Returned to the Treadmill: Talus Recovery (7 Months)

I felt very defeated at the end of the year with the fact that my injury still required daily maintenance, I readjusted my expectations, put my big girl pants on, and was determined through the month of January.

I had no idea how quickly I’d be making progress in my physical recovery!

Within a few weeks I surprised myself with a new found gains: running on a trampoline (high knee steps) and running on the ground.

I had done some of my exercises in physical therapy for the morning, and my ankle felt pretty limber, so I decided to try to bend my knee over my ankle against the leg of one of the tables. I was expecting to still be a few inches away, but my knee was able to completely touch with my foot remaining flat on the table. My PT had transitioned towards his next patient because I was about to start cool down. I scanned the room for him, and caught him looking up in my direction, I pointed down at my knee/ankle excitedly and he smiled, thumbs up’d back!

The next few weeks I continued to make similar gains in PT, I was never able to limber my ankle enough to bend it over my knee to touch the wall outside of PT, but each day in PT I was able to maintain this progress.

I returned to dance using dance tennis shoes, so much more supportive for my feet/arches at this point in my recovery. I felt slow most days as the teacher was now different and I wasn’t used to her style/pace yet. More and more I found that my body remembered some things and I felt like a ballerina again. One of the first days as I was rediscovering my ballet groove I woke up the following morning with muscle soreness, to the point that it hurt to put full weight on that ankle. I was able to walk around at a park later that day, but it scared me a bit.

After a check in visit with my surgeon he decided go order me an MRI to continue to assess the damage and check against necrosis. The x ray scans show that the bone is completely healed.

The MRI was an interesting experience, I laid on a table for what felt like forever listening to the various tones of humming as the machine ran and obtained various images. You never realize how hard it is to lay still until these moments. My right leg felt stuck in such an uncomfortable position, but I didn’t want to move myself and have to start all over again.

Right after my MRI I had physical therapy. I began through the normal exercises for about the first half of the appointment. Then, my physical therapist surprises me by moving us towards the treadmill. I was skeptical that my ankle would cooperate to this level, but I knew he wouldn’t suggest it unless I was ready. We started out at a fast walk, then he tells me to move the speed up to 5.5/6. Well whenever I jogged on the treadmill previously it was never that fast. I bargained with him as I moved it up, 4.5? Him: how about 5? Well…okay….

You guys! I ran on the treadmill 4 times for about a minute each time at a speed of 5!! Despite the fact that my chest was dying from the cardio the rest of me felt amazing. I have a love/hate relationship with running, but I was so humbled to be able to try and succeed at something that I’d have no idea if I’d ever be able to run again.

This reassured me that its okay to work harder at dance and be able to participate in the show in May. Epppp!

Completed My Counseling Residency

One of the most exciting things that I’m looking forward to in 2018 is becoming a licensed professional counselor! That’s right despite my 3.5 month break from work, I was able to complete all of my 3,500 residency hours.

I submitted my paperwork to the board just a few weeks ago. And you can bet I was happy to snap that picture!

They email replied that my paperwork was received, but they stated that it can be up to 3 months before they approve me to sit for my test (which is $250 and intense pressure to pass it!). I’m not necessarily in a hurry to take the test…I need to figure out which program I am going to use to study for it.

I turned in my paperwork before Christmas, and also had the added bonus of celebrating the agency wide Christmas party with my team, as well as our own small team hang out including Secret Santa.

I got a little excited about moscato being served at the agency event…it just makes me feel like an adult, lol!

We even snuck in some fun Christmasey activities with our clients. I learned how to make slime (after failing terribly the first time)

It’s been a long journey with amazing people, and I can’t believe an official paperwork part is almost over :0)

Celebrated 6 Months Post Talus Fracture

Today marks 6 months since my unexpected journey of fracturing my Talus began that fateful day in June. In some ways I can’t believe it has been that long, in others it feels like it has been forever.

In November I had another follow up with my surgeon. I visited him after work the day before Thanksgiving. He saw me walk into one of the exam rooms and expressed his satisfaction at how well I was walking. I explained that I really walk the best while at work during the day, but that when I rest at home it tends to stiffen up again. He inspected it all, ordered me a routine of anti-inflammatories and stated confidently that even though there was still a long road of recovery (this injury can take years to recover from) that he was optimistic that I would make a full recovery. Its funny to see/hear his optimism when my physical therapists often comment on how stiff my ankle is. I think its the difference of the thousand foot view versus being in the trenches. I don’t fully understand what my surgeon means by a “full recovery” I doubt it means getting my full range of motion back as I feel like that has not really increased since surgery recovery began…but that I’ll have a good “new normal” afterwards that includes things like running and some level of ballet? Time will tell.

