Tips On Preparing For Ankle/Foot Surgery

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I surely wish I had known more of the good, the bad and the ugly that the doctor does not tell you in how to better prepare for and what to expect during Ankle and Foot surgery.  I hope this discussion will also allow others to share tips on what helped them prepare.  

What you can do 1-2 weeks before surgery

Take on the nesting personality of a pregnant woman.  If you have not been pregnant or are a man don't worry I will explain. Nesting is getting the house clean and organized.  As you will be relying on others and will definitely lose control of how things are done around the house please know this alone can be a challenge for some.  I will admit I like my towels and sheets folded and stacked the same way and my pantry organized.  Well if you can just throw this idea straight out the window before surgery and get in the mindset that your support system will do the best that they can and I promise you will get it back organized down the road.  For me at week 8 I stood on one foot and refolded all my towels.  My husband said "oh that was so nice of the cleaning lady to do that!"

As you are preparing by cleaning and organizing keep in mind you do not want to be bending over looking thru bathroom cabinets for your every day items.  Put your daily items on the counter as it will make your life a whole lot easier.  I put a transport chair type small wheeled medical chair in my bathroom so I could sit to brush my hair and many weeks down the line put on make up. 

Do yourself a favor and get a shower chair.  You will not be able to stand to shower and also purchase a waterproof cast cover bag.  

Life will become much easier as well if you purchase a raised toilet seat for any bathroom you may use during your recovery.  I did not think of this until I was on the potty and wondering how long it would take until someone noticed I was missing and come rescue me.  If you don't believe me try to get up only using one foot and you will soon see the predicament.  It will save your care giver an emergency trip to the store.  They also sell handles if you feel these will help.  

You will not be getting out much and will not want to get out much for a while so ask your doctor for a 90 day refill on your prescriptions and get them all filled.  Same goes if you wear anything like daily contact lenses, take vitamins etc.  Speaking of vitamins after surgery I would suggest taking Biotin for skin healing, vitamin C for your immunity (I got a horrible cold after my surgery), vitamin D and B12 will keep your spirits and energy up as it is a long, boring at times and very different from your normal life as you know it life. 

Stock up on tissues as you may encounter some weepy moments the first few days after surgery.  At times I did not even know why I was crying but in talking to other foot surgery patients crying seems to be part of the process.  Have gauze pads, rolled gauze, alcohol pads,  betadyne and adaptic on hand if the doctor has you do any wound care down the line.  

Speaking of wounds if you are having plates, screws or bone grafts done there is a god chance your incision will have some difficulties healing.  Mine reopened after the stitches were taken out and I have met many people that have encountered the same thing.  It took one of my incisions 9 weeks to close and the same went for the people I have met.  Having the items on hand helps avoid an extra trip to the store.  

Cooking some meals ahead of time and freezing them will be helpful to your family and care givers.  For the first couple weeks when you are on pain medication everything tastes horrible and your stomach may be nauseous from the medication.  Keep crackers, English muffins, bread, eggs and light soups in the pantry to keep something in your stomach to help when the nausea.  If you like to make soup you could do this in advance and freeze it.  My neighbor made me homemade chicken soup and I will be forever grateful as it was the only thing that tasted good and that I actually wanted.  

I strongly suggest buying a knee scooter with a basket to help yourself carry little things you will need.  I have a 2 story home and actually got one for each floor.  You can buy them used on sites like eBay or thru garage sale sites on Facebook and then sell them when you are done.  The scooter is so much easier than crutches.  You will need crutches too as you become weight bearing and again I suggest a pair on each floor to make your life easier.  

The most important part is lining up as much help as you can get.  Your primary care giver is going to get tired too as you need medicine in the night and they run around taking on all of the extra responsibilities and it is hard for them to see you in pain.  Make sure you tell them ahead of the surgery how much you appreciate what they will be doing for you.  If you can line up people to help with driving your kids around, driving you to your weekly doctor appointments, help with cleaning or laundry it will make your life so ,uch easier.  Explain to your kids if you have them that they will need to be really understanding and helpful that you will need help for a while.  Tell them it may be hard to see you in pain and to see you possibly cry or struggle as you do certain things at time but assure them it will be ok and it is going to be hard for them to watch you be in pain.  I think it is easier when kid stops know what to expect.  Tell them ahead of time what they could help with such as carrying their folded laundry to their room and putting it away, helping with the laundry, helping load and unload the dishwasher etc.  

