Originally Published: August 14, 2015
Week 1: No weight bearing, and first post-surgery consultation
Note: This post is the first of a shift to weekly updates.
Now that I’m at home, I’m trying to keep my operated leg elevated as much as possible, which helps reduce swelling.
On Thursday, Day #7, I had planned to shower, but the cast protector I ordered was not large enough to fit over my cast. That’s a mistake on my part, but also the fault of a deceptive product image on Amazon. They must have used a very small person’s leg. So, I order a new cast protector for next-day delivery.
I haven’t received many details from Dr. Sladek on what my recovery will look like, so I figure that today will bring some in-depth information.
Kristy drives and I crutch into the waiting area, then an examination room. It’s much quieter than my previous consultation just a week prior, and Dr. Sladek comes in within a few minutes. He asks a few questions about pain and swelling, then tests me by pushing on the cast along the heel. I think this is meant to simulate partial weight-bearing force.
As promised, Dr. Sladek prescribes a walking shoe that fits over the bottom of my cast. We can get this cast shoe from an orthotic office just a mile away.
I asked Dr. Sladek about the risk of blood clots, which can lead to deep vein thrombosis. The incidence rate is generally low, but leg immobilization is a significant risk factor, to the point that some orthopedic surgeons will prescribe injectable anticoagulants for all of their immobilized patients. Dr. Sladek indicated that he just had a patient with a blood clot, but he didn’t think it was necessary to be on a full-blown anticoagulant (which will have its own risks and side effects). He told me to use aspirin, which is a mild prophylaxis for blood clots.
I also pick up a few details on the recovery process. Using this cast shoe, Dr. Sladek wants me to start putting weight on my right leg, with the goal of walking into his office without crutches at my next consultation (scheduled for September 11th). This next consultation will also mark the removal of my current fiberglass cast, though it’s not clear to me if he’s going to re-cast my leg with my toes pointed higher, or put me into a boot. My preference is for a boot, but my consultations with him thus far have not yielded any real discussions about my care.
After the consultation, Kristy and I head down to the orthotic office, and I’m fitted with a cast shoe. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it’s just a simple piece of foam and rubber that attaches to the cast with velcro. It is literally this one I can buy on Amazon for less than $20.
I don’t understand how exactly to use this cast shoe to walk. When wearing the cast shoe, my right leg sticks out in front of my body, and will not easily go in a normal walking motion. Neither Dr. Sladek, nor Mike from the orthotic office, really describe how to use this without hurting myself.
Given that I’m only a few days post-surgery, I’m not going to rush into this. From what I can tell, most orthopedic surgeons don’t give their patients permission to go even partial weight-bearing until a week or two after surgery.
My last shower was five days earlier, on the morning before my surgery. It’s humanizing to be able to shower again. Though I could have done this earlier, I really wanted a proper-fit cast protector before getting in.
The new cast protector is large enough and fits well, though the seal seems to have leaked a small amount of water on the underside of my leg. I will make a few adjustments for my next shower.
My goal moving forward is to shower daily, bringing back this normal ritual for me.
When using the cast shoe, I can feel a bit of strength returning to my right leg. To give this a real test, I’m going to have to wear a taller shoe on my left foot, to make up some of the difference.
I’ll give this a try in the next few days. I want to do so during the week, so if there’s any kind of problem, I can call the doctor’s office and get help right away.
On another note, my mood swings between optimism and pessimism. The optimistic side is pleasant — I’m not too far away from walking around without crutches (within a few weeks).
Pessimistic Me shows up when I think about returning to physical activity. For years I have been playing pickup basketball—it’s a serious passion— and today I am doubting not only my ability to play again, but even my interest in doing so. How crazy is that? I have loved the game of basketball my entire life, and right now it’s nauseating to think about participating again.
(In any event, getting back on a basketball court is 9-12 months away for me.)