Ten hours after rupture
March 11, 2016
What a difference one year makes. Or not. These past 12 months have been the most difficult of my life. Physically and emotionally. I discovered a great deal about myself… some good, some not so hot. In early March 2015, I had my plate full (well, fuller than normal). Battling the very painful Achilles tendonitis I had been living with was tiresome and being put on a new medication to combat my newly diagnosed Rheumatoid arthritis was not a pretty experience). The chemo drug I was on had many horrible side effects.
The nightmare all began that one drizzly night back on March the 11, 2015. We were going to sleep with our bedroom window opened because it was a rather pleasant evening outside. I hadn’t seen rain in so long, and when I went up to bed and heard it out the window I wanted to take a look. It was one of many dumb moves I have performed over my lifetime. In more ways than one. First off, it was TOO dark to see anything and secondly I should have been lying in bed.
I had been put in a boot (from toes to just below the knee) in January after my podiatrist said I had Achilles tendonitis in my left ankle. The cause for the tendonitis was blamed on being on the elliptical trainer at the gym for the previous 12 months, 4 days a week. (Not my opinion, but everyone else’s.) I had been in the boot for almost two months and that same night on March 11, I had remarked out loud that “I can honestly say that this is the best my leg has felt in over a year.” Not ten minutes later did those words blow up in my face. While Dennis went into our bathroom to change for the night, I got out of bed and walked over to see the rain (that I never ended up seeing.) I turned from the window, took about 5 steps and my toes hit straight on into the plastic dog steps we have leading up to our bed. I was not running. I was not going fast. They were my usual steps I take. What I heard and felt was something I have never heard or felt before. It was a loud crunching, crashing sound…almost like a horrible car accident. The pain brought me to my knees and I just keeled over the end of the bed screaming and writhing in agony. (Of all nights to have my bedroom window opened.) I held my ankle and couldn’t feel anything but excruciating pain. I couldn’t pinpoint an area where it stemmed from. It was just there. Dennis ran out of the other room asking “what happened?” and if we should go to the hospital. “No, no, I don’t need to go.” Uh yeah, I probably should have. Good old hindsight.
He put ice on my ankle and an ace bandage on me because I felt like my leg was not attached (little did I know it wasn’t!). It was swollen within minutes. By morning it was purple and blue and big as an ice chest. Over the next few days, I would get nauseated looking at it. I phoned my doctor who had been treating me, a few days later (I really thought it would heal itself. Fool.) I got in to see her, she asked if I heard a snapping sound when it happened (yes I did , but I mistook it for a crunching sound) and she advised me that I needed to have an MRI stat. I got home, called the radiology facility and told them I had a stat order from my doctor and they should have received the fax. The employee at the facility told me they couldn’t find any order. Long story short…. My stat order was going to be a week away! I fumed. I put a scathing comment on YELP about their lack of concern and within minutes I was told by the administrator to please call her. I did, and I got in for an MRI the next day, late at night. While there, the technician saw the agony I was in, trying to make it from the chair to the table to lie on. Afterwards, he told me “You already know it’s bad… you have some major damage here.” I believe the only reason he was so forthcoming with me was (because they normally won’t tell you anything) that I schlepped my carcass in there, dragging my mangled leg like I just came out of a tree shredding machine. He also saw the black, purple and red my leg now displayed as soon as I entered the MRI room.
I tore the Achilles tendon. I had no idea HOW bad it was until surgery day. Surgery wasn’t until March 26- FIFTEEN long days later- and in that time it was brutal to even walk around. Heck, it was sheer torture to have a sheet lie across my leg at night. I had on the boot but I felt like my leg was maimed. When I took off the boot to shower or go to bed, I wanted to cry – I did cry- because I had no calf anymore. When I moved just a tiny bit, my entire leg from the knee down jiggled and swayed like I had a pillowcase filled with snakes attached to it. It was absolutely painful, horrible and nothing I could do to fix it. I should mention, I had NO pain medication at all during this entire time. Saint? Martyr? No, I just sucked it up.
During surgery, the doctor found that it wasn’t just an easy tear and repair. Normally you just take the two end pieces of tendon and stitch them together in the center and be done with it. Mine was torn clean off the bone. She only had fragments at the base of the bone in my heel to attach the mangled tendon to. She landed up using a screw to anchor in the bone. I feel that every day of my life. No amount of physical therapy helped. I can’t walk smoothly, cannot walk down stairs like an adult, and experience immense tightness morning, noon and night.
During the entire recovery time (six weeks in bed, no weight-bearing on it at all) and the remaining 5 months which entailed me wearing that damn boot 24/7, I was being treated for rheumatoid arthritis. (This should be called rheumatoid DISEASE because SO MUCH MORE is involved than just joints.) After a million blood tests, I discovered that I have some form of yet another autoimmune disease (Gee, having RA and MS isn’t enough it seems?) which causes the tendons to wear down. Come to find out: the gym wasn’t the culprit. My body is just attacking itself.
It’s been one year – and every day I am reminded that it happened. It’s not something that is far from my mind and memory because of the ‘peg-leg’ type feeling I live with. (Imagine a piece of plywood jammed into your leg from the heel up to the calf…. That’s what I feel 24/7.) I don’t care anymore about the ugly scar and the staining it left behind. I was one of the lucky people – insert sarcasm here– who have hemosiderin staining (Hemosiderin staining is a common problem to see after any surgical procedure where there is bruising or blood in the tissue. It contains iron pigment and may take a long time (years) for the body to metabolize the iron and pigment that has spread into the tissues.) My badge of honor.
Over the duration of 2015, I learned that I can be very strong and have a coping mechanism that kicks in. On the other hand I collapse rather quickly emotional-wise when I feel I have reached the end of my rope. (Believe me, I had many, many moments and thoughts over those first 4 months as to not going on.)
All in all, I would never recommend having this surgery as elective. In all seriousness. My doctor had mentioned to me when I was placed in the boot on initially in January that if this did not work, I could always have surgery to correct it. I had NO choice in the matter after the rupture that “Could be heard around the world” slammed me on March 11, 2015. I hope to the high heavens that I never, ever, endure anything as “appalling, atrocious, awful, dreadful, frightful, ghastly, grisly, gruesome, hideous, horrendous, horrid, horrific, horrifying, lurid, macabre, monstrous, nightmare, nightmarish, shocking, and terrible,” as this entire experience had to offer.
Happy Anniversary! May this year be a much better one.