Friday, December 31, 2010

Week Twelve

Wednesday, December 22nd, was twelve weeks post-surgery. That afternoon I came home from work and spent some time sitting at the computer, and noticed my ankle was a little stiff when I finally stood up. Immediately I thought of my arthritis days, and the stiffness was familiar. But... there was no more arthritis so I wasn't sure what the stiffness was from. When I asked my physical therapist about it on Thursday, he said the muscles were sore and stiff, not the joint, and that sensation was perfectly normal after surgery.

On Friday morning I woke up not feeling so well but went to physical therapy anyway. The two hours there exhausted me and when I got home I spent most of the day resting and sleeping. My husband had been sick and I knew I was fighting off a sinus infection of my own.

The next day I woke up still not feeling 100% but feeling a little better, and I was having company over so I had to push myself through the day. My ankle was sore but amazingly I did well, standing up and walking around, cooking and cleaning and hosting. The year before there was no way I would have been able to do all that. The pain I was experiencing was not anywhere near as bad as it had been in before the surgery. I was happy to be able to enjoy my holiday!

Over the weekend we had a huge snowstorm and I did not go into work or to physical therapy. The snow was just too deep and there was no way I'd be able to navigate through it. Could have been just as well, since I still was fighting a sinus infection and not feeling 100%. I would have to make sure I did my exercises that day, but not push myself too hard.

On Tuesday I saw my doctor for a follow-up exam and he was very happy with my progress. The incisions were healing well, there was no swelling, and he could see that my ankle was getting stronger. He felt I was progressing better than average; I thought maybe it was because I was younger than average replacement patients and he said that was only part of it. He said he chooses his patients very carefully; he only chooses patients who are motivated, and that I was! Although my full range of motion would never return, it would get better and I was determined to live a "normal" life again. Just being able to do things I hadn't been able to do in over a year were very inspiring to me.

That day I hadn't been using my air cast at work, I used a cane instead. I had been worried about walking longer distances but I seemed to be doing fine. My doctor wanted me to push myself more and use the cane less, if at all. He felt my ankle was strong enough to handle more walking without assistance. He also wanted me to continue working on my stretching exercises to help loosen up my Achilles tendon, which he had stretched during the surgery.

I asked my doctor what I should do if I twisted my ankle. Of course I wasn't planning on doing this, but the thought did occur to me, especially with all the snow and ice outside. Plus I knew once I was ready, I'd be hiking again. My doctor told me to see him immediately if I should twist my ankle; he would take x-rays and make sure everything was okay.

At the end of the follow-up I received clearance to go back to work full-time. I was ready, although I knew I would be tired at the end of the day!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Week Eleven

Wednesday, December 15th, was eleven weeks post-surgery. Physical therapy was still going well and I could feel my ankle getting stronger and stronger.

On Saturday I went to the library and did not wear my air cast. I knew I wouldn't be walking too far or standing very long. My ankle did well, it was sore but I noticed that I was trying to walk a little faster than I really was able to. Sneakers with a bit of a heel were more comfortable and helped me walk a little easier, as opposed to sneakers with a flatter bottom.

That day I also used the vertical leg press machine at physical therapy, and did a calf-raise with my left foot using the lowest weight on the machine. Just a few weeks earlier I had not been able to do that!

Sunday I spent most of the day cleaning the house, this time not wearing my air cast. I took small breaks now and then and my ankle felt relatively good. It was sore but tolerable, and icing it helped.

On Monday I did a few new exercises and my legs were very sore afterward. Those muscles got a good workout! It felt good to be able to move on to new things at physical therapy... and I knew that having that "beat-up" feeling afterward was a good sign that I was becoming stronger and stronger.

I hadn't been wearing the air cast at home for a few weeks now, and was walking very well in my "indoor shoes." I noticed that sneakers like Skechers helped more because they had a bit of a heel, which helped my foot push up while walking. Walking barefoot was a bit easier as well, but the shoes helped much more and I realized I was able to walk with less of a limp.

