Now that I am finally using my real name, I get to start sharing my many nicknames.
First of which is, Trellie ;-)
I am now officially in physical therapy.
My ankle has healed and I am walking - slowly - but I am walking!
As a result, since I have gotten this far, with flying colors and accolades from all medical personnel involved, I feel like I can add "ankle healing" to my curriculum vitae and share a few things.
So, here we go...
HOW TO HEAL A BROKEN ANKLE - TRELLIE STYLE:
- FIRST AND FOREMOST - I DON'T SMOKE AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU - IT SLOWS THE HEALING PROCESS!
- Discover the present moment -- There will be a lot going on over the next few months. Doctor visits, possible surgery, extended periods of time where you will not be allowed to use your fractured limb. You will be exhausted, too tired to do what you are used to doing. This is when surrendering the situation to a higher power (it doesn't matter which one, any will do) and allowing your life to unfold, really comes in handy. You won't be working or doing much else. Take advantage of this time and develop a skill that will help you the rest of your life.
- Prop and ice, ice, ice! -- Ice is now your best friend. I had to ice every hour for almost eight days to get the swelling down so my doctor could operate. And once surgery was done, I iced my ankle several times a day for the first couple of months. It helps with swelling and with pain.
- It's also important to keep your ankle propped. It helps with the swelling and pain as well. And don't freak out if your foot turns dark purple when you have your foot on the floor. It's normal - that's just the blood collecting. Your muscles normally absorb it, but since you aren't using your muscles, the blood has nowhere to go.
- Pain -- Speaking of pain, you will be experiencing a lot of it. If you have to have surgery, you will be experiencing BUTT LOADS! I'm not going to sugar coat it. Take your pain meds and then wean yourself off of them after a couple of weeks. This is when you will be taking a lot of Tylenol and Motrin. It's OK, your doctor will let you know if you shouldn't take it, or if you should back off. After two months, I was only taking Tylenol at night.
- Listen to your gut/Listen to your body -- Do what is best for you. Do not compare yourself to others. This is your injury, your body, your healing. What works for one person does not work for everyone. My good friend broke his ankle a couple of years ago. He chose not to use crutches and instead went with a knee walker. He didn't care about the funny looks. As he put it "Sure I could have hobbled around on crutches, but why should I if I didn't have to?" This totally inspired me:
- Like my friend, I'm a firm believer that just because you can, doesn't always mean you should. For instance, I kept necessary items I needed daily access to, down where I could reach them. Sure, I could lean on counters, balance on one leg, pray my crutches don't fall over and reach into cabinets. But why?
- I could use my crutches to go up and down stairs, but what's the point? It was safer if I went up and down on my posterior and used my father's rollator to navigate the entryway, stoop and curbs where there are no railings. I knew if I had to use my crutches, I could and that's good enough.
- I use a wheelchair when I go to my appointments. I could hobble down the long hallways on my crutches. I know I'm strong enough. I am not totally helpless. That's good enough for me. What sense did it make to fatigue myself and strain my wrists if I didn't have to? (And now that I'm walking with crutches, per my physical therapist's instructions, I'm not to walk to the PT wing until further notice.) So, don't let other's expectations of what you should be able to do, push you into doing something you aren't comfortable with. All it takes is one fall and you are right back where you started.
- Lose your mind -- Yup, you read that right. You are human. You can only take so much. You will reach your breaking point. You will get completely overwhelmed. You will have moments when you can't take it anymore. And if you are like me, the pain medication will exacerbate the situation. Know that these times will pass and are completely necessary if you are alive and breathing. I remember, before we got the Wifi set up so I could use my tablet, we set up a little TV in my bedroom. All I wanted to do was lay in my bed and watch The Big Bang Theory and the flippin' television wouldn't work. I completely lost it. I yelled. I punched things. I threw things. I cried. All the while, chronically apologizing for my behavior. My mom set me straight. "Damn it! Stop that! You are only human! How much are you supposed to take?!" (I love her. Isn't she great?)
