It’s been six weeks since my ankle surgery and I’ve survived so far. And more importantly, so have Ian and the kids.
December 19th – Pre-op at Steadman Hawkins in Vail
But first let me back up. Last fall, I found out I had a ruptured posterior tibial tendon in my ankle. I’d been dealing with ankle pain for most of last summer, but it got pretty bad in the fall so I finally had an MRI done. I had no idea how bad it actually was. Repairing your posterior tibial tendon requires pretty serious surgery that involves grafting a tendon from another part of your foot, then cutting off your heel bone, moving it over and screwing it back in. The crazy thing is, I don’t even know when I tore the tendon. I think I might have done it playing ice hockey back in high school. Regardless, the time had come to do something about it.
The good news was some of the best orthopedic surgeons in the world are just down the road in Vail at the Steadman Hawkins clinic. Better yet, my friend Laura Clanton’s father is the foot and ankle specialist there. I knew I’d be in good hands.
So, when I awoke after my five-hour procedure, Dr. Clanton said the surgery went well. He repaired my posterior tibial tendon using my flexor digitorum longus tendon, he repaired multiple ligaments with artificial fibers and he moved my calcaneus over 1.5 cm and screwed it back on with a 7cm screw.
Sitting there in the recovery room, I started having buyer’s remorse. I knew that the surgery was necessary if I ever wanted to run and ski 100% again, but I’ve never had any kind of surgery before, and I’ve never really been injured for a long period of time. Lots of my friends said it would be similar to being pregnant, but I was able to walk, run, mountain bike and ski throughout both my pregnancies. This surgery comes with 3-6 months stuck wearing a cast–so that I can’t even carry my dinner to the table or stand-up to take a shower.
The first week after surgery was painful as the nerve blocks wore off but it went by pretty quickly with family around for the holidays. I had Ian, my mom and my sister-in-law here to wait on me hand and foot. (Which was only fun for about two days before it got really annoying.) After a week of being in the house, I was determined to make it to the gym for some seated weight lifting. Not surprisingly, it felt really good. Though it wasn’t a cardio session like I’m accustomed to, the core and strength training I did those first few times after surgery helped keep me sane.
Mom & Juniper on Christmas morning.
Then, three weeks ago, the doctors removed the soft cast I left the hospital with and put me in a hard cast. Right away I didn’t have to worry as much about the kids running into my ankle and sending pain through my entire body. I was allowed to rest my foot on the ground when standing still on my crutches and I was cleared to ride the trainer with one leg. Unfortunately, riding one-legged turned out to be really hard and proved how poor my full circles are. So I tried the rowing machine. That was a little better but after two sessions I landed in the ER with swelling and pain that we thought was a blood clot. Thankfully it wasn’t, but I decided to stick with my strength training for the time being.
The scar on my ankle after two weeks (sorry if you’re squeamish or don’t like hairy legs :)
Scar on my heel
Last week, I went back to Steadman Hawkins, they removed my cast and readjusted my foot again before wrapping it with a new cast. Now, I am cleared to hold 25 pounds of pressure on my cast while standing. Amazing! I no longer have to balance on one foot to pull my pants up. And after a week of 25 pounds feeling good, I’ll get the green light for 50 pounds.
That meant it was time for an experiment. With one cycling shoe, one cast and a flat pedal I got back on the trainer. Success! So far I’ve managed one half hour session and two one-hour sessions with my heart rate averaging in the low 130s’, which got me sweating pretty decently. Heaven.
My First few minutes back on the bike earlier this week.
So far, I found that some days are harder than others, but throughout this experience, I’ve never appreciated my family more. Both Juniper and Axel have learned to be much more self-reliant, making their own breakfast, getting themselves dressed, cleaning up and more.
Watching skimo races from the couch has been difficult and next week I missing the world championships, which just plain sucks. But I’m super thankful to La Sportiva for being 100% supportive and I’ll be cheering on all my friends and teammates who will be in Italy.
I’ve got at least a month or two left on crutches and then a long road back to fitness, but with some good PT and a little bit of luck, I’m hoping to run a few trail races late this summer on the Sportiva Mountain Running Team as well as well as ride a few late mountain bike races for the Basalt Bike & Ski Team.
I’ll make it through this and I hope I can be as strong as my new ankle will be when I return. Thanks to my husband Ian, the kids, my parents and my friends here in Carbondale for all of the support they’ve given me.