Positive Story from a Broken Ankle

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Like many of you, I suffered a broken ankle. Up until now it has been one of the toughest experiences to overcome. The mental recovery has been far greater than the physical one! 

When I broke my ankle, had surgery, and started my recovery process, I did was most people do; I googled "broken ankle" and must have read through every forum, diary, website, blog out there looking for positive words to keep me thinking positively. However, most often than not, I found stories about unsuccessful recoveries, infections, problems walking, additional surgeries, etc. and I broke down. I felt like walking and my life would never be the same. I combed through so many sites looking for a successful story so I could stay motivated, but a lot of times I came up empty. 

Now, 8 weeks after my injury, I'm here to post encouraging words!

Here is my timeline:

4/20/16 - I was walking down the stairs of my apartment and I've yet to figure out how I missed the last step. I hit the floor full force with my right foot. I immediately felt my foot roll inward, fell against the wall and hit the floor butt first. My first instinct was to grab my excrutiatingly painful foot, squeeze it and take some deep breaths. I told myself it was probably just a bad sprain and that I should be tough and just get up and walk. When I let go of my foot, it sort of just dangled there and my ankle was already swelling up. I knew it was broken. I sat on the last step of my stairs for 20 minutes, waiting for a ride to go to the emergency room. Long story short, I had a right fibula fracture with an unstable ankle joint and needed surgery. Being a nurse, I realized the next 6 to 8 weeks were going to be tough. What I didnt realize, was how tough they would actually be! I was given a CAM boot and sent home. My surgery was scheduled for 4/25/16. 5 days of waiting.

4/25/16 Surgery day! I was excited to finally get this over with. I was given a nerve block before surgery to help with the pain after the procedure. I was taken into the operating room, told to start deep breathing into a mask, and the next time I woke up I was in the recovery room. I was now the proud (or unproud) owner of a metal plate and screws. My foot felt awesome. Actually, I couldn't even feel it and I was okay with that. Nerve blocks are great, but it was difficult for a control freak like me. I was telling my toes to move but they wouldnt. But there was zero pain for the first 24 hours. I was in the hospital so sleep was on and off. 

4/26/16 The day after surgery was by far the most painful thing I have ever felt. The nerve block wore off, I didnt anticipate the pain and refused pain medications the first 24 hours. Huge mistake. That day and night I was in excruciating pain, almost overdosed on Morphine, and was scared. I somehow made it through and the next morning I just wanted to be discharged and go home. So I did. Once home, reality started to set in. I realized I couldn't do anything by myself. Showering seemed impossible. Sleeping comfortably was out of the question. The pain was so bad. The swelling was awful. Around the clock narcotic pain medication gave me incredible constipation so I stopped taking anything after the first week. I was miserable. 

Part of what I read was correct. The first 2 weeks are by far the most difficult ones. If you are as independent as I am, you have to learn to ask for help. Using the crutches was a challenge. Arms were sore. The boot felt heavy. I wasn't even hungry and I started to feel depressed. Every awkward sensation would send me researching Google and then get even more depressed about what I would read. At the end of the day, I would tell myself that there were people out there who had it WAY worse and that I just needed to be patient; something I am definitely not. 

5/10/16 My first follow up appointment. 2 weeks after my surgery. Stitches were taken out at this time. That was a milestone for me. A small one, but at least I could start showering without having to cover my boot/foot with a plastic bag. Also, the doctor cleared me to start doing range of motion so I religiously did exercises two to three times a day. Still no pain meds since the first week and my foot started to feel more stable. I could finally somewhat reposition in bed at night. Being the stubborn woman I am, I decided to return to my apartment at this time. I needed to have some sort of independence to help my mood. Again, a very difficult 2 weeks. I felt lonely, I couldn't drive, and it was like I was on house arrest. But I told myself that I had made progress. 

I finally felt comfortable enough to go out to eat at a restaurant around this time. I felt I was handling the crutches a bit better, my foot still hurt but it wasn't anywhere near the day after surgery. Range of motion kept improving the next several weeks.

