The Story of My Broken Ankle

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I think that I may have cursed myself in the last Sunday Intentions post I wrote. I was so optistimic about finally getting my life back in order, walking 10K steps a day no matter what, and getting in better shape overall both mentally and physically. Then Monday morning I broke my ankle and proceeded to have the worst week of my life, beginning a whole new chapter of my future centered around recovery and recovery only.

So on Monday, February 26th, the temperatures were rising and it looked like a pretty nice week. Annie and I walked the boys to school and continued on for about another two miles all around town. There were icy spots everywhere, but I was being extremely careful. I walked on the grass every time the sidewalk looked even a tiny bit slippery. I never took out my phone so I could stay completely focused on the steps in front of me. Then, about two blocks from home – on a hill – I slipped and fell anyway. I was on the grass next to a huge area of treacherous ice and still managed to slip on ice I apparently wasn’t aware was there. I twisted to try and catch myself and literally heard my bones snap as I fell to the ground.

I think for the first few seconds I was in total shock. It was an absolutely blinding pain and I had no idea what to do. I took out my phone and messaged Greg that I thought I broke my ankle. He said “seriously?” I said yes. And then the first passerby stopped his truck to come and see if I was okay, so I never responded to anything else Greg sent or when he called. Everyone kept asking who they could call to help me and I couldn’t think of anyone that could get there in a few minutes to drive me to the hospital. Greg was 50 minutes away at work. My mom would have been 30 minutes. After only two or three minutes, there were at least six strangers that had stopped their cars or came out of houses to see how they could assist. I just kept saying over and over again, “I think I broke my ankle!” I was still holding on to Annie and she was kind of going into panic mode too, not sure what to do. Someone called the ambulance and the next problem became what to do with Annie since I couldn’t take her to the ER with me. I called a friend whose house was in sight, but she wasn’t home. Then I called my neighbor and she was thankfully able to rush over and get Annie. In the moment, that was really my biggest concern.

Getting from the ground into the ambulance was a nightmare. I couldn’t move myself AT ALL. I almost passed out when I looked down at my ankle and realized it was facing the wrong direction. I was laying in the middle of all that ice, soaked because it was melting, and nobody had any kind of foothold to help me up. All the strangers ended up sliding a blanket under me and pulling my body further down the hill until the EMT could get his feet on solid ground and basically had to completely lift me up – not an easy feat. This whole time I was in the worst pain of my life, but also panicking that maybe I was making too big of a deal out of this? Did I really need an ambulance? I knew there was no way I was getting up and moving into anyone’s car, but it also seemed so unnecessary. And the expense! The EMT had my phone and he finally handed it back to me once they had me situated in the ambulance. So I finally answered Greg’s call, like twenty minutes after I first told him I was broken. He immediately left work, leaving his mom stranded because they carpool in her car, and managed to get to the ER about the same time I did. I had no idea I’d spend so much time in the ambulance before we even moved.

It took so long because they were taking my vitals and trying to put in an IV to give me morphine. My blood pressure was around 190/120. I was probably a little bit going into shock. They kept covering me in blankets, but I was also SO HOT. I also just felt disgusting because I hadn’t showered yet that day. I was wearing sweatpants, but only my pajama shirt. They tried to get an IV into both hand veins and failed. Finally gave up and put a shot of something else into my shoulder. And we finally drove the few miles over to the hospital.

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At the ER, the nurses’ first order of business was getting me out of my clothes because they were soaked with icy water. Then they came in to take x-rays right away which felt like it was going to kill me. Even the tiniest minimal amount of movement sent shockwaves of pain through my body. This was my first broken bone and I had no idea it could hurt so completely. The verdict came pretty quickly that I dislocated my ankle (the reason it was facing way too far to the right) and broke at least three bones. They gave me something to put me to sleep for just a few minutes while they manipulated the foot back into the right position. Sometime during my x-rays, Greg showed up and that’s when I started losing it. I didn’t even cry or anything before that. In all the flurry and panic all I could think about is how completely my life just changed. Everything I hoped to accomplish in the next few months to even years of my life was ripped away from me with one stupid misstep on an icy path.

The good news is that everything at the ER went pretty quickly. My last experience there a few years ago was not so great because I kept getting pushed aside for more important cases. Maybe this time I was the most important. But we were back home with a splint and array of pain pills only two hours after the fall even happened. I proceeded to cry or sleep for the rest of the day, just mourning my foreseeable future and all that I’ve been looking forward to.

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On Tuesday morning right away I had an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon’s office. The verdict there was that I’d need surgery, and as soon as possible. I was terrified that a surgery outcome was the worst possible thing that could happen, but he did a good job of convincing us this was a much better option in the long run. I’d get a plate and screws into the broken bones immediately setting them which would lead to a shorter recovery time. And better long term flexibility in my ankle. Because I wasn’t as swollen as expected and I didn’t have any skin blistering, surgery was scheduled for Wednesday at noon. Everything was happening so quickly!

On Wednesday we made our way back to the hospital to get checked in. Those few hours before it happened felt like forever. The nurses continued to have a really hard time finding workable veins for an IV. When one of them was digging around in my wrist it literally felt like she was chopping my hand off. It took all I had not to scream out. The doctor told me that because my ankle is in so much pain, my brain is kind of cutting that pain off and letting me feel all over pains so much more severely. I’d definitely say that’s been the case! In the end the anesthesiologist put the IV in back in the same place it was in the ER (which is apparently not something they like to do) and during surgery he moved it into my other arm. So basically my hands and wrists and arms are covered in holes and bruises.

The anesthesiologist came in to talk about my options for going under. He said the best option for pain management after surgery would be to give me a nerve block. So that’s what we decided to do and he put massive needles into my thigh and behind my knee, using an ultrasound machine to find the right nerves. Long story short on that – it didn’t work. So I was just given a general anesthetic and woke up in a complete panic attack after surgery because it hurt SO DANG BAD.

