The year of the rupture began on February 12, 2017 at the Willamalane sports complex in Springfield Oregon. The basketball game that day was scheduled for 5 p.m. I ran the treadmill per the usual pregame warmup. All was good, minus a hobble from a slight meniscus sprain sustained three week prior. Injuries happen. That’s expected at age 37, but I had never experienced anything that could have prepared me for the type of pain that I was about to endure for weeks to come.
Minutes after the game started, I felt a dull pain in my left achilles tendon. I thought about coming out for a substitution, but because we were short players, I remained in the game and the pain subsided. I didn’t think much of it until it returned a few minutes later. It occurred to me that something might be wrong with the tendon, but nothing more significant than soreness. After all, only athletes on television like Dominque Wilkins, Kobe Bryant, Dan Marino, have these types of injuries.
Still only 10 minutes into the game, the pain had come and gone and I was more concerned about the existing injury to my right knee. At approximately 5:15 p.m., I ran from baseline to baseline and was underneath the backboard when the other team rebounded our missed shot. I then turned to run back up court and I instantly fell to the ground. Thud! (Kerplunk?)
I looked up over my shoulder to see who pushed me because it felt like someone kicked my left heel out from under me. I don’t even remember falling, it happened so fast, but there was no one near me. Everyone had already ran to the other side of the court. It was inevitable, but not yet certain what had happened. I reached down to feel the numbness that was my achilles, or where my achilles should have been, and nothing was there. Only softness. Being the unselfish person I am, I allowed others the opportunity to touch it as well. The diagnosis was unanimous.
After falling flat on my face, calling Jessica to pick me up, and being helped to the car by Rick Weber, I spent a couple hours in the ER. The pain was not excruciating but I was now crawling and hopping around the house in a splint and peeing into a jug in the middle of the night.
Scheduled an appointment to meet with Dr. Strasser at Slocum Medical on February 14. Anticipating and learning about the surgery procedure is burdensome.
We met with Dr. Strasser on February 14, Valentine’s Day, and surgery was scheduled for February 15 at 2 p.m. to repair the ruptured tendon. Here is a photo of me celebrating Valentine’s Day with my “supportive” wife, Jessica.
I awoke from surgery to see the face of a childhood friend looking over me who is now a Physician’s Assistant at Slocum Medical in Eugene Oregon, 500 miles from where we grew up. All went well with the surgery and the pain was tolerable. I was now in a cast for the next two weeks.
The following is a video that shows the process of the surgery:
All was not well, and few things tolerable. At approximately 2 p.m., I was watching George C. Scott shouting orders at troops and attempting to portray the bravado and swagger of General George Patton while resting my foot on a stack of pillows that I continued to try and keep from falling over. The only comfort were the drugs that I would take once every four hours, and the increased volume of George C. Scott, which I turned up to drown out the pain. Nothing seemed to be enough and every dreaded trip to the bathroom was a journey of discontent. My foot was not well. Not just my achilles, but my whole foot ached with needles, blood rushing to the end of every nerve from the upper calf to my little toe.
I know I am not the first person to have had this injury. I actually work with several people who have had the injury, but from my own experience, I can honestly say that the first week after surgery is the worst period of extended pain I have felt in my entire life.
Good to be back. First day back at work. Progress. Now trying to get caught up at a time of year when the workload is heavy. Foot is elevated on the desk with the door closed. This will not be a full workday. I am happy to be back. Good to see everyone. I am fortunate to work with such great people who care about my well-being. Thank goodness for knee scooters. Likely faster than two healthy feet. Going to the bathroom for a sit down session continues to be my least favorite activity.
THE LITTLE THINGS
Showering, getting dressed, shaving, cooking, using the bathroom, driving, cleaning, getting upstairs, downstairs, and anything that requires two hands is an obstacle. I am completely reliant on Jessica and Jessie to help me with most basic needs.
I cannot live the rest of my life in a 3-level home…
Crawling and hopping are sufficient means of short distance travel.
