Broken Ankle – Independent to Useless in One Step
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Broken Ankle (Bimalleolar Fracture) - From Break to SplintSo many of you have asked where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to. I’m finally coherent enough to explain.

On February 26, I fell off the back of my pickup truck and broke my ankle… both bones in my left foot plus a torn ligament. In less than one minute, my life was turned upside down. Not as bad as some people’s, because I know I have friends tackling much worse things, but it’s definitely taken a turn for the worse.

Before The Break

Three weeks before I fell, I was working and living my life as usual. The job was hectic but I’m used to that so no big deal. At the end of the week, I’d run all my errands (mail pickup, groceries, etc) and head home for a weekend of time off the truck and not having to drive.

My paycheck was enough to pay the bills, see my doctors, and eat mostly takeout while I worked towards building a business that will eventually allow me to get off the truck.

And one of the things that I’d decided to do (and blog about of course) was get my house in order. We’d moved three times in about as many years. The first move was from a house to an apartment, so we’d just boxed stuff up and shoved it into a storage unit. We took what we needed and simply packed the rest with the intention of eventually finding another home.

And then life got busy… as it always does.

Seven years later, I was still paying for storage and working on putting my life in order so that my son won’t have a bunch of stuff to sort through if something should happen to me.

I started with the super important stuff. I’m scanning photos. I bought converters. One to convert our family videos from the old 8mm movie camera stuff to digital, another to convert my albums to mp3s, and a third to convert my cassettes to the same. I figured that was the place to start, because those are the memories that will be most important to him.

And as a side benefit of doing all that, I’ll be able to eliminate heavy boxes when I eventually move… again.

But I also knew I wanted to get storage emptied out and stop paying to store stuff that I obviously didn’t need (since I rarely went out there to get anything). So I added that to my to do list.

Since it was February, the weather in Arizona was really awesome to be able to move stuff. So I’d started going to the storage unit weekly to bring home a truck full of whatever I could, and I’d spend time each day sorting thru a box or two.

I basically had four piles…

    throw away
    give away
    scan or photograph and THEN throw away or give away
    keep

I mean really, what other choices are there? I’m not big on the whole garage sale thing, and since I’m in an apartment, it’s next to impossible to do anyway… I don’t have a garage or a yard.

So, the decision was made. And as I mentioned, the plan was to let you know what was going on since I figured I’m probably not the only one who has boxes of stuff that need to be sorted through. And sometimes keep or don’t keep decision gets tough… which is why we end up with so many boxes of stuff to start with!

So I took pictures of the current mess in the apartment… and started sorting.

A week later, I lost my job. The owner of the company decided to close down the Phoenix terminal and gave us a whopping five minutes notice. Not a biggie. You just go home and start job hunting…

I had a medical procedure scheduled for the following day, so I didn’t even care at that moment that I was suddenly unemployed… I had bigger things to think about for a minute.

Once the medical stuff was handled (all good news), I started watching for local driving jobs and applying for ones that seemed workable. You know… normal “let’s go find another job” stuff.

Then the following week, I went and got another truck load of boxes from storage. I gone thru the previous load and semi-organized it all so it was time. I knew I had some awkward 2-man stuff out there, so I’d texted my boy to see if he could help me with that stuff the following weekend. No problem he said.

And then this…

My Life Changed in an Instant

I got home, unloaded half the truck, and then had dinner. I’d called Jimmy John’s so I’d be forced to (aka have an excuse to) take a break from the loading and unloading.

Then I went back out to finish unloading. And that’s when my life was drastically changed… even beyond what I initially thought possible.

My tailgate sticks. I was tired. My truck sits higher than normal. So I couldn’t get it to open from the outside.

So I think hey, even tired, I can push easier than I can pull. So I stood up on the back of my truck so I could push the tailgate open. The problem? I straddled the tailgate before I started to push it open.

I pushed. It didn’t open. Suddenly it crossed my mind how stupid it was to be straddling the tailgate while trying to open it, because where was I gonna be able to stand once it opened!?!

Too late!! As I went to lift my outside foot off the bumper… the tailgate opened. And when it did, it grabbed hold of my ankle and threw me to the road. My only focus in that split second? Keep my head from hitting the road.