6/14/16 One of the best days of my life. I had my 7 week post op appointment. They took xrays. I was scared about the healing of my bone. A million different scenarios were running through my head. I was so nervous that my heart rate was in the 120's when they took my vital signs. Then the doctor walked in and said, "Congratulations, your x-rays look perfect. Your bone has healed. You can start walking now with the CAM boot for 2 weeks. Use your crutches until you feel safe and ditch them whenever you feel comfortable." He told me to return in 2 and a half weeks, gave me 3 more weeks off work and left the room. I sat there stunned. I didn't know if to laugh, scream, cry, or ask him to come back and repeat what he just said. I could now start WALKING. Although I knew it was still a long road ahead, thinking of setting my foot on the ground after 8 weeks was exhilarating. So I tried it.

The feeling was so awkward. It felt like a foreign foot to my body. There wasnt exactly pain, just a tight feeling in the ankle area and discomfort. Still with the use of two crutches, I walked out of the office. It took me about 15 minutes to get to the parking lot but I didn't care. As soon as I got home I told myself that the next time I had an appointment, I was going to walk into the doctor's office without the use of crutches. I also drove for the first time in 8 weeks. I change my boot for a slipper everytime I get in and out of the truck but thats a very small price to pay for now. I had freedom once again. 

6/17/16 Today. I am down to ONE crutch. 3 days after I was cleared to walk. Swelling still remains, especially if I've been walking. The foot still looks discolored. Incision is healing. I continue to do my range of motion. I finally used the stairs normally instead of on my butt going down or doing tricep dips all the way up. My goal is no crutches by next week. 

Don't give up! If I've learned anything about this experience so far is that your body and your mind is amazing. If you are patient and push through it, you will get there. I've reached important milestones and still have a few to attain. But I know I'll eventually get there and maybe even sooner than I expected. 

Hopefully my story helps bring a little encouragement for those of you going through the same thing. I could probably write a novel about my experience so I'm definitely here for support. Chances are, I felt that, thought that, and feared that as well.

Stay positive! 

smile 

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  • Posted

    Thankyou for that broke my tibia, fibia and fractured my ankle got 2 plates ànd 15 screws came out of plaster last week after 6 weeks now in an air boot. Foot still swollen and have been getting very down as I can't walk as well as I want to. Hoping physio are going to ring me tomorrow because I feel right now that there's no light at the end of the tunnel.
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    • Posted

      Hi Sarah, I also broke my tibia and fibula in February, had orif surgery in March. I was nwb for 9 weeks and then told to walk. No moon boot just crutches. I did pwb for about 2 weeks then started trying with one crutch and then fwb no crutch. I am walking without any aid now, a very slight limp and a bit slower than normal. At one stage I also felt that I would never walk again, but here I am. Be positive and if you have been to physio and have exercises to do at home, do them, also massage the scar tissue. It is all important to get your full ROM back. The swelling will last for a long while, but the more you progress with walking the better it gets. Be positive and you will have a speedy recovery.
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    • Posted

      That sounds positive I'm just dealing with it being frozen forcing myself to walk on the frame at the moment trying with crutches must try harder. Waiting for physio to ring me tomorrow. Scar area still bit flaky so don't like touching to much only for washing.

      Just got told by consultant to rotate the ankle. All well and good when it's not stiff.

      I look forward to hopefully doing more by the end of the 2 weeks.

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    • Posted

      Hi Sarah. It looks like you're making progress! Daphne is right. It takes a while to get to that point where you feel safe about walking. Being positive and persistent with your exercises is key. Its hard though! I know. This weekend I went out almost all day and yesterday I was regretting it. My ankle was so sore and I was feeling down again. But for some reason my range of motion felt better! Its going to be uncomfortable and make you doubt your progress but listen to your body. It will tell you when its too much, when you have to give it a break, and when its ready to be pushed safely. Please keep updating us. Id love to hear about your recovery smile
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    • Posted

      Don't worry Sarah. My foot was pretty frozen for some time, but it does eventually thaw. I wasn't allowed to do the ROM until later (and was casted for 7 weeks), and I think the longer you are immobilized, the longer it takes to get the foot flexible again. I had also read a ton online and worried that I might have nerve damage, since it was so frozen, but it just needed time. I am at 17-1/2 weeks and ROM is great and that frozen feeling is gone. I still am a bit stiff in the morning or after I have been sitting for a while, but I can walk all over the place (with my plate and 13 screws) and am doing the stationary bike regularly. My slight limp gets better every week and isn't there if I slow down a little. Still it will take time to learn to run and do everything I used to do, I think up to a year or so, but that's fine with me, as I feel pretty normal at this point. Thanks for the positive post KRN3469! Happy for you!!
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    • Posted

      I found going back and forth, between the crutches and walker (frame) helped me to get the WB down that I neeed.  It is really all about getting strength in the foot as well as ROM, both those take time and work. It will come!!
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    • Posted

      I like those terms frozen and thaw. That's def the best way to describe it thankyou for that. And I so look forward to the thawing 😊
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  • Posted

    Hi Karen,

    I'm a nurse two and broken both ankles week after you accident. It's really nice to hear of a positive recovery, as I've struggle to find positive experiences.

