How I Tore My Achilles Part II: How I Fixed It
As I drove away from the basketball court (thankfully I could still drive since it was my left Achilles that was injured), I knew I needed some help. One, to confirm that my Achilles was torn (although I was 99% sure), and two, to guide me on these critical next steps.
My first call was to a friend of mine who just happens to be a foot/ankle specialist. I described what happened to her and she agreed, it was most likely a torn Achilles. She immediately called in a prescription for an anti-inflammatory pain medication that I would be able to pick up later that afternoon. The second thing she did was to call in to one of her colleagues at her practice that could see me ASAP. While she was not going to be back in the office until Tuesday, she was able to set me up with a colleague of hers who would see me at 9:30 the next morning.
Let me just take a moment to say how thankful I am for my friend who was able to set all of this in motion for me. I’m not sure that if I had just gone to an urgent care center that my case would have been handled as quickly or as smoothly. If you’re reading this: THANK YOU.
I went into the specialist the next morning. It didn’t take her long to confirm what I had feared. It was clear that it was a complete tear as well, and not partial. She was so confident, she didn’t even need an MRI. Instead, she gave me a walking boot and called into OrthoCarolina to set up a pre-op meeting with a surgeon the next day. The surgery was quickly scheduled for the next day after that, a Wednesday.
I’d never had serious surgery. The only other surgical situation that I’d ever had was to remove my wisdom teeth. Certainly not a serious as as Achilles surgery, so this was a new experience for me. My roommate drove me to the hospital that morning, as I ran through a mental checklist of all the things I was supposed to take care of beforehand: no food or drink after midnight the night before, no pain meds, bring ID, health insurance card, and form of payment.
The first place they took me (in my own wheelchair – whee!) was, of course, the registrar’s office. Registrar is a term I had to that point only associated with the place at my university where I wrote my tuition check. That makes sense, since this is where I would pay for my surgery.
Let’s not make light of this part. There have been plenty of horror stories about how medical debt is what leads to two out of every three bankruptcies in this country. I wasn’t worried about this saddling me with debt for the rest of my life, but I knew It would be a significant expense nonetheless. Fortunately, thanks to a reasonable deductible and copay, the total amount I had to pay was something I could take care of in one swipe of my FSA card. Make no mistake, health care in this country is fucked. But in this case, my insurance saved my ass. I’m relieved that I have the employment that made it possible, but chilled by the thought of what my situation would have been had I been self-employed as I was from 2012-’15.
Back to the (relatively) fun stuff. After paying for the procedure, they wheeled me into a waiting room where I had to fill out a few forms, mostly about what I wanted to be addressed as during my stay, and the contact info of the person who would be responsible for my discharge. The wait after that wasn’t long, as a new nurse quickly came and wheeled me back to a prep room.
The prep was light and quick. A few questions (yes, I remembered not to eat or drink after midnight!), they took my blood pressure (a modest 121/81), and hooked up an IV (fortunately I do well with needles). After that, a very young looking anesthesiologist came in and explained the next steps, to which I mostly just nodded and agreed with but didn’t really understand or care about. Shortly after that, they began to put me under. This is the part that I really… don’t… re… remem…
… “So do I get the DVD of my procedure to take home with me?” Is the next thing I remember my smart ass saying to the nurse as I came back to consciousness in the recovery room. “No,” she politely said, “we don’t usually do that.”
Fair enough, I thought. Although I really would be curious to see my flesh sliced open and clamped apart while a doctor stitched up my insides. I’m weird like that.
The recovery room wait wasn’t too difficult. I regained consciousness rather quickly, and I wasn’t suffering from any of the side effects that I was warned about, namely nausea, grogginess and confusion. I certainly wasn’t 100%, which didn’t help when the nurse started reading off what felt like a laundry list of things I needed to keep in mind for the next few days: Take pain meds once every four hours, keep my leg elevated and on ice (two hours on, two hours off), no solid foods for 24 hours, just liquids, etc.
Just as quickly as I had been whisked into the hospital, I was on my way out. After picking up my prescription and posting up on the couch at home, I was truly ready to begin my recovery process.
I’ll spend two weeks in the heavily-wrapped split that my foot is in now, six to eight weeks in a cast, and another six weeks in a walking boot. It will likely be another eight or nine months before I can get back to crossing up defenders on the basketball court again, and that’s with a massive amount of physical therapy in between.
With all that time and adjustment in lifestyle, it’s given me some things to think about an put into perspective. I’ll examine those in my next blog, which I’ll post tomorrow morning.