Walking after ORIF ankle surgery - a positive story 7 weeks in ...

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Hi guys, I am 7 weeks into my ORIF recovery. During my recovery I read a huge number of negative horror stories on here which no doubt put me in a negative frame of mind, however I want to give you a positive story to read. 

Whilst playing football I sustained a snapped fibula (weber B unstable fracture with talar shift) plus ruptured ligaments. The accident happened at 21st April, and I had the operation on the 29th April. (a long plate fitted and 8 screws). I opted to be part of a trial to go in a walking air cast 2 weeks post op following 2 weeks in a solid cast, with a view it will speed up the healing process. I would highly recommend this - it not only gives you a little more independence, but it allows you to take it off to do light movement exercises during the day, shower ... and when you're ready to sleep boot free! 

I am a very active person - I play competitive football, I gym 5 times a week, I love driving so there is no doubt the first few weeks were hell, and it's easy to see how people become depressed - I suddenly became dependent on everybody around me which I hated. However my advice is to stay positive (it does get better), make the most of the help around you - you would do the same for them, and immerse yourself in things you wouldn't normally do - even if it is crap day time TV or binging Netflix! (When in normal life do you get the opportunity to do that - and not be called lazy!) My fantastic mum also bought me some light dumbells so I could still do some lightweight upper body work  - this was not only good for me physically but also kept me (just about) mentally sane too. 

I had my 6 week check last week, and I was told the bone had healed nicely, and ligaments were on the way to recovering, so my surgeon said he wanted me to come out of the boot altogether, and start walking in normal shoes! I was hesitant at first - afterall my boot had become my comfort blanket, however he said to keep using the crutches until I felt comfortable enough to walk unassisted. 

I got home excitedly, put my crutches down and thought I would try walking on my own. I then stood up and physically couldn't do it. I knew it was all in my head but I couldn't physically but my right foot forward, I was scared of pain, causing more damage, falling over - so I got myself frustrated. I then decided to walk around with crutches building up the confidence, and more importantly getting my foot used to the new sensations of pressure-which it hadn't had for 6 weeks!

The next day I took my first step - (a very small, unsteady step) but it was enough to know I was on the right track, and I spent the next few days increasing the steps. I'm now a week post aircast, and I can walk a fair distance - with a small limp - something I never thought would be possible at this stage. Admittedly there is some pain when doing so - more the actual foot bones than anything else, and I will certainly still be using crutches when venturing outside - at least for the next few weeks, however I am definitely on the road to recovery. 

I actually made a youtube video showing my walking progress - so feel free to watch it

I hope this gives you guys some positivity during your recovery There is no doubt it's a horribly tough thing to get get through, however it does get better - if you have any questions please ask!

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  • Posted

    Joe,

    Thank you very much for your story. You are of course correct-- many of our forum postings are seemingly full of trauma and drama-- not for the faint of heart. But for us patients living through these challenges the pain and distress is very real indeed. There is no way to sugar coat this distressful situation.

    I welcome immensely stories from patients like you who aren't afraid to wade into the fight and fight to win. Since you are a very athletic and active individual it is doubly important for you to come out of recovery in the best shape possible.

    I'm still surprised to hear that some practitioners, like yours, expect ankle patients to jump right out of the boots (at 6 weeks post-op!) and start full weight walking unassisted. To me that is just plain foolish.

    In my opinion, the standard of care in ankle recovery should be graduated weight bearing in boot, first partial weight bearing with crutches or frame), then full weight bearing in boot, and finally progressing to full weight in regular shoes.

    At your current stage your bones should be out of the picture and now you have the challenge of soft tissue (ligaments, tendons, muscles, nerves, etc) recovery-- which can be a trying and lengthy period for many of us.

    Best wishes for a highly successful outcome.

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    • Posted

      Hi Kpower, I don't doubt that for a second - I know how hard this process can be. I was trying to do some good, and give others some positivity if they are early into their recovery to demonstrate there can be some good news. (Maybe I shouldn't have)

      I'm confused as to you calling it foolish - My surgeon is nationally recognised, and the leading ankle specialist with North West Anglia, and all due respect I believe knows what he is talking about. it would be great if you could expand on his foolishness? I'm sure he will want to know why he is too?  I was non weight bearing for 2 weeks, partial weight bearing for 4 weeks in the air cast, and now my bone is healed to a satisfactory level he wants me to gradually move to full weight bearing once I'm ready to ditch the crutches?!  

      Yes my next chapter is my ligament recovery, which again at this stage is going well, with 65% ROM. 

      My post was purely to help others if they were in the dark place I was over the last couple of months, and to give them a ray of light  - it was not to brag or to belittle others very tough recoveries. 

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    • Posted

      For your perusal - I am part of the UK based Ankle Recovery Trial (coordinated by Poole Hospital - however now being done UK wide).(google Ankle Recovery Trial Bournemouth - you will then see the incredibly positive results from their 2015 trial, and why they have now done it for the following 3 years!) If you read the trial website (as well as masses of medical trials and medical reports across the USA) you will see why my surgeon is so 'foolish'. 

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    • Posted

      PPS - if you read my post I have not jumped right out on the boot to full weight walking unassisted - I explained I am still using crutches? Only when I am ready will this change? 
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