We’re officially on the other side, but the road is long and difficult.
Last Thursday, about 10 days after the accident, I finally went into surgery to try and piece together my complete mess of a leg. In just over two hours, I had my ankle, which was badly dislocated, screwed back to my leg, and plates inserted between my shattered tibia as well as screws lining my fibula. The goal is to let the bone regrow around the plate and hopefully provide stability, which should come about 4-6 weeks after surgery, after which, there’s the possibility of me being able to put weight on my foot again.
The immediate post-op really challenged my fortitude both mentally and physically as I started the long and often-painful road to recovery. During the operation I had nerve blockers placed under my knees, which block any and all sensations in my right leg for up to 15-hours after the operation. As I received a bevy of visitors in my room, for which I was thankful, I was sitting up, talkative, and in generally good spirits as I couldn’t feel any of the effects of the screws, plates, or staples. It was almost like it had never happened.
As the night wore on, slowly I started to get sensations back. At first, little things like feeling touch on my toes or being able to wiggle them. But around 3:00 AM, every inch of the incisions, plates, and screws came swarming together like some demented symphony. I woke up from some semblance of sleep shaking, crying, and calling the nurses for some semblance of relief, either through morphine or oxycodone. Because I had stupidly decided to take only one pill an hour earlier, my timing until my next scheduled dose was off and while they could administer a small amount of morphine at the time, I had to wait about an hour until I could take my next pain pill. The absolute longest hour of my life.
After my next dosage, I fell into something resembling but not-quite sleep. The day after, following two nights of manageable discomfort, I decided to wean myself off the oxycodone in order to try and fight if off on my own and not become dependant. While the pain has been reasonable that I don’t really need much more than a Tylenol every now and then, the pain comes in various forms at very random moments. Most of the time, it feels like my leg is trapped in a vice, as the swelling, which is slowly coming down, pushes up against the splint, like trying on a too-small pair of pants that you can’t take off. The other are very small but very noticeable effects, like suddenly feeling the staples as the skin heals itself, almost like a constant running of sharp bristles up against my lower leg.
Sleep is difficult since the compression keeps me up most of the night, so I’m managing anywhere from 3-4 hours a night since the accident, which will have been three weeks ago tomorrow.
Still, there have been many little joys to this difficult time. The first and biggest was having my father come out to take care of me for 10 days, everything from making sure that I was icing to driving out on trips into Rocky Mountain so that I could have a little bit of time outside. The other has been the massive support, sentiment, and love from friends, family, colleagues, and athletes who have made me feel ready and excited to be back.
I’m also thankful for the staff both at Tacoma General Hospital and Boulder Community Health, especially the surgical staff and nurses who worked to keep me comfortable, safe, and well taken care of.
In about three weeks I hope to have the okay to start rehab. In the meantime it’s trying to survive the menial tasks, get through the day, and try to stay positive. While it’s a trying time, it’s definitely had the upbeat moments, few and far in between. As long as I keep my head in the right place, I’ll come out of this okay.