Unstoppable by Lynda Makara

Broken ankle recovery: one year later

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.

persistence and determination

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.

Pain

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.

Swelling

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.

Numbness

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.

Stiffness

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.

Related posts

Broken ankle recovery: learning to walk again

Rehabbing my broken ankle

My magic shoes for broken ankle recovery

22 replies
  1. Blair
    Blair says:

    Hi! I’m also one of the tri-mal family. I am happy to report that I am now 13 months post-op (original surgery 7/5/2018) and doing great. I know firsthand how many of you are feeling, especially in the early stages of recovery and rehab. I am a 64-yr. old retired RN and had no idea how difficult this journey would be. After many months of PT plus my own rehab efforts, I returned to yoga classes and short hikes at 5 months and the tennis court at 8 months and plan to resume snow skiing this winter. I recently went paddleboarding and took a 7-mile hike. My ankle is strong and has been mainly pain-free (infrequent “twinges”) without any swelling for many months. I do notice that my ROM, especially dorsiflexion and plantar flexion are not back to normal yet. I am now trying to decide whether to remove hardware or not and would appreciate any input about that. Hang in there everyone….you WILL return to normal function!

    Reply
    • [email protected]
      [email protected] says:

      Hi Blair, thank you for sharing your experience! It doesn’t sound like the hardware is causing you any problems and I don’t think removing it will help get back your ROM. After much research I believe the problem is likely due to tight achilles tendon, weak calf muscles and scar tissue. But it sounds like you are doing great so far!

      Reply
  2. Mary Ross
    Mary Ross says:

    Thanks for your posts. I had an accessory navicular, men for 9 weeks before surgery( 5/23/19), and 4 more weeks after. Started on crutches, then 1 crutch, then cane, first steps on 7/5/19, and then today is first longer walking! (7/13). I also used a knee scooter. My steps have a limp and some atrophy pain, but finally feel I am making progress!

    Reply
  3. JC
    JC says:

    Thank you for documenting your recovery. Your struggles, progress, and various tips have been very helpful to me. I am currently recovering from a trimalleolar fracture. I got the go-ahead to put weight on my ankle 9 days ago and immediately purchased a pair of Vionic shoes. Thanks for the recommendation! I own 3 pairs of Vionic sandals but wasn’t aware that they make athletic shoes as well. I’m working hard doing my physical therapy exercises, but am disappointed that I am unable to walk without limping. In fact, I really can only be in my tennis shoes for a couple of hours before the pain becomes unbearable and I have to put my boot back on. Did you also experience this?

    Reply
    • [email protected]
      [email protected] says:

      Hi JC, I’m glad you’re finding my tips useful and that you love your Vionic shoes! You’re doing really great if you’re able to walk after nine days. It took me 20 days and another month or so to walk without limping.

      I never wore the boot again after I was released from the doctor. And I didn’t wear my Vionic shoes all day every day. Sometimes I would wear them around the house for a little bit and the rest of the time I wore slip-on house shoes but took them off when sitting.

      My foot would swell more after walking and that’s normal. You really need to put your foot up as much as possible during the day and use ice packs. When my foot would start to feel like that, I knew I had done enough for that day and would relax for the rest of the day with my foot up (barefoot).

      This is a long recovery process and things will gradually get better. You’re doing really well so far. Take care!

      Reply
  4. Leann Wilson
    Leann Wilson says:

    Hi,

    Your story sounds quite a bit like mine and the pics look alike as well. I broke mine in Dec of 17, casted 2 weeks after surgery and cast lasted 5 weeks. I had no boot as Dr. said I did not need it. I had 2 plates (one very long, one normal, and what they call a Tightrope through my ankle, which is a sort of nylon cord to keep everything in place). I sit at a desk to work (thank goodness!) and keep it elevated still today as I still have issues with swelling and stiffness. I think I’m 17 months post accident. I have now developed a bulging disc in my lowest lumbar area and also a lovely case of stenosis. I cannot stand or walk very long due to the back pain. I don’t think my PT was very good for my ankle as they were more concerned with my back for some strange reason. I’m considering asking my surgeon for a referral to a different physical therapy place. I hope it helps as I truly want to be normal again. Top of my foot is also still numb and now I’ve developed weird pain on the bottom of my food, somewhat like a stone bruise. I am hoping this is just the nerve healing.
    Anyway, your story did give me hope. thank you.

