine that they used. The incision looked like a stapled, puckered clam. It was a little gross. They took the staples out, which took less than a minute and it didn’t hurt, it just felt like little stings. They showed me quickly how to put on the air cast (walking boot) which was a tease since I couldn’t walk for another four weeks, but it was so much lighter and I could remove it to shower – YIPPPEEEEE! At first, I was afraid, I was petrified, just thinking I could never live….oh sorry, that’s disco going off in my head. I was a little nervous about hitting my leg, in the tub but I never did. The next four weeks went by relatively quickly – again, lots of work, lots of company and I rented a wheelchair and even had a few outings. Each week I felt stronger and stronger which was great. I was on my way to being ready to walk….but first, just a few helpful hints if you ever find yourself with a broken ankle, limb or anything where you can’t walk around:
-Do what the doctor says – they aren’t kidding when they say not to put weight on it or jar it. You may have a little oopsie moments – I slipped off my knee scooter and banged my leg – it hurt, but remember, your ankle has screws and a plate – it’s solid even if you are not
-Make your life easy – unless you are in your 20’s, crutches suck. I rented a knee scooter which was not only fun, it also made getting from the bedroom to anywhere in the apartment so much easier and faster. I named mine Herbie
-Get yourself a commode – you will thank me. If you can’t afford a shower chair, it serves a dual purpose – stick it in the tub or shower and scrub away
-Get a shower chair that swivels – it will make your life easier, even once you can bear weight. I thought of everything that I would need before I had surgery and ordered it so that I would have it as close to the time that I came home as possible
-I ended up renting a wheelchair with a leg extender for some outings – it really helped and was around $65
-Ask for a wheelchair accessible cab – they wheel you in and your are buckled in so that you can avoid getting in and out of the car – again, make your life easy and save your energy for the things that you really want to do
-Lose your modesty – it’s over-rated. I needed help showering and wasn’t going to sacrifice being clean so that people wouldn’t see the girls. Use a handheld shower if you have one and cover your plaster cast with cheap plastic wrap and a garbage bag so that it doesn’t get wet
-You will have intense nerve pain at some point and it feels like someone is lighting a fire under your foot. It’s horrible. I survived on Advil but had to take it regularly (every 6 -8 hours whether I was feeling pain or not, to make sure it didn’t get out of control). Speak to your doctor if you are having really bad pain and they will help you out – don’t just do your own thing
-Keep yourself busy – go out if you are feeling up to it. Work from home if you can. If people want to visit, let them. There is nothing worse than looking at a clock
-On the flip side, you do need rest. I had a guardian angel who had ankle surgery and kept reminding me that it was normal for me to not feel my best and that I would be more tired than usual. I had another friend who fractured her arm who told me that the first three weeks after a fracture, your body burns off a ton of energy helping you heal so don’t be afraid to eat but….
-Watch your salt in-take. You aren’t moving around and you will get swollen and swelling is painful. Eat healthy foods – it’s not a time to binge on chips and bon bons. You need protein and calcium and vitamins and minerals to heal
-You will be pretty sedentary the first two of weeks, and you will need some cushion for your tushion (AKA your bum). It will hurt. Turn as often as you can, and if you are lying on your side, place a pillow in between your legs so that you don’t get any bed or friction sores. Once you can do the one-legged stand, try to be as active as you can
It is hard, but remember, you will survive.