Day 0 - The Breakening
On Saturday March 23rd at approximately 2:30pm, I fell off of the busy, iconic Pork Chop Boulders in Red Rock, Nevada. Before I fell, I was 2/3rds up the boulder and felt skeeved out about the potential slip as it is pretty tall and as a short person, the next few moves are really reachy. I decided to bail. I looked down to spot my fall on a really nice, wide mat. When I jumped off, I heard a distinct snap and I remember my eyes were shut for a moment.
I somehow missed my spot.
My left foot landed safely on a pad but my right somehow landed in between the pads. Because it was so high impact, my foot/ankle twisted into the ankle joint. I remember pulling my leg up, out of the pads with my hands to look at it. I yelled "OH MY GOD" - my foot was what looked like a 45º angle inwards. Everyone at the boulders went dead silent with shock. I immediately turned over, buried my face in the pad and shut my eyes. My brother kept trying to assure me it was only a dislocation though we both knew it was probably definitely a break. I stuck my leg out behind me, eyes still shut and I yelled at him "PUT IT BACK, PUT IT BACK." He pulled my foot and pushed it back to center as best he could. I kept my eyes closed, facedown for a few more seconds to assess the pain. Surprisingly, it just felt like a bad sprain and I was hopeful that maybe, just miraculously maybe, it was just a dislocation.
I turned over and gave everyone a smile and started joking with people; after all, I didn't feel a lot of pain so it probably wasn't that bad, right? I also didn't want to cause concern or fear for anyone else watching this whole thing unfold. My brother was panicking but trying to keep cool and everyone in my group was standing next to him, trying to figure out how best they could help. He helped me take off my climbing shoes and tried splinting with the splint he had in his backpack. Turns out of course he didn't remember how to make a splint so we quickly scrapped that. We packed up and loaded up the non-Ellie carriers with backpacks and our bouldering pads.
If you've never been to these boulders, they're pretty far in and they're about a 20 min hike in from the parking lot. It took us maybe 40+ min to get out. I got carried a few different ways but eventually the best way was a fireman carry. I was commenting to my friends that I was lucky to have been the one that got injured - imagine if our 200lb, 6'0" friend was the one to get injured. I have no idea how we would have handled getting him out! I kept joking and laughing which was surprising to me because honestly, I'm not a joking type of person but maybe this was how I handle trauma.
We reached the car and immediately drove to the nearby ER. I cried in the car a few times with only my brother and Clyde in the car. Everyone else we left in the parking lot to ride with the other group that went hiking instead of climbing. Somehow I think crying was my body's way of releasing some of the stress and shock. "Are you going to tell mom?" my brother asked as we were on our way to the ER.
We waited maybe 10 minutes when they called me into the reception area to get my vitals recorded and get an initial assessment and sent me to get x rays of my foot. When they were done, they put me back in the waiting room to wait for the proper doctor. A man with a shih tzu that looked somewhat like my dog came into the ER and I wanted so much to pet it and cry. I texted my boyfriend instead and cried. At one point, I had to go to the bathroom so my brother asked the desk if they could bring over a wheelchair. A nurse came out, and commented on my foot. I could tell she was concerned it looked more purple than when I came in. After I went to the bathroom, I was immediately seen by a doctor.
They took a look at the x rays and explained to me that they have to do a reduction to my ankle. This meant that they had to manually manipulate my foot to move the bones to more or less to the right position so that the swelling can go down and I can get ready for surgery in a week, when I get back home. I asked if they do an x ray after the reduction to which they said normally no but I wanted another one - I needed assurance that it got set in a good place. I got knocked out for a few minutes while they did this with my last remembered words being "everyone is so nice here."
When I came to, I had a splint on and a friendly nurse was telling me about how I asked him if I could have beer afterwards which I totally didn't remember saying! My friends who went hiking instead of climbing visited me in the ER before they went to dinner while I waited for some paperwork to see how I was doing. I thought it was super unnecessary then but I now appreciate their thoughtfulness. After all, I wasn't dying and this wasn't the end of the world.
The ER gave me hydrocodone and prescription strength ibuprofen which later, my orthopedic surgeon said it was not great to take the ibuprofen then as it might have caused more bleeding than reducing inflammation. They also told me to keep my foot elevated to reduce the swelling.