By Tuesday I was feeling ready to take off my air cast when I went to work, but I decided not to just yet. Although I spent my days at work primarily sitting, I was concerned about walking from my car into the building to my office. My ankle strength was definitely improving but I didn't want to push myself too far just yet.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Week Ten

Wednesday, December 8th, was ten weeks post-surgery. I had been back at work, part-time, for a full week and things were going well. That night I used my Wii Fit for the first time in over a year! I did some balance games and although I had to drop myself back down to the "beginner level" on each one, I was very happy with how well I did. I also used my elliptical machine for the first time in over a year, for five minutes.

Over the next few days I continued my home exercises and used the Wii Fit and elliptical, and by Saturday morning my therapist said I was making excellent progress. My ankle was definitely getting stronger and I was still unsure about going swimming at my local YMCA. My therapist thought I was walking well enough to make it from the locker room to the pool; he said walking in the pool would be good for me and of course the swimming would be great exercise as well. I still wasn't sure about my foot holding out so I decided to wait a little while longer and begin swimming again after the holidays. In the meantime, I also considered going for short walks in my neighborhood, just as far as I could manage. That particular Saturday I didn't go because I'd had physical therapy in the morning and didn't want to push my ankle, which was already sore.

Sunday was a cold, rainy day so I spent the day inside, putting out holiday decorations, helping with laundry and cleaning the house. It had been a very long time since I was able to clean the entire house in one afternoon and afterward my ankle was not sore at all. I had worn my air cast to help with support, and I noticed that my heel was hurting. This was because most of my weight was on my heel whenever I wore the air cast; that's the way it was designed. That was fine by me because I was so happy that the ankle itself didn't hurt! Before the surgery I would not have lasted that long cleaning and being on my feet. That evening I used my elliptical and played my favorite balance game on the Wii Fit, and then did my regular strengthening exercises. After all that my ankle was sore but it was a good sore. As I sat with ice I felt so good... it was the first truly productive day I'd had in a long time. The benefits of having had this surgery were definitely (and gradually) becoming clearer.

On Monday I used the elliptical machine for 10 minutes at physical therapy. My ankle was becoming stronger and more flexible. I realized that the more progress I made, the more determined I was to go further, to push myself to the next level. Every week there seemed to be a new achievement and I was feeling very good!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Week Nine

Wednesday, December 1st, was nine weeks post-surgery and my first day back to work. I wore my air cast and my ankle held out, but I was pretty drained at the end of the day... and it was only a half-day! I had to get back into my morning routine.

Thursday was a long day... work in the morning, physical therapy in the afternoon, and then a parent-teacher conference in the evening. By that night I was exhausted and my ankle was sore from all the walking, standing and exercise it had endured throughout the day. Before going to bed that night I applied some ice to help sooth it.

By Friday I was very much ready for the weekend and couldn't wait to relax a little! Overall I felt that my first week back went well, even though it hadn't been a full work week for me.

On Saturday morning I had physical therapy and my therapist noticed that the flexion in my right foot was not at a normal range. It was definitely better than my left foot but it could use some improving. My therapist said this was most likely due to years of walking differently to accomodate my weaker and less flexible ankle. He suggested when I do my exercises to also work on my right foot in order to improve the range of motion. My right foot would always be more flexible than my left, but the exercises would get it back into a normal range.

On Monday afternoon I used the elliptical machine for the first time at physical therapy. My therapist could see that I was walking better out of the air cast and he wanted me to try the elliptical. It was set on a slow speed and I used it for about 5 minutes. My therapist suggested I also use the elliptical at home, for only about 5 or 10 minutes, on my non-therapy days. By the end of the session he told me to start walking around the house in shoes, more often than in the air cast. The goal was to continue strengthening my ankle, and he believed that I would soon be out of the air cast.

As I walked around the house in my shoes for the next couple of days, I felt more confident that my strength would return. My recovery still had a long way to go, there was still much more progress to make, but every step forward (no pun intended) gave me more encouragement.