On Sunday 6 September 2020 I broke my left ankle. I tried to somewhat keep track of the recovery process to maybe help someone in a similar predicament frame the injury and know what to expect. I was first going to dump one big post, but decided to split it up instead to show more of a timeline. I will describe significant events as days since the accident. Day 0 is 6 September, day 1 is 7 September, and so on.
I was avoiding workouts because of a niggle around this time, so had been doing new routes and passing by different places in order to slowly work on completing all the streets in my (greater) area. Because everything nearby was already long done, I had planned a short bike ride (5ish km) to a different starting point, saving me the trouble of running there. I got running and just shy of 5 km into my run, my planned route was blocked off due to construction. My map showed a small grassy path between two fields that ran largely parallel and rejoined further on, so I decided to go down that path instead.
The grass got longer and the path more narrow. I saw someone come from the other direction and, being the good citizen that I am, realised I should think how to keep my 1.5 metre distance from him in these COVID19 times. I veered more to the side, but got into even worse long grass. The guy signalled he would just stop and make way for me, so I went back out of the really long grass to the just regularly long grass of the path. However, apparently in the few metre I was off the path, there was now a ditch I had to cross. I did not quite realise this. Because of the long grass I was half running half jumping. A bad combo with that ditch. I jumped, in essence, onto the slope without realising or anticipating. I heard something that might have been a crack and fell down in pain.
Now I twist my ankle pretty often, so I was not immediately worried. That came a second or two later as I rolled to sit on my ass and actually saw the ankle. So. Very. Swollen. I quickly realised what had happened and felt like such an idiot. The other guy came to me. It turned out he only knew Spanish so he was not much of a help. My little bit of Duolingo did not prepare me for this. Not that I think many people could have done something useful in that moment.
I sat there for quite some time as the guy remained next to my side. I wanted to feel alone in my stupidity and signalled I would be fine. I limped to the end of the path and sat back down. I needed to think what to do, perhaps assess what I thought it was. Running was definitely off the table. Taxi home? Taxi to a hospital? Walk to my bike and bike home? Despite having run 5 km at this point, I had looped back in a way. I was only 1 km from my bike. Biking home was also largely downhill. Clearly I was right earlier to feel like an idiot, because I decided to walk to my bike.
Walk of Shame
Walking (limping) was painful, but I still managed in the end. Took 16 minutes for 870m. Ye I tracked that, I was curious. I biked home, which actually went quite easily and was essentially painless. Just avoided that foot when stopping at a light. Eventually I got home and up the flight of stairs. I took off my shoes to further inspect the damage. I briefly tried some icing. I looked up how to recognise broken ankles. You cannot put any weight on them, so that was good, I still could!
Finally I came to my senses though, broken or not, this amount of pain and swelling deserved a look by a doctor. Only partial senses though, I walked to the hospital a few blocks away. (add another ~800m) After 20 minutes (guesstimating) in the waiting room before the triage nurse got to me, the adrenaline must have worn off. Walking was now way too painful. Good thing I went to the ER after all. Had an X-ray taken. Verdict: broken ankle. Fuck I was disappointed. Up till that point I was still holding out hope for “really bad sprain” or something similar. Hearing it was broken was an immediate verdict of being out for at least six weeks. They put a plaster cast on my leg and booked me for a visit with an orthopaedist the next day. Surgery might be needed so they wanted the specialists to have a better look.
I was given crutches and a prescription for painkillers as well as “Clexane”: injections you put every 24 hours in your belly to keep the blood flowing, otherwise clots may form in the leg and lead to problems elsewhere. Also had to lie down with my leg elevated. Fun fun. This first time with crutches was difficult, I almost fell going down their ramp. Heading home was quite hard too. Worked up a sweat, but eventually got back. Dropped in the couch and embraced feeling like shit for the rest of the day. Waiting for the girlfriend to come home and help me with dinner.
Later in the evening and night, I notice a lot of pressure on the ball of my foot because of the plaster.
Day 1: The Orthopaedist
Despite the hospital being so close-by, I taxi to/from it. Walking with crutches is too much effort. Luckily I can go in the handicapped people line at the reception. Pass by the ortho who quickly sends me out to radiology for a new scan. Not sure why yesterday’s pictures would be insufficient, but I assume they know what they are doing. My ortho thinks I’m an edge case in terms of needing surgery. To be certain, he confers with his colleagues. Eventually they decide against surgery. Supposedly this will heal fine in 99% of the cases, so the extra risk that comes with a surgery is not deemed worth it.
The nurse puts a new plaster cast on my leg. The previous one was apparently closed which is not a good idea when the area around the fracture can still swell up. The new one is “half open”, meaning there is plaster on three sides while the front side just has bandages. This way, any swelling should not cut off blood flow or hurt as much.
Spoiler: it will still hurt.