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 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 12 (18 September) through 25 (1 October).
Day 12: A Trip to the Orthopaedist
I had really been looking forward to this day. I was more than sick of the cast, I would finally be able to wash my leg and foot again. The pain had eased up some in the previous days. I expected to need a cast still of course, but I was optimistic that it would be one allowing me to walk. This was going to be a joyful day.
My hopes were quickly dashed. I was told that I was going to be given a lighter synthetic cast (the previous one was plaster, which is noticeably heavier), but that I still would not be allowed to put any weight on it. Damn. That was quite the wave of disappointment. In retrospect, I can see I probably should have expected as much. It had not even been two weeks since the mishap. At the time though, I was really rooting for better news.
The nurse who removed my old cast commented on the drawings my girlfriend had made on it. She was… surprised to hear it was not drawn by a five year old. She agreed with me that it did not matter, at least the girlfriend had fun with it. The material of the synthetic cast is easily coloured before applying, so I was given a choice of eight colours to choose from. I picked purple. The nurse went to look for a colleague to help her with the actual application to my leg.
As they got ready, the colleague asked whether nurse 1 had picked the right colour. Apparently purple is not often picked by men. Darned gendered thinking! Either way, a snug fitting cast was applied and I was off to the races. And by races I mean off back home to lie down some more. Since I still could not use the leg and foot, I would also have to keep on giving myself shots of Clexane in the belly. Gotta ensure my blood does not clot up and cause issues elsewhere. Also still got to keep the ankle elevated.
Day 13: A New Pain
I woke up with a painful pinky toe. The cast is noticeably too narrow on that side and the pressure on the sole of that area is also rather strong. On top of that I cannot move the big toe without a lot of pain in the middle of the foot. My non-professional opinion is that the pressure on the top of my foot is too much, there is a constant pain there. If I try to move the big toe up, it raises the associated bones (try it), making the pressure way too much. The toe next to the big toe is still noticeably darker skinned than the rest too, but at least the numbness is no longer around.
All the pressure had one advantage: I could no longer move my foot around in the cast. In the previous one I had ended up having too much room and “swimming” in the cast. I had been easily able to shift the position of my ankle upwards and downwards. I had been also able to move my foot up and down. All not ideal for the whole idea of immobilising the ankle. On top of that, my body had gotten really intent on triggering morning stretches for that leg. I assume because it did not like the lack of movement. Such movement was rather painful though, so as soon as I noticed the automatism, I had to do my best not to stretch. Very annoying. Nothing of that in this new cast, I could not move inside the cast.
In the evening I noticed my appetite had lessened. We had ordered Chinese food. Whereas I usually eat one and a half to two dishes, now I was done after just the one. The lack of movement must have caught up to my energy needs.
Day 14-17: More Pain
The pain was still intense the next day and I started taking painkillers. I did downgrade from the prescribed ones (my prescription had ended) to more regular 500mg paracetamol ones. They were not heavy enough, but I did not want to overdo painkiller dependence either.
The night from day 15 to 16, I woke up five times because of the pain from the pressure all around. The front tendons connecting the foot to the leg had readded themselves to the list of painful areas, so that was fun. Later that day I also noticed the skin between the pinky toe and the one next to it was heavily peeling. They are not used to being pressed together. To help out I placed some cloth between both toes. I kept that there for the days to come.
I also ended up calling the hospital to see if they perhaps had an earlier opening to have a look at it. Surely I am not supposed to constantly in pain in locations completely unrelated to the actual fracture? Just as with the previous cast, I had no luck. If it was really unbearable, I should just pop by the ER. My past experience with that had left me salty, so I did not bother. Instead I tried to attack the cast with some scissors, but that did not work out. This glass fibber mixture is pretty sturdy.
Appetite still down from the usual.
Day 18-19: Salvation
I woke up before 6:00, once again with a lot of pain in the pinky toe area. I could not fall back asleep and went to the living room. I had a new idea to help my toe. Rather than outright destroying the cast, perhaps I could bend it to my will? Literally. I grabbed some pliers, used it to grab the cast near the toe, and started forcing it outwards. After a while of this, the pressure had eased some. So simple and it took me so long to think about!
Later that day I have some first proper attempts at sitting up and working again. Careful optimism that things will be better from here on out.
The next day confirms the pliers solution worked. I stop taking painkillers.
The view of the cast is a constant stark reminder of my disappearing muscles. Whereas it started out very snug around the calf, now it feels and looks roomy. I can easily put some fingers in there. With dread I think about the effort it will take to get back to normal.
Despite the extra room, my leg and foot still swell and turn red every time I try standing up. On crutches of course, still not allowed to put weight on the leg. They continue swelling and turning redder as long as I stand up. At least it does not lead to the same pains as two weeks earlier. I avoid standing up for too long, dropping back down in the couch to stick my leg in the air and wait for the blood to run back out.
At the time I wrote down: “SO SICK OF THIS”.
Day 22-25: Moody
This is not a fun time. My mood has taken a big hit with all the lack of movement. On top of that I have been sleeping bad since stopping the painkillers. I have never been good at falling asleep, but the painkillers had been really helpful with at least being able to fall asleep in the evening.
At some point some resistance bands I ordered arrive. I start improvising some workouts with them to not feel as useless. Eh.
The mood affects my work, I have no motivation to do any of it.
Even the upcoming (day 26) appointment with the orthopaedist does not fill me with cheers. I am just expecting more bad news.