IMy friends and brother all felt degrees of guilt for not spotting me, not that it would have done much. It's hard to anticipate someone's foot falling between the pads because honestly, the boulder was really well protected. I mean, I hit the pads, just... mostly. If I could do it all over again, I would have borrowed my friend's blubber pad instead of bringing a normal crash pad. The most dangerous thing, I think, about climbing is that false sense of security.
I had tickets that night for a Vegas show which were non-refundable, not cheap, and tickets that only I could have picked up so, I went. The staff were accommodating and reseated me to an aisle, gave me a stool to prop my foot up, and lead me through the staff entrance for a ramp because I couldn't figure out stairs. Honestly, the show was not worth it. However, I did not feel very much pain or discomfort still.
Afterwards, I went back to the airBnB, ate some food to take with the hydrocodone to help me fall asleep with minimal pain (on suggestion from my friend who broke his femur years ago), talked with some friends, and then KO'ed. I didn't even try to shower or brush my teeth.
That day, I saw the strength I never knew I had and the kindness and compassion from my friends and family.
In The Waiting Room
At the ER
X Ray After Reduction
Day 1 - The Way Back Home
In the morning, I hobbled on my crutches the ER gave me into the living room. Everyone was packing up and I felt weird in the room by myself and I wanted to be where the people were. Somehow, my crutch slipped and I stepped forward, putting weight on my broken ankle. It was angry and so painful. I sat on the couch and Shanna brought me some breakfast. Everyone was planning to have brunch at a restaurant and then drive through Red Rocks until their evening flight back home but all I wanted to do was chill at the airport and keep my foot as elevated as possible, instead of being crammed in a car with my leg down for who knows how long.
My brother took me to the airport with Shanna and Nathaniel. Their flight wasn't until 4pm and it was only 12pm but they wanted to make sure I made it through. I'm so thankful that they stuck with me. They found a wheelchair for me in the parking garage and we checked what we could in.
When my brother left us at the airport, he said "I'm proud to be your brother" or something like that. I'd like to think it's because I'm pretty awesome but it probably had to do with how I handled the break and everything which is whatever I guess.
Life pro tip if you fly with Southwest: You can technically check in 3 bags for free if you check in two bags at the counter and the do a gate check in at the gate counter. I asked them for an earlier flight and got a flight for 1:40pm, paying extra for the flight change which I'm glad I did and they gave me early boarding. Before we went through the rest of the airport, I took a hydrocodone. At the ER, the nurse told me I might feel a lot of pain during the flight so just take one. For security, I got waved in to a wheelchair line where they thoroughly patted me down.
When we got to the gate, we ran into Erika and Darren. Turns out that they were also on the same flight! We boarded soon after and I took the first row window seat so that I could stretch my splint and wouldn't have to worry about people or things bumping into it. I knocked out as soon as I could.
When we got off the plane, a wheelchair was waiting for me. Erika and Darren graciously got all 3 of my bags from baggage claim and waited with me while Alex picked me up from the airport.
At home, he convinced me to sleep in the living room where we had a futon instead of trying the stairs to get to the bedroom on the 2nd floor. He brought me whatever I needed and whatever food I wanted and remarked "if I was a character in Oxygen Not Included, I'd be a gofer." Pretty legit.
Honestly I don't remember how the rest of the day went. It was probably just getting settled in our new living room nest.
I think about what this break means to my 2019. I'll be missing peak trad season. I'll be missing out on bouldering training and trips. I'll probably be in physical therapy in
That day, I realized how ready and willing to help my awesome friends and family are. I felt so supported and loved.
Day 2 - Starting The New Job
So. The Vegas trip was my last trip before starting a new job. The new job started March 25th, meaning that hopefully I'd have health insurance in April. I had sent them an email on Saturday telling them that I had just broken my ankle and that I may need surgery but TBD on doctor's appointments and dates.
Alex gave me a ride in the morning. When I came in, they were as helpful as they could be. I told myself if I felt too much pain, I'd bail early after orientation. I spoke at length with the HR rep about my situation and what I felt I could and couldn't do. That day, I finally got a hold of my health group's orthopedic department and scheduled a consult for Tuesday, tomorrow. Because of the appointment, I told my manager that I may work afterwards that day but I might not depending on how much pain I'm in.
I stayed until 4:45pm and Alex picked me up. I went to sleep the rest of the day. I didn't really have my foot elevated above my heart during the day - only up to my hip. This becomes important for tomorrow.