Overall, I’ve decreased in pain, which is why I was only taking NSAIDS before physical therapy and not every day, hence starting this new cream and daily NSAID. I definitely feel my foot loosen after the cream, but it took me awhile to realize how much it was drying my hand out (FYI you want to apply that stuff with gloves on). I’m not nearly as stiff as I was in the mornings when I first returned to work/the weather first turned cold, and there really are times at work where I’m walking as fast as I used too.

The rough time is in the mornings getting my ankle started or if I’ve left my ankle rest from work I feel like I become Peg Leg Hobbling Pete. I have struggled with discouragement about it all this month of December. I’ve been frustrated with the “shoulds” of it all “I’m just 30 I shouldn’t feel this way, My ankle should be healed by now” (Which, by the way, all “shoulds” do is drive you crazy). I was weary of my daily routine of waking up a few minutes early in order to apply the cream and use the heat pad in order to loosen my ankle. I began doing Physical Therapy at 7:30 am because I was frustrated about it interfering with my work schedule.

Months again my PT warned me that I’d face the plateau when I wouldn’t see the big exciting changes anymore, and I felt it this month. I never felt that I was making progress at least not in any sort of consistent fashion. One day at work I randomly checked to see if my knee could touch the wall and I came within milometers! It was the closest I’ve been able to flatten out my foot and bend my knee over my ankle! But it was also frustrating because I couldn’t tell you why my ankle was looser that day. My PT’s encouraged me that we were making progress, just slowly.

Last month I was even hopeful about my recovery because I tried on heels on a whim and I was able to walk around in them in my house!

Cue Christmas break, relaxing, staying up late and feeling sorry for myself. I probably get about half the steps that I usually do when I’m not working, I just don’t randomly get up and walk around, I sit, watch tv, craft, read, do photography stuff. I ended up not doing my exercises for 2 days in a row, then the next morning I did my morning range of movement exercises and I pulled something in the ankle, creating a soreness that wasn’t usually there.

The next morning I returned to PT and they said it was definitely stiffer than normal, but they couldn’t say if that was from the injury or from less usage. It felt better over the next few days and I felt well enough on Friday to do my normal PT exercises, with a slight ache in that muscle.

The fact of the matter is, no matter how I feel, no matter what “shoulds” I get stuck on, I broke my ankle, I broke my Talus and sat on my butt for 8 weeks this summer while it healed, and it is going to take time to recover. I can face my recovery head on, or I can whine about it, feeling sorry for myself. The problem with that, if I whine, if I don’t do my exercises each night, if I don’t do them well, not only will I not complete my recovery I could lose hope of normal without a consistent limp. So, its time to put on my big girl pants, focus on all that I still have, and fight to finish this recovery well.

What helps you stay motivated to finish things well?

Transitioned to Work: Talus Recovery (4 months)

The past two weeks of returning to work have been rough in some ways that I have anticipated and some that have been completely overwhelming.

In transitioning to work my doctor listed guidelines of what I can and cannot do, and my work created a temporary adjustment to my work duties. Right now I’m basically off school cases because I can’t walk fast nor long distances. I miss them as I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at school cases. I’m also not allowed to work with violent clients or ones who are likely to run away.

I warned my supervisor that I’m different right now, that emotionally, I’m not who I have been. Thankfully, she isn’t afraid of things like that. I’ve had two moments of crying to her reaching my limit, and each time she’s helped coached me through making some adjustments to make this easier.

At first I was completely overwhelmed at work due to the number of clinicians and clients in the office. We are all on agency cases versus being at school, because that is where the needs have been. It didn’t dawn on me later that my social anxieties have also not been tested much over the summer while I haven’t been seeing people, but that all of my insecurities would come out in full force when back with my coworkers. I’ve felt worried, feeling slow, and not sure where I fit in, in the team spirit since I was out so long.

By the end of the first week I felt more like I was getting in the groove of scheduling our programs and working with out clients. “Its all coming back to me now…”

The weekend I was simply exhausted and disappointed that, once again, any and all creative goals as well as house cleaning goals took a back seat to rest and tv watching.

