Two weeks ago, I slipped on a kerb and broke my ankle. It’s my first-ever broken bone and has really been a learning experience!
The fracture is a stable fracture on my left ankle, and it is expected that it will heal without complication. I have been given a walking boot made of a hard plastic casing with a cloth liner and Velcro straps. Normally, the boot is worn for “4-6” weeks, but I have been advised to wear mine for the full six weeks, as my low platelet count may slow the healing process.
After six weeks, I will taper out of the boot and into normal shoes. This process is meant to take 2-6 weeks, depending on how comfortable (and pain-free) the ankle is when wearing normal shoes. (I am hoping I’m closer to the 2-week time frame here!) Towards the end of the initial six weeks, and again during the tapering period, I will be doing daily ankle exercises to flex the muscles in my ankle.
I will be unable to run for a full 12 weeks (10 to go!). And when I am ready to start running again, I will need to build up my speed and distance slowly. So this year’s running goals are out of the question. But there’s still a chance I can try to achieve them next year instead!
Below are some of my own experiences in dealing with a broken ankle.
The first three nights, I slept with the walking boot on because I wasn’t aware that I could remove it for sleeping. Between the bulkiness of the boot and the intense pain, sleep was quite difficult. I did, however, find I could cat-nap during the day when my leg was elevated on the cast.
I have found that sleeping without the boot is a lot easier, although I have to be careful about how I place my ankle when I curl up. I also have found that when/if I roll over, I have to do so carefully so that I can re-position my ankle with care. Sleeping on my stomach can only happen if I bend my leg so that my ankle can lay on the side. It is extremely painful to lay the front of my foot on the bed as it stretches my ankle.
One of the dangers of sleeping without the boot, however, is stretching! Like many people, as I wake up I find myself stretching my arms and legs before I get out of bed. Only that’s not something my ankle appreciates, so I’ve started many mornings these past two weeks with a whimper of pain as my body recalls that I have a broken ankle.
I’ve also noticed that the last week I’ve woken up in the wee hours of the morning, a bit sticky and icky with sweat. I don’t know if this is because of my injury, the weather, the painkillers, or something else altogether.
Bathing with a busted ankle is not easy. And the first couple of times, it was rather painful! Of course, since I’ve been away house-sitting (at two different houses) since my injury, I am also having to learn new baths and showers. Thankfully, I can remove the boot for washing, which helps this process!
The first few days after the break, I had a very large shower with a removable showerhead. I couldn’t stand for even the briefest moment, so I found a way to shuffle myself into the shower on my backside. It was a bit challenging turning the water on and off, but I did manage (quite awkwardly) to take three sit-down showers over the week.
The past week has been spent at a house where I have the option of a shower or a bath. The shower is too small to allow me to sit in it, as I did before. But thankfully, there is a small hand-held shower head in the bath. This means that I can use the showerhead to wash my hair, which is very handy. The challenge with the bath, however, is manoeuvring into the tub without bearing weight on my bad ankle.
It is getting a bit easier to wash. Part of this is because my ankle is improving, and part of it is because I am learning to cope. But regardless of why, it’s just a good thing, lest I begin to stink!
This is a hard one, especially when you are solo-living. Everything takes more time and more energy. And some things just need to be outsourced!
For the first few days, I was housesitting for people who had a small dog. Unable to walk wee Minnie, I relied on a very helpful and enthusiastic army of neighbour children who came by several times a day to take the dog out. I’m now cat-sitting, which is an easier process when injured!
I had been grocery shopping just before my fall, so I didn’t need to worry about that for the first week. (And the homeowners had plenty of food on hand that I was welcome to, too.) When I left that house, I went straight to another where (again) the homeowners have plenty of food that I am welcome to. However, I wanted a few things of my own liking and desire. And that’s where Tesco delivery came in. Then today, a friend came to visit and took me out for a few more groceries.
I am now at a place where I can (awkwardly) do a few other household chores. A couple of days ago I managed to take the rubbish bins to the kerb for collection. And tomorrow I will manage to sweep and vacuum.
It’s hard going, but it’s manageable. And whilst I am finding it difficult to do too much, I am finding it possible to do most stuff. (Although slowly.)
Balancing rest and life
This is a hard one, especially when you are living solo. It is up to me to sort my meals and to clean up after myself. And there isn’t any assistance with bathing and dressing – which, I admit, would be helpful! If my late husband were here, I know that I would be doted on (probably more than I’d like!) and I would be resting a lot more than I am. But that’s not the case, so I am trying to find a balance.
One of the biggest balances is that I am not going to the office. Instead, I am working from home. I know that’s not possible for everyone, but for those with non-customer-facing jobs, it can be a true blessing. (For those in the customer service industry, my heart breaks. Especially if they are in a nation without decent sick leave allowances.)
However, I found that even though I can work from home, I have not been able to work at full capacity these past two weeks. Between managing the pain and finding a comfortable position for my leg, my productivity rates plummeted to about 25% for a while. It is starting to improve now, but it’s not yet 100%.
Of course, part of balancing rest and life is balancing the social life! I got the balance a bit wrong the other day when I went into the office and then out with friends. But I managed a bit better today when a friend came to take me to the movies. He brought the car as close to the door as he could, then dropped me off/collected me from the entrance to the cinema. And he made sure I had an aisle seat so that I could stretch my leg out.
I imagine that the balance will get easier over time as my pain subsides and I’m able to walk a bit more. In the meantime, I will have to acknowledge that my social life (whilst relatively non-existent) will suffer a bit.
Pain, swelling, and bruising
There was pain. A lot of it! But it has improved over the past two weeks. In the beginning, I couldn’t put any pressure on my ankle if it wasn’t in the boot. This extended to resting my heel on the floor. As time has passed, I can now manage small amounts of weight-bearing on the ankle without the boot (just enough to make getting into/out of the bath easier).
I didn’t take too many painkillers from the start, because they can worsen my bleeding disease. Two weeks in, and I’ve averaged 3 pills a day (8 per day is a normal amount, apparently). There were one or two days when I took 6 pills, and a couple of days when I didn’t take any. But I found that I am comfortable enough without the pills—as long as I’m keeping my leg elevated.
In the first couple of days, the swelling was fairly extreme. It slowly subsided, and isn’t overly obviously now, but has yet to go away. In addition to the swelling at the injury site, my entire ankle and foot will swell up if I haven’t rested and elevated enough.
The bruising started very slowly. In fact, there wasn’t much visible bruising at all on the first day. Over the course of the first week, however, the bruising increased day-on-day. About halfway through the first week, the inside of my ankle (opposite of the broken side) also began to bruise. It wasn’t until about 10 days in that the bruises stopped expanding, and they are now starting to fade.
I’m sure this is a boring post for most people, but I hope that it serves as a useful resource for others who are looking at dealing with a broken ankle. And, of course, I expect it will serve as a good reflection for me as I continue to heal.
(And yes, that is what I wore out to the movies this afternoon. And not because of the broken ankle, but because I like mixing patterns!)
To read more about my progress, follow the links below:
I am broken
Two weeks broken
Four weeks broken
Six weeks broken
Broken ankle, Phase II: Learning to walk again
Eight weeks broken
Ten weeks broken
Twelve weeks broken
Broken ankle, Phase III: Getting back to normal