Ankle Surgery

The purpose of this post is to provide some information that may be helpful to others who suffer from ankle or similarly debilitating foot issues, but first some background.

Forty eight years ago on a Saturday night after a rugby match in Washington DC, I attended the victory celebration in Georgetown with my teammates.

Unfortunately the drive home resulted in a crash that created serious injury including numerous broken bones. My right ankle was one of them. The recovery took about three months with the first month split evenly between Bethesda Naval Hospital and Naval Hospital at the U. S. Naval Academy.

The rest of the story worked out as well as could be expected. I recovered with little permanent damage. A bad right ankle was the most impactful.

After forty-eight years of tolerating various amounts of pain, I have reached the point where surgery is imperative to maintaining the life style that I desire. In other words, I’ve got to keep on duck and deer hunting and the ankle pain is unacceptable at this point – unless I have the ankle fused.

So now I’m two days away from the big surgical event. I’ve been considering this type of operation for 20 years and planning it for about six months now. Ankle fusion is commonly used to resolve serious ankle joint problems. In the terms I’m familiar with, it requires removing dead bone and remaining cartilage from the ankle joint, creating a path for the joint to grow together and adding a couple screws to assure the joint remains tightly compressed together.

If all goes well, the ankle joint will become one piece. The reduced motion at the former joint will affect walking, but ultimately the result will be better than doing nothing (not an option). And, I can learn to deal with that later.

With all that said, here’s some information I have picked up along the way.

The first two weeks after surgery will be critical to the success of the operation. I must keep my foot elevated and remain in a safe environment. If I were to fall and put weight on the joint, it could ruin the chances for success or create a need to repeat the surgery. That would be unacceptable. Therefore, I’m taking what steps I can to limit my exposure to falling.

Even after the first two weeks, I will need to be very careful not to fall or in any way put weight on my right foot. I expect that some type of cast will be on my foot for two months – or longer.

I expect to use crutches and a knee scooter to get around. I’ve been warming up on the crutches for a couple weeks and on the scooter for a few days.

scooter and crutches

Here’s what I’ve learned.

No mater how much experience you have with crutches, some issues are unavoidable. First you can’t carry stuff around while on crutches, unless you want to be reckless. You cannot go to the toilet, stand on one leg and get the job done, unless you want to be reckless.

The knee scooter is a nice piece of equipment, but it is unstable at times. Practice before use is necessary. Both my wife and I have crashed while trying out this scooter. Linda’s crash resulted in a broken knee cap and she wasn’t goofing around.

It’s difficult getting up off the toilet if you are sitting on a regular toilet when one foot is in a cast and you can’t put weight on it. A raised toilet seat with arm rests seems to work well. I purchased this one online.

toilet seat riser with arm rests

Stools will be useful as knee-rests so I can stand at the bathroom sink and toilet and be hands free.

I moved an old recliner from my office to the back yard in hopes that I can spend some time with my foot elevated in the outdoors. The height of the stool will put my right ankle higher than my body and I can add a pillow if necessary.

recliner and improvised foot rest

Because we own a bed that inclines at both the head and the feet, I’m in good shape on the bed issue.

Other examples of injuries that can put a person in this situation are a broken foot, broken lower leg or torn Achilles tendon.

The healing process will take 8 to 10 weeks or more.

I’m hoping that these preparations will make me more comfortable and safer while allowing me to have peace of mind going into a situation that is a bit stressful.