Monday I was encouraged watching the magic that happens when we provide services for clients. What happens when they really take the advice and materials that we are teaching and apply them. We took them to the park and it was amazing watching them blow bubbles and just enjoy the atmosphere.

Later we had a team retreat luncheon at a local sushi buffet place..it was sooo good! I loved being back with my team!

 

Ditched the Boot: Talus Recovery (3.5 months)

After the beach trip I was determined to have a few more weeks of productivity before returning back to work. However, then I came down with this cold that made me miserable, apparently it takes longer to get over simple things like colds when you are also torturing your body with physical therapy.

I didn’t know how wrecked my body was until I showed up for physical therapy one day, planning to each a late lunch after my 1-2 pm appt. My head felt fuzzy, I was introduced to a new elliptical type machine which I felt completely awkward using. I was working on balances over by the mock stairs and I admitted that I needed water. They saw how pale I was and encouraged me to lie down. They were disappointed when they found out that I hadn’t had any lunch. I felt so embarrassed wasting the end of physical therapy, but they were supportive with what I needed right then.

The truly sad thing is I allowed myself to wallow in my sickness, watching more tv than I should, and I felt worse about not completing more creative projects since I’d be going back to work soon.

The morning of my appointment I met a mentor for lunch. It was truly God’s perfect timing that we meet. It was refreshing to share about what I had been struggling with. She validated in a simple “yep, life sucks sometimes, sometimes we suck” vibe. I forget how much I’m encouraged talking to Christians older and wiser than myself. Its easier to understand that things in life come in waves and that “this too shall pass” because Christ doesn’t fail us.

I had PT and then afterwards another appointment with my surgeon. More xrays were taken, and to my surprise he said that I could completely ditch the boot. I thought that he would suggest that I wear a brace, but he said “no brace” Thankfully, he scheduled me to go back to work on Monday, instead of that next Thursday, to give me a couple more days to get myself together.

That weekend was one of my busier ones with a friend’s birthday and taking pictures for my church’s missions conference on Sunday, but it was nice to be busy before work.

Enjoyed Beach Therapy: Talus Recovery (Week 11)

As a last minute thing during Week 11 post accident, we were able to join our friends on our annual beach trip. This year we were hoping to go on an international trip together this fall…but that is the kind of thing that gets postponed when you break your ankle. It so happened that our friends still had an empty room to fill and we were able to join after all!

Going to the beach, rewalking was still new enough that it was easier to feel thankful for every step I was able to take, and I was able to do them in another state!

We’d warned our friends that I might need more help when we asked about coming, since I’d only started walking, and they easily rose to the challenge. They were amazing bringing food/drinks so I didn’t have to walk so much and a few times I was even carried/given piggyback rides!

Historically (due to personality type) I struggle with resting, and this is always the most evident at the beach. Husband likes to completely veg out while on vacation, sleeping in late, just lazing around the beach house. No matter where I am I have a drive to do stuff and adventure. I’ve relaxed more so after having a consistent full time job, but it is something that still pulls us in opposite directions.

Seriously though, I keep myself so busy I volunteer to go with anyone even if they are just going to the grocery store, I beg to go with. I’ve come to the understanding that if I do a special trip or thing at the beginning of the beach trip then it is easier to relax the rest of the week because I’ve got the “exploring” out of my system.

 

This year you guys I FINALLY GOT TO SEE THE PONIES (only they aren’t ponies as the guide chastised me on). There was expected to be hurricaney weather later in the week ( which has caused me to have the tour cancelled 2 years in a row) so the first morning (Sunday) I started seeing if it would be possible and husband agreed! It was amazing! I loved the thrill of using my giant lens. We sat right behind the driver and found out he was actually from our neck of the woods as well. The real adventure was driving back along the 4X4 beach as the waves were higher from the storm, in some places there was very little beach to drive on. The foam from the waves was everywhere.

There was some rough weather but we still had fun.

It truly amazed me how much I felt like I did during this trip, despite that I did so much less than I normally do. For example, I only walked down to the beach like 2x (though a couple more if you include pictures), I only went to the grocery store once. I skipped several stores that I normally travel to. I still felt exhausted doing the few things that I did. It helped provide some insight into the need to truly learn was REST is in my life.

We made it out to the outlets which I’m so grateful I was still able to rent my knee scooter.

I used the house elevator, and everyone joked that it was like I just “appeared” everywhere, it was great.

