29 September 2016

10 Things To Know About Broken Foot Recovery

This is a post for anyone who may find my blog because of my social media posts on having a broken foot earlier this year. I think it's time for a follow up as well because no one really talks about what happens after you get out of the cast. Once that cast goes away, I think people just expect that everything goes right back to normal and you are totally healed and it's over.

Not so. Next week it has been almost 10 months since I broke my foot. Hard to believe. I thought it would be helpful to share what's been happening since the cast came off in late April. My experience will not be the typical experience and of course is unique to my own set of circumstances: five fractures in one foot, etc. but I know that it helped me so much as I have gone through this experience to know about the experiences of others and have a neighbor who is a podiatrist who has let me know what to experience as the months passed.

The best thing he shared with me was that I would continue to have swelling and pain in my foot for 6-8 months after I got out of the cast. It was good to know what to expect even though that wasn't really exciting news. Ha. So here are a few more things I'd share with anyone who may be experiencing a broken foot.

First here's a quick update on what's happening with me. I just had another check up a few weeks ago. I was supposed to be in physical therapy this summer but due to insurance approval delays I just met with the physical therapist for the first time a few weeks ago. Sigh. So instead I crafted my own physical therapy doing a wide array of exercises in the pool and at the gym on stationary bikes. I had been working on the treadmill but the physical therapist said he's rather I not do that - so I'm sticking with the bike and pool.

I started a board on Pinterest the night I broke my foot back in January to start gathering info I would need to make it through my long recovery. At that time I thought my long recovery would be long over by Spring. Ha. Here we are almost to October and I am still dealing with this foot every day, still having pain and swelling and it is still very much a big factor in my life. Every time I see someone pin something from my Broken Foot board on Pinterest I say a little prayer for them, because I have some sense of what they must be going through. You don't search "broken foot" on Pinterest unless something bad had happened!

1. Expect to mourn: This is something that really didn't even hit me until mid-summer. There was some mourning to do, as I looked back on how hard the previous seven months had been and how much I had privately suffered and endured to get through that time without letting on to other people how truly difficult it all was. I did have my days during the long "wearing the boot" days where I did have some good cries and a few little pity parties which I think is totally normal.

2. Expect that people will forget - you will need to remind them: Once the cast is off, for everyone else it's like it never happened. It's still going to take some time and now you'll have to remind people that you can't stand for long periods of time, can't do long walking days yet or crazy hard workouts, etc.
3. Expect pain: I still get very sharp pains in my foot throughout the day and my right foot, which has taken so much abuse while healing my left foot hurts a lot too. Par for the course, but not fun. One thing I've found that works is Miracle Foot Cream. It's the one thing that seems to take the pain and aching away. I used it every day while in the cast. My physical therapist has talked to me a lot about how hard it is on the leg to be in a boot for months. It is painful on the other parts of the leg. The front of my shin was so banged up and sore by the time I got out of the boot. Super painful, but thankfully healed and not painful at all there anymore. But it takes time and continued energy to work through the continued pain overall.

4. Expect swelling: Ten months later my foot still gets very swollen during the day and I still sleep with it propped up on four pillows at night. It looks a lot better than it used to and sometimes even looks close to normal, but some days it looks huge and puffy, especially around the ankle and the top of my foot. Standing or sitting in a chair for long periods is the worst for swelling and it's painful to get up and walk after that. I've heard that this is especially problematic for the foot which is the farthest from the heart, takes the longest to heal and due to gravity draws a lot of fluid downwards.

5. Don't expect everything will quickly be normal...anticipate a new normal for a while: I think this is different for everyone but don't expect that what worked for another will work for you. It's a case-by-case basis life when you break a bone. Keep pushing yourself forward but wise about taking it slow. I got a lot of good advice about this and learned to follow it or suffer the consequences.

6. Push through the pain with wisdom: There's no rush and healing happens best when wisdom is attached to decisions.You won't heal well or quickly without pushing yourself, but as I just said you can also delay healing by pushing too hard. But yes, it's going to hurt and you're going to have to keep going, step by step literally. This has gotten me through a lot of hard days, knowing that the more I exercise and use my foot the sooner it will get healthy and strong, but it does hurt and it does make you a little sad and a lot tired.

7. Know there will be ups and downs: At my second appointment my doctor, who at the time only saw two fractures in my foot, said that at my next appointment at seven weeks I could probably start walking on my boot. I lived for that day and then when I went back in, after consultations with a couple of different doctors they told me I needed to go non-weight-bearing for eight more weeks. I had to hold the tears back until the doctor left the exam room, but I had a good cry once I got to my car. There will be good days and bad days. Lean on the people who love you and take care of you and be sure to give yourself some extra kind treats along the way.

8. Be grateful for what you learned and experienced: Since we were fairly new in our church congregation I really didn't know many people. When I broke my foot they asked what they could do and within a week I had people over helping me take down my Christmas decorations and several amazing dinners delivered to our house. Those people all became dear friends and truly angels to me. Breaking my foot brought new friendships and taught me to receive help more quickly and easily too. Anyone who had read this blog over the years, knows that been a repetitive lesson I've had to continue to learn as time has gone along.

I also learned to have empathy for others. My heart goes out to every person I see in a cast or on crutches and you can bet I am the first person there to hold the door, to bring a meal or offer any help I can!

9. Listen to your gut: be proactively involved in your care: I kept track of a lot of questions and asked them at my appointments as we went along. I also got a second opinion several times as needed from a neighbor podiatrist and most recently my doctor prescribed a drug to deal with my ongoing swelling and pain that sounded like something I did not want to be taking due to side effects. I consulted with my physical therapist on that one and decided not to get the prescription but continue to do all the other good things I was doing.

I did not feel comfortable potentially experiencing the mind-altering side-effects that medicine could bring on - that was the last thing I needed was more problems. So I made a decision on my own behalf and I feel good about it. This obviously was a situation where I knew the existing situation without the medication and knew there would not be increased harm if I did not take the medication. Again use wisdom.

10. Right at the beginning, get all the gear that will help you (properly fitted crutches, knee scooter, iWalk crutch, handicap placard). Those four items made a world of difference for me.

For the few few weeks my crutches were not properly sized but how would I know that? Once I adjusted them, they were so much less painful and I realized that I should not have been suffering so much using them for those first few weeks.

Knee scooter took forever to get and make all the difference! It allowed me to travel for business, go on weekend adventures with my family and get around the office much easier! You have to get a prescription from your doctor and there is a lot of back and forth with insurance to get it done. Push to get it. Push a lot!

iWalk crutch was a life changer at home and when out shopping, etc. Definitely check it out. It's not covered by insurance but you'll be glad you paid the $150 the first day you have it. I would gladly have paide $150 every day I used that thing! It was the best mental health boost I could've had because it totally restored my mobility in so many ways.

As soon as we got my boot cast on and left the doctor's office we went to the DMV for a handicap placard. You have to get a prescription for it from your doctor, but do not leave your first appointment without it. This was huge for me, especially since the parking lot to my office was two blocks from my desk. With the placard I could part right at the entrance to our building, that was huge. Plus it's amazing how gigantic megastore parking lots feel when you are in a cast. Save yourself the grief!

So that is my gigantic "Life-saving advice for people who break their foot" recap. I hope for all of you who find yourself with a broken foot in the future, it will be a big help to you. Sending you the very best wishes for health and a quick recovery! And for those of you who are so lucky as to not have a broken foot, pass this along to anyone you know who might find themselves injured!

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