First, forgive my if I am not totally coherent. I am on powerful pain killers that are making me feel quite loopy and nauseous. To get straight to the crux of this, exactly one week ago I had completely severed my achilles tendon in a freak accident while training jiu jitsu. The accident occurred last Tuesday, I was diagnosed at the orthopedist on Thursday, and surgery to repair my ruptured tendon was today.
I’m going to chronicle my experience because as I was doing research on the web I wasn’t able to find many resources detailing the day to day recovery process. Also, considering that I am immobile and feeling quite useless, I figure documenting my recovery story might be helpful for someone else out there undergoing this same experience.
Surgery vs. Non-surgical treatment
From all my research online including meta-studies and a helpful and well referenced resource from UofM, surgical repair was the best option for my lifestyle for the following reasons:
- speed of recovery and return to sports
- return of maximal strength to my leg
- lower rate of re-rupture
Also, take this with a grain of salt, but professional athletes universally go for the surgical treatment option. I am no professional athlete but am extremely active so this data point was helpful in my decision making process.
My procedure involved general anesthesia, having a smallish incision along the ankle, and then stitching the two ends of my tendon together as well as anchoring the tendon into my heel.
I arrived at the hospital at 7:15 am and was checked in and ready to go by 8:45 am. The pre-surgery procedure involved changing into a gown, shaving my leg, getting an IV placed in my left arm, and being administered oral pain medication. Immediately prior to entering the operation room, I was given a sedative via IV and it kicked in immediately. I felt drunk, relaxed, and had the odd feeling of sinking into my bed. And then LIGHTS OUT.
I came too and wondered if the procedure was going to start yet. I looked down and saw that it was already completed and my leg was in a cast. There was zero concept of time but based on my discharge time, estimate that I was under for an hour and a half to two hours.
Post op-pain was significant but manageable I felt a dull ache in the ankle area and nausea from the anesthesia. I was given a dose of oral painkillers, given crutches, and discharged at 12:30 pm.
Day 0 Day of Surgery
I was prescribed an assortment of drugs to help me manage the recovery process. They are as follows:
- Hydrocodone/Acetamenophin for pain/inflammation
- Generic Zofran for nausea
- Aspirin for thinning the blood and preventing clots
- And Docusate Sodium to keep things moving in my digestive tract
My first hours following the surgery have been uncomfortable but not overwhelming. The pain medication dulls the sensation radiating from my ankle and the there is a general feeling of nausea but I haven’t had to puke yet (knock on wood). The most difficult part so far has been getting used to crutches and trying to prepare food for myself because both of my arms are occupied by crutches. So far, plain yogurt with dried fruit and vegetable curry packets from Trader Joes have been my friend.
Day 14 First Day with the Cast Removed and Unable to Walk
Two weeks of indoor life elapsed quickly. I was so busy with books, videogames, movies, and podcasts that I hardly felt bored. The first three days of pain were intense but afterward the pain fell off dramatically and turned into a mild discomfort. Hobbling around on crutches was an annoyance and I was glad to go to the doctor to be out of my cast and into a walking boot.
Don’t believe what you read on the Internet. Removal of sutures is not painless. It isn’t excruciating but it certainly registers on the pain meter.I’d liken the pain level to getting an IV placed in the arm. Luckily, I only had around 10 sutures in place so the process was relatively quick. A little bit of teeth gritting and some wincing and it was over.
With my cast off I am back to the freedom of a walking boot. According to my ortho I can do partial weight bearing with the aid of crutches but so far this has been a painful affair and I am afraid I am un-doing whatever repair was done to the tendon. I’m hoping that as the days pass this improves but as of now my tendon is still swollen and taught, my foot stuck in a pronated position. The rough schedule given to me is as follows:
- 2 weeks with 3 lift wedges in my walking boot
- 2 weeks with 2 lift wedges
- 2 weeks with 1 lift wedge
- 2 weeks with no lift wedges
As of Day 14, I am still unable to place much weight on my injured leg let alone walk. I’ll update this again in two weeks to track progress.