I broke my ankle just over 3 months ago now. It happened early December while indoor rock climbing (I fell off a wall). I’m recovering slowly and it’s nice to see the healing progress. It’s still really slow though. Before you ask about belay’s and harnesses, I was bouldering (so there weren’t any harnesses/belay’s) and instead of landing on the mat my ankle slipped between the wall and the mat. It was a freak of an accident and if I had fallen straight down it wouldn’t have happened. It’s only cause I swung out to try and reach for a hold, missed it and swung back in towards the wall.
My break was pretty bad. On the spectrum of ankle injuries; 1 = sprained ankle and 10 = complete ankle reconstruction I was about an 8 out of 10. It was a high impact fall, shattered my Fibula into 4 tiny pieces and dislocated my ankle. I had a plate, a dozen screws and 2 bolts in my ankle. I’ve had 3 surgeries so far. 2 in the first week in hospital, then 1 at the 12 week mark to remove the two bolts and to insert an artificial ligament so I could start walking again.
If you sprain your ankle, you might be advised to spend 2 weeks on crutches, then there’s a single break where you might just be put in a cast for 6 weeks and then there’s my accident. 12 weeks of no walking/weight bearing. I’ve read a few other blogs of other ankle injuries and it seems the average is around 6-8 weeks of no walking.
Phase 1: The no walking phase
I was getting around on a knee scooter for 12 weeks, the first couple of weeks were hard. I had my mobility taken away in an instant. It’s an easy thing to take for granted until you don’t have it anymore. There was also a reasonable amount of pain, throbbing and swelling. Also just always being tired (sleep is really good for healing though). I’m grateful that I had the support of family. My partner’s parents offered me their spare room while I recovered and my partner’s mum is a nurse. It was a great convenience and an offer I took them up on.
I’m also grateful for the public transport in Sydney, I was limited to the wheel chair options for transport. Sure it’s not perfect but I was able to get around on bus, light rail, ferry and train. It was pretty amazing. When you rock up at a train station you let one of the staff members know where you are going and they will pull out the ramp to let you on the train, they will also phone the station ahead to make sure someone is there with a ramp when you get off. So not every train station has staff 24/7 or has lift access but it’s still great to be able to have this as an option for getting around. The first time I took a bus on my own with my knee scooter I was just so nervous, I think I had a mobility induced anxiety attack. I had the same sensation getting on a packed light rail during peak hour. I got quite emotional (in a good way) when I actually got on the bus for the first time.
The first time I got in the pool I cried with happy emotions, it was great to feel more mobile. Not being able to carry almost anything sucks, everything requires just a little more planning and often it’s easier to go, “F%#k that” and not bother. Don’t bother about doing your choirs, grocery shopping will be hard. Even sitting in the kitchen with a cup of freshly made coffee will feel like the biggest achievement.
There were great highs and great lows. This phase has given me empathy for accessibility users of public transport and no envy of people who suffer from bi polar. Sure some of those highs felt great but I wouldn’t want anyone to go through the lows like I went through just to experience those highs. By the end of this phase I had gotten quite efficient with the knee scooter, I could role down the street at a reasonable pace.
Phase 2: The walking with assistance phase
After a few hours of getting out of surgery I was able to use an a walking frame thing to go to the toilet, it hurt a lot but it felt amazing to be walking again. The next morning I was walking in a moon boot around the ward unassisted by crutches/frame. I even went to minigolf that day. It was quite tiring though. Over the next 3 weeks I progressed from walking slowly with a cane and moon boot to being able to walk short distances around the house without aids. The first time I tried walking from home to the train station was complete torture though. The walk usually takes around 10 minutes. I was getting to a point on the knee scooter where I could get it done in roughly 10 minutes. The first time without the knee scooter it took me 40 minutes and every step was torture. It was slow going. Luckily I had the option of staying with my uncle’s while I recovered during this phase. I missed the knee scooter but I knew I couldn’t go back to it. They live a lot closer to a train station (just 2 minutes according to google maps). They also have a heated indoor pool which was amazing for recovery. I tried not to have unrealistic expectations during this phase but it still hit me like a brick wall. It was an adjustment going from the knee scooter to very very slow walking. It has been nice to see the progress but I somewhat thought it would be a little quicker.
Phase 3: Walking without mobility aids
Yesterday was the first day I walked to work without any aids, no moon boot and no cane and over 12,000 steps in one day. I’ll start proper physio in a few weeks to help build up strength and mobility back into the ankle and calf. I still can’t do a single leg calf raise on the bad leg, that’s how much strength I’ve lost in it. Walking is a little slow/tight but at least it doesn’t feel painful enough to want to take too many mild painkillers. I’m actually feeling a little tired/over it today but the feeling will pass. I’m constantly testing where the boundary is with the ankle and pushing a little out of my comfort zone.
Phase 4: back to “normal”?
The next phase should be, it feels mostly normal now. Where the idea of running/climbing/jumping don’t feel me with dread. I’m looking forward to getting back into an exercise routine because not exercising has really sucked. This broken ankle has had a huge impact on my mental health which was to be expected but I didn’t realize how much it would. I’m almost at the 16 weeks since the accident. It might take over 6 months to get back to a “normal” state. We will see but I’ll keep you posted.