    Reply
    • [email protected]
      [email protected] says:

      Hi Leanne, I’m sorry to hear about the problems you’ve been having since the accident. I hope that things will improve soon.Take care!

      Reply
  5. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    Thank you for posting this. I broke my ankle in Sept 2018. I do not have full range of motion and it is frustrating. I am grateful for people like you who have posted their journey. It gets very frustrating. You have been very thorough on physical, and emotional.
    I appreciate it! I was told they are going to give me a cortisone shot to help my ankle but I am a bit leary taking it. I am wondering if it will help or hinder me more….sigh. It has been a long process. Thank you again for posting such a knowledgeable post that contains a lot! 🙂

    Reply
    • [email protected]
      [email protected] says:

      You’re welcome, Debbie! I really tried to cover everything.

      You’re not going to have full range of motion for a very long time to come. And it doesn’t just happen with time; it takes consistent effort and fighting through pain.

      Keep in mind that a cortisone shot is not going to “heal” anything. I personally wouldn’t do it, but please do more research before making that decision. Best of luck to you!

      Reply
  6. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    I broke my ankle on December 8th 2016 the night before my 30th birthday omg I had surgery on December 13th right now I am currently in a boot it wasn’t cast needed but it’s NWB at the moment that’s been about a month since I had surgery now I go to the doctor tomorrow to see what’s next. This has been very emotional, depressing, & hard for me.. I have a 2 month old son so it’s very challenging. How bout carrying a baby while scooting down the stairs or trying your hardest not to fall from your crutches slipping under your arms. I went from being 100% healthy to this. I love heels I can’t imagine not being able to wear them anymore.. but I need encouragement during this process because it’s plenty of days I just want to give up..

    Reply
    • [email protected]
      [email protected] says:

      Hi Andrea,

      My heart really goes out to you during this very difficult time. I don’t think I could have done what you’re doing, taking care of a baby, when it was all I could do to haul myself around. I hope you have somebody to help you.

      Pretty soon you’ll be given the okay to start walking again and then things will begin to improve. It’s a very slow process that I outlined in my first article on the subject.

      You’ll be able to wear heels again eventually. If you love them that much it will give you something to work towards. Maybe not 8″ stilettos though 🙂

      All the feelings you’re having are normal. Just hang in there because in a couple of months things are going to be so much better. I know you can do it! You’re a strong woman and you’re going to be even stronger when all this is over. Take care!

      Reply
  7. Anne walsh
    Anne walsh says:

    Hi Nikki,

    Yes go on vacation.!! I had Surgery 6th for double ankle fracture with a plate screws on outer side and screws on inner side. My right ankle. I left for Chicago dec 18th. Went over everything with the Surgeon and went for a visit before leaving to reassure myself and to be sure my ankle was healing well. Everything looked good and they gave me a boot NWB. It was Short flight. In Dec 25th left Chicago for Vancouver. Got an upgraded seat with more leg room and rested my foot on my husbands knee!!! That helped so much. On dec 31st 2016 another even longer flight from Vancouver to Newark. No upgrade but still rested my leg on my husbands knee and put a bright Christmas scarf over the boot that was sticking out slightly in the aisle!! Then finally another flight to Raleigh and got home 12 hiyrs later but detoured to ring in the New Year at a neighbors hiuse across the road. I could nut have managed without my knee walker. I used the knee walker to get to my seat and my husband took it out straight away for gate check. I rested 1 full day in Vancouver and mornings in Chicago. I loosened the boot night after flights..very important. I had my check up last week and 2 more weeks and Physio starts and boot goes!! Will be a strange transition. Boot off new around house but wish I had something to protect ankle from hitting things. I use knee pads on the stairs which makes a huge difference. Go on vacation. Even with restrictions it was great to see family!!! Good Luck.

