Pain and Progress: My New Life Story, Apparently

I started physical therapy last week, and my second appointment—on Thursday—was so brutal that I ended up having to duck out of work early Friday afternoon because of the pain. (And as someone who already works from home, I only take sick time when I absolutely cannot focus on my job.) I spent the entire weekend on the couch babying my ankle, feeling sorry for myself and wondering if I’d ever recover.

Last night I told my therapist to take it easy on me, and explained my reaction to the last session. We backed off the weight-bearing exercises and focused on stretching and range-of-motion stuff, as well as strengthening my core and glutes (apparently if you do nothing but sit on the couch for two months, your ass gets weak).

But she also put some tape on my ankle—the kind that has a pre-tape and then the actual tape goes on top of it—along the foot, right underneath where the separated bone fragment is still hanging out.

I’m not even kidding, as soon as she put it on my ankle felt stronger. The pain I usually felt when standing up went down a bit, too. How could a piece of tape could make my ankle feel stronger than an actual stabilizing brace? I am still not sure what kind of sorcery this stuff is, but I hope it stays on until I can get to my next appointment and figure out the trick.

I iced my ankle when I got home, as recommended, and then realized I could walk fairly easily around the house with no brace. The tape really does stabilize my ankle. I have no idea if it’s all in my head, but I don’t care. I still can’t twist my ankle or bend down, and I walk with a limp since I can’t bend my ankle in normal walking fashion yet—but a limp without crutches is a definite improvement.

On Friday morning I was convinced I’d never recover, and now I’m starting to feel like there’s a chance I’ll fully recover in time for all of the fun spring/summer activities I’ve got planned. (Cross your fingers and toes, y’all, because I really need to get out of the house again.)

The light at the end of the tunnel

I had my 8-week follow-up at the ortho doc last week, and unfortunately I’m not entirely healed yet. He said he could see the bone fragments were “trying to heal back” with the rest of the bone, but there was still one chunk that wasn’t cooperating. It’s likely why I’m still having a decent amount of pain, especially when touching that specific spot.

The doc (well, PA) said that it’s likely the bone chunk will stay put, but should smooth out and hopefully not cause pain forever. Or it might cause pain forever. It might just be when something presses on that spot (you know, like a SHOE). We’ll just have to wait and see how much trouble it’s going to cause me. :/

In better news, I was told to start transitioning out of my boot into a brace around the house, with the intention to start physical therapy and transition from the brace to nothing. Armed with the info that it’s not likely I’ll injure the ankle any further at this point by trying to walk on it (carefully, though, as it’s still weak and could buckle), I started using the brace around the house. I quickly discovered that I could walk easily with the brace and one crutch, and after a couple days of doing that I’m able to sort of limp around with the brace and no crutch. I was even able to walk to the mailbox with the brace! I had to use a crutch to help me, though. I’m still not good at stairs or uneven terrain, and I’m trying to take it slowly. It’s hard to tell if the tendons are still injured or if everything is just tight because of lack of use, but I definitely don’t want to push too hard.

I start physical therapy tonight, which I’m excited about. I’ve always had relatively weak ankles that have plagued me while hiking (basically I’m slow af going over rocks or other uneven spots because my ankles would roll easily), so I’m hoping that in addition to rehabbing this ankle I can learn how to strengthen them both so I can get back out into the woods without having to worry about injuring myself again. (Because apparently now that I’ve broken and sprained my ankle it’s more likely it will happen again. Yay.)

After two months of what felt like little to no progress, it seems like a lot of improvement has happened in just the past two or three days. I’m not sure if that’s normal, but I’ll take it.

Life on crutches

Spoiler alert: It sucks. Actually, that’s probably not much of a spoiler alert since it seems as though most people I talk to have been on them at some point in their life already. I guess it’s a testament to my luck that this is the first time I’ve broken a bone. (We’re not counting the toe I likely broke when I drunkenly slammed it into a table leg several years ago.)

I’m extremely lucky that I work from home, so my day-to-day hasn’t been inconvenienced in a way that affects my job performance or ability to get to and from work.

But everything else has been affected, and a lot of things I used to barely think about doing are now incredibly inconvenient. I can’t get into or out of the shower on my own, I have to use a chair once I’m in there, and it takes forever to get dressed. I shower at night now because I don’t want to have to get up a couple hours earlier in the morning—and I don’t even dry my hair anymore. Since I broke my ankle four weeks ago, I think I’ve put product in and dried my hair twice.

Things like forgetting a piece of clothing in another room turn into a logistical nightmare. There is no more quickly getting up and grabbing something I forgot somewhere. I’m fairly quick on the crutches now, but I can’t carry anything unless it can be held in my hand along with the crutch grip. I drink all of my water out of Nalgene bottles that have a loop attached to their caps. My snacking has been cut down considerably because if I can’t fit it in my pocket, I’m not able to carry it back to my desk. I plan out my trips to the bathroom to maximize my time being upright—I’m constantly scanning rooms and making mental notes of things I need to move or bring back with me before I sit down again.

I’m incredibly lucky that Ian has been able to help me with literally everything, though. Since this happened, he’s been cooking every meal and bringing it to me on the couch. He comes home at lunch to let the dogs out/in (I can do this now, but if it’s wet outside I’m unable to wipe their feet down), fix me lunch and carry it over to my desk for me to eat it. He’s been walking the dogs, cleaning the house (I did manage to clean the kitchen and the bathrooms at one point, but I paid for it with foot swelling and ankle pain later), carrying my foot-elevating pillows from the bed to the couch and back again every day, and moving stuff around the house that I can’t carry, which is almost everything.

When I do have to leave the house, he has to help me down our steep staircase in front of the house. He takes my right crutch and I hold onto him and the left crutch as I try to put the least amount of weight on my right foot for each step down. We repeat the process for getting back into the house.

My insurance finally approved a monthly rental of a knee scooter, but it’s not as big of a help as I thought it would be. It’s got a basket on the front, which helps me carry small things to and fro, but it’s cumbersome to move in small spaces and I keep running over my left foot when I try to back it up to navigate around things.

I tried putting some weight on my foot while in the boot this weekend and it was slightly liberating—but now my ankle hurts worse than it has for a week or two. So now I’m back to taking it easy and not pushing things. The pain isn’t always terrible, but I’m not a huge fan of pain killers and have been trying to not take them unless I think I won’t be able to sleep because it hurts too much. (For reference, I just finished the bottle of 20 that I was prescribed in the ER the night I broke my ankle. It was meant to last three or four days.) I really hope when everything is healed I don’t have lasting issues from this, but the more people I talk to the more worried about that I get.

I’ve never been good at waiting, but that’s all I can do now. I feel a little relief that this happened in the middle of winter and not right as the weather was changing to lovely spring days, because I’d likely be spending most of my time indoors anyway. It’s been chilly and rainy most days, and the dogs have been mostly content to sit on the couch and chill. We did start sending Stella to camp twice a week instead of once so that she doesn’t get too bored (or fat) from not leaving the house as much as she’s used to, but Star Fox has been more than happy to stay inside with me so I don’t feel too guilty.

I miss being able to do a lot of things, but most of all I’ll be glad when I can walk the dogs again. That’s probably what I miss the most.

It's a wild Saturday night at my house.