The day before surgery

Try to enjoy walking as you will not be doing it for a while.  Make sure you have a clear path to the sofa and to your bed without any obsticals in the way.  Mentally prepare that this is going to be harder than you expect and think about how you may encounter some other obsticals you are not expecting and just take some time to realize you can do this and get thru anything.  Obsticals you may ask....oh yes things happen.  I got a urinary tract infection from the catheter they inserted during surgery.  On top of the foot pain I had that pain and now had to get up every 15 minutes to use the bathroom which is not a fun task when you are in pain and on one foot.  I also had an allergic reaction to the pain medicine and had such a bad rash even the sheets hurt me.  You may feel overwhelmed and like it will never end but get yourself prepared by knowing anything you face will get better.  My daughter had ankle surgery the week before my surgery.  My husband is a true saint to have cared for us both at the same time.  But 2 weeks into her recovery she fell down the entire flight of stairs.  This is the stuff you do not plan for but can happen.  

The recovery is slow, boring and at times you feel like you are watching the hours pass by.  Try to have some things lines up that when you are feeling up to it can help pass the time.  Coloring books, drawing paper, a craft you can do while keeping your foot up etc help the day go by faster.   So purchase some colored pencils and have them ready.  Also start to work on the meaning of the word patience.  You will come to know this word well.  The word slow will come into new meaning for you too.  Oh and the word sleep will be your new best friend.  You will sleep a lot as you are recovering the first few weeks and will be exhausted as your body heals.  But it will get better as you enter into the later part of your recovery where you start weight bearing and therapy.  Then you will have a different kind of tiredness.  

I wish you the best outcome and be positive and celebrate every little improvement and step forward as you will be "stepping" again even though at times it seems so far away.  Always keep telling the people that are caring for you how much you appreciate them and thank them.  Believe me without them it would be impossible to have the surgery.  

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  • Posted

    Wow you haven't missed a thing! Thanks 

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    • Posted

      You are welcome.  I just wanted to give back a little to the people who will go thru it as there were some really helpful encouraging people who gave me advice when I reached out and asked a question.  It seems like a comment I read in so many posts is people not knowing if what they are experiencing is normal and they feel like they are alone in not knowing what to do.  
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  • Posted

    well stated, funny though, I am 20 weeks out, and was in a hard cast for 10 weeks before into a weight bearing boot, and when I seen my dr that day I made the statement that you need to put a disclaimer on this type of surgery on the pitfalls that will occur, he just laughed and stated it woould be like telling a lady about being pregnant, probably wouldnt do if they knew all the pitfalls. So well done
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    • Posted

      When I wrote this I thought about the book the girlfriends guide to pregnancy which I found hysterical and so true when I was pregnant.  It is all the things your doctor does not tell you that your girlfriends will.  I told my doctor that before they can do any surgery involving the feet and being non weight bearing they should have to go to a camp where they have to do all the things we have to do for an entire 3 months....hop, use stairs, shower getting bags on our feet trying not to move your foot at all because it will hurt, get into a pickup truck on the drivers side over the steering wheel, get up from the potty, carry a glass of water or dish of food.  My doctor was laughing at how pathetic it would be seeing a group if surgeons experiencing this together.  
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    • Posted

      I love this idea! Maybe they would be a bit more patient and apathetic and have a recovery sheet with helpful sites and ideas for patients. Why did we have to search all over the net to find this site for example? I would have loved if the surgeon or ortho would have told me. There is also a Facebook page btw that you can ask to join. I found it not as helpful as this, but interesting. There are way more people on that one, so there is almost info overload. 
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  • Posted

    Awesome reply. I think you touched on all the things one should get ready. I would only add a few things. Getting in and out of the tub, even with a chair, a grab bar might be helpful. I guess if you have a walk-in, it wouldn't be necessary. Also, you can put your soap in a nylon knee-high and tie to your shower chair. Ice packs.

    This is the waterproof cast cover I bought...Seal Tight Freedom Cast and Bandage Protector, Best Watertight Protection, Adult Leg.

