Hi, I'm Dave Mulder. This is my website, where I write about user experience and product design.

This post is part of a series regarding my recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Go to the full Achilles archive

Originally Published: August 6, 2015

Day 0 — I’ve ruptured my Achilles tendon

As my balance gave way and my body tumbled to the ground, I knew, instantly, what had happened. No one was around to have kicked me, so the sensation of being booted on the back of my heel was a dead giveaway — a muscle or tendon had ruptured.

Being near a bench, I crawled 20 feet and seated myself. Calmly, I reached for my right leg, and discovered a gap in my right Achilles tendon. Seeing as how there shouldn’t be any such void, this self-diagnosis set me into a calm panic. My life for the next few weeks and months was about to become very different.

Let me explain why. If you are seated right now, try lightly pressing the ball of your foot (either one will do) downward, with the muscles below your knee. Now increase the force a bit. That’s called plantar flexion.

The Achilles tendon connects your leg’s gastrocnemius (calf) and soleus muscles to your foot’s heel bone. Almost all the walking power in your leg comes from these muscles, so when your Achilles tendon is completely ruptured, it’s nearly impossible to walk. With my injury, when attempting to plantar flex and push downward with my right foot, absolutely nothing happens. That’s why I can’t walk.

Photo from www.uofmmedicalcenter.org

My immediate concern following the injury is getting off the bench. Thankfully, I have my phone with me, and my first call is to my loving girlfriend, Kristy. She will leave work, grab my crutches from home, and bring them to me. With transportation en route, I begin considering my next step. Should I go home and rest? Should I go to the emergency room?

After dialing my primary care physician, who is unable to provide a same-day appointment, I opt for an urgent care facility. Urgent care exists for situations like this, when immediate assistance is desired for non-life-threatening issues.

Kristy arrives, I get into the car (passenger side, of course), and she takes me directly to Sparrow Urgent Care. After a brief examination (with x-rays), Sparrow’s physicians confirm an Achilles tendon rupture and arrange a next-day consultation with an orthopedic surgeon.

Importantly, the physician at Sparrow has instructed me to avoid aspirin and ibuprofen; as blood-thinners, taking them will push back any surgery date. She prescribes Tylenol #3, which is acetaminophen with codeine. My pain isn’t significant, but the Tylenol does help.

Following the urgent care visit, I return home and apply RICE therapy (rest, ice, compression, elevation) to my injury.