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Its a marathon, not a sprint.

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Today is 5 months to the day from my accident resulting in a shattered ankle.  Five months can seem like a lifetime or it can pass in the blink of an eye. I feel like this past 5 months has simultaneously been both for me.  What do I have to show for these last five months?

I’m not regularly using any kind of bracing on my ankle these days. I often have kinesio tape wrapped around it like the worlds most expensive and unwanted burrito. I will sometimes use a compression sleeve if I’m having a particularly swollen kind of day: burrito gordito. I own the most expensive ugly shoes imaginable and inside of them are more crazy $$ orthotics to help support my poor foot in ways it can’t support itself. Basically, I’ve spent ridiculous amounts of money to wear terribly ugly footwear. I had a shoe saleswomen tell me, “People should be looking at the smile on your face, not the shoes on your feet anyway!” I kicked her. No, I didn’t, I broke my good kicking leg. I punched her. No, no I didn’t do that either. However, didn’t buy a new pair of ugly orthotic $150 shoes from her either.

All my life I’ve heard people say that a sprain is worse than a break.  I always assumed those were dumb people. I mean, a broken bone is the worst, right? My breaks were complicated, out of place, shatters and you know what? They are healed. Yes, there is a lot of metal holding them together, but fortunately I’m still young enough to have strong bones and they have grown back together and are finer than frog fur! So, why then am I still in so much pain and still doing so much therapy to learn to walk without a limp? Oh, that would be because of all the strained, sprained, and torn soft tissue in the foot and ankle from my grotesque dislocation. (How do you know a “grotesque’ dislocation? When the paramedics make comments as such and ponder how to splint a foot that’s pointing the wrong direction and kind of dangling off of the leg.) I completely hosed the ligaments and tendons responsible for holding my foot in place and allowing for proper movement of the ankle and they are slower to heal that molasses is to flow on a cold day.

Here’s the good news and celebratory update: When I’m rested, moving slowly and really thinking about it… I CAN walk without a limp. So we know it is possible. That is truly a wonderful blessing. I was warned early on that it might not be a possibility for me. However, I’m still working up to the strength and mobility to be able to have a normal walking gait naturally.  I suspect that this will be a few more months. But I’m finally starting to believe that it really will happen. In the meantime, when I get tired I wobble and hobble along like a drunken peg-legged pirate. Ahoy, matey, soon I’ll be walkin’ like a real landlubber, but fer today I be a three sheets to the wind seadog.

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~~Delaney …the drunken pirate

One small step for mankind…

One giant leap for Delaney Rhea!

Today is three months exactly since my accident and shattered ankle. Three months is merely a drop in the bucket compared to a lifetime but it has gone by so very slowly for me.

Progress is a fickle thing.  Some days it is obvious and other days it seems to tuck tail and retreat. It turns out that the anesthesiologist who took care of me during my surgery is also a client of my husband. They had a jolly time of shaking hands and catching up over my morphine-laden, shock stricken, belly-aching pre-surgery self.  In fact, I think they knocked me out sooner so they could compare the latest sports scores in peaceful quiet. Last week my husband was at this doctor’s office to do his tax-magic-stuff (numbers and math… eyeroll.)  My hubby told him that I am making progress in my recovery. The doctor confessed to my husband that because of the complexity of my break he assumed it would be about three months before I’d see much in the way of progress.  Then… get this… they laughed!  Yes, caring doctor and doting husband laughed.  In my husband’s words they laughed in mutual agreement because, “Progress sucks!”

Truer words have never been spoken.  Progress sucks!  If you are doing it right it hurts. Only in the last couple weeks have I not had to take painkillers and muscle relaxers to be able to sleep on a nightly basis. Now only after a particularly long day or hard session of physical therapy do I need them.  It doesn’t feel like progress when I’m in pain but I know that I’m pushing myself harder and doing more so pain is going to go hand in hand with healing.

Now I am weaning out of the boot into an ankle brace that I wear with a regular shoe.  It sure looks like progress. I can even get around with only one crutch now on most days. But in the evening, or on a rough day, I still need my boot and I still need two crutches. Then the progress seems lost. That’s where it is so important to remember that, indeed, progress sucks! 