They said the surgery would be about an hour and a half, but ended up being two hours longer than that. So Greg was getting pretty worried out in the waiting room. But it sounds like everything went about as well as it could. I was just in horrible pain and in the recovery room until close to 8pm. The worst part is that I was pumped so full of fluids that I felt like my bladder was going to explode multiple times while I was still laying there. So I had to have Greg and two nurses help me get out of bed and pee in a portable commode. Hospital experiences are just so humiliating and confusing and I just wanted to go home.

The rest of the week was just trying to deal with all the random side effects of a broken ankle surgery that I never would have guessed would happen. The first night was the worst because I was having horrible muscle spasms in my thigh and hip. I thought it was from having my leg propped up so much, which is NOT comfortable in any way. The nurse told me the next day it was probably a result of the tourniquet being on my leg during the surgery.  I’ve also had horrible numbness and tingling in my feet. I was super constipated from the pain pills and Greg was feeding me two different recommended laxatives all week that must have built up and kicked in on Friday night, leading me to rush to the bathroom as fast as possible at least every hour. The anti-nausea meds they gave me with the pain pills ran out and by Saturday I started feeling really sick. I thought it was from the laxatives, but it only got worse every day. My hips have been so sore from hopping around the house and pulling myself up backwards to go upstairs. I have never felt so completely run down, filled with pain, out of control, and helpless in my life. My c-section recoveries were bad, but at least I had the joy of a new baby to ease the pain. This just feels so bleak.

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On top of it all I’ve just been an emotional wreck. Greg has been amazing. His boss gave him permission to work at home as long as he needs to to help me out. But he also needs to do EVERYTHING else. He’s doing so much. And I just keep losing it. I joined a facebook support group of people with broken feet/ankles/legs. It’s been an encouraging resource, but also given me a lot more to worry about. It sounds like the majority of people have years of recovery before they feel normal. I don’t want to give up years of my life to this! I don’t want to gain any more weight because I can’t go anywhere else on my own. I’m devastated that I can’t even take Annie out to the bathroom, let alone bring her to the dog park or on walks for who knows how long. She’s so confused and still comes to me when she wants something and I can’t do a thing for her! Greg has been trying to get her a little exercise, but he’s also dealing with everything else. Including the boys who have NOT made this time easy. Caden’s been very helpful to ME, constantly asking if I need anything. But Shepard has been a nightmare and Caden spends just as much time screaming at Greg about all the things he’s not doing right. It’s so hard to just lay there and not be able to help in any way.

I’m trying not to dwell too deeply on it because it’s so depressing. But I missed the Vintage Shop Hop on Friday, obviously. I had to cancel my trip to DC in April to visit my best friend Dianne. It was the only vacation I had scheduled for the year and I was SO looking forward to. Fortunately, Southwest lets you cancel flights as long as they get to keep your money for a future flight. So I’m hoping I’ll feel well enough to reschedule around my birthday. But it’s devastating that I can’t go when I wanted to go. I’m worried about Easter and how I’m going to fill everyone’s baskets with cute and special things when I can’t go to any stores. It’s my right ankle that’s broken, so I have no idea when I’ll be able to drive again. I won’t be able to take the boys out or do anything with them over Spring Break at the end of the month. I might not even be able to walk without assistance by the time the farmer’s market starts up again. I don’t know when I’ll be able to take a little trip or go on a date or even be capable of doing anything by myself out of the house again. It’s horribly depressing. Especially with summer just a few months away. I want to be optimistic, but it’s hard not to only see the things I’m going to miss out on.  I don’t even know when I’ll be able to sew again. I can probably figure out how to work the sewing machine pedal with my left foot, but I still feel so fuzzy and out of it all the time. It’s been rough.

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I had my first post op appointment yesterday afternoon. It was hard to feel positive because I felt SO SICK while I was there. Fortunately, he gave me a refill of the anti-nausea meds which really helps. But from what he said, everything looks really good. The surgery went well, the incision looks good (supposedly!). I’ll get my staples out next week and I might even be able to start physical therapy the next week. So in theory, it might be a smooth road ahead. But I don’t want to get my hopes up either.

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I also switched over from the splint to the boot. No cast necessary. I’m not sure how I feel about the boot yet because it feels like it weighs thirty extra pounds. It was so hard finding a comfortable position last night to sleep. But I’m also allowed to take it off to ice directly on my foot, which feels really good. And it’s also giving me a little more stability to do things like sit upright at my actual computer for the first time in nine days and write this. My ankle definitely still hurts quite a bit, but I feel like the combination of all the random side effects and other sore muscles have been ten times worse than the ankle itself.

So that’s my story! We’ve had some wonderful help with people bringing over meals, so Greg hasn’t had to go to any stores or cook anything himself yet. It’s been great having him home because I don’t think I could manage on my own yet. Though I’m worried about him not being at work. He’s hoping to go in tomorrow while my mom comes over to babysit me. And I expect he’ll start going back regularly after my next post op on Monday. Hopefully by then I’ll feel good enough to be a bit more helpful. It’s hard to contribute to anything when I can barely move and also feel like I might throw up at any second. My mom brought over a shower chair, walker, and leg bag to wear when showering right away that first day which has been a lifesaver. I’d die if I had to go this long without showering. I’ve managed to crawl my way up the stairs almost every day to get clean which does a lot in boosting my mood. I have a couple things to look forward to in the next few days, so I’m not just stewing in depression. Every day is getting a little better. It’s just a journey. A journey I wish I didn’t have to take. But that’s life.

Author: Amy Noe

I'm a maker, a writer, a reader, a wife, and a mom. I love pursuing my creative passions!

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