    I'm now 7 weeks after my surgery and I'm in 2 moonboots, fully weight bearing on the left leg. Should be walking on the right within the next week and half.

    I'm getting physio at home for the next few weeks to get me going on my crutches. I have felt getting depressed for the past few weeks and have struggled to stay positive. Defo been one of the hardest things I've ever done and wouldn't have gotten through it if it hadn't been for my friends and family.

    I'm now on the way to recovery and everything is looking positive.

    Thanks Gemma 😀

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    • Posted

      You're a trooper Gemma! Everytime I'd feel myself starting to complain I'd remind myself that at least it was only one ankle and not both. I'm so happy for you that you'll finally be upright and on the road to recovery and walking. It definitely is a long process but we have to remind ourselves that we will get there. Slowly...but we will :D
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  • Posted

    I am so thankful for your story.  Similar injury, RT Fib fracture w/ligament damage 3/8.  Surgery 3/15, I'm a bit behind you as I didn't get the 'OK to GO' and walk till week 10 because had to have 2nd surgery week 9 to have syde screw removed (still plate with 10 smaller screws).  Pushed too hard, had to back off a few days.

    Today week 14, glad to say walking some unassisted in house, still use one crutch when out.  Still challenges every day, still pain & swelling, and need to push to get out more.  But boy, what a 'trip' it's been, no pun intended.  ;-) Felt like 'frozen in time' for so long.  Rolled off shoe getting out of car.  Simple, yet a life changing event for sure.    

    You are me and I am you in so many ways. The initial shock, having to give in to pain meds w/side effects, the crutches challenge, the showering experience, dealing with what felt like 'a ball & chain' boot, sleeping nightmare, stairs with butt, the loss of indepence, fear, house arrest leading to depression, loss of appetite, awkardness & the OMG more pain & swelling when beginning to walk, in & out of boot to soft shoe w/driving, etc.  All 'hit home.'  Especially the uncontrollable need to surf the internet for every single thought, slightest change, new pain or feeling .. numerous times a day.  Mostly causing me even more distress and the melts downs associated, feeling like a crazy person.

    You teared me up, giving me a sense of being normal vs the "I'm a wacko wimp, why can't I do this faster?" thoughts!!   Definitely encouraging and I thank you again for putting in the time to write your post.

    A push to stay positive.  Moving forward, one day at a time!!   

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    • Posted

      Thank you for your post angel! You get a sense of calm to know that someone else out there is feeling the same way you do dont you? I also felt like I was being a wimp sometimes. Especially the first week when I would cry at night after my parents were asleep because I felt so helpless not even being able to get up and go to the bathroom by myself. You are absolutely right about the "frozen in time." I feel like the last 8 weeks have been completely unproductive. However, Ive learned to truly treasure the ability to move and now somewhat walk. I'm no longer mad at myself for falling from 1 step down the stairs. I was just given a not so gentle reminder that we shouldnt take anything for granted. I agree with you. One day at a time! wink
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  • Posted

    I see your stubborn independence and fight it to get better has helped ;-). Staying off work is like a race mentally.....your coworkers are getting the job done and their getting kudos and your on the bench! Well don't worry about that one, that part dosen't exist !!!!! The fact is you had an accident; you get better; you go back to work; end of story! You use sick leave or work comp or med bills......fact of life, end of story. Make a new fact of life !!!! explore a possible new hobby, job opportunity keep you eye open for something to build on ;-p
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    • Posted

      Thank you Thomas! You're right. It happens, you overcome it and you move on. Today im really working on getting rid of the crutches. My personal goal is 1 week from today but I know I can safely do it sooner. Thanks for your words of encouragement!
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    • Posted

      Remember that old saying "don't push your luck", well you don't push it you just follow it ;-). Now, it's not luck, it's the healing process! Just keep you eyes on the horizon.....

      Report Reply

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