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 40 (Friday 16 October) through 68 (Friday 13 November).
Day 40: And On That Bombshell
In hopefully the last trip to the orthopaedist, I wait in the non-handicapped people line at the hospital. I can walk with small steps and do not have trouble standing upright, so I figure this is good enough for me now. A lady waiting in line behind me disagrees when she sees the special sandal on my foot and the two crutches I bring along for safety. She flags down a nurse and together they gently force me into the handicapped line. Fine!
A fresh x-ray later, I sit with the orthopaedist. He tells me the two parts of the bone have not fused together. Oh. Before I get too disappointed, he says my ankle is fine though. Sometimes this just happens, the two parts may never fuse together. (What???) It should not affect me in any way. To be sure he does some poking and bending of my ankle. Everything feels fine, except for the expected lack of flexibility of course. To resolve that he prescribes me some kine (physical therapy) appointments. Twice a week, up to 18 sessions total. He says I might not need them all, but that is the maximum that easily gets paid back by the healthcare system. Whatever it takes to get running right again, my man, whatever it takes.
I also can use normal shoes again.
Later that day I set an appointment with the kine for early next week.
Day 41-46: A COVID19 Scare
The girlfriend did not feel too well and two of her friends had tested positive for COVID19. It had been nearly two weeks since she had seen them, but we played it safe. She got tested and I let the kine know that we would not be able to meet till the girlfriend tested negative. Bit of a bummer, but it is what it is.
I tried to use our elliptical too, but that does not feel right yet. Alas, no actual sporting yet. We have a very old stationary bike, but it makes a lot of noise on every spin so I cannot use it. My bike with gears is at a friend of the girlfriend’s, so I cannot use it either. I do have a single speed bike available, but that means I need to be able to put quite some force on the pedals, especially with all the hills around. I decide against that. Will have to satisfy myself with walking and stretching for now. I get used to performing a little daily walk with one crutch. The walk is about 3 km and near the end of this period I even manage a large part of it without crutches at all. At home I largely manage without crutches.
The area below the fracture ended up being pretty sore a lot of these days. I believe the crappy-form walking was to blame. At the time I just was happy to be outside though.
Day 47: First Kine Visit
The kine gives me a stern look when I tell him about my walking. He tells me I am not flexible enough for that yet and bans it for now. If I need to go somewhere, I have to use one crutch. He does tell me at home I should avoid using the crutches. Still need to put some weight on it for it to get better.
The session (and every subsequent session) starts with him pushing my foot in different directions (thus stretching the ankle). I am given exercises to do while he judges my form and does the counting of reps. Final exercise he gives me a ball to hold. He tells me to balance on the bad leg while throwing up the ball and catching it again. He says the record in his practice is 80 throws as he leaves me to my own devices for 5-10 minutes. To my own surprise I easily beat the record, making it to 95 and to 87 on different tries. When I tell the kine when he returns, he gives me a “hah” look and says “I never said the record was done on solid ground, like where you are standing”. He brings out a foamy block pillow on which balancing turned out to be a loooot harder for me. Oops. The session finishes by me spending some time on the stationary bike to build cardio up. He tells me I should try biking for now. He also gives me some ankle stretches to do religiously at home: at least three times a day, more often is better.
Day 52: Second Kine Visit
The kine makes me do some exercises that really show me how weak my calf is right now. Two main examples come to mind.
- Sit on a chair. Use only the bad leg to get up. The higher the chair, the easier this will be. Turns out to be pretty much impossible for me. He gives me a way to cheat the exercise since I have to start somewhere: put the heel of the good foot on the floor, putting the leg straight. This way some weight is moved away from the bad leg and it helps with the balancing. I could do it this way, but the original failure is humbling.
- Stand on only the bad leg. Lift the heel. I could juuust barely lift it off the floor, with a lot of struggling. Somehow suffered my way to ten reps. Calf is way too weak, tear.
Day 54-57: A Biking Weekend
The girlfriend and I took the train to a more natury part of Belgium and set up in a hotel there for the long weekend. We did some big bike rides since I am encouraged to bike. I have to avoid standing up on the pedals, my bad leg cannot handle that kind of force yet.
Come Monday I am sore on the front of my thighs and in my calves. Turns out biking 160 km out of nowhere over two days may be a bit much for the body. Who could have thought. Tuesday I am somewhat sore still, but I am not worried about it.
I had carried a crutch along for this trip, but did not end up needing it. The kine a few days later also added that at this point it is “just for show” and that I should stop using it. Still have to avoid walks much longer than the likes of a cornershop though, if I can help it.
Day 57-67: Once an Ellipticaller
Monday I try out the elliptical to see how it feels. The verdict… pretty ok! I end up doing 30 minutes in my excitement. I also gave the two exercises mentioned above another try. Actually managed the chair lift once or twice as well as a heel lift. Some progress! Wednesday the kine greenlights me to keep ellipticalling. Yes! Time to make a plan of sorts.
That Wednesday session also has me pass a mental block. He places a bosu ball in front of me and tells me to jump onto it. The catch: I can only use my bad leg for the landing. Supposedly I should be able to easily do it and my reservations about it are just mental. I stare at it with a lot of doubt, but eventually make the jump. Turns out it really was easy. Nice. Today the session finishes not with biking, but with running in place on the bosu ball. Not quite real running yet, but I appreciate it.
Friday’s session has more balancing, jumping, and running on the bosu ball. I ask him whether it would be worth it to get one myself, but he tells me the price is a bit steep for me likely abandoning it in the future. I check online afterwards: 215 euro for the real deal. Not cheap indeed.
Saturday I tried the heel raises again and they went… largely OK! Some clear progress. I was told my flexibility was still lagging behind on what he had in mind though, that is less fun. The stretching continues.
Day 68: Orthopaedist
Perhaps a bit worried that something else would still pop up, I make another trip to the orthopaedist. My ankle area still swells easily and the slow progress of my flexibility also does not help my confidence. Another quick x-ray of the foot later, I find myself in front of the doctor. He has a look, asks some questions, tells me not to worry about the swelling and flexibility, and promptly discharges me. No more visits needed!
Later that day I think about the kine telling me that using the leg will help me get better. I decide to improvise a standing desk to force some more usage of the leg.