Alex moves the memory foam mattress topper from our normal bed to the futon because my back was not appreciating lying almost 24/7 on the futon. It helps a lot. When we sleep, we have separate blankets to avoid the case where he rolls over and pulls the blankets and my splint with it. My splinted leg sticks out of the blanket as well so it doesn't heat and feel itchy/like it's burning. I also sleep my splinted leg on the edge of bed so there's minimal roll/bump chance.
Day 3 - Orthopedic Surgical Consult
I bring the disks with my x rays to the doctors with me. Luckily I'm still on my previous company's insurance (my last day there was March 1st thank GOD - one day earlier and I would not have had insurance for that ER visit). When I get called in, I have no idea what to expect. An amazing nurse, Jeff, comes in and starts taking off my splint. Immediately I feel anxiety - why did he take it off? What's going to happen? I start chatting and joking with him to ease some of the anxiety. Then the doctor comes in with his PA and starts talking to me. He sits down, looks at the x rays and pauses. "This is a bad break, you know."
Well no, actually I didn't know. The ER folks didn't tell me how bad it was, only how imperative it was to see an orthopedic surgeon.
He tells me at a very high level what they're going to have to do and that I'll need a CAT scan so they can see in depth where the damage is and how to proceed with the surgery because I'll definitely need surgery. I begin to get a little frustrated. I wanted to yell "I WATCH MEDICAL DRAMAS AND I TOOK AN ANATOMY CLASS IN COLLEGE GIVE ME MORE DETAILS PLEASE" but then I realize how absurd that probably sounds. His demeanor also throws me off a little, like he smiles on a timer and I can't help but be distracted at the more important questions I was supposed to ask like "what's my recovery" and "give me the step by step of what needs to happen." Whoops.
He takes a look at my ankle and tells me he won't be able to operate until the swelling goes down. He schedules me for surgery on April 2nd. I ask why swelling matters to which he replies something like "the skin is so tight when the ankle is swollen so when we try to stitch you back up, your skin might not fit over the ankle." Greeeeaaat visual but I appreciate this explanation.
He brings in another doctor who is an expert in ankle surgeries. He will be taking the lead on the surgery with my doctor assisting. Cool, two doctors. I can get on board with that. They tell me that it will probably take 8 weeks after the surgery until I can put weight on my ankle again.
I think about what this means to my year. I'll be missing peak trad season. I'll be missing out on bouldering training and trips. I'll probably be in physical therapy in backpacking season. Will I even be able to backpack this year with the extra 20+ lbs on my back? How long can I avoid my sister and mom before seeing them and lying to them about the break and calling it a bad sprain or torn ankle ligament? Will I be mentally okay to climb as soon as I can? Will I ever be able to do highballs again? Outdoor bouldering even? I just bought a single trad rack, I hope I'll be okay to mentally lead trad.
I so desperately want to be able to.
I'm worried I won't.
Anyways. I forget the order of operations but I get the CAT scan and a new splint made out of fiberglass. Getting the splint put on me is super painful.
We go home and I'm wiped out from the taking out of the splint and then re-splinting and rest instead of working from home.
That day I regret so much all that time I didn't spend elevating the shit out of my ankle above my heart all those previous days. Maybe I would have had surgery sooner.
Out Of The First Splint
Day 4 to 8 - Living On A Broken Ankle
On day 4 I spoke with my manager and HR, going through onboarding, and prepping them so that they are ready for any time off I would need after the surgery and working through accommodations after that.
I finally shower for the first time since the fall that day. In between, I used wet wipes to wipe down my body once but I'm used to roughing it out when backpacking/camping and I've only ever really been home, not exerting myself or sweating so honestly it's not that bad. Alex confirms to me that I don't really smell so I haven't felt pressured to do so. We make the trek upstairs, and I almost fall down the stairs maybe once or twice. I still haven't figured out the stairs at this point. There's a small, maybe 5 inch ledge in the shower and he helps me to sit on it (not easy, by the way). We have a nonstick bath mat for when we was our dog which helps with the confidence factor. After wrapping my splint up in a garbage bag and masking tape around my knee, I take a long shower; after all, it's been over a week since I was able to actually shower and it's kind of gross but it also feels amazing but getting in and out is sketchy.
The evening of day 4, my cast feels extremely uncomfortable and it feels like my two broken bone pieces are floating higher into my shin and is getting caught in the cast.
