Life: One week out from Ankle surgery

I don’t think this blog was privy to my year of health goals and maybe since my last series on the subject was in 2011, it’s probably best not to speak up before I’m actually doing something about it but my YouTube channel does have a video where I talk about medical sciences and my current job’s amazing health care being used to fix some ailments long ignored. If you’re curious, here’s the video.

As a teenager, I was very active and engaged in long distance rollerblading, long distance scootering (yes the old cool toy to have back in the day except I’d ride for 15+ miles), cross-country running, weight lifting, CrossFit, Pilates and martial arts. After over a dozen ankle sprains, I developed footballers ankle. It’s not uncommon but it is caused by ankle strains/sprains.

The front of your leg bone that covers the ankle grows longer than it should. When you bend your foot backward, you’re met with reduced motion and a ligament impingement that causes dead leg. Most commonly, this issue hurts me today when off-road motorcycling. You ride a dirt bike standing on the pegs and usually, my calves get tired after a few hours, I’ll get lazy and I’ll let my foot bend in to my shin just far enough to impinge and then I can’t walk for a few days. It’s a minor inconvenience but solvable with surgery.

It’s fixed in a 90 second procedure…well 45 minutes all-in if you consider anesthesia, shaving my foot, creating a couple of holes and all of the other prep that’s required. The doctor inserts a camera and saw and shaves away that bone spur that’s extending too far. The surgery is called “Arthroscopy for Anterior Ankle Impingement“ and there are some really great YouTube videos that show how easy this is to perform.

I visited a podiatrist for the first time ever in March for this issue and just general foot health. This was during my initial run of seeing many dozens of specialists and getting my health under control. After an x-ray, the spur was identified and I was referred to surgery. I informed the doctor of my rotator cuff surgery in just 3 weeks so he kept the referral open and asked me to wait 4-6 months since using crutches post-rotator-cuff-surgery was going to be very challenging.

With the baby arriving November 10th, I thought there’s no way I could get it done this year but I told the scheduler that I’d like to be placed on their cancellations list and luckily, they had one just 1 week before my cut-off to avoid this surgery for a few more years since I’d be caring for a newborn for some time. Surgery occurred on Thursday 9/21. It was all pretty straight forward. No eating or drinking until I arrived for surgery, prep, IV, anesthesia, roll back and then wake up 45 minutes later on a wheelchair heading out to the car. My doctor who is very casual about everything called my wife from the golf course (not joking) instead of going out to see her after surgery letting her know it all went okay and he had to run. He then forgot to prescribe any pain killers and his office was closed for the day. They finally prescribed pain killers 2 days later on Saturday and at that point, I didn’t need them. This being the same surgeon who said he was going to “roto-rooter” my ankle. Super scientific.

I went home and laid down with alternating Tylenol / Advil as directed and ice. My ankle was pretty immobilized wrapped in heavy athletic bandages. I was issued a walking shoe (not a boot) and crutches and told to keep all weight off the foot for 7 days until my first appointment. Heather had the genius idea of getting me a knee-scooter which has been remarkable.

During my pre-op appointment, I told the doctor I wanted to go to a Florida Gators football game on Saturday after the surgery. He recommended against that but thanks to the knee-scooter, we drove down to florida with me in the back seat on Saturday with the leg on ice and elevated and I scooted over to the stadium using a wheelchair spot and kept my leg up the entire game. It was a great time and another bucket-list item for my wife (SEC Football game).

It’s Wednesday and tomorrow I have my first physical therapy appointment for my ankle (and my last PT appointment for my shoulder) then I go to hopefully get my stitches removed and be issued a boot. I need to ride my motorcycle 6 hours down to Alabama next weekend for an event and that boot is essential to making that happen. If I have to wait another week, well I guess that’s okay, too.

What’s the recovery like? Doctors are conservative so I’m mostly following all orders. I do put some weight on it to use the bathroom and occasionally take 2 steps to get to my knee-scooter but:

1 week no weight-bearing, 1 week some weight bearing with boot, 2 weeks with the boot and walking more but nothing high impact. At that point I’ll be 4-weeks post-op and can walk around in shoes but I’m urged to not do stairs or any fast-paced motions. Just walk normally and be careful and obviously continuing physical therapy. After 8 weeks from surgery and PT, I should be able to return to road-jogging which is around the time my baby will be about 2 weeks old so I won’t be doing any long distance hiking or running anyway.

Compared to the 4-6 months for rotator cuff recovery, 8 weeks couch to 5K is pretty good.

The procedure cost shouldn’t exceed $5,000 whereas my rotator cuff was $27K all-in. I have great insurance so it’s a flat $50 for the procedure and $15 per PT visit with no annual limit.

Overall, with a baby coming having my shoulder and ankle fixed are my only current ailments that needed surgery. It’s tough for my wife who was pregnant for both of those but she just considers it prep for taking care of a newborn which is a fair comparison. I was basically helpless for 4 months of this year and yet we still made the most of it. My shoulder is about 95% healed and honestly just being able to sleep on my right side and crawl under my car for oil changes without pain is a huge upgrade.

I was once again invited to BMW’s off-road competition to qualify for Team USA this year but I can’t do it. Even if I had deferred ankle surgery a few more years, my shoulder is not fully healed so I am taking this year off from the competition. It’s not what I want to do but it is super important that I get healthy and try again in 2 years. I’ll still be at the event as a volunteer on my knee-scooter/boot in 3 weeks cheering on the folks trying to qualify. For the other event next weekend, I do hope to make it but if I’m not in the boot for some reason, I’ll have to skip that one. I’ll have one more event (a BMW board meeting) before Halloween to attend but that’s up in the air if the baby decides to arrive early. It’s nearby but kids come when they’re ready.

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