My husband works crazy stupid hours this time of year and has always depended on me to carry more than my share of home/parenting duties during tax season. This year I’m not up holding my end of the load. I asked him if he’s stressed out and frustrated. He laughed again. He reminded me that he saw my foot immediately after the accident. He sat in the E.R. with me before it was set in place to face the right direction (apparently it was black/green) and he was with me everyday in the hospital. He took me to my first post-op appointment when the cast was removed and we first saw my swollen, bruised, patched back together Franken-foot. He laughed because he has always had realistic expectations for my recovery. He said I’m exactly where he imagined I’d be three months out. Apparently I’m the frustrated and stressed out one with unrealistic expectations. 

I’m really hoping that in another week I will be walking in small increments without a crutch at all.  I might even be able to do short errands without them. But when the pain and exhaustion set in I have to remember that returning to the boot or crutch isn’t a setback in progress, it’s proof of progress and proof that I pushed myself.

Go make progress. Even if it sucks. Find what you need to use as your crutch and push through the pain. Set realistic expectations and surround yourself with people that love and accept you every step of the way.

And just for honesty’s sake, yes, I will absolutely miss using the motorized carts! They are the slowest yet most fun way to grocery shop! 

Just say thank you.

This is my left ankle. It’s part God-given and partly from the hardware store. It’s all mine, for better or worse.  I had this X-ray taken today at my 6 week post-op appointment and I was given the good news that healing is progressing  well. I can now start physical therapy and start weight bearing on that foot again slowly. I also realized I was wrong. I have one more screw in the outside of my ankle than I had originally thought. I actually have 6 on the outside and two on the inside. Eight screws. That’s badass! 

After six weeks of being helpless I’m ready to live like an adult again, and just in time because my month of calendar-scheduled meals and caretakers is coming to an end. This calendar, that I initially turned down, has been our life support.  

When I was in the hospital both of my pastors came to see me to share comfort and wisdom. My Pastor Amy bluntly asked me how I was going to ask for and accept help. I will forever remember what she told me, (and I loosely quote in my own words) “Hospitality is a two way street. There has to be a receiver in order for there to be a giver. You’ve been allowed to be a giver many times, now give others the same opportunity.” Then, she took it up a notch and asked for specifics about to whom I would turn for help.  I said I would let my friend, Boni, put together the care calendar as she’d offered. To my horror, after Pastor Amy prayed with me and started to head out she said, “I’m texting Boni later to make sure she’s heard from you.” This forced me to accept the offer, no matter how uncomfortable. 

As physically painful as this injury has been, accepting help has been almost as painful emotionally.  I needed so much help for so long.  Every time I was given an offer, or someone signed up through the calendar, I had the urge to thank them and turn them down. Each time I just remembered my pastor’s words reminding me of my job; to be a receiver so others could give. 

I think the hardest lesson is yet to come: Learning to ask for help.  During the last 6 weeks the offers of meals, household help, and companionship have been handed to me. I only had to say, “yes” and “Thank you.” However, at no time did I have to seek it out.  But I think my day is fast approaching. Now I’m becoming independent. I’ll be able to walk and drive, no longer a home-bound lump.  But this is where I’ll try to do it all and exhaust myself. This is where I’ll push myself and have a setback day and I’ll need an ear and shoulder. This is when I’ll have to actually ask for help.

I’m so Thankful to my Pastor for giving me the wisdom that is allowing me to accept help. In a way, it’s the same grace extended by God. God offers up unconditional love and forgiveness and we just have to accept it. The next step is learning to ask God, through prayer, for help and forgiveness.  It turns out these earthly lessons have eternal meaning. 

There are two take away lessons that I can share. The first is that when you are offered help: Take it and just say thank you. The second is that when you know someone needs help just offer it, don’t wait for them to ask. 

