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Four weeks broken

This entry was posted on Sunday, August 21st, 2016 by Frances Ryan.
Tags: walking, stubborn, sports, running, lessons, house, health, broken ankle

It has now been four weeks since my fateful journey out for some salty snacks; a journey that left me with a broken ankle. I am now on the journey to recovery, but it’s a slow and unenjoyable process!

The first three weeks of my injury were spent away from home, as I was housesitting for friends. It means that I have had to re-learn routines again to fit in with the layout (and location) of home. It is actually a bit more challenging at my own home, and it would have been extremely difficult had I been home for the first wee while of my injury. However, because I have overcome the initial pain and physical limitations, it is a little easier to adapt to living with a broken ankle at home.

Of course, life would be so much easier if I had a partner to take care of me. But then I’d probably get frustrated with being overly coddled, so maybe I won’t complain about having to muddle through (mostly) un-aided!

As with my two-week update, below is a bit of the nitty-gritty of my personal healing experiences. You know, for those people who are Googling information about broken ankles (as I did).

Sleeping:
My pain and discomfort levels have decreased to where I am able to sleep more easily now. In fact, the only real problem with sleeping is the end bit: Waking up! And that’s only a problem because I can’t just hop out of bed, I have to put the stupid walking boot on first.

That said, I am still having trouble with the urge to stretch my legs when I first wake. I’m getting used to not stretching, but I can also feel that I will be able to stretch soon.

Washing:
Bathing has got a bit easier as I’ve grown a bit stronger. However, it is still a process fraught with frustration and sometimes pain—like when my ankle gets knocked by toppling showerheads or shampoo bottles.

As I’m home now, I had to make more changes to my bathing, too. My tub is fairly deep and doesn’t have any solid handles/grasps. This means it would be very challenging (and unsafe) to manoeuvre myself in to sit on the floor of the tub. (There is a lack of non-slip mats, too. That’s an issue that will need to be sorted once I’m ready to try standing in the shower.) There wasn’t time to get a shower seat before I returned to the office (and therefore before I needed to bathe again), so I had to get a bit creative.

As it happens, there was a slightly deflated exercise ball in the house. I can put that into the tub and it is high enough for me to sit on it then swing my legs in. My weight then pushes the sides outwards creating a snug fit for the ball. The showerhead detaches and can be used as a hand-held device, so I’m able to hash my hair with relative ease.

(A funny aside about my backside: My first time using this system, I steadied myself on my good foot to lift my backside off the ball. After soaping up, I then sat back down on the wet, rubber ball. Yeah. Soap + water + rubber ball = slippery! I’ve found a better, safer way to wash my backside now though. So don’t worry—I’m keeping clean!)

I am also now strong enough to make post-washing body lotion an easier process. I’ve found that I have to do much of it whilst sitting, but I can now do some of it standing on my good leg and resting my bent knee on the side of the tub. This reclaimed strength really is making the whole self-care process easier and faster!

Daily living/chores:
Home is still just me—mostly. I have a housemate, but he works nights so our paths rarely cross. He did, however, pick up a few things from the shops for me before my return so that I wouldn’t have to worry about food until I got back to my office. Thankfully, there is a small grocery store between my office and the bus stop, so I’m able to pop in and grab anything I need on the way home.

It’s a little more challenging to get comfortable here at home than it was when I was housesitting, but I am managing as best as I can. I think that part of the problem is that I’ve been moving around a lot more, as I’ve returned to the office. But it’s getting easier. Really!

I had a few errands to run this past week, too. And that’s when I realised just how difficult life can be when you don’t have two working legs! The main errand was “simply” renewing my American passport by going to the American Consulate in Edinburgh. To do this, I needed US-sized passport photos and a special pre-paid envelope from the post office. In an ideal world, I would have been able to get the photos and envelope in an hour’s time—including the walking between my office and the photographer’s and post office. Then I could have popped to the Consulate before work the following day. Easy peasy.

Instead, I had to get the photos one day and the envelope another day. And getting to the Consulate took a bit longer, too. (And it all cost extra money, as I needed to get taxis for parts of the errand.) In the end, it took me about three extra hours and cost an additional £15 for taxis.