On day 5, Thursday, I email my doctor's office and they reply immediately to come in in two hours to get a new splint, saying that the cast is probably loose from reduced swelling. We get to the doctor's office and Jeff comes again, re-splinting me, this time with fiberglass, which is the same splint I had at the ER. At this point Jeff knows who I am and picks me up from the waiting room without having to call my name. Oh god I'm one of those people... The doctor comes in to check up on my ankle, saying that it looks much better. My foot feels like it's not straight in the splint and feels slightly twisted but it feels much better than the last one so we go home, and I WFH the rest of the day.
While doing work and generally just chilling at home, my skin under the cast feels like it's burning and it feels extremely tight. In the morning, on day 6, I message my doctor again and they ask me to come in to get re-splinted. I feel like Goldilocks but because it's a Friday, I feel like it's better to come in now than to wait until over the weekend. At this point, I am extremely paranoid that if I kept it in that cast, my foot would begin healing crooked and I'd have a messed up angled foot.
I go into the doctors, Jeff re-splints me after listening to my concerns, this time making super sure that my foot is straight, and also pushes my foot to a more 90º angle with my leg so that it's in a more natural position, rather than extended. He also makes the splint a little differently so that I can unwrap it a bit to make it looser if I like, but he also assures me that it's not tight at all. He also puts in slightly less padding because I tell him that it feels like the padding traps my body's heat and reflects it back to me.
I work from home as best I can though it's been interrupted by my repeated doctor's visits. Alex does everything he can to help me out; chauffeuring me between my appointments, making food for me, taking care of the dog, etc. I'm incredibly lucky to have him by my side.
We work things out to a rhythm.
I buy an orthopedic elevated leg pillow (though I immediately regret getting the 10 inch... it's too high for my short thighs and wish I bought the 6 inch instead and it also seems way taller than 10 inches) and use it as often as I can, and use a stack of two pillows at night. I eat my meals in bed, work in bed, watch youtube and play video games in bed. Eventually I get sick of lying down so I start sitting on the couch which is right next to the futon, so I prop my foot up on the futon.
Meanwhile I develop anxiety any time Mookie goes near my cast in fear that she might jump on it. She develops boredom and barks anytime she hears a sound or someone coming in the house - maybe guarding me? She also takes to sleeping RIGHT next to me which she doesn't usually do. I end up "playing" with her by throwing kibble into the bedsheets which she starts hunting for.The bed becomes pretty gross BUT I'M A BROKEN PERSON AND I CAN'T AFFORD LUXURIES LIKE CLEANLINESS AND PRIVACY AND AUTONOMY.
I really only leave the bed/couch to go to the bathroom. The bathroom door is jammed open because I haven't really worked out doors yet so I potty with the door open into the living room.
One of those days, I almost slip in the bathroom with my crutches and find that if ANY water gets on the bottom side of the crutch, it gets extremely slippery. Realization dawns on me - that's probably why I slipped on day 1 so I begin to be extra careful about checking the ground for wet spots.
On day 7, I take the trek upstairs to take another shower and make sure to take pain medication 30 min before. Keeping my leg elevated for so long and then keeping it down for an extended period of time (like when I shower) sucks. This time, Alex gets a stool I normally use for photography (I'm a shortie and when I need high angles I make them happen) and places it near the shower door and on the nonslip rubber bathmat. I get close to the stool, place my hands and butt on it, give the crutches to Alex, and then rotate my body into the shower. Way safer than trying to essentially hop into the bathroom.
Day 8 is uneventful as I work from home.
I remember thinking, although this is uncomfortable, breaking bones doesn't actually hurt that much! Through the week, I only took maybe 3 or 4 doses of the hydrocodone though honestly an extra strength Tylenol and Benadryl would have helped me just the same. The only painful thing is when I am sleeping and get the sleep jumpies (like you're jumping off a cliff and your body jumps before you're supposed to hit the ground) and that body jump hurts a lot.
I learn that doing anything where my leg is not elevated for more than 15 min hurts and to take pain medication before, and that Alex is my hero.
Company Keeper Mookie
Day 9 - Surgery Time
Alex leaves for work after he helps me get changed and go bathroom at the hospital. This surgery is going to take quite a while and then there are a few phases after the anesthesia wears off.