There will be a third lesson about asking for help. Probably when I decide I can buy a full cart of groceries and then realize I can’t get them into the house alone. Or when I get sick of the stench and throw the dogs in the tub, not thinking through 65 combined pounds of soggy-doggy-mess. In the meantime I’m rejoicing in my progress, feeling thankful for the help we’ve been given, and looking forward to grossing out many more friends by making them feel the outline of my steel plate in my ankle. No really, you can feel it… isn’t that cool? 

~~Delaney 

Do unicorns have ankles?

Today is a big day! This is one month to the day since I demolished my ankle. It is also four weeks to the day since my surgery. And what progress do I have to brag about on this big milestone? Nothing! My healing is in a holding pattern. It’s like trying to watch a video on your phone and being stuck in endless buffering. Maybe a few seconds run, getting your hopes up and then back to the flashing swirly circle of eternal streaming purgatory.

I went to my general practitioner yesterday to lament about my frustration and lack of progress. My complaints: blood pressure drops, nausea, not regaining strength or stamina, and pain.

Let me say how much I love my doctor and how much I love honesty. So when she looked me in the eye and said, “You didn’t just break your ankle. Your surgeon told me how extensive the damage was. Honestly, we rarely see patients get an injury like this.” (My rough quoting) This was not upsetting, but confirming and comforting.

I’m a mom. I do all the household mom stuff and it is really hard to see it go undone. I also troll google daily and read stories of people with broken ankles and feet. By one month post surgery these people are up and around, maybe limping in a boot or using a knee scooter, and pushing on with their lives. Here I am still spending most days in bed or on the couch. I’ve been feeling down, wondering if I’m just weak. Am I ‘milking’ this? Why am I not  getting on with my life? So I’ve been pushing myself to do more and get up more and in return I feel worse and worse.

I needed to hear my doctor tell me that my injury is in a category of its own and so my recovery will be on a different timeline. I needed to be told to not push myself and that my body is still in the acute phase of healing.  I might have the mind of a badass superhero but right now my body is a delicate, and wilted, daisy. 

It turns out my electrolytes are all out of whack so I will now be sucking down Gatorade and broth all day.  I stopped all pain meds two weeks ago because they make me feel sick, little did I know that constant pain also has negative consequences for the body.  I’m trying a new scheduled pain management. I have learned that I’m the opposite of a drug seeker as I beg and plead with my doctors NOT to give me narcotics! 

One of the best healers, way better than narcotics, has been the love and support of friends and family.  One of the stranger parts of this experience is how little I knew what was going on around me when I was in the hospital. Geoff only recently told me how many of my friends texted and called him with offers of help and asking to come to hospital. One of those sweet friends and I were so happy to see each other once I was out of the hospital and this was our text exchange:


I love that she so quickly validated my (very real) concern and readily agreed that I might be filled with magic unicorn dust. Maybe that’s why, in the words of another friend, I got a unicorn of an ankle injury- one rarely seen! Fitting given my obsession with one-horned-equines. I guess I have to just remember that I’m not your average horse and I won’t heal like one. I’m a unicorn and I have to slow down and let my healing take the winding magical rainbow path. 

For now I take it slow and trust that my body is doing what it needs to do. And the next time I see my surgeon I’m asking if he was shocked to open me up and find that I’m filled with rainbow glitter! 

~~Delaney 

Anatomy of an ankle anarchy

How the hell did you do that?  Wow, you don’t mess around, you go all out!

These are common comments I get about my ankle injury. Especially from medical people. Broken ankles aren’t uncommon. Breaking all three bones is a little more uncommon. Breaking three bones with a complete dislocation is even better. However, the vast majority of those cases involve the ankle rolling toward the inside. Not me, mine completely snapped to the outside. You guessed it. That’s worse.

I must have really flown down a lot of stairs, right? 

Nope. I literally just slipped and only went down 4 steps. This impossible scenario confused all who saw (and repaired) the damage. 

Standing at the top of the stairs and asking detailed questions about my landing position, a wise friend asked, “Do you think your foot got caught in the stair rails as you fell?” 

That proverbial lightbulb clicked on and suddenly it pieced together. I remember my foot slipping out from under me, but by the grace of our built in emergency response system it all goes blurry. I’ve quizzed my family and they all concur that my body landed with my freaky foot facing into the stair rails. We have a winner!

