As mentioned in Part 1 and 2 of this series, I’m sharing my recent experiences dealing with my broken ankle, hopefully to provide some insight to others who may be dealing with the same situation. Links to my past blogs can be found at the bottom. In this edition, I’m going to share my experiences with actual healing timeframes, as well as dealing with public places such as airports, airplanes, buses, trains, and hotels, while incapacitated.
When I left the doctor’s office after my first visit where the cast was put on, I was told that the cast would be removed between 2 to 4 weeks and I could wear a camo boot after that time which would provide additional flexibility. I left the office for an appointment in exactly two weeks. At my cast+2 week appointment, I went in, received x-rays, and saw the physician’s assistant. He told me that the x-rays indicated the bones were still in alignment and healing was underway, and in 2 more weeks, they’d check to see if the bones were still looking good, and if they were, I could probably get the boot put on, so go buy one and bring it. I was a bit disappointed that I was on the longer end of the 2-4 weeks scale, but happy the boot was coming.
The boot is basically a hard shell with a soft area that surrounds your skin, with Velcro straps that can be used to adjust the fit. It provides support to the healing ankle but also can be removed easily to allow exercises, air to get to the foot, etc. Before you go to purchase the boot, you should check to determine which health care supply stores will accept your insurance. If you can’t get insurance to cover it, the boot costs about $125.
So you can imagine how much I was looking forward to my appointment, which was on a Friday. Imagine my dismay when I received a call that the doctor wasn’t going to be in the office that entire week and I had to wait until the following week. Ugh. Well, I went for my cast+5 week appointment with boot in hand. New x-rays were taken, and the bones still were lined up. I was told that because they didn’t see actual new bone in the x-rays they were a bit hesitant about allowing me to use the boot, but as long as I understood it was exactly the same concept as the cast, i.e., wear it all the time, don’t get it wet, don’t put pressure on your foot, then they would put the boot on. YAY!
To remove the cast, a small rotary saw is used. It cuts through the cast and the wrapping underneath, but if it touches your skin it won’t cut you. Trust me, I know. So the cast was removed and the boot was clamped on. I was told I would be allowed to take it off once or twice a day, just to start moving my foot up and down carefully while in a seated position. No pressure allowed!
Now, I do need to alert anyone in the same situation that your foot is not going to be pretty. Mine wasn’t. Not only was there no shaving going on for more than 5 weeks, but my toes, my foot, my ankle AND my leg were swollen and mottled looking. Blech. Supposedly this was totally normal, not to worry. In a few days, my foot color was more normal, my leg swelling had retreated, my toes were fine, but my ankle and foot were still swollen.
My next appointment was in another two weeks, and I was supposed to bring a sneaker. Tip: try on the sneakers before you go. I could only find one that fit and even that one was tight. Anyway, for the two weeks before my appointment, I followed instructions and put no weight on the foot. I couldn’t imagine how I’d be able to walk out of there since it was still swollen and very tight. So I went to my cast+7 week appointment with some trepidation. What would they say? I wasn’t ready to wear shoes. They told me to continue to wear the boot for three more weeks and to start putting partial pressure on my foot since the bones looked good. In other words, I was to start walking using my crutches to support my weight, but putting some pressure on my foot with the boot on. I will address how the healing process went from that point on in the next version of this series. Suffice to say, it had been 7 weeks since the cast had been put on; almost 8 weeks since I broke my ankle, and I was NOT waiting 3 more weeks to walk.
So to switch gears slightly – I want to share my thoughts about traveling while wearing a cast/boot and using crutches. From a high level, traveling with crutches is very difficult but can be done. However, if you can put off trips until you’ve healed, that would be a lot more fun and much easier. Unfortunately, a week after my ankle broke and the cast was on, there was a trip I needed to make across the country that I couldn’t reschedule. So off we went. Here are the things I learned:
- Airports: If you are using the airport, contact the airport ahead of time to find out how to get a wheelchair and reserve one if necessary. In some airports, you can have a traveling companion wheel the chair, and in others an airport employee must do that. So it saves time to find this out in advance. Also, even if you’re feeling strong, it’s a much better idea to get wheeled. When you get to the security line, you cannot bring the crutches with you through the x-ray device. Instead, you have to hand your crutches to someone to put on the belt, and then you have to hop through the gate on one leg, and then you have to stand, waiting to get your crutches back. Also, there is usually no chair so you can sit down and take the sock off your good foot, which you can’t do if you’re standing up! Also, taking off a coat while standing on one foot is doable, but tricky. So having a wheel chair to take care of those issues is a great idea. Also, if you have connecting flights, make arrangements with the ticket agent at the gate to have a wheelchair waiting for you when you arrive at your next destination. Finding a wheelchair when you arrive in an airport with limited time to get to the next gate is sometimes impossible and in some airport, there is a huge distance to cover to get to the next gate and usually not enough time to get there. So making wheelchair arrangements is critical.
