Leading up to her surgery, the female DG spent considerable time on the internet trying to get a better idea of what she faced in her recovery from surgery to repair an Achilles tendon. (Looking back, she is somewhat glad that she didn’t spend as much time researching stage 3 glioma when the male DG was first diagnosed; she might have been more inclined to fold the tents – even in the good hands of the top-of-their-game UCSF neuro-surgery and neuro-oncology team.)
She found a ton of material about recovery from surgery following a Achilles tendon rupture – and it all sounded grim – but little about her less serious injury (severe deterioration and partial tear). So in the hopes of someone, someday, finding this post, she’s offering eight things she’s learned in the week since surgery.
1. Plan for pain but don’t be surprised if it’s more discomfort than real pain. That has been her experience.
2. Surgery takes the wind out of you – even if you’re fairly fit. She’s unclear if it’s the assault on the body itself or the anesthesia – or both. Don’t try to be a hero and do too much.
3. Do everything possible to make sure your spouse (or other caregiver) knows how really helpless you’ll be. Being restricted to non-weight bearing activity necessitates balancing on one foot and not having the use of arms/hands (if using crutches or walker).
4. Ask your surgeon very early on if he orders cold therapy following surgery – and don’t leave the surgical center without it. More about this here.
5. Order a knee walker. There are different models.The female DG ordered hers through RentAKneeWalker. It arrived as ordered, and the customer service staff has answered two basic questions with courtesy. The knee walker allows you not only get around easier and more quickly. You can literally do more. The female DG can stand at the kitchen sink and kind of toggle between the sink and refrigerator to put a salad together, for example
6. Be ready to say no and yes. No when you’re really not feeling up to it and yes when people offer to help.
7. Spend the money on an wedge pillow to make it easier to keep your leg comfortably propped up in the “toes above the nose” position. No combination of pillows would have produced the same results.
8. Hope for temperate weather. The rarely too hot, summery temperatures of Menlo Park have been a boon.
When the female Dual G (gimpy and grumpy) awoke following the surgical repair of her left Achilles tendon – which Dr. Oloff has characterized as ‘textbook’ in execution and expected outcome – there was a blue tube poking out of her foot to mid-calf bandage. It was attached to what she know refers to as “the new miracle on ice” – the Polar Care 500 cold therapy machine. It’s one of similar models that, while not covered by most insurance companies because it’s ‘comfort’ not ‘necessary’ care, provides continuous soothing cold water to the surgical site and is designed to reduce pain and swelling.
Now 24 hours later, there appears to be no significant swelling – and the female DG is relatively pain free. There is some kind of ongoing discomfort, but she has a hard time characterizing it as pain. (The litmus pain test to her, like many women, is child birth, and this was way on the other side of the scale.)
She is so convinced of the unit’s efficacy that she urges anyone having orthopedic surgery so ask the doctor early along the diagnostic path about what ‘he/she does for post surgical swelling and pain,’ and if part of the answer is not ‘order cold therapy treatment’ (presume there are other brands than Polar Care) she’d be tempted to march out of the office right then and there. (According to Oloff, these kinds of devices have been in use for about a decade but are increasingly popular.)
There are really only two drawbacks to cold therapy. Because of its continuous nature, the recovering patient is tethered, so each bath room visit or other movement requires stopping and unhooking the tube from the surgical site to the machine’s pumping tube. The female DG was able to get the thing undone but it was hard for her to hook it back up, requiring the services of the male DG pretty much 24/7. In its favor, if he could reattach it with his near useless left hand, anyone should be able to. The other downside is the monitoring required to make sure the mix of ice and water is correct.
Otherwise: this thing is a miracle and incurred only a minor amount of grumpy and groaning from the male DG.
Note to all insurance carriers: Have to believe there must be some statistics about negative consequences (falls for one) of prescription pain killers of the strong enough variety – Oxycontin or Percocet – that providing an alternative to their usage, or at least minimizing their usage, provides some cost benefit to the carrier.