I would like to thank AW, a great patient of mine for the below. Its some practical pointers about her journey through this procedure and she would love to share it with you:
I have always had flat feet – one of my earliest memories is how my wet footprint was different to that of my siblings because the arch was non existent and the whole wet footprint was there. I started to get tendon pain three years ago and went through physio and cortisone injections for a year and half, before the tendon finally gave up any attempt at support. That actually meant I was pain free but could only walk with the aid of orthotics which only fitted in my trainers. I’m super-active and since I was pain free and able to cycle, cross-train, hike, pretty much do everything I wanted, I let that carry on for another year. I figured being able to wear only trainers was something I could live with. What finally persuaded me to have surgery was the comment from Sam that given how active I am, I could damage something else in my ankle that would prevent him from actually being able to fix it. That the only solution then would be to fuse it in place and I wouldn’t even be able to walk properly. That was NOT an option for me. I still put the surgery off because I had the opportunity to visit San Francisco for a month with work, and then go on holiday to South Africa over the new year with a friend. But I knew I couldn’t put it off forever and planned it in for end of January 2019.
The actual procedure was post-tib tendon replacement, calcaneous osteotomy (breaking the heel bone and realigning the ankle), and spring ligament repair.
I live on my own in a two story house with only one toilet (upstairs), so the idea of 6 weeks non-weight-bearing was a big factor in the length of time I delayed having the surgery. But I decided that if I planned it all properly there was no reason why I couldn’t manage. In the months leading up to the op I thought about everything that I do on a day to day basis, and figured out how I was going to manage it on my own on one foot. It’s not that I don’t have friends and family who could help with things, but no one actually living with me. So basically I have to manage on my own and I wanted to share with others the ways that I have found to cope.
First and foremost, with six months notice that I was going to have surgery, I made a concerted effort to build up my upper body strength and the strength in my legs. There’s a lot of of pushing yourself up and standing on one leg and even hopping, and being strong to start off with has really helped.
Sam recommended a Strideon scooter. This is a brilliant device where you rest the knee of your bad leg on the scooter and scoot about with your good leg. It has a 90 degree turning circle so is great even in small spaces. The scooter has a small basket and can also have a drinks holder so that you can carry things from room to room. You can buy or rent the scooters and I highly recommend this as an alternative to crutches which, whilst they work, are awkward and tie up your hands. And if you lose your balance with crutches the only place you have to go is to put your bad foot down, which obviously is what you’re trying to avoid. You’re stuck with the scooter on one floor of the house unless you have someone there to carry it up and down stairs for you, but it does fold up and pop into the car boot so can be used out and about. I actually had two (one purchased and one rented) so i had one upstairs and one downstairs.
After the first two weeks of being pretty much stuck at home I got the OK from Mr Singh to start getting out and about. I’m fortunate that it’s my left foot that has been operated on and I have an automatic car so I can drive OK. I was still being super careful and not overdoing things, but with the scooter I was able to get down to the gym and start doing some upper body weights and one-legged leg presses. This might not be your thing but for me it was a lifesaver and kept me sane during the 6 weeks.
Another great device and I have to say even better in my opinion is the iWalk 2.0. This is a strap on crutch like a Long John Silver pegleg. It supports your bad leg and effectively gives you a second leg to walk on, so you’re completely free to walk around and use both hands for other things. I even managed to change the sheets on my bed, fill the car with petrol and walk round the supermarket using the iWalk! You can go up and downstairs with it on – truly amazing. Again it can be used out and about and is easy and lightweight to carry.
The bathroom is the main room where I have added extra help. Standing up from sitting with only one foot is hard unless you can use your arms to push yourself up. So I have a toilet frame which gives me handles on either side to push against. I didn’t want to ruin my bathroom with permanent grab rails so I bought suction ones which work surprisingly well. I have one next to the toilet and a couple in the shower. I bought a bath board which lays across the bath and I can rest my knee on it while I shower (or you could sit on it). And finally I bought a cheap Ikea stool which I use to rest my knee on while I brush my teeth or wash my hands. The hospital sells you a special plastic cover for your leg to keep it dry and it makes showering pretty easy.
I worried about keeping my foot raised while sleeping but I have used a big solid pillow that I have had for some time and it seems to work fine. Turning over in the night (I sleep on my side) takes a bit more thought than normal, but I have slept fine and I have no swelling in my toes and very little in the ankle. I did buy a specialised leg support pillow but it’s way too bulky to sleep with; instead it’s perfect in the lounge to put on the footstool and keep my foot at heart level.
They teach you how to use crutches on stairs before you leave the hospital but I’ll be honest and say that scares me more than anything! So if I’m not using my iWalk, I go upstairs on one knee and one leg, and go downstairs on my bum I have a stool at the top of the stairs to help me get up the last step and to lower myself onto on the way down.
Online shopping is a godsend but something that is often overlooked is the milkman. Mine delivers three times a week, I can order up to 9pm the night before and he sells all sorts of groceries, bakery items, fruit and veg as well as milk!
I know I bought a lot of stuff but I decided I just needed to make my life as easy as possible for the 6 non weight bearing weeks. It’s entirely possible to manage on your own but I would advise a bit of thought before the op. I wish you luck and I hope that my experience helps you plan for your surgery!