I was proud of myself for being creative about getting my boot down to the ocean. I’d cover it with a trash bag and secure it with washi tape. Then once at the ocean side I’d walk barefoot some. We also purchased these things called “sand pads” to help make my crutches stable in the sand. I felt like Ms. Wonder Woman herself proudly standing at the water edge.

My foot loved the pool therapy I was able to do. It felt so freeing to “walk” in the pool and not need crutches or other supports.

It was the perfect boost that I needed to help launch me from my couch time to transition towards going back to work!

Returned to Walking: Talus Recovery (2 months)

Its been a long road that has certainly picked up speed since I’ve been allowed to start walking on my boot. Everyone comments to me that 8 weeks of couch rest must have been terrible, but honestly even with my bad days, I think it was the easier part.

On August 30th, I had my 2 month (since accident) follow up with my surgeon. I was anxious about this appointment, anxious to know what my next phase of recovery would be like, if I’d be able to walk at all at our beach trip in a few weeks, how everything was healing.

I took more xrays, nurses were entertained by my “Wonder Woman” styled boot, husband and I took some pictures and teased each other to distract from nerves.

My doctor came in and showed us the scans. He says the hardware looks good, he points to an area in the scan and says some fancy $5 words that later I realized were “Hawkins sign.” He says “this indicates good blood flow and no current signs of avascular necrosis (death of the bone and high risk complication of this particular bone break).  We released the breaths we didn’t realize that we were holding, and I wanted to cry happy tears. Then, he says that I can actually start walking in the boot with crutch support as needed, and would begin “aggressive” physical therapy soon.

I was excited that I could move around, and I quickly discovered that sometimes I needed 1 or NO crutches. I could actually move stuff around and walk at the same time!

Husband and I went to a friend’s wedding later that weekend, one that I’d been eyeing on our calendars and thankful that I was no longer wheelchair bound at this point. Husband had been to the ER that Friday night/Saturday morning due to pain and numbness in his shoulder. Later, we guessed it was from helping to pick me up over the door frame to leave the house and into the tub to bathe. He was sore for awhile, but we didn’t let us stop us at this wedding.

Combined with catching up with friends we hadn’t seen in awhile, this wedding was a good opportunity to let loose. I was stubborn and determined, I walked around with my moonboot and crutches, but I left them at the table for some songs and did this shuffling around that I called dancing. Husband even spun me a few times :0) It was pretty magical, and fun to dance to lyrics like “When your legs don’t work like they used to before…” bahahha.

Well, I paid for that night of fun and crutch freedom. I was sore the next week! That is when I started to feel discouraged, I hadn’t anticipated the way that returning to walk would be…slow and painful. I felt frustrated because although difficult, I had developed a daily routine in my wheelchair status. After I adjusted my perceptions things started to be better.

Other adventures involved watching Newsies with friends (where I debated dressing up like one of the characters has he also used crutches…and was also appalled at how much dancing a guy with a limp can do!) It was amazing catching up with one of my XI friends who was in the cast as well!

And we visited the local fair. I was really hoping to purchase tickets to ride the carosel so I could ride with my boot proudly displayed, but once we got there realized that it was more “kid sized.” O well…probably shouldn’t have even thought about riding it in the first place…at least the barbeque nachos were yummy! (Plus thats when I decided that I wanted to do Nachos for my birthday)

Begun Physical Therapy: Talus Recovery (Week 10)

It took a little while after I started walking to get the work comp approval to start physical therapy. I was nervous, but also excited. Husband kept warning me that it would be painful, but I assured him that it was different now since he had it as a kid, that they had better, less painful ways, bahahaha.

Husband showed up for my first appointment, which really focused on the intake and teaching me a few range of motion exercises to do with my ankle. I was like “oh, this is easy” that didn’t last long though.

I had one solid week of PT before our beach trip with friends. It was painful and tough trying to get my knee to move over my ankle. You see you have to rest your leg in order for your ankle to heal…but at the same time all of your muscles completely atrophy or develop scar tissue and become stiff from disuse.

I wanted to cry so much, and I did the first time I officially worked with my physical therapist, I think because I had allowed myself to believe it would be something different than it was. I joked and I said, through sniffles that I couldn’t hold back, “tears are supposed to prove that you are strong right?” I felt slightly comforted by the fact that there was no way that I was the first person who had cried in front of him. He said, “tears mean you worked hard” He’s kind of a no nonsense hard to read type, so I treasure that he said that.

