Exactly one year ago today my doctor told me I was allowed to walk again following trimalleolar surgery. Those were the words I had waited 67 days to hear after breaking my ankle last September. The surgeon had done his work and now it would be up to me to get back on my feet.
This last year has been the most difficult one of my life, physically and emotionally. But I’m happy to report I’m doing very well now. And I wanted to let everyone know that since there are so few success stories to be found out there.
Venturing into the unknown
When I started this “journey” I was given very little information about what was going to happen and how long it would take to recover. The physician’s assistant told me the best outcome would be that I would walk again. The way she said it was anything but encouraging. Yikes! I know they have to prepare you for the worst but at least they could also mention the possibility you could recover fully.
I was fortunate enough to get that reassurance from the wonderful nurses who were prepping me for surgery. One of them told me she had had trimalleolar surgery a few years ago and said she was just fine now. To demonstrate that she jumped up and down, skipped around and stood on her tiptoes. This is a woman who has to spend the whole day on her feet and she looked perfectly normal.
Thinking of her helps me get through the tough times.
How I’m doing after rehabbing my broken ankle for one year
An update on the physical problems
The physical problems I’ve been dealing with this last year are pain, swelling, numbness and stiffness. Last June I reported being 95 percent recovered and able to do almost all of my normal activities. I think it’s more like 97 percent now. A couple of things I can do now that I wasn’t able to before are running and jumping jacks. I can even walk around in high heels for a very short period of time.
And here’s the breakdown by symptom.
I have little to no pain walking most of the time and I am limp-free. Sometimes there’s soreness when I relax my foot and discomfort (and random sharp pains) during dorsiflexion. Sometimes my shins hurt too. Standing on tiptoe with the left leg hurts less than it used to. I attribute these pains to tight tendons and ligaments so I’ve been doing some new things in the last month that have made a big difference. I’m really excited about the results and will probably do a separate post on that later.
There’s still a bit of swelling depending on how much standing I do during the day. Swelling is limited to right around the ankle and not the rest of the foot as before. I’ve only felt the need to use the ice pack once in the last few months.
The numbness is virtually gone. I used to feel it when I barely touched the top of my foot. Now the only time I feel anything like that is when I’m massaging my foot. And even then it’s very, very faint.
My ankle moves pretty normally in all directions except for dorsiflexion. But that has improved recently as a result of the new things I’ve been doing with my therapy. I’ll just keep plugging away at it until I get to 100 percent recovery. My toes also used to be quite stiff but now are normal.
Photos of my ankle one year later
The left ankle is the one that had surgery. They look the most alike in the morning when there’s no swelling. The left one will always be a little bigger now with all the hardware installed. I don’t plan to have it removed because it’s not causing me any problems and I really don’t want another surgery.
An update on the emotional problems
I didn’t talk about it much before but the emotional challenges are almost as difficult as the physical ones. I’ve experienced fear, depression, helplessness, flashbacks and frustration.
These feelings are very much intertwined with my physical condition. And as it improves, they also improve. I still have frustration with not being fully recovered. And I still occasionally have flashbacks. Overall I feel better now knowing I can take care of myself in any situation I could handle before.
There’s one more thing I’ve been dealing with. The accident changed my identity. I became the girl with the broken ankle and that thought has been with me every moment of every day. Technically it’s not broken anymore and hasn’t been for some time. But every pain, every limitation, even the lack of pain when I’m used to feeling pain, is a reminder that I’m the girl with the broken ankle. I’m not going to be that girl anymore.
From now on, I’m the girl who is UNSTOPPABLE.