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.
This post describes days 2 through 11.
Day (1), 2, and 3: The Early Bliss
These first few days are actually surprisingly alright, as long as I do not make any sudden movements. I can keep the amount of painkillers to a minimum and am just very tired for most of the day. Lots of napping.
I am evidently not very used to the crutches yet. In the night from day 2 to day 3, I wake up and need to go to the bathroom. I lose balance almost immediately after getting out of bed and start falling backwards. Instinctively I place down my bad foot and am punished for the action. Very painful! I immediately push myself off again with the good foot to try and catapult myself in bed, taking the weight off the good foot. Welp.
On day 3, the girlfriend decides to have some fun drawing on my cast. She cannot draw well, but she is having fun with it and I do not mind. Not like I will be seeing any people any way.
Day 4: Rush of Blood
In the afternoon I notice that getting up or sitting somewhat upright is now a bad idea. Blood quickly flows into my leg and foot, but seemingly does not leave again of its own accord. Instead the leg swells up. Despite the cast being half open, it feels like maybe there is not enough room still. Pain pain pain. I can only make the blood (and the pain) go away by elevating the leg and foot and lying flat enough. This of course does not happen immediately, so I am stuck with the pain for a while after getting up. From this day on I start taking the painkillers more often (i.e., the prescribed amount).
Day 5-7: Numbness, Darkness, and Bruising
In the evening of day 5, I notice both the big toe and the toe next to it are constantly feeling a bit numb when I touch the skin. The index toe (?) is also noticeably darker looking than the other toes. Combined with the increased pain, I start getting worried that the cast is too tight. I can still move all the toes, otherwise I would have rushed to the ER.
The next morning, I spot bruising on the darker toe. Evidently I am now even more worried. I contact my brother’s girlfriend, an MD, for her opinion. She tells me an ER visit is not necessary, but that I should consider getting an earlier appointment than the one I have set for day 12. Of course, today is a Saturday, so this non-essential department is not working.
Day 7, a Sunday, ensures I feel worse still as the girlfriend already had plans. While she ensured all the necessary food was in the house, I still had to make and get it myself. Every such trip results in the aforementioned blood flow and PAIN. Not a happy day.
Add to all that that it is really really clumsy to do anything when your hands are occupied holding two crutches. Imagine doing things in the kitchen, but you cannot move your feet while holding anything. You really have to plan where you put what so you can get around, taking a step, move something, take another step, move it a little further.
Day 8: ER
In the morning things feel a tiny bit better again, but the colour, bruising, and slight numbness to the touch remain. I call the hospital to see if I can squeeze in for an earlier appointment, but they tell me they have no free spots. After I tell them what I have, they tell me to pass by the ER instead. In the afternoon I decide to do so because I do not trust how everything feels.
Waiting in the ER goes a bit slowly, I know I am not in a dire situation needing immediate attention so I expected as much. Annoyingly there is no easy way to elevate my leg, which is triggering the problem of blood rushing in, it swelling, and subsequent pain. It takes ages before they put me in a room where I can finally rest on a bed at least. And then… nothing. Nobody shows up. After a while I start finding it a bit strange, but I am also not mobile enough to easily go looking for people. Eventually, after about an hour, a doctor walks in, surprised to find me there. There was a shift change and I had gotten lost in the paperwork somehow. The doctor ranted about the previous shift, her opinion of them was already low and this was evidently not helping.
After all that, she checks it out and tells me that everything I am experiencing is normal. Fuck me. Waste of an afternoon and lots of needless pain. At least I am now sure I do not need to worry, just suffer through it.
Day 9-11: Countdown
By this point, someone had pointed out a YouTube channel of a runner who also had broken his ankle. The videos had made me optimistic I might be placed in some particular type of boot that you could at least take off for a shower or bath. Hopefully with that on, I could also start walking a bit again, put some weight on it. The next appointment wasn’t till Friday (day 12) though, so I had to go through a few more days of suffering. If there had ever been any living for the weekend…
On day 9 I tried sitting up a bit more. Up till now I had been lying flat with only the leg elevated in order to keep everything above the heart. The ER doctor said I should be able to sit up. After briefly trying it, I felt the swelling and pain quickly return though, so I gave up on that. Lying flat remains the way to go for now.
I also start noticing a new pain, this one in the tendons and muscles. The tendons (or muscles?) on the front of the foot, connecting to the leg, were in pain. Perhaps from the pressure of the cast. The muscle right along the shin-bone was also rather painful. Just what I needed. In comparison, the area around the ankle fracture actually felt better. I keep popping the prescribed painkillers. Only helps so-so.
Over the next two days, I feel like things are going the right way as the pain remains, but lessens in intensity. On day 11 I do not even use painkillers at all. Sitting up still does not really work great, but I get more and more hopeful for good news on day 12.