I wait a while because the doctor's surgery before mine takes a while. Meanwhile the nurses do some tests, ask me questions while I get nervous and anxious with thoughts flying through my head like "what if they accidentally sever my nerve or artery and have to amputate or what if they screw it up and I lose blood flow or what if I die from the anesthesia or...". The doctor comes in, I ask important questions like "what's the worst case scenario" and he gives me honest answers.
The nurses come in to chat and prep me for whatever the next steps are. I tell them I didn't tell my mom about the surgery and they all begin to try and convince me to call my mom and tell her. The Korean nurse asks "are you Korean? Well then... Call your mom." I imagined what that call would be like. "Oh hey mom, just wanted to let you know I'm about to get surgery on my ankle that I broke a week ago right now, don't worry everything is fine." She would freak the heck out. Why make her worry when I can tell her or avoid telling her until everything is more or less healed?
The anesthesiologist comes in and tells me they'll be doing a nerve block and I ask what that is. They tell me they will be temporarily disabling my nerves in my right leg to help with pain management. I tell them if they could sedate me or something while they do this because for some reason, needles not in my arms freak me out which is a new phobia so... that's great. They do so and I recall mumbling, "that wasn't as bad as I thought."
The next thing I know, I groggily wake up and immediately, I'm in so much agonizing pain on only one side of my ankle. I yell this and my face scrunches in pain. I immediately knock back out. Seems like the nerve block didn't actually work on that side.
I awake again, Alex next to me, trying to feed me cinnamon crackers. I'm extremely nauseous and incredibly tired. I take the tiniest nibbles, drink some ginger ale and sip water. Occasionally I fall asleep with the cracker in my mouth and wake up to Alex's prodding of drinking water. I tell him "ah... I forgot to chew." It takes me 20 minutes to eat one cracker. I overhear the nurse saying "she looks much better, her face isn't wrinkled" and the nurse tells me they gave me as much morphine as possible. They give me another pain medication. I tell them I feel nauseous still so the nurse gets some anti-nausea medication. I immediately feel better and the nurse says "are you sure? I haven't put the medication in yet," to which I then throw up. She nods and then adds the medication to my IV. I recall thinking "wow this throw up actually doesn't suck. It tastes pretty good and doesn't burn my throat."
Somehow, I get home. From the car to the house, Alex has me sit on a knee scooter that Stephen lent me because I don't feel confident to manage crutches. Alex tries to make me as comfortable as possible but I get so angry with how every single foot position hurts, how the plaster cast is so heavy and impossible to lift my leg with, and I throw the orthopedic wedge and pillows across the room with pain and anger (really it was just to the floor but I tried my darndest). I eat some crackers to hopefully still my raging stomach and end up throwing up. I mercifully fall asleep even though I'm still in an insane amount of pain.
That day I learned that while breaking a bone does not hurt very much, the surgery very much so does. Also, hospitals have great throw up bags (similar to the link but hardier).
Two Plates & Many Screws
Day 10 to 18 - Recovery
I have two weeks after the surgery off of work. Unpaid, but the most important part is that I still have a job and health insurance.
Day 10, the day after the surgery, I sleep on and off. I'm still in crazy pain and I still feel nauseous in the morning. Alex gives me Ritz crackers which I live off of for two days and eat a few of those while he's at work. I take my industrial strength Ibuprofen and Extra Strength Tylenol in alternating time chunks with Alex messaging me telling me when I can have the next one. I'm awake for a few good hours in the later afternoon and I can't imagine how I'm going to live through days of this recovery. It's probably the most painful thing I've ever experienced.
Day 11, I'm feeling moderately better but still suffering. I can't sleep any more if I wanted so I play a LOT of Stardew Valley. I feel nauseous in the middle of the day so I sleep/rest my eyes. At night, Alex wakes me up every 4 hours to give me more pain medication which I think does more harm the help; I wake up in the morning with an upset stomach because I was too tired to eat anything with the pills.
Day 12 - 18, I'm SO SICK OF STARDEW VALLEY by the end of it. I clock in maybe 30, 40 hours into my already 110 hour play count. Each day I'm feeling better than the last, so I (as Alex calls it) dive "deep into youtube aka Billie Eilish videos" and try to find new video games to play. I have a MacBook Pro that I play on because my windows desktop is upstairs and is therefore in a black hole and lost to me forever. I play and beat Moonlighter, Never Alone, Transistor, Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator. I also try playing The Stanley Parable (great game), The Witness (too hard and boring because I'm dumb after 2 hours), Magicka 2, BioShock Remastered (waaay too scary for me), EARTHLOCK (which I played 7 minutes of and then promptly returned). I complain daily to Alex who rolls his eyes at me "poor baaaaaby can't find anything to play."
