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I landed horribly on my right ankle on Sept 10th 2016 jumping off an inflatable obstacle course (ridiculous I know), dislocating it, tearing the ligament between the tib/fib and breaking the medial malleolus and the fibula in a couple of places. I wanted to share my experience so far (Oct 15th) as this forum has been really helpful to me and I hope my experiences can help others. I'm a 32 year old, active male Brit now living in NYC. Please excuse the length of this post!
I had surgery on Sept 15th after the swelling had reduced enough. I was nicely dosed up on Oxycodone waiting for the surgery but it felt like an eternity. The worse feeling was that nothing was healing and I was just wishing time away until they could get the bones in the correct place. There was constant dull pain and lots of sharp jabs when I moved. The surgery was over in an hour and the nerve block they used in my leg blocked all pain for 24 hours after. When it wore off I was back on the Oxycodone and in pain but in much better spirits as now I knew that as time passed, I was healing. The pain was tolerable thanks to the drugs and the thought that it was healing pain. The doc had me on crutches with no weight bearing (NWB) for 6 weeks. The 2 long screws seen in the pic mean I can't fully extend or pull up my foot until they come out 12 weeks after surgery around mid Dec. The other screws and plate will probably stay in indefinitely. I was in a big cast/splint that was only solid around the back and sides up to my knee and bandaged everywhere else. Sleeping was really tough and I'd be up constantly when I moved the leg too much. A couple of 5mg Oxycodone before sleeping would give me a decent 4-5 hours solid sleep though. I did and still do have it up on two big pillows, usually laid on its side with a bent knee so I can sleep on my side.
On Sept 29th they popped off my cast/splint, took out the stitches and put me into a comparatively luxurious short leg blue fibreglass cast with a lovely soft interior. I got to see my ankle and scars too (see pics), which was a shock as the scars were pretty intense and the ankle was very swollen and bruised. To get my foot into the right position for the new cast the doc had to move it, which was painful but it felt really good to see and feel movement in the ankle.
The new cast was lighter and much nicer but was still a thing around my leg so quickly got annoying. Around the first week of Oct I did starting hopping around the apt a lot more which I couldn't do before as the jolt really hurt the ankle. I was now also able to rest my leg on the floor and let it carry its own weight when I was sat on the couch or at a table, which was a new thing. If my leg was down for a short time my toes would go blue and I'd feel the ankle swelling inside the cast so I was usually sat on the couch with a couple of pillows under my leg. I was also trying to regularly stretch my leg out so the muscles didn't get too tensed up from inactivity.
Yesterday on Oct 15th, they cut off my fibreglass cast and got me into the removable AirCast boot, but still NWB for 2 weeks. My ankle is still swollen but much smaller than 2 weeks ago. The scars look better too. My calf and upper leg muscles have shrunken in a big way over the last 4 weeks, as you can see in the pics. I've started lifting my lower leg with the boot on in reps to start the process of building my upper leg muscle back. I also slept in the boot last night (very loosely fitted) as I was scared about moving it in my sleep or getting out of bed and putting weight on it to pee without thinking. This has been the biggest milestone in the recovery process as I can now see my foot and ankle, wash it (it was disgusting) and start moving it. Just stretching my toes out feels amazing and since last night I've been moving my foot around with my hands to find my limits and start working on increasing them. Now that I can start increasing my range of motion as it's out of the cast, I feel like a major part of the recovery process is under my control, which is an immense psychological boost and gives you quantifiable milestones to meet and exceed. Doc says he wants me doing circles with my foot by the end of Oct and then it's time to start the physio.
The immobility and lack of doing much is by far the worst part of this experience. Id gladly take much more pain in exchange for more mobility. I was lucky to be able to work from home so that really helped to speed up time. I used some of the time to do those little organisational things you never normally have time to do like reorganizing my document folders and creating to do lists and the like. Achieving at least something during the day made me feel useful and part of something rather than someone just waiting to heal. Watching shows all day, which I did more at the beginning did drive me crazy and didn't help the restless feelings. I would venture out for a cigarette (stupid I know) once or twice a day to get some sun and do some people watching which really helps. Early on, I commandeered my housemates wheeled office chair to move around the place which was a game changer. Crutches make moving things like plates of food or drinks around a multistage nightmare. The office chair solved this completely and I'd highly recommend getting a cheap one if you have a suitable floor.
Im also taking some bone supplements. The doc says they won't do much, and I've read some papers that say they can actually be determinantal as they strengthen the existing bone making the healing process longer as the creation of new bone to heal can take longer to match the existing strength. Ive also read other papers that say it can help when bone is healing so I'm taking it anyway, even just for a psychological boost. It's really just a boost of calcium and other related vits and minerals.
Long term optimistic predictions/guessings for healing is that I'll be cycling carefully by Mid November, finished with crutches and boot but walking very funny by the end of November. The two ligament healing screws will come out mid December, for a hopeful normal walk by Christmas.
I’d be happy to speak to anyone who wants more info. Id also like to speak to people who have been through physio in the states and know about the co-pay costs involved and ways to mitigate this. This country's healthcare standards are high but it is terrible that there are so many financial implications to deal with when you should be concentrating on repairing. A self employed laborer with kids breaking their ankle in the states would be in serious trouble. I was very close to flying home with my broken ankle for treatment if the expected cost here was too high. The government provided and totally free NHS is a beautiful thing back home, please fight to keep it!
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