The Fall. The Pain. The Fear.

As soon as I fell, I knew immediately that my ankle was broken. I’ve never broken a bone before, but the pain immediately ran from my ankle straight to my head. My initial fear was that I would pass out from the pain before I was able to call for help.

I was laying on the road behind my pickup.

Wait! Did I have my phone? Yep. Side pocket. I called my other half and told him I needed him to come get me right away because I’d broken my ankle. Then I sent a text to my son… “I just broke my ankle. Ride on the way. Will contact you from the hospital.”

I tried to move to the curb. Not gonna happen. Did the bone come thru my leg? Nope… good news. Gotta keep my mind occupied so I don’t focus on the pain. I got online on my phone and searched for the nearest hospital. Tempe St. Luke’s. They’ve got pre-checkin for the Emergency Room. Cool. I registered.

I started getting cold. Then I started shivering. Crap!! Shock’s setting in… now what? It was 10:30 on a Friday night. I’ve already contacted the two people I know! Wait! I’ve got a neighbor’s phone number. I called her to see if she was home. Nope. But her mom was. Quickly explained what I’d done and where I was and asked if she could call her mom and ask her to bring me a blanket so I wouldn’t go into shock.

I was SO very relieved when I saw her coming!!

Shortly after that, my other half arrived and in spite of the pain causing major nausea every time I moved, we managed to get me into his car and headed to the hospital!

At The Hospital

They got me into a wheelchair and I got myself checked in, then we waited. I knew I wasn’t gonna be able to work for a while. Even being off for a month was scary to me because I wasn’t sure how I was gonna keep up on bills.

Five hours, three x-rays, and a lot of pain meds and anesthesia later, the E.R. doctor had me in a fiberglass splint and out the door. Crutches. A prescription for Percocet. And an outpatient packet that said to see the Orthopedic Surgeon on Monday.

Sleep. Pain. Healing. Setbacks.

So, I managed to get on the state’s insurance plan a lot faster than expected, and I found an ankle surgeon who had great reviews from his patients. So far, so good.

I waited three weeks to get into surgery because the E.R. doctor had set my ankle wrong, so we had to wait for more of the swelling to go down (after readjusting my foot and putting on a new splint of course!).

After surgery, the surgeon said it was a bit worse than he’d initially thought, but that he managed to get it all fixed up. They set up a two week appointment to check on my stitches. They put in the internal, dissolvable kind so that made me happy! I spent the next two weeks on pain medication and slept as often as I could. Rearranging pillows to find a comfortable position became my nightly workout.

Two weeks later, I finally got to remove the boot he’d put me in. My foot and ankle didn’t look great, but it didn’t look that horrible either! They took x-rays and said it was looking good. They had put in two plates and 12 screws. He also said the incisions were doing well. I was sent home and told to keep weight off it and come back in five weeks.

I went back home and slept some more. It’s unbelievable to me how much energy my body uses for JUST the healing process!! By now I was down to one pain pill about every 6-8 hours, so I was sleeping less and feeling at least a little more coherent.

Five weeks later, I got more x-rays. He said the bones were healing great and it was time to start bearing weight, but only when I was wearing the boot.

Having lost all the muscle in my calf, and much of it in the rest of my foot, leg, and hips, I knew it was gonna take some time to get back to walking.

Some time!?! Wow, how naive I am about broken ankles!!

I started off great. I was down to a single crutch the first day! But then the next three weeks were super slow and painful. I found that having a broken ankle, or healing from one anyway, is a “2 steps forward, 1 step back” kind of process. And some days it’s a “1 step forward and 5 steps back”!!

I walked a thousand steps twice a day, back and forth to our pool. My ankle let me know when I’d had enough. Even with the Evenup on the other foot, I’d start limping and dragging my boot. That’s when I’d stop, take a nap, and then go do it again. By week three, I was walking almost two thousand steps!!

Then the pain started. Not that I hadn’t already been having pain simply by walking on it, but it started getting worse. I came home after a super short time out and the pain in my ankle was so bad that all I could do was rock back and forth and wait for the Percocet to kick in.

I knew at that point something was definitely not right.