Randomly, I'll get a feeling of sharp sparks in my ankle, jolting it. It feels painful when it happens but quickly goes away.
While Alex is at work, I subsist first off of Clif bars but get quickly sick of the sweetness. I then begin living off of Uncrustables, various baked goods from Safeway, and carrots.
I take two more showers during this time and Alex washes the disgusting sheets after many meals eaten in bed and spilled Ritz crackers. I'm surprised he is happy to sleep in the same gross bed as me instead of sleeping on a proper bed upstairs.
I sit so much that my butt begins to hurt (I have a jacked up coccyx that makes it hurt to sit too long) so I buy a seat cushion which helps a ton.
Day 19 - 2 Week Post Op
Back to the doctor's I go! I guess my main orthopedic doctor switched to the ankle specialist so I met with him and Jeff again. Jeff took off the splint from the surgery which sucked as the dried blood with the dried padding stuck to me and made it hard to get out. Afterwards, I asked if we could wash my leg. He wiped it down with some wipes and then I got permission to massage my leg. It felt SO GOOD TO be able to massage my poor squished calf muscles and skin. It eventually started getting itchy because it was so dry. Jeff grabbed some lotion for me and I applied it to my skin, avoiding the stitches.
The doctor came in, looked at my leg, spoke to me about my cartilage. Because I had a high impact injury, they saw that my cartilage was damaged by the fall which may lead to arthritis down the line. JOKES ON HIM I'VE BEEN TAKING VARIOUS JOINT VITAMINS AND EATING CARROTS WHICH ARE HIGH IN COLLAGEN but realistically I am nervous about what this means. Hopefully my ankle will last quite a while but with all of the backpacking I do, I'm worried that it may wear my cartilage faster with the weight and distance.
Anyways. They took the stitches out (which felt pretty painful like a localized burning). The nurse said it's likely because my skin was beginning to grow over the stitches. To me, that sounded like a good thing - hey, I'm healing pretty quick! After, Jeff put some fancy tape on my stitch lines in case they happen to somehow split open and gave me a fiberglass cast. I was happy to be able to see my toes again!
2 Week Post Op Ankle
Day 20 to 22 - Social Obligations & The DMV
Day 20 is the day where I felt confident enough to leave the house for FUN and not just to go to the doctor's. My friend was having a housewarming so Alex took me there. I parked my butt on the couch when we got there and propped my foot up on a stool they had. Days before, I was whining to Alex about how much I wanted to drink. Now was my chance! I made sure to take no medication except my baby asprin in the AM (to help prevent embolisms) and drank a glass and a half-ish of red wine. So happy! We got home and honestly it wasn't that bad to leave the house, though my ankle was giving me a little bit of grief, as it generally does whenever I get a new splint/cast put on.
Day 21 I just chilled at home. Didn't do anything.
Day 22 was the last day I had on unpaid vacation before I needed to start working from home, so I went to the DMV near my house, DRIVING MYSELF FOR THE FIRST TIME! I waited about 20 minutes to get the temporary disability placard, which my doctor gave me a form for when I last visited. Honestly I should have asked for it when I first went into the doctor's but whatever, I wasn't really leaving the house then anyways.
The main concern I have with driving is that my left foot is not very sensitive so I tended to be slightly overaggressive with the gas pedal and sometimes with the break pedal. This is something that can be trained so I'm not particularly worried about it if where I'm going is straightforward but if there are a lot of sharp turns or U turns, I'm way less confident about it.
When I left the DMV, I went to pick up my watch from the repair shop and parked in the handicap spot using the placard. I was pretty chuffed about that!
The other notable thing for day 22 is I felt pretty confident in being able to go up the stairs without feeling like I'd fall. So - it only took me 3 weeks to feel confident to go up the stairs alone, without a spotter. Not too bad, I guess.
Week 4 Post Op
I started going back to work (physically) 4 weeks after the surgery and made sure to bring an ice pack and asked before I got into work if there was something I could elevate my foot on while I was sitting, so when I got into the office, they coordinated that for me.
It was really weird being in an office and working there for over a month but not really knowing my coworkers or manager. I was still in the cast so I got asked a lot by everyone in the office what happened and how long I had in the cast.