I’m going to break it down: (Stop now if you are squeamish.) My hubby and I were watching our newest tv obsession and the kids were face-in-phone in the living room with us. During commercial break I thought I’d get a snack (next time stay on the couch chubs!) I took dishes with me as I headed down stairs because we had no functional kitchen upstairs at this time. I opened the metal dog gate and took a step but my Dr. Who slipper socks failed me and my feet slipped up out from under me. I began a downward slide. As my body gained momentum my left foot must’ve gotten caught up on or in the railing on the left and came to an abrupt halt as my leg kept careening forward. SNAP! Almost right off my body. In the mayhem the gate crashed down around me and shattered the dishes over me like evil sprinkles on a sucks-to-be-you-cake. 

In related recovery news, I am super proud to report that as of today I am officially released from being house bound. My blood pressure finally stopped bottoming out when I stand upright. Today my home health nurse tested me and determined me trustworthy on a walker without risk of passing out and shattering another limb. 

 

HOLY CANKLE! This is the least offensive picture from my first post-op appointment. I was so relieved to see my foot back on straight again! My cute toes deserve the Deluxe Spa Pedi as soon as the thought of someone rubbing my foot doesn’t make me gasp in anticipated pain.

I’m officially on the path to being healed and as soon as I have a willing driver and some tennis balls maybe you’ll see me and my nifty walker out buying new pajama pants to replace the ones the ER doctor cut off my body… yeah, I’m still bitter! And I never got my other Dr Who sock back!

~~D

Please be kind 2017

Today is January 1, 2017 and I’ve already had two very good crying spells. Not the way to start a new year, in my opinion. Almost exactly two weeks ago I slipped on our stairs and broke my ankle. Now, when I say ‘broke’ I’m not referring to a fracture.  I mean broken. Shattered. I’ll never forget looking down and seeing my foot dangling off 90 degrees to the side of my leg and grotesquely deformed from displaced bones and swelling. I can’t get the image out of my head. Neither can my family, they all watched it happen.  My 15 year old called 911. This was 6 days before Christmas. 

I guess I’m pretty lucky that it took 42 years before I suffered a traumatic injury. Oh I’ve felt pain before. I’ve birthed two children and had two hip surgeries. Let me say none of those remotely compared to the pain of this injury.  It was a struggle to remain conscious through the pain. Even the maximum dose of morphine would only buy me a groggy hour before I’d wake crying again.  

Even splinted, any time I had to be moved I could feel the bones shifting inside of me and the searing pain made me scream involuntarily. I feel so bad for my poor family and one dear friend who had to witness any of it. 

I try to be a stoic person.  I’ve experienced some very difficult things in my life and I try to face situations with as much grace as I can.  But there I was, crying out in agony with three people trying to lift/position me every time I had to use the commode. It’s a level of vulnerability I’d never imagined. 

I’d suffered what is called a trimalleolar ankle fracture with dislocation. It’s basically the worst case scenario of ankle injuries. Three of the supporting ankle bones were snapped and my foot was left dangling like a tennis ball in a tube sock.  To save my foot, the ER doctor reduced the dislocation (under sedation) almost immediately.  Unfortunately there were snafus and setbacks that meant surgery wouldn’t happen for another three days. 

I was released from the hospital on Christmas Day and came home a house full of family and merriment, very little of which I actually remember.  The week after Christmas was a blur of charting medications, sleep, and visits from friends. 

How do I launch into the excitement of a new year when I can hardly leave my bed? My blood pressure still drops when I try to stand, so a wheelchair is necessary. I can’t cook, clean, drive, or care for my family and dogs. 

Now I learn the hardest lesson yet: helplessness and accepting help.  Now I learn to let my family take care of me for a change. I learn to let my house be in disarray. I learn to say ‘yes’ when someone offers assistance, because if I say no it might mean I lay in bed hungry and holding my pee until the next offer comes along. 

I’m learning that everyday brings healing and progress, no matter how slow. 

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