- East meets West -- Or holistic and modern: They really can work together. I'm an herbal girl. The pain meds made me crazy and upset my stomach. I drank a lot of chamomile and ginger tea to calm my stomach and my nerves. Once I got steadier on my feet, I took valerian root and St. John's Wort before bed a couple times a week. Warning! Make sure you are down for the night! The valerian can make you dizzy which is an inadvisable state to be in if you are on crutches. I limited myself to one capsule and would take a St. Johns to elevate my mood. ANOTHER WARNING!!! If you are currently taking a blood thinner or have yet to have surgery, stay away from St. Johns - it is a blood thinner and WILL cause complications. (Also discontinue any flax, fish or hemp oils as they thin the blood as well. Which is a total bummer because they help keep you regular and could really help combat the constipation side affects of the pain medications :( Once you are done with the blood thinners, you can add these back).
- You have to "Feel to Heal!" -- This life lesson came back in spades while I was healing. In the beginning, I woke up crying for a month straight. I stayed with my parents and I missed Ken, I missed my cats. I felt helpless because I was so woozy and couldn't walk like a normal person. Not to mention, when your body is in a state of healing, all kinds of things that you need to heal will come up. All sorts of things you didn't have time to deal with because life needed to be lived and responsibilities needed to be met. Take advantage of this time and heal it all; your ankle and your life.
- Laugh! -- Since feeling blue is inevitable, it is very important to keep your spirits up. Plant yourself in front of the television or Netflix. You are only allowed to watch stupid, silly, ridiculous shows. You must laugh, laugh some more and laugh again. This helps with your healing and your emotional state. This is not the time to catch up on Dexter or Criminal Minds. And along these lines, keep your music uplifting and inspiring. That Metallica song about the war vet who's horribly wounded needs to be removed from your iPod for a while.
- Do your physical therapy! -- I was given physical therapy exercises to help me with my crutches and to keep my leg muscles from atrophying. Just some basic weight training. It has helped me immensely. They have kept me steadier on my crutches, and have helped me with combating depression, because exercise raises your endorphins. I was a big blubbery mess while on my pain meds, and afterwards. I knew I needed to "feel to heal", but once I started lifting my hand weights and leg weights before even getting out of bed, the daily crying subsided. And another plus - I don't get tired when I wheel myself in the wheelchair to get to my doctor's office and my current physical therapy appointments. I've finally got nice guns and will continue to work them out once this is all over with.
- Create a psychic bubble -- I wouldn't allow anyone to tell me any of the negative possibilities of my condition. No one was allowed to tell me about "this friend's struggles", or "I heard if you're over a certain age..." Or in my case, "You don't qualify for disability? What are you going to do?" -- No one was allowed to feel sorry for me and if you didn't have anything nice to say, I wouldn't let you say anything at all. I'm not going to go much further, because if you are healing from an ankle fracture, you don't need to hear any more examples. Let's just say, any time my mother looked up YouTube videos on my surgery, I would yell at her to put on her headphones. Now is the time to contemplate perfect healing - ONLY! Wait a few months before you "go down the rabbit hole" and Google your surgery.
- Breathe -- Sure, this is a no brainer, if you didn't breathe, you wouldn't be here. No, I'm talking about healing breath. The kind of breathing that will help you cope with the physical pain, cope with the anxiety from crazy pain meds, cope with money worries and any general freaking out you may experience from being bed ridden. This will all pass, but deep, controlled breathing is a great way to cope with these uncertainties.
- (Just a side note: I fell when I got home, attempting to hop up on the curb and had to have my ankle reset. I absolutely, in no way wanted to be put under again, my experience with ketamine was terrifying - I thought I had died (thank heavens for my spiritual beliefs - since I thought I was dead, I just sat down and waited for someone to come and get me - to lead me to the next place I was supposed to go -haha! I can laugh about it now). I was not interested in going through that again. My wishes were respected, I was given a muscle relaxant and, to the surprise of all the medical personnel involved, I breathed right through it. No problems. This is just an example of the power of breath, not an expectation for anyone having their ankle set after a fracture.)