The most challenging thing was getting in the bathroom. The door was so heavy and I had to basically throw it open and shuffle on my crutches as quick as I could.
Week 6 Post Op
I went to the orthopedic surgeon's office and got checked out. They removed my cast, did an x-ray, and then I saw the doctor. Although I was healing quite nicely and quicker than expected, he said I still wasn't quite ready to be out of the cast. I was so deflated. I really wanted to heal quickly so I could start PT and get back to climbing. They put me back in a cast after I requested a quick wash since my skin under the cast was kind of itchy but mostly really flaky. Sigh.
They did get me a prescription for physical therapy, so I started on that in anticipation of when I would start walking. I made my appointment for PT ASAP and went twice a week.
Week 8 Post Op
This time was the charm! I went back to the doctor's and got cleared to be in a boot. I was super stoked to be out and begin to start trying to walk on it (with the crutch's help, of course).
Showering was amazing but also super disgusting. I still couldn't really stand much without fear of slipping and dying in the shower so I did sit but I took my sweet time exfoliating my super disgustingly sallow right leg/foot. At first I thought the soles of my feet had some like white soap on it, only to realize... it was a paste-like consistency that kept coming and coming and coming... once I scrubbed the crap out of the foot and leg, I felt so much better. It was still really insane being able to look at my scars and how little muscle there was in the calf though.
I did try walking a bit but my weight was still mostly on the crutches, and meanwhile I was going through the motions of walking to get that muscle memory back in that foot while I was crutching around.
Week 10 Post Op
During this week, I travelled to Washington DC for my company's orientation for new hires at the company headquarters. I was supposed to go back in April but couldn't due to my surgery and such. I was still in a boot and crutches and still had pretty intense ankle swelling but decided to go and attend anyways. In anticipation of the swelling and discomfort from sitting down for 5 hours in the airplane, I purchased some 20-30 mmHg compression socks from Amazon which I 100% believe helped keep the swelling down. I even wore it when I was at my company's orientation since we had to sit a majority of the time and also had to walk around for a bit. During the flight, I also tied my PT elastic band in a loop onto a part of the tray table edge and elevated my foot in that loop that way. This probably wouldn't work if you were taller but it helped a ton and the people sitting next to me didn't seem to mind too much; I think they understood my situation of being in a boot etc.
During this week, I also went climbing for the first time since my injury! I was able to walk, sort of, on the padded flooring of the climbing gym and did top rope with some coworkers from headquarters. I was surprised that I was still able to do 10b/cs without very much issue. At first, I climbed with the boot on and then decided to screw it. I climbed with climbing shoes on it but barely used that foot because I wasn't sure if it was going to be painful. When I did trust it enough to start using it, it wasn't actually very painful!
This gave me enough confidence to also start trying to walk around without crutches which I was able to do for the majority of my time in DC. It still hurt but it wasn't anything that a few advil wasn't able to help out on.
After the trip, I felt I was recovered enough to walk around (although pretty slowly and still with a limp) without the boot.
Week 19 Post Op
At this point, I'm walking still with a slight limp but otherwise I had ~70% original mobility and flexibility of my right ankle. I went on a birthday trip to Tahoe and led a 3 pitch 5.7 trad climb called Surrealistic Pillar at Lover's Leap. This was my first outside and trad climb since the injury and it was really difficult. You can actually read my thoughts on this over on my Instagram here.
I did try some bouldering outdoors and freaked out during a v0 and v1 attempt and had to downclimb. I realize I have to spend more time feeling comfortable with tryharding and falling while bouldering to get over that trauma.
While (currently at week 26) I am still feeling twinges of pain and am still regularly going to physical therapy, the road to recovery has really slowed down. Where before I felt like every week there was some bound in recovery and progress, the pain and discomfort level fluctuates but overall feels like it's plateaued.
When I move my ankle around, I feel like the screws and plates are irritating the tissue above it and it really does not feel very good.
In December, 8 months after my original surgery, I'll have another surgery to remove my screws and plates. Hopefully once I recover from that surgery, I'll feel better and will have more mobility. Overall, it hasn't been a total shitty experience. I'm still afraid of falling during bouldering (even indoors) which I will be working on but I've been able to work on my rope skills and focus on my overall fitness and mental fortitude in other aspects of my life.
There's hope for you; it's an arduous road to recovery but if you're in a similar spot, you're stronger than you know and you can overcome anything you set your mind and body to.