I called the doctor the next day and left a message. No one called back. I called again on Thursday… no return call.

Since my appointment was the following Monday, I just went in as scheduled. I’d been trying to walk on it up to that point but just wasn’t able to do as many steps as I’d been doing during week three.

The Possibilities… and the Waiting

The office took more x-rays when I went in, and then the surgeon took a look at my foot and ankle to see where the pain was. He said it looked like there might be something called an Osteochondral Lesion, but we’d have to run a CT scan to see for sure. In the meantime, I was back to NWB (non weight bearing)…NOT the news I was looking forward to since at that point I should have been moving from the boot to a brace and shoes!!

That was the day I had a major pity party. In fact, I spent nearly three days in a funk, and another three digging my way out of it. I searched the medical web for information about these lesions, and there wasn’t any good news I could find about them.

At that point, I just kept hoping my surgeon was wrong.

Radiology got me in the next week while the doctor was out of town. When I went in the following Wednesday, the surgeon said it was NOT lesions. YAY!! And then he told me the bad news….

He had over reduced my fracture. He explained that when he went in, ideally you line the bones up and check that they’re right and then put in the hardware. From what he was saying, I could only assume that something interfered with being able to see whether it was lined up.

And then he explained what had to happen next… another surgery… one he’s never done before. I can’t even put into words how I felt at that very moment, but as usual (and as customary in my family), I put on a brave face and started asking questions.

What’s causing the pain? It’s over reduced so the tibia is wrapped around the front of the talus, so you’re rubbing bone on bone when you walk. It’s also pushing your ankle forward.

Can we fix it? Yes, we have to go in, remove the hardware, adjust the bone, and then put new hardware back in so it can heal.

Do we just turn the bone then? No, because it’s already healed. At this point we’ll have to cut it, adjust it, then screw it back into place.

Are we doing both sides? No, the fibula side is over reduced too, but not enough to warrant adjusting it.

So basically, we’re back to square one? Or is it square two, since we’re only re-breaking ONE of the bones? Yes, we’re back to square two.

That’s when I knew my life was about to change even more than I ever thought possible.

I’d planned the whole healing thing. As long as it stayed on the “normal” healing track, I’d have been back to work by the end of July or beginning of August. Finances were going to be tight for a couple months, but it would be doable.

Now there’d be no way.

Where I Am Now

I go in for my second surgery in just a few hours. It’s been three weeks since he told me it needed to be done. I’m not looking forward to the pain again, but I’m prepared this time.

I’ve got food cooked for easy prep meals. My medications and necessities are all in my room and reachable. I got rid of the gray roots that were driving me crazy (it turned out almost black, which was definitely darker than I’d planned… but better than the gray!).

My son, his girlfriend, her daughter, and their cat and dog have moved into my two-bedroom apartment. They’re going to be handling the bills until I can get back to work. And they’re also pet sitting a new puppy that a friend of theirs just got. He had a family emergency right after they bought it.

Needless to say, the place is over-crowded and bit tough to function in, but we’re making it work. Thank goodness they’re in a place to be able to do it!! Now we just have to keep THEM healthy until I’m back up and running. He’s about a year and a half out of collar bone surgery and has a knee that’s starting to buckle on him. She’s got back issues and is working a physically demanding job in the Arizona heat.

Yes. I MUST get back to work as soon as I can!!

So there you have it… for now. I’ve been putting off this post to focus on healing. But I’ll be doing much shorter ones more often to track the progress of this second time through.

Have you ever broken an ankle or foot? If so, feel free to tell me about your own experience with it in the comments! I’ve learned from the broken ankle Facebook group I’m in, that it’s typically a VERY life changing event. I’ve also learned that the mental side of healing from this type of injury can be much more devastating than the physical healing!!




Take care,
Debi aka @GenXBrat

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I'm a passionate, down-to-earth gal who spends as much time as possible making fun of myself and the world around me. I'm a big kid with a lot of thoughts that I don't mind sharing AND, I love to teach. Anything. Everything. As long as it's fun.

Warning: I was raised in a VERY sarcastic household so my sense of humor always leans that way. :)

But if I can make you think, make you laugh, or give you a moment to pause... life is good!:D

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