- Face your fears and embrace the rewards of the courage that will follow -- I was very unsteady the first couple of months after my fracture. I was unsure of myself because I had fallen after the initial visit to the emergency room (another side affect of ketamine. I didn't feel dizzy, but my inner ear was off kilter).
- Before my surgery, even though my ankle was in a splint, it was dangling and I had to let it settle in my splint every time I got up, before I could start moving. (I met a fellow patient who experienced the same thing - kind of a relief as my family just couldn't understand, and quite frankly, I did not feel like explaining because it was just that overwhelming - so if you are experiencing this, I am sending you gobs of love and understanding - it will stop after you have your surgery.)
- Until I was steady on my feet, getting out of the house for my appointments was terrifying. Navigating the stairs, dealing with my wooziness, navigating the ice and snow outside, dealing with steps and stoops that did not have hand railings. Scary stuff people. Really scary stuff. But I managed it, with the help and support of my family and friends. Remember - You will not be overwhelmed with great waves of courage to help you do what you need to do. Courage is the byproduct of facing your fears <3
- Eat well -- This is not the time to eat your emotions by pigging out on sweets and french fries. Your body needs all the help it can get. I was instructed to up my protein, what the body needs to rebuild muscle and bones. I ate very well. I had no appetite at first, due to the pain meds, so it made it really easy to just eat the good foods I was instructed to consume. Lots of veggies and protein. I was also told protein powder and protein bars were OK, as well. Once I quit taking the pain meds, my appetite came back like a monsoon and I had to really watch myself. One thing I did do, though, was allow myself a little bit of dark chocolate everyday. My endorphin booster. AND PLEASE - avoid high sodium foods. This will just cause your ankle to swell up even more. Very painful and not fun at all.
- Vitamins! -- I'm not going to argue with the naysayers. Especially when you are healing a crazy fracture like this, you need to up your Multi Vitamin, Calcium and Vitamin C. Calcium and Vitamin C help build muscle and bones. Sure, your body only absorbs so much, but my argument has always been, if you are deficient, your body will absorb what it can and then some more. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out the benefits of increasing these vitamins. It has made all the difference in the world.
- Healing Meditations -- It is a scientific fact that a relaxed body and an open mind are more responsive to healing and will heal quicker. I have a great Healing Meditation from Kelly Howell, that I listened to regularly. Just a small warning, do not listen to any meditations while you are on pain meds. They are not a good combination. I remembered a meditation facilitator telling me this years ago. Your brain is not in the right state to accommodate this intense, guided relaxation. (FYI - if you choose to purchase any of Kelly Howell's amazing meditations through the previous link, I will be given thank you money for sending you in her direction. Please feel free to "enter through another door", by Googling - Kelly Howell - if you are not comfortable with this.)
- Reiki -- It's up to you. Not everyone believes in Reiki healing, so if you don't, you will probably not benefit from it. I was put on many prayer lists and had many Reiki healers sending me energy. I noticed a difference, especially in the beginning when I was emotionally vulnerable. It was beautiful, healing and relaxing.
- Along these lines, since I am obviously a firm believer in the qi, or life force, that surrounds and runs through the body, I spent the first month away from the computer. Computers are major qi zappers. I needed my qi for healing. My family let my social networking communities know what was going on. And it was a good two months after my surgery before I was able to sit in front of the computer for long periods of time without feeling drained.
- After the surgery -- If your fracture requires surgery, this is when things can be really rough and overwhelming. Here is where you will develop all kinds of courage.
- I had to give myself shots in my belly twice a day - blood thinner - for two weeks. It's not so bad and while still on your pain meds, you can't feel it. Just be sure to change the location of your shots. You can give yourself a hematoma.
