I promised that I would keep updating people on my torn Achilles injury because my hope is to help others who have gone through the same thing to share with them the truth of how long recovery truly takes.
I tore my Achilles on June 26, 2014 and I'm writing this on October 12, 2014. I had almost 1 week on crutches before I could get in for the MRI and get confirmation on my Achilles actually being torn, 6 weeks in a cast, 4 weeks in a boot and 2 weeks with an insert in my shoe to lift my heel up so I wasn't putting my full weight on my injured leg.
On October 1st, I no longer wore the insert and started going to physical therapy three times a week for about 8 weeks now. Each morning and night, I'm also doing my home exercises so that I can stretch my leg and the tendon. The recovery time is slow and I've been told that I'll not be able to start running again until January.
Right now I've been cleared to walk, easy bike riding (no crazy hills) and stretching in physical therapy. I'll find out tomorrow (October 13) how my recovery is going and if I can increase my activity. I'm still finding it challenging to walk down and upstairs (mostly downstairs), but that's getting better over time. I also haven't been cleared to do any dancing yet. A few weeks ago I had to put my boot back on so that I can dance at a party, ensuring my ankle was locked in place and I wouldn't slip or twist my ankle in a way that would hurt me.
I'm at the point now in my recovery that I am learning how to balance on my weak leg again, standing on foam and balancing to strengthen those muscles. I have good range of motion and strength with my foot so I'm on track, but the reality is that it's just slow going.
Healing takes time.
And that's the honest truth. When I first was injured, the first doctor I went to said that I would be running again in three months. When I went to the surgeon, he told me that realistically it would be six months. For those who find this blog post through Google, I want to remind everyone that I chose a non-operative path. My surgeon gave me the option of surgery or no operation, and I went with allowing my body to heal normally so that I didn't have to take any time off from work after the surgery and didn't have to deal with any of the complications from an operation. My surgeon essentially told me that the medical literature didn't really show much difference between surgery and healing naturally. And if I could avoid the pain from surgery and its complications, well, I chose the non-operative route.
When I go to physical therapy, I recently met another person with a torn Achilles. He tore his in early June. I don't know the extent of how bad his tear was, but he opted for surgery and he's still going to physical therapy as well. He hasn't been cleared yet for running or playing basketball and his doctor has told him that December is probably the time frame for when he'll be cleared to get back into more vigorous exercise.
Again, it's not a one for one comparison because I don't know how bad his tear was compared to mine (mine was small), but I thought that it's a good indication that even after you're out of a cast and boot that there are still months of healing yet to go. If I could share any helpful tips with someone who is recovering from the same injury, I would say this:
- Be patient.
- Focus on the positive. One day at a time. I can't heal overnight. My body doesn't work that way.
- Let anger and frustration go. They are your enemies. Feel them, express them (appropriately) and then move on.
- Get an iWALK 2.0 Hands Free Crutch. I can't tell you how much better my life was with being able to actually walk around. It took time getting used to, but it was worth every penny!
- Come up with a plan. When are you doing your daily exercises morning and night? How will you work in the physical therapy sessions with your working? These are both important as you need to stretch your tendon and build your muscles back up.
- Accept help from family and friends when needed. Those 8 weeks being on crutches, knee cast, etc. were rough. I needed others to help me. It was painful and difficult to do simple chores and I don't like to ask for help. I like to do things on my own. Being injured definitely humbled me and helped me see things in a new light.
- Believe in yourself. Just like training for a marathon, willpower is extremely important in recovery. I want to rush and get through this time, but can not. I am where I'm at, but that's a good thing. It's a slow road to recovery but things keep getting better.
- Be prepared for people to look at you weirdly if you're in a knee crutch or on crutches. Everyone has something to say or share. The peanut gallery comes out at some of the strangest places. Just be prepared to know what works for you.
It's October now and I hope to be writing along the rest of the recovery. My updates won't be as frequent because I expect it'll be more of the same: Exercises morning and night, physical therapy 3 times a week and slowly my leg will get stronger. Thank you for coming along with me on this ride. I'm learning a lot about myself and about my family and friends (who reached out to me, who helped, what they did or said to comfort me, etc.). The road has been long, but not been uneventful.
Ron Vitale is the author of the Cinderella's Secret WitchDiaries series who hopes that his own children will overcome any obstacles in their way and find their own happily ever after.