    The scooter I found on Craiglist was a lifesaver. I had my nephew put in a ramp, in my garage, so I could just roll out of the house. He made one using a sheet a plywood, and re-inforcing with 2x4's.

    Good Luck

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    • Posted

      All are wonderful suggestions.  It is great to have other ideas so people can prepare.  Thanks for adding your thoughts.  
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  • Posted

    This was so excellently written by Rockin1shoe and the comments were fantastic too!  It takes a lot of time to have written all that, and that was so nice of you to do it for others! It is a great way to give back to stay on this site a while after you are healed, as life gets really busy again and it is easy to drop off just when you can give the most advice to help others. I wish this website was a bit more organized so everyone could easily search by keywords to find prior posts like this a bit more easily, as it would help people so much. I would add to get some Epsom salt for baths, as I found they helped a lot (when you can get to that point of bathing). I found a walker was helpful, but I only used it during the 4-5 week weight bearing period, as well as the crutches (which I primarily also used during this period of time because I loved the knee scooter). The walker helped to allow me to put just the right amount of weight on the foot, and increase it daily. I found it was harder to do that with the crutches alone and to feel stable- plus the crutches hurt your hands a lot if you use them too much. The walker allows you to use your hands to lean on it to balance your weight between your arms and legs until you can get your injured ankle stronger day by day. If you borrow or rent one, get one with a seat that pulls up so you can put things in it to carry with you. The seat is awesome on it as well. Also, besides the basket on your knee scooter which is a life saver, I also got a coffee cup holder for the scooter for my drinks and a small shoulder bag and/or backpack to carry things. To have some anti-inflammatories available for the weight bearing period would also be helpful (I used Motrin)- but not during the bone healing time, because it can inhibit bone growth. Use tons of pillows to prop your leg up (I sometimes used 6 in all). Get used to sleeping on your back. One day you will be able to sleep on your side again. I promise!  Get some massage creams for when your cast or boot comes off (I tried so many and loved an organic arnica and MSM one called naturelieve by Alpha Natural Health). I even wrapped my ankle in fresh comfrey leaves I found online that were shipped to me (which I would grind up in a food processor and were quite messy- I would wrap my ankle in seran wrap and leave them there for several hours) to help with healing. I'm not sure you have to go that far, but my ankle did turn out well, so who knows if that helped too. Eat a bone healing diet (there is a lot of info on the web). Don't drink caffeine or alcohol until the bone healing stage is over. You will be tempted to do so, but I fell off my knee scooter after on marguerita in Mexico after doing so. You will be affected by the alcohol a lot after not having it for over a month or months, so beware. And it is not great for bone healing- but I must say it made my ankle feel great for a few hours that night when I did it!  If you have access to a cold water pump like Game Ready, it will change your life for icing. I also found an extra large Chattanooga ColPac Cold Therapy wrap worked great. I put a pillow case over it and wrapped it all the way around my ankle. I had two - one in the freezer and the one I was using, so I was always ready. It took me a long time to find this and I wish I had known about it earlier. Also, try gel wraps for your crutches. Your palms will get so sore from normal crutches. If you can have someone to bring you some warm meals in bed on a tray, that helps your spirits so much as well. My doctor gave me a temporary handicapped parking pass for my car in the US, so I could drive (since it was my left ankle I broke). I felt so much freedom being able to drive places.  I would keep my crutches nearby in the car and crutch to the back of my car (borrow and SUV if you don't have one) and then I could pull my knee scooter down from the back of the car just fine, and throw my crutches in the trunk and be on my way. When my cast came off 8-9 weeks later, I was able to swim before I could walk and that was one of the most magical, healing and freeing things I had done in months. I made me feel alive again. Happy Healing! This too shall pass!