- You will also be expected to unwrap your splint, and wash your stitches, daily. I had visiting nurses while my stitches healed. The first three times, they unwrapped and cleaned my stitches. This is for good reason. It is VERY overwhelming to see your stitches and swollen ankle at first. But, then, they expect you to face your fears and do it yourself. Trust me, it's not that bad. You can do it. Just be very gentle and patient with yourself.
- On the one hand, the pins, plates and screws your surgeon will put in your ankle will help you heal quicker, will align your bones and ligaments properly, leading to better range of motion and less pain throughout the rest of your life. ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU HAVE PINS, PLATES, AND SCREWS IN YOUR ANKLE! HOW ON EARTH ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO WRAP YOUR HEAD AROUND THAT???!!! They will be in there the rest of your life (sometimes there are screws that get removed, but they prefer to not do that). At first you can't feel them because you are whacked out on pain meds and your ankle is REALLY swollen. Then, as the swelling goes down and you wean yourself off the meds, you start to feel something very foreign in your ankle. It's very rigid and different. I thought it was my splint rubbing on my ankle bones until I remembered the new splint that was put on after my surgery only went up the back of my foot and leg. UGH! :-P
- Welcome your new hardware -- How would you welcome a new person into your home? You would invite them in, make them feel comfortable and at ease. I envisioned my bones accepting these plates, pins and screws with great gratitude. After all, they are what are going to allow me to walk properly when this is all done. I visualized my bones hugging these screws, thanking them for being here and doing their work. I visualized the molecules from the hardware mingling with the molecules of my bones and ligaments. I surrounded them with light, and said "Welcome. I am so glad you are here. Thank you for all you are going to do." They are now members of my "ankle family". They are a blessing. And remember my night nurse, Cindy. She had this same surgery and she was running around like she had never even hurt herself. You will be back to normal soon and it will all be thanks to your new hardware.
- Your attitude is what's going to make you or break you. As soon as I was told I'd have to do something, I just put on my "Big Girl" pants and did it. Pain meds are great for subduing fear and reasoning, and as far as I was concerned, what else was I going to do? "Belly shots", cleaning my stitches, physical therapy: these were the things that added some continuity to my life. They gave me something to focus on, and made me an active participant in my healing.
- Use this time for you -- After a month or so, you will feel like sitting up at a computer, at your sewing machine or grabbing your knitting needles. You will want to do more than nap, watch TV and listen to music. I am a writer, I got back to blogging as soon as I could. In fact it was that first post where I let my readers know what was going on with me that really started lifting my spirits. Then I finished a class I'd been working on. Boy did that feel good.
- I remembered learning about Frida Kahlo. She had been in a horrible bus accident and was confined to her bed, on her back, for six months. She spent most of this time painting. Paintings which expressed her intense emotional state and physical pain. She had her family rig the canvas up above her and she painted her heart out. At first your creative energy will be needed for your healing. But, before you know it, you will have enough for your own creativity. When else in your adult life will you not be allowed to go to work and have all the time you need for what lifts you?
- FINALLY! -- THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF THE ANKLE HEALING PUZZLE -- You MUST do everything your doctor tells you to do. I followed my doctor's directions to the letter and so should you. Ice. Prop. Wear your fracture boot. Do whatever stretching exercises you've been instructed to. Keep your appointments. Put your foot on the floor when it's time. Whatever! If he tells you to do it, it's important and he's telling you for a reason. You DO NOT know better. I implimented some holistic and spiritual healing, none of which interfered with my doctor's orders. And that's all I have to say about that ;-)
Don't be afraid to reach out.
We live in the cyber age.
Take advantage of it.
There is no need to completely isolate yourself.
Get on Facebook and Twitter.
Text with your friends.
Text with your friends.
Tell your story.
Accept the love.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, "Make your mess your message."
You might be completely surprised at what you get back :)