One Graham's View

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Surgery recovery update

Good evening,

It has been way too long since I’ve posted anything on OGV and I’m going to change that right now.

I am still progressing in my surgery recovery. I am now 7 weeks post surgery and had the walking cast removed one week ago. I had my first physical therapy session yesterday. I’ll undergo PT three times a week, for four weeks. The biggest trick is to train the nerve that usually pushed down my right foot to think differently. It now needs to understand that when a signal is sent to it, that I want it to pull the foot up, not push it down.

I’ve been made to understand that this will be slow work. However, after my first PT session, I am feeling encouraged. John, my therapist, did some light work with the foot and ankle yesterday. In one of these, he had me lie back on the elevated mat and he pushed the foot up, as if the foot were being normally raised. I tried to help, but that muscle isn’t working yet. When he had it raised, he slowly let go, letting the foot fall. My job was to try to hold the foot in the raised position. It felt futile as he repeated this exercise for about twenty reps. Finally, at the end, it felt like I was actually holding it up just a little bit. He could see my leg relax when I stopped trying. This is one of the main exercises that is going to help train that nerve to learn its new job. This felt like some real success on this first day of therapy.

There were several other exercises he had me do, some with the foot and others with the right leg. I was there for just at an hour, the last ten minutes of which included a cool wrap to help reduce the swelling in the ankle. That felt really soothing after doing the exercises.

The fact that the swelling is still present seven weeks post-op has really surprised me. It was really noticeable yesterday and John said we need to get the swelling to go away for proper healing to begin. He explained that when a joint is swollen, it sends a signal to the nervous system and brain that it is not ready to begin working and they respond accordingly by not providing the support they would otherwise have in place. It made sense when he told me, and I hope this does now when I’ve explained it here.

Today, the swelling seemed to be worse. I’m thinking that maybe the PT aggravated the ankle, more so than just walking on it has in previous days. I’m working on keeping the foot elevated and icing it down to get the swelling down. Hopefully this will work in short order. From the way it has been today, I’m worrying a bit about it. After getting up this morning with a noticeable reduction in the swelling, it was swollen bigger than ever three hours later. I have kep the foot elevated and iced down all afternoon, even missing out on going out with the MRS and little prince. While the swelling has gone down some this evening, it is still pretty large.

Yesterday, after going to PT, the three of us went to a girl’s soccer game at the local high school. The reason we went was two-fold. First, the opposing team was the school from where Mrs. OGV teaches and she knew several of the girls. The long-time girlfriend of one of our nephews was also playing for the home team.

While we watched the game, our nephew showed up and sat by us. His girlfriend’s parents also sat next to our small group. He introduced us and we made some small talk. I said something about having just left physical therapy following a recent surgical procedure. The mom seemed interested in the subject and I explained that it was to help me fix the foot drop and hopefully get out of the brace I’ve worn for 13 years.

The mom then surprised me. She asked me, “Oh, do you have an AFO?” The term AFO is not something that a lot of people know, so her bringing It up was what surprised me. (The term AFO is an abbreviation for the type of brace I have, an ankle foot orthesis.) I usually call mine a brace, because most folks don’t know what an AFO is. I figured she knew somebody else with one of these assistive devices and tried not to make too much about her comment.

However, she totally blew me away by her next question after I told her that it was an AFO. She asked, “Oh, did you have a tendon transfer?”

I can’t imagine my face when she asked this. I know my eyebrows raised noticeably and I think my jaw dropped. I believe that my head shook in disbelief as this woman I had never met asked me out of the blue about this obscure procedure that I had never heard about before a couple of months ago, and I only learned about it after doing research into a similar operation I had read about. Nobody that I’ve explained this procedure to had ever heard of it and these include some very knowledgeable folks.

I looked in the direction of this woman’s face. I acknowledged her question with an awestruck “Yes,” but had to ask her how she knew of this procedure.

She laughed, Oh, I’m a therapist. I know the language.” After a little more Q&A between us, I learned she has been a physical therapist for 26 years. That also explained her knowing about the AFO.

I should’ve known.

That is the long and short of what is going on with the surgery. Still not much evidence of the muscle working yet, but with time and dedication to the PT, I should hopefully report some positive news in the coming weeks.

As for the family, we’re all out on spring break this week. We’re not doing anything like a trip or something like that. One of us has physical therapy to go to! We’re hoping things will look a lot better trip-wise for the summer.


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