- Airplanes: At a minimum, make sure you have an aisle seat so you don’t have to try to climb over people. In addition, try to get a seat at the front of the plane. Also, you need to know that you cannot keep your crutches at the seat with you; they need to go in the overhead bins (yes, they fit) or they need to go in one of the closets at the front of the plane. So once you’re seated, someone will need to put the crutches away. One of the issues with planes today is the aisle in the coach section is much too narrow to allow you to use crutches while heading down the aisle. So to get to your seat, you have to do a sort of one-legged hop while trying to grab onto seat backs OR you can use one crutch to sort of do a side-ways hobble. Neither way is very workable. AND if you have to use the rest room in flight, you really can’t. You can try of course, but the best action is to not drink anything until you land. So bottom line tips for airplanes: 1) take advantage of the early boarding for those who need help, 2) try to get an aisle seat in the front of the plane, 3) don’t drink beverages, 4) be prepared to part with your crutches and to wait for them when you land, 5) if you can afford to upgrade to first class, do so – there’s a lot more room and assistance.
- Buses: I had to board a bus at a few points during my travels. Buses are not all equipped with ramps or lowering steps, so be prepared to have to climb steps. I found the best way to do stairs was to use one crutch and have someone hold the other (or lean it on something). I would grip the railing with the hand opposite the crutch and then keep the crutch on my starting point, place my good foot on the first step, then bring up the crutches. It’s slow going, and then you have to maneuver around people and bags when you get on the bus. Make sure you get a seat. You can’t stand up while moving, so don’t try. Also, wait until everyone gets off the bus before you attempt to do so.
- Trains: Trains aren’t a big problem, as long as you get on fast enough and have time to find a seat. Trains are preferable to buses.
- Hotels: Before you arrive, call to make sure the hotel saves an accessible room for you. It should be something that’s either near an elevator or on the ground floor or close to the main entrance. You’re not going to want to do stairs or have to hop a long way to get to the room.
Overall travel notes: Don’t worry, give yourself a lot of time, and bring your sense of humor! You have to try not to worry about what other people are thinking about your progress. Don’t worry that you’re going a lot slower than normal. Many people don’t like to be held up; they don’t like to wait for people who are slower than they are. If you are going slow and are starting to feel that there are people behind you (and you can feel those angry fumes!), pull over to the side and let them all go past. You are not going to be able to move quickly, and that is just the way it is. If you try to go faster than you are able, you’re going to hurt yourself. It’s not worth it. But the really important thing is to keep your sense of humor. Find the funny in this entire situation. That will make the time go faster, and you feel better in general about your inability to do everything the way you’d like to do it. Also, just know that you’re going to be much more tired than normal from doing things that used to be a breeze. You may be somewhat cranky and impatient. Just remember, this will all soon just be a memory!
The next edition will cover the healing process. How do you go from a swollen ugly non-working foot to walking around on two unencumbered feet? Does it hurt? What’s required? More soon!
Following are all my ankle related blogs:
- Part 1 of 5: http://wp.me/p1le37-7D
- Part 2 of 5: http://wp.me/p1le37-7V
- Part 3 of 5: http://wp.me/p1le37-86
- Part 4 of 5: http://wp.me/p1le37-8e
- Part 5 of 5: http://wp.me/p1le37-8m
- Emergency Room Visit: http://wp.me/p1le37-6Z
- Lessons from Invalid: http://wp.me/p1le37-71
- Broken Ankle: Epilogue. http://wp.me/p1le37-ff