Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Broken Ankle Searchers

I interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of this blog to speak to those of you who have stumbled upon Forensics and Faith through online searching for broken ankle.

I feel your pain.

Every day at least five people come to this blog as a result of such a search. Other common searches that bring people here include broken ankle photos, ankle plate and screws, running after a broken ankle, etc. I can imagine each of you with the cast on your leg, wondering about the process. How long will it take to heal? What about that hardware tacked onto my bone? How have other people handled this?

May my experience give you hope. Yes, there is life after a broken ankle, even if the recovery time seems to take forever. There are many accidents that are so much worse.

Perhaps you have extenuating circumstances. I certainly did. My list of peripherals were:

1. Inability to function on pain meds. Except for the first 24 hours after the initial surgery, I survived without them, even with undergoing three surgeries in total.

2. Ended up not being able to use crutches normally because I couldn't put weight on my right arm. So I hopped on one foot and used one crutch. I wasn't exactly going many places in those days.

3. Badly torn ligaments. This makes for a longer healing time. Today, 10 months after the accident, I walk normally--and I'm back to running. Even so, my injured foot does not have the full motion it had before. And when I go down stairs, the broken-up scar tissue inside sounds like macho Rice Krispies.

In a nutshell, here's the schedule of my broken ankle saga:

March 4--accident

March 5--surgery

Ten days in splint after surgery

About six weeks in a cast

About four weeks in the boot. (This got me to Memorial Day weekend.)

One week later--outpatient surgery to take out the long screw (docs like to do this 3 months after initial surgery)

Another 10 days back in boot following outpatient surgery.

Time for physical therapy and slowly getting back into walking, then running.

Early October--final surgery to take out plate and screws (the docs want to wait at least 6 months from initial surgery to do this)

Back in boot for about a week. Off of running for a number of weeks as bone heals.

All done! Time to get back into full running! (I took this way more slowly than the docs said I needed to. I'd come too far to not be cautious.)

To see photos and read more details of my story, start here. At the bottom of each post is a link to the next in the story. If you zip through them all you'll read about physical therapy, the surgeries, the hardware, etc.--with some humor thrown in, as we all need to laugh. You'll also see photos of the hardware and x-rays. I hope you'll find these posts entertaining and informative. If you leave a comment/question on any of the posts, I will see them. Google emails all comments to me. Check back to the post for my answer to a question.

One important note: if you're used to exercising as I am (I run five miles a day), not being able to catch those endorphins is really gonna get to you. Depression can set in as a result. I managed to use a stationary bike as a replacement for running. While in the cast I just put my foot on top of the pedal--no use trying to slip in under the holder. Once I graduated to the boot, I took it off for pedaling. You're not putting enough weight on the ankle to hurt it. No, the bike isn't a full substitute for the high of running, but it did give me some endorphins. I was very grateful for it.

God's blessings to you during your journey toward healing.


Richard L. Mabry, MD said...

Only you would take the time and effort to turn the Internet equivalent of a wrong number into an opportunity to help someone else.

Angela said...

Tee hee--regarding your comment on my blog--all I can say is, "Great minds . . ."



Anonymous said...

I have the plate and about 10 screws. Doc removed the one that went all the way across, and I'm in the boot. Its been almost 8 weeks since the surgery, and I still have swelling/redness when I put my foot down. Did you experience anything like this?

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Steve, swelling apparently can occur for a long time. Are you doing physical therapy? (So important.) One of the things they'll do is ice and massage your ankle to help get the swelling down. Plus they may tell you to ice at home. Getting the swelling down is really important, as the swelling hinders healing.

Unknown said...


I snapped my foot off in June of 2007. They put me back together with seven screws and plate. I have now signed up for a marathon this June and I'm scared. Since you are a runner, I was wondering if you had any thoughts.


~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Kristin, you have pretty much the same hardware I had. The hardware itself shouldn't keep you from running the marathon, provided you've really trained for it. You're probably reading articles about how to train if this is your first. I suggest a base of running of at least 5 miles a day. Then do a long run every other weekend, increasing by two miles. Get up to 18 or 20 miles. If you do that, you'll do the marathon. It's also a way to see if your ankle allows you to run that far. June isn't very far away, depending on how far you are into your training. If you're only running, say 3 miles a day right now, it'll take time just to get up to that 5-mile base.

Blessings, ~ Brandilyn

Anonymous said...

Hi I was wondering after they take my staples out they put on a cast in the future do the plate and screws have to come out if? And also thanks for all the info!

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

You can choose to leave the plate and screws in if you want. Sometimes, I think, in certain kinds of injury, the doc recommends that you leave them in. I chose to have mine taken out as soon as possible. It does set you back awhile, but I didn't want the chance of that hardware bothering me in the future. In the end I think it's worth it to go through this final step.

Anonymous said...

This helped a lot. I had to do some research for a project that I'm working on in my spare time and, as klutzy as I am, I've never quite gotten to the point where I've broken my ankle. Sprained and strained and twisted, but not broken, so I didn't know a lot about casts and boots and healing times. Thanks! You've really helped me out.

AquarianM said...

Thanks for the hope. I broke my ankle Feb 22 of '09 in three places. I have screws in the inside bone, and a plate with screws on the outside bone. They did a 6" long incision on the outside of the ankle, and a 2" incision on the inside. I was in a cast for six weeks and am in the 5th week wearing a boot, with three more to go. I'm a karate student, and they tell me I can go back at the beginning of August. I've lost about a third of the range of motion in all directions but toe-down. (front snap kick = caution against broken toes.) The hardware stays according to my surgeon.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Oh, Daniel, that's quite a break. I'm so sorry! Yes, there is an end to the tunnel, even if it seems long now. Blessings on your continued journey of healing.

~ Brandilyn

Julia said...

Hi, thanks for these texts. It's really helpful to see that someone went through this and got back into running.

I broke my ankle (tibia and fibula and some nasty shattering in the joint) and had some 20 screws and 2 plates put it. Docs all say that I should be able to run, but now that I'm starting again I notice my ankle isn't too happy about it. My surgery was in October, and now it's almost 10 months later, and in the mean time I've hiked quite a lot in the mountains - so physio says I'm all ready to go. But how do you restart in a good way? I went out and jogged 20 minutes, and that felt fine, only the next couple of days my leg hurt (slightly) during every step.

I'm really hoping that I don't have to get the hardwear out, as there is so much of it and my docs refure to even think of it for another 6 months.

What to do? How did you start running again?

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Julia, I didn't go back into running immediately, even if only for 20 minutes. I suggest for the first week you walk only. The second week you might try some like "wogging." Third week mix jogging and wogging. Fourth week--jog.

With this much time off running, your muscles have lost their oomph. Even if the ankle is healed, the muscles must be made strong again. So start slow and build up. I know it's hard not to be impatient, but caution will keep you from being injured by pulling a tendon or something because the muscles are weak.


~ Brandilyn

Anonymous said...

I just broke my tibula growth plate and it separated from it's original position. In two days I go to the orthopedic surgeon to find out what happens next. I am a soon to be freshman who is looking forward to highschool football so much, and this just ruined my plans of training with the team over the summer. I was wondering if there was any possible way to quicken the process that could speed up the process?

Thanks for the help.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

I'm so sorry this has happened to you. I know how difficult it is to have plans messed up by such an injury. I'm afraid there's not much you can do to speed up the healing process of the bone. But after the cast comes off, you can certainly help by doing your physical therapy diligently. If you don't you won't get range of motion back.