So yes, chores are all taking a bit longer—in part because I am not able to move quickly. But I am managing to get things done. Mostly.

Balancing rest and life/work:
I returned to the office this last week, which made it a bit challenging to balance rest and life! Challenging, but not impossible. And people at my office are amazing! Various people have helped to find things to elevate my leg and to rearrange my workspace so that I am able to work with as little discomfort as possible. They’ve also be very helpful with getting me teas and such, which is so very kind of them!!

I am unable to work at full capacity right now because I am struggling to find a comfortable position to work in for long periods of time. This, in turn, has caused a bit of frustration for me because I had really hoped that my thesis summer would be a lot more productive than it’s been!

Public transporation has been a mixed bag, and walking to and from the bus stop can be a slow and sometimes painful process. For the most part, bus drivers and fellow passengers have been very helpful, too. That is especially helpful on my journeys home after work, when the bus tends to be standing-room only. Unless you have a cast on, in which case people move for you. Yeah, I can get used to that!

My social life is also suffering a little bit. In the first two weeks, I really got the balance wrong. So I’ve been trying to be a bit more careful about what I do (or don’t do). Last week, that meant that I decided to go to a Fringe show with some friends—but I needed to use taxis for part of my travels. It also meant that when some gals from the office wanted to have a glass of wine after work on Friday, we needed to pick a venue based on where I would be able to sit. (Which meant not going to the “normal” after-work drinks place.)

Sadly, finding the balance also means that I had to forgo heading into town yesterday for a Fringe show on my own. After travelling to and from the office all week, my leg really needed the rest. And it also means that I won’t be able to enjoy the Borders Steam Train this year, because it only runs on Sundays and I won’t be able to travel to the train station without a considerable amount of walking—which I can’t do.

However, I am convinced that I will be in shape for enjoying a couple of days out in the next few weeks. Or at least, I hope I am!

Pain, swelling, and bruising:
Thankfully, the majority of my pain has subsided now. I am not in immediate pain most days, but I have found that the pain does increase on the days I go into the office. And, as expected, the more walking I do, the more pain I am in. I am trying not to take any pain medication though, as that can cause problems for my platelet counts.

The swelling in my ankle has gone down considerably, too. You can easily see the swelling when comparing my broken ankle to my good one. But you’d have to do more than just glance to realise the broken one is swollen if you were looking at it in isolation. The bruising is almost completely gone, too. There are a couple of faint glimmers of what used to be the most spectacular bruising I’ve ever had but, again, you’d really have to look to notice it.

The biggest visual difference is that of my left calf. Within the first two weeks, there was visible muscle loss. Now, four weeks on, the difference is even more obvious—and is slightly comical looking! And, I admit, I am a bit worried about the aesthetics of it all when I am finally able to remove the walking boot. I know that the muscle will re-build quite quickly, but I fear I will look very lopsided when wearing skirts or dresses for the first couple (few?) weeks. (I know; how vain!)

Up next:
Starting tomorrow, I will be taking the boot off two times per day for stretching exercises. I understand that this process will hurt quite a bit, but I know that it’s a necessary part of the recovery process. My plan is to take a couple of painkillers when I wake up, then do the exercises before I get out of bed. Though I might try to skip the painkillers. I don’t know. I suppose it will depend on how brave I’m feeling in the morning.

In two weeks’ time, I will be able to take my first bootless steps! You may not realise just how very excited I am about this prospect!! (Even though I’m sure it will entail a bit of pain, too.) I won’t be completely discarding the boot though. Instead, I will spend 2-6 weeks slowly discontinuing use until I am able to walk in a “normal” shoe all day without the need for the support. (Hopefully, this won’t take the full six weeks.)

Oh! And in eight  weeks’ time, I will be allowed to run! Well, in theory at least. That will be the 12-week mark from my initial injury. However, I will be travelling at that time so will likely hold off on running until I return home a few days later.

Stay tuned for a six-week update… in addition to various other posts about my ankle or other adventures in my boring little life!

To read more about my progress, follow the links below:
I am broken
Two weeks broken
Four weeks broken
Six weeks broken
Broken ankle, Phase II: Learning to walk again
Eight weeks broken
Ten weeks broken
Twelve weeks broken
Broken ankle, Phase III: Getting back to normal

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