Sometimes in life, slowing down and reflecting gives you some insight. I wanted to share some of my tips from 2nd ankle surgery experience:
- Do your research– Read and find out all about your procedure. My big find was Health Boards, which really helped me- to share experience and tips with people who have/are going through the same thing is extremely valuable. I found the experience akin having a wide support network.
- Manage expectations– I am not the most optimistic person to begin with, but to be honest, I find it my strength in this situation. I know that recovering from surgery is a long road, so I do celebrate the milestone achievements, but I don’t lose sight of the fight that it takes a lot to be back on my feet with no pain. I guarantee that you will have days when you see no end in sight, so managing expectations and making sure you have realistic expectations is crucial. My prior experience has taught me me that it takes 6 to 9 months to have that moment where you walk without any discomfort and pain- in the months prior, there are some blissful days when the pain is absent but as you move out of your comfort zone and try anything new, the pain is back.
- Be ahead of the pain– Like most people I had been reluctant about medication first time around. But the key thing to remember is, once pain hits and you take a painkiller it takes forever to work. Your body is going through so much post surgery and you don’t want any additional pain. So especially for the 2 weeks right after surgery, follow a 3-4 hour painkiller schedule and set alarms to wake up and take medication.
- Plan a comfort area– Prior to surgery, plan where to sit/ sleep and keep things that you would potentially need close to you. For example, you could keep medication, books, blanket, TV remote, iPod, phone charger, etc in reaching distance.
- Ice, Elevation and Sleep– Ice helps with swelling, especially around the knee when the splint is on, so get a lot of ice before surgery. The surgeon tends to recommend “toes above nose” for ankle procedure for the first week after surgery so get a couple of large cushions to elevate. One tip is to tie the cushions together so they stay together and tie it to your foot lightly when you sleep because you don’t want to move them in your sleep. Also, you will be tired a lot initially after surgery so be ready to nap a lot!
- Make sure you have happy helpers– Especially when you are non-weight bearing, you will need help from family/friends to get your meals, getting around, etc. Most of us feel guilty about asking, so be appreciative and thank them for taking care. A gift or bribe may go a long way in making sure the helpers stay happy!
- Find hobbies and distractions– When you spend days on end in pain, you really need some distractions. My distraction during pain was actually the company of family- conversation and stories about childhood kept me distracted. Other things that helped- my online scrabble addiction, Grey’s Anatomy re-runs, HGTV!
- Get ready for random comments– I love friends and relatives who are concerned but I am often inundated by ridiculous questions. My favorites are: “why do you keep doing this to yourself?”, “you must be so bored, I would have gone crazy”, “what do you do all day, I would have cabin fever”, “I hope you don’t injure it again”, “check with the doctor is this is the permanent solution, some doctors botch these things up”. These may seem as valid questions, but when you are in pain, moody and irritable, such questions really push your buttons- not because you don’t see the concern, but because you get defensive. After all, no one chooses to get on medical leave and stay home in bed for 2 weeks!
- Post cast care– In terms of expectations, your leg would likely be thinner, skin looks gross and will peel off, it will be itchy as hell too. The best thing you can do is soak your foot in water for 20 minutes a day and pat dry, don’t peel off the skin. Aloe vera oil is awesome to soothe skin especially when it is itchy. Use loads of moisturizer and massage skin, but keep incision site free of anything but water and mild soap.
- Milestones to walking crutch-free– My surgery involved 2 weeks of non-weight bearing cast, then 2 weeks of partially weight bearing cast, fully weight bearing with crutches for 2 weeks, and then just ankle boot for 2 weeks. You need small milestones to recognize the progress you are making- whether it is walking in crutches for a block, to putting your foot down for the first time. Challenge yourself to try something more everyday and it will make you energized about the journey!
- Physio therapy is serious stuff– One thing I had a love/hate relationship with during my recovery from first surgery was physio therapy! It felt like paying a lot to feel pain but no results- in reality, it takes a while to see the impact physio therapy is having in your recovery. It is a commitment to focus on physio therapy and follow the instructions for at-home exercises. But at the end of the day, keeping the goal in mind keeps you motivated.
Anyone else with the same experience? Please add to the list!