    Reply
  8. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    I broke my ankle walking with girlfriends in the bush. Regular excersice routines. Brake happened Oct 15th. Surgery Oct 21st. 2 plates and 14 screws. I broke 3 bones. Currently FWB with crutches and walker. Ive been Eating clean and going to therapy since November 15th. Kicked the opiedes on the weekend and trying to stay sane for the Christmas Holidays. I’ve cried several times reading your story and the other stories. Everyone’s story hits home in some sense or another. It’s a long hawl… but we got this. !!! We will be strong again. I do have a question with regards to sleeping. I find I have up to 70 minutes a night of restlessness ( fitbit informs me ) i feel tired like i didn’t sleep Did you experience this trauma? You mentioned a pillow?

    Reply
    • [email protected]
      [email protected] says:

      Hi Caroline,

      My sleep was very fitful, first when I had to wear that darn boot night and day, then later after becoming FWB I was in constant pain. I slept with my legs on a flat, soft pillow for several months because my foot was so sensitive. I definitely was conscious every time I had to roll over or reposition myself. So I would say your restlessness is normal.

      I was able to nap frequently and I suggest you do the same if you can. This is a time when your body needs as much rest as it can get to heal itself.

      I became extremely fatigued from the day of the accident and for at least three months afterwards. It seemed like I spent more time sleeping than anything else. But that’s what my body was telling me and I respect its wisdom.

      You’re doing great with the clean eating. I hope you’re able to stay away from pain medication because I think you’ll heal better and faster without it.

      Pain, swelling, fatigue and stiffness are the new normal but they will all pass in time. You ARE strong and I know you’ll be walking on your own very soon. Good luck!

      Reply
  9. Melanie H.
    Melanie H. says:

    Your story of how you broke your ankle hit home. I broke why I go on October 12, 2016. I had surgery, and the stitches were removed a little while it later. And I spent six weeks in a surgical boot all non-weight-bearing. A week and a half ago I was given the OK to put weight on my foot but I had to wear the boot.

    Everything that you described in your story in terms of how you felt, what you did and how you got through your ordeal is similar to how I am feeling. I’m a ballroom dancer and I can’t wait to go back to that activity. I can walk a little on my own at the moment but don’t want to push it. I think I’m a little stronger. Thank you for telling your story. It gives me hope that I will go back to ballroom dancing sooner than later and my life will move forward.

    Reply
    • [email protected]
      [email protected] says:

      Hi Melanie,

      I’m glad my story is giving you hope. I was able to resume dancing fairly quickly and I have no doubt that you will as well. Let me know how it goes and good luck with your recovery!

      Reply
  10. Nikki Weiss
    Nikki Weiss says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I also have had a trimalleolar fracture and have had two surgeries. My ankle injury occurred on Nov. 6, 2016 from falling down a short plight of stairs. My first operation was on the same day as my injury, where the surgeon positioned my ankle, but due to swelling, I had to wait until Nov 14, 2016 for my second operation. I have 8 screws and a plate now. I still have the cast which will come off on Dec. 23rd.
    I am suppose to be FWB on Dec. 23rd, 2016. I will begin PT shortly after.
    I had no idea what to expect until I read your post. I am hoping to be able to drive by the end of January 2017. Do you think this is possible given that my right ankle is injured?

    I am scheduled to travel with my children (8 and 10) and a few other friends to the Carribean on February 1st. I am now worried that this will probably be impossible given my injury.
    I’d appreciate any advise, recommendations, or suggestions.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • [email protected]
      [email protected] says:

      Hi Nikki, I’m sorry to hear that you had to go through two surgeries. I definitely think you’ll be able to drive in January. I was driving 10 days after being FWB and my bad leg had to operate the clutch which is much harder to do than the gas or brake pedal. If you had a problem you could always cheat and use your left leg for the brake.

      Your Caribbean trip may not be impossible but will probably be quite difficult. You may need to use a walker or a cane. Handicapped people do travel all the time. You’re going to need to go at a slower pace and rest frequently.

      In preparation for this trip, and for learning to walk again, right now do exercises to strengthen your leg such as leg lifts and isometrics. Make sure that you’re getting enough rest and that your nutrition is impeccable. I’ve outlined more details in my post Rehabbing my broken ankle.

      Get started with your PT as soon as possible after becoming FWB and be very diligent with it.

      I hope this is helpful and please come back and give me an update on the Caribbean trip. Good luck!

      Reply

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