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recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon – my treatment and my story part 1 + amateur athlete + blind + got young kids

November 4, 2015

So Part 1 of my story starts at week 10, after rupturing my Achilles tendon back in August. My life has been so turned upside down, that I have only just realised I should blog this.

I bust my Achilles tendon on a running track in August, overloaded it when doing a series of standing start hurdles and sprint starts. I won’t go into what it felt like when it blew in this post, but it’s still very fresh in my mind.

Diagnosed in A and E later that night (yep 5 hours of waiting) which is hard enough on your own but my partner and two young children were in tow and we were miles from the place we were staying.

Plaster cast applied to entire lower leg that night with foot in a strong downward point, toes poking out. Next day I saw the orthopaedic surgeon, who advised conservative treatment programme. This I think should also be called the low cost option for the NHS compared to surgery. Back then I was cross and felt perhaps cost considerations were outweighing my long term prognosis, whatever the surgeon said the evidence suggests (similar success rates for surgery versus conservative treatment), but now as you’ll read below I don’t feel like this.

So skipping forward over the last two months of, well, is there a word for it? I’m now at 10 weeks and walking again reasonably ok, but still in a brace boot.

The boot comes after the 6 weeks or so in plaster cast. The boot keeps your ankle at a mostly 90 degree position. When I came out of the plaster cast at 6.5 weeks, the plaster technician felt the active range of motion (AROM) of my ankle was ok enough for me to progress into the brace boot with a 2cm block rather than the usual 4cm block.

The 1st week of attempting to walk in the boot was very weird. The whole leg from hip down needed to re-learn how to walk. I could shuffle so it wasn’t like starting from nothing, but it was a shock just how much capability had withered away.

I’ve been moving around in the boot for 3 weeks and day by day been doing more walking practice. Not been going crazy, I’ve been keeping it low key, but making a careful effort to move around more like usual.

Week 1 in the brace boot (for me this was week 7 of the Achilles recovery programme) was double crutches, and just putting a little bit of body weight on the bad leg, a quarter or less at a guess. Enough to get the leg engaged in having to shift some load but not too much to ring alarm bells.

Week 2 in the brace boot (week 8) things speeding up, have dumped the bad-side crutch, not entirely, but more often than not. I’m automatically walking around the kitchen and even upstairs, keeping a careful track on the hand rail because the boot prevents normal ankle movement which is a killer for falling backwards when going up or down stairs! Leg strength is still really shaky, the quads and glutes are really weak, but I can make them work better now.

Week 3 in the brace boot (week 9 – 10) feeling ok to walk around for much of the day at home, and in the office where I do a mostly sit down job, without any crutches. I cannot do anything heavy with my upper body though. For those doing physical jobs requiring moving loads or anything needing strength, you just can’t do it without putting scary and probably very unwise pressures on the recovering Achilles area, even if you try to protect that area. I tried doing some small DIY jobs at home, sawing through a worktop made me realise that you need your whole body to be safe to do jobs like that and I wasn’t, so I haven’t done stuff that I wanted to do.

To conclude this post (I will post some more seeing as it is the biggest life event for years since having children) the recovering area on my bad leg feels very different from the good leg. When I first came out of the plaster cast, the bad foot and lower leg felt waxy, hard, like it was inflated with some solid wax, with bone structure just about feelable, but the skin was more like skin over marble than over my leg!

The hot bath that night was bliss though! This is the best bath one can ever have surely (apart from those recovering from worse things of course).

Gradually, over the last few weeks, my bad leg has started to feel more like my leg again, can even feel the veins beneath the skin on the top of my foot. However, the Achilles area is still buried in a kind of hard scar tissue, surrounding the recovering tendon. The tendon itself is feelable as a ridge along the hard tissue. I think it is just starting (at week 10 now) to feel a tiny bit more tendon like, but it is still a huge bar of tissue and nowhere near the normal tendon dimensions.

Next post I’ll talk a bit about what I’m able to do with my bad leg, what it feels like, and also start on the whole business of my experience using NHS services. The good and the bad, quite a lot of disappointingly dis-organised service, amongst good things too.

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