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    • Posted

      Thanks for adding all of that excellent advice too.  I used many of those things and I found ice behind my knee to be so comforting as I would not get cold enough thru all the layers of the splint.  I am not back on the anti inflammatory pain reliever too since I started walking with the boot and as I write this I have my foot up on 5 pillows and the back of the sofa cushion after making my first grocery store trip in 10 weeks.  I am in the US too and I agree about the handicap pass as it is so helpful.  I had to switch vehicles with my parents that live nearby because I have a tall pickup truck and it was very difficult to get in on the drivers side.  The passenger side was easier but trying to pull myself up with the steering wheel was not easy.  I just feel so much lighter in my spirits now that I have been allowed to start walking and I am using my step counter to see how I can go a little further each day which is really fulfilling to see the progress in only 3 days walking.  
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    • Posted

      I used a Fit Bit and loved it! That is another great suggestion you added here too!  I also iced the back of my knee and found it really helpful, while I was in a cast for a few months. The other thing is I did a bunch of arm exercises to pump the blood through my body to heal the ankle (from week 3 on). I think that helped too. It certainly made me feel less confined in bed and lifted my spirits. Also, playing with babies and children on the floor takes your mind off this as well. My daughter visited and brought by her 3 young ones to my house several days a week who kept me busy and kept my mind off the injury (I'm a young grandma). I could actually help her a lot with holding the babies & riding the kids around with me on my knee scooter and everyone gained from it!

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  • Posted

    My ankle surgery was from a injury (I slipped on ice) so I had no time to prepare. But all the things you suggested, small wheel chair, raised toilet seat, shower chair are all needed. I love my scooter. I take biotin for hair loss and had no idea it helped with skin healing, thanks for that. I am also taking symphytum. You really made me feel better reading your message as I am 4 weeks past orif surgery. Thanks again
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    • Posted

      Keep feeling better.  I found once I got to week 8 there is a lot of forward progress and you get to participate in your healing much more as you enter into therapy and stretching and having home exercises to do.  Gaining back mobility will be so uplifting so hang in there it gets better. 
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  • Posted

    This should be printed out and given to each ankle surgery patient! I got some great crafts ,a towel crate which I stencilled and painted, also puzzles are good and I did crosswords. Tell family and friends to bring gifts of meals and fun things like that instead of flowers.

    In the evening when I was in a lot of pain I would massage sore muscles in other parts of my body such as my neck, knee or hip to distract from my pain. I found this really worked, your brain tends to focus on the part you are massaging. I had some nice recovery for sore muscles salve from Sage an essential oil store. I also purchased pain release and it smelled so good.

    I also lifted up my casted leg vertically and massaged behind my knee and right up to my hip, this stimulates blood flow and just feels good.

    I wish I would have bought the leg wedge on Amazon and also the cast cover. My Can boot got wet once and still is dripping 3 weeks later. The chair for the shower is a Godsend and yes I did get the toilet seat.I couldn't use the knee scooter as I have bad knees so I rented a wheel chair and it was great , especially for outings later on in the Canadian snow! I also had a great little bin for all my toiletries and pain meds.

    My friend used one of those Iwalks I call it his peg leg and he really liked it, but with my bad knee again it didn't work for me.

    Yes a manual should be made "Ankle Fusion for Dummies because it is so much harder than they say.

    It got my boys to cook there first turkey dinner at Christmas, and they did great(they are 19,22 and 25 so don't worry)

    Try to stay calm and resign yourself to the fact it will be a long journey and you really need to focus on you for a change. Everyday gets you a bit closer to your goal of walking pain free. I'm at week 9 and still waiting. Keep your chins up!!

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    • Posted

      Margie all great suggestions and thanks for adding your input.  So my daughter had a similar but less complicated surgery a week before me.  There is a big difference in healing time between a tween and an adult but I wanted to say that she used the i walker before her surgery and she is so young and balanced as she dances.  However the doctor was very strict with both of us to say do not use it ever post op because it is so easy to fall on and the way your leg is positioned and strapped in can really cause damage to the surgery site.  So we sold it.  Just something to keep in mind but she did enjoy it when we went on vacation while she was in a cast before surgery for sure.  My daughter played chopped and would just make somethjng out of what she could find in the fridge and had a lot of fun cooking for me too and she is much younger than your boys so it is good for them to learn all those life skills.  I agree about focusing you yourself.  That can be hard for those of us used to doing so much for those important people in our life.  I will be at week 11 on Wednesday and I really started cruising with progress at week 9 so you are going to see a lot of progress now.  I am using my fit bit to track my steps and it is fun to see how I am improving each day.  Just something to consider to help cheer yourself on.  
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