Achilles surgery


I damaged my Achilles tendons some years ago, and they have been limiting my activities since. For example, I can no longer cycle in the hills, only on the flatlands. And I need a rest day between bicycle commutes or after long hikes. The right leg causes most of the trouble, and finally it was time to do something about it.

Dr Saxena at Palo Alto medical foundation is a respected sports medicine specialist in this area. He says it’s a tight paratenon, the lining around the tendon, causing overuse pain something like a carpal tunnel, and by slitting the paratenon, the pressure can be relieved and the pain disappears. I think I will be off the trails for 4-6 weeks.

I checked into the PAMF surgecenter Friday afternoon. The waiting room has a good-sized aquarium with colorful tropical fish. I went over to have a look, and noticed tiny stalks from the rocks and gravel at the bottom. On closer inspection, I saw that they were animals, sea lillies, I think (crinoids). I bet nine people out of eight don’t notice them!

Friendly and helpful people, and I like their processes to make sure everything goes all right. For example, I was asked several times for my name, date of birth, and why I was there. Dr Saxena came in and marked the right ankle while I was awake and paying attention. I suppose it gets really awkward if they do a heart transplant on someone who came in for hangnail repair.

They have curtained-off areas for the prep work, changing clothes, final consultation, paperwork and such. As they wheeled me down the corridor on a gurney to the operating room, I was irresistably reminded of Calvin: “Wheee!”

Next thing I knew, I was talking with an orderly who offered me water (they don’t let you eat or drink, not even water, after midnight of the previous day). Good idea; I drank three glasses. Jacky was there to give me a ride home. I am wearing a boot that immobilizes the ankle. It has a rigid sole and comes almost up to the knee. They want me to leave it on until the post-op consultation Monday morning.

I have never used crutches before, and I’m clumsy with them. I suppose by about the time I begin to develop some level of proficiency, I won’t need them any more.

There are a couple of steps up to get into the house, so it’s an opportunity to figure out how to deal with steps. One at a time, that’s how. The habits of a lifetime make it hard to resist going for the next one in an alternating pattern: I find I have to stop, think about it, and plan the ascent, to make sure I do it properly. Possibly even more risky going down, where the same temptation is even stronger.

Obvious in retrospect, but somewhat unexpected: when my hands are occupied with crutches, I can’t carry anything. Jacky is very good about helping with things, and I strapped on my cycling belt pack, which allows me to more or carry around at least some of the things I need.

They want me to put an ice bag at the back of the knee from time to time. This is as close to the wound as I can get, with the boot on, and I guess it helps cool the blood a little bit, to help reduce swelling. I’m not convinced it really makes much difference, but I do it anyway.

I made it safely to the second floor at bedtime. Jacky put a fat pillow at the foot of the bed, and I elevated the booted foot onto the pillow for the night. I omitted all of the pain pills. Big mistake? No, not really. A little worse than the usual 20-mile hiking aftermath, but not all that bad. Not the best night’s sleep I ever had, but okay.

Saturday morning, and I made it down the stairs without falling. I can tell that my shoulders will be sore from the extra load, but it will be yet another day or so for the full effect to show up. Spent the day around the house, mostly, although I tried going for a walk in the afternoon. It was about half a block out, half a block back, enough.

By evening, I was ready to try some exercises, to see if I can keep the bad leg from losing too much strength and flexibility. I’m wiggling my toes in the boot, and waving the leg around in all directions, flexing the knee, and pretty much doing everything I can think of that does not require motion at the ankle joint. Better than nothing… I hope.

Saturday night was still awkward wearing the boot in bed, but there is very little pain at this point. That’s encouraging.

Sunday I tried a tub bath, foot up on a low stool that we put into the bathtub. Clumsy, also something I hope I won’t have to get used to. Then I adjusted the crutches for a better fit. We went out by car for breakfast, and they do seem to be an improvement.

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2 Responses to “Achilles surgery”

  1. Deepa Says:

    Get Well soon Dave!


  2. Max Says:

    Wishing you a speedy recovery !!


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