The first month of PT I was able to meet many of the therapists including some assistants. I enjoyed distracting myself from the painful massages by asking them about themselves, especially what caused them to want to get into the field. It was neat to hear their passions in their answers. One of the PTA’s I’ve gotten to know the best used to do ballet and was going to try to be a professional ballerina in Richmond I think, before she had an injury. I really enjoy working with her as well because she has a similar bubbily personality to me, she’s easy to talk to, and very encouraging at any progress that I make.

Most of the physical therapists will apologize or check in about the level of pain that they have to cause me while working on my ankle. My main went out of town again and the one who was left to fill in said, “So your PT left me some notes to work on you with….I’m sorry” None of them hurt my ankle as much as my main PT so I just laugh it off.

Physical therapy has been an interesting journey, and my PT warned me that its easier to make progress in the beginning, then many people reach a plateau and they become stuck. In the beginning it was incredibly painful but I could marvel over each step. Today was the first day that I walked across the room, today was the first day that I balanced on my bad foot 3x for 30 secs, today my knee moved a little farther over my ankle, etc.

Unfortunately, the thing that seems to work the best to help me bend my ankle back (dorsiflexion) is the graston method. Basically, they take this thin steel bar (think butter knife sized) and some oil type stuff, and literally rug burn scrap into your stiff muscles. I was so proud of myself for not crying during that or asking the PT to stop. It really feels like they are cutting into your skin, or its like the most intense zit popping pressure you’ve ever felt. However, my ankle works so much better after.

Here’s to finding my motivation to do my exercises well at home to be able to get back as much range of motion as possible and decrease overall ankle pain while walking.

Invested In Hobbies: Talus Recovery (Week Seven)

Then, there came week seven post injury, week 5 post surgery. I felt more pain in my foot every so often, but it seemed to be tendon pain and was manageable.

The main distraction for this week was diving into my hobbies. I also was able to watch the partial solar eclipse!

I took a class at the local photography store about lighting and using a speedlight.

That same day I went to the range with husband so he could showcase teaching someone self defense skills in a wheel chair.

Later that afternoon I worked on my first maternity shoot with dear friends in their nursery. It was definitely a challenge not only using new gear for a new photography style…but also because my wheelchair limited my angles. But it was a fun challenge.

 

Other diversions I had included:

Finally playing and defeating Pokemon Sun

And reading all the things!

Husband and I even had a “paint night” painting some kindness rocks. (He bought the paint for future 3D prints…but said we could test them out.)

And most enjoyably, my coworkers visited me, bringing delicious food and a fun evening of laughter. :0)

Reclined Like a Roman: Talus Recovery (Weeks Five & Six)

Sorry its been so long, but here are some details from my weeks 5 and 6 post injury, and the week 3 and 4 after surgery.

I was able to get out a few times, but only with “toes above the nose” which by far has been my least favorite phrase throughout the recovery process. This, for you non injured folks, means reclining such that not only is my foot elevated, but it is elevated so much that your toes are higher than your nose. It really isn’t fun, but I appreciate how it decreased pain and swelling.

My main adventure of week 5 was visiting my family in Maryland. Most years my husband’s family gathers for a family reunion, and this year it was in Maryland. It turned out that the majority of the family was going to be there, so we decided to make the 4-5 hour drive. We didn’t make the car ride pleasantly.

I was in the back seat propped up with pillows, while the dog took my seat. I quickly realized that this made me sick so I took my first Dramamine. It definitely could have been worse, but I learned for the way home that you want to have a pillow under yourself as well. When you sit at that angle you aren’t sitting on the plush part of your tush, just fyi.

The reunion was amazing. I was in a wheel chair but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy myself. I played corn hole (not placing any foot on my injured foot by the way). Ate yummy food. Rediscovered an appreciation for Maryland crabs (you can totally eat the legs). Took lots of pictures, including with my cousin who also had an injury. It was fun to people watch from my wheel chair and DSLR.

 

Week #6 was about reclining with my brother and his new wife! I hadn’t seen my brother since 2014. He volunteered to come visit so I could meet his bride. I didn’t know what to expect and she humbled me by being such a kindred spirit. :0)

We spent time playing pokemon go, raiding and defeating legendary birds (I actually captured one), he treated me to giant yummy pizza, and a fun trip to michaels. It was pretty wonderful. We haven’t maintained the best connection the past few years, but I’m excited to see what the future brings.