The cast came off on March 1. The foot is like an infant, fragile and delicate to the touch. It appears thin and puny, and now rests in a boot at a 30 degree fixed position. Taking the boot off leaves my foot vulnerable in a dangling position. It wants to move, but it doesn’t know how and it feels uncomfortable when it does. The entire foot and lower half of my leg doesn’t look right, and definitely feels as bad as it looks. The only time I take the boot off is to shower, which has become a terrifying and dangerous activity. It is now my least favorite activity, sit-downs being a close number two… no pun intended.
The pain is still strong and uncomfortable, however, today is the first day that I have been able to sit up to eat. Showering continues to be dangerous, and it takes me nearly two hours to get ready for work. The drive to work is a struggle because there is too much pressure on my foot when it touches the ground, therefore I keep it hovered inches above the floor of the car. Regardless, the strain placed on my quad muscle from this awkward position has not kept me from the daily routine of stopping at McDonald’s for coffee and making a second trip to the parking lot from my office with the scooter to retrieve the coffee from the car when I get to work. (The scooter stays at the office because my house is not handicap compliant, therefore I am limited to the crutches, which has resulted in a rash underneath my arms that my mother-in-law Cheryl diagnosed as such after we thought it might be poison oak. I fear poison oak. Because of poison oak, I would not be able to honestly testify in front of congress and admit that I have not used performance enhancing drugs, because I have. I have used steroids, and when that didn’t work, I was relegated to taking a needle in the rear like the one Jose Canseco writes about that he injected Mark McGwire with in the 2005 book, Juiced.)
On March 6, I met Cody Moldenhauer, my physical therapist at Oregon Spine and Physical Therapy. He is the only person other than Jessica to have helped me take my boot off. He took measurements of the swelling and pressed his thumb on the swelling to see how many seconds (20) it took for the foot to regain its shape. This method of measurement is known as pitting, and it was determined that my foot is on the higher end of the pitting scale at level four. (NOTE: There continues to be pitting on DAY 100 that is evident from the depression left by my sock.)
Following the visit, I became more comfortable with taking my boot off. I can even do it by myself now.
Today is the first day I have been able to shower upstairs next to our bedroom since getting the cast off. It is still an arduous task, but I can now get over the bath tub ledge without worrying to much about my foot flopping around. I am however still in a hurry to bathe before I get too tired of standing on one foot and have to crutch back to the room. Prior to showering upstairs, I had to crutch downstairs and make sure I had everything I needed downstairs the night before, which also required crutching upstairs to get those items. Once in front of the downstairs shower, I then had to crutch over the half-foot ledge and place my trust in landing on the slip-free mat without breaking my head open. I wasn’t so much afraid of breaking my head open as I was of landing on the injured foot and perhaps injuring the tendon again.
March 12. Exactly one month since the injury and I exercised for the first time. All exercises were from the floor. Good workout but exhausted after laying on the couch and sitting down for the majority of a month. Body feels week. Legs have deteriorated. It feels like I have aged decades in the last month.
I’ve been able to take my boot off for extended periods of time now and I often can’t help but fixate for countless minutes on the shape of my foot and the incision. It looks so strange and foreign.
Started walking… barely. Scooter usage has declined and it will soon return to the medical supply store. My upgrade suggestion would be for them to include a distance tracker.
The improvement has been slow but steady. On April 30 I was able to walk well enough to go golfing with Rick and Don at a muddy Laurelwood golf course. The furthest I have walked in 77 days. Golf score unknown. We golfed.
Started working out again with Gene Joseph, the trainer, doing the High Intensity Interval Training on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.
Received the go-ahead from Dr. Strasser that I can run. I had to reiterate the words back to him to make sure I heard him correctly. He advised to work with the therapist, Cody, to get back to full speed.
Visited Cody, the therapist, for the first time in three weeks on May 11. I ran on the treadmill and did jumping exercises. It wasn’t pretty, but a significant step in the process toward recovery.
I have now attempted to run five of the last six days and have improved a significant amount every day from the first flat-footed run on the treadmill with Cody. I can still only run for short spurts before the soreness creeps in and I have to take a break. The limp in my walk is going away, and I can almost walk up and down the stairs without sidestepping.