This article is fourth in a series of seven that chronicles my experience following Lisfranc injury.
Part 1: Learning about the scary life-altering potential of a Lisfranc fracture
Part 2: Setting goals for Lisfranc recovery gives optimism, determination and purpose
Part 3: Surgery day and learning about the Arthrex InternalBrace
Part 4: Lisfranc recovery is slower and tougher than imagined
Part 5: Relearning to walk and ride a bike after Lisfranc surgery
Part 6: The 215-mile Lisfranc recovery test
Part 7: Looking back a year later
Recovering from Lisfranc surgery is like touching a hot stove. You know it’s going to hurt, but until you experience it you don’t know how much. For me, the actual ordeal was more difficult physically and emotionally than I’d imagined.
For the first two weeks after surgery, I stayed on my back most of the time and fell into a comfortable rhythm of making coffee and moving to the front porch where I dove into my unfinished novel with vigor, making the kind of progress I only dreamed of while working from 9 to 5 every day. I occasionally joined conference calls from the office, but for the most part I stayed focused on the goal of finishing my first novel.
The challenges of the first two weeks involved pain management and getting around the house without falling. For the pain I’d been given three prescription painkillers, but after a day of feeling dizzy and queazy while taking the high-octane stuff I switched to ibuprofen for the duration of my recovery.
To get around the house, I quickly learned that the iWalk was a crucial tool. In fact it was the only way I could carry food, drinks and my writing materials while moving between the living room couch, front porch swing, bathroom and kitchen. I used crutches for quick trips to the bathroom, but over time grew partial to the iWalk. In fact, after a few weeks of training, I was more secure on the iWalk than on crutches, a testament to how well thought out and effective this product is.
During those early days after my surgery I also learned that my foot’s severe throbbing didn’t prevent me from doing basic exercises. I started with one-foot-on-the-floor push-ups and stretching in the living room, but after a week moved my workouts to the garage, where I was able to use the iWalk in conjunction with the rings, dumbbells and exercise bands. With nothing to do but eat, write and do a workout every day, my spirits were high during the first two weeks. I may have even lost a little bit of weight.
On day 13 I got a look at my new foot when my wife and I visited the surgeon for a follow-up. I knew my foot would be swollen and disfigured, but the sight of it was kind of shocking. It was a red club of a foot that looked no more useful for walking, running, skipping or playing soccer than a tree branch. The doctor said she was pleased. Apparently this was what constitutes a good-looking foot two weeks after surgery.
The doctor bandaged the wound, put a compression sock over my foot and lower leg and gave me a walking boot. The boot was only to protect the foot, though. I would not be allowed to stand on it for four more weeks.
In the ensuing days my confidence with the iWalk grew. I learned to drive by using my left foot for the pedals and tucking my right foot underneath the left. I returned to work. I used the iWalk to take the dog around a two-block route. I went for a two-mile hike in the mountains and joined my wife for some flat-water kayaking.
In only a matter of mere weeks, my left leg became surprisingly strong. I was able to do 15 to 20 single-leg squats, far more than my normal. It’s amazing how quickly the human body adapts. I also continued my workouts in the garage.
Despite this array of activity, the majority of my time was still spent sitting or laying down, and over the course of a month the inactivity took its toll. As the summer wore on, I found it challenging to maintain my initial positive attitude. I gradually gained weight and my motivation waned. I just plain got discouraged and depressed and began to overeat and over-drink.
There’s no single moment or example of this that stands out over any others, but thinking back to my planning weekend in Bend, Oregon, in early June, I’d seen the depression coming. I’d taken steps to alleviate its impact. But my willpower simply wasn’t strong enough. As the depression gradually moved in, my motivation gradually moved out. My waistline grew. My clothes didn’t fit well. I’d set goals that I didn’t achieve. My novel was unfinished, my diet was less than perfect and I’d gained weight. That resulted in my depression growing still more.
Looking back, I wish I could offer some words of wisdom to the man who’d just gotten out of surgery and had a plan to follow to make the best of a bad situation: Don't be so hard on yourself when the inevitable depression comes. It's a tough ordeal, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Just keep plugging away as best you can.
By July 31, it was two months since my injury and six weeks since my surgery, and I was eager for a change.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. I'm not even current on my CPR or first aid certifications. Do not substitute any information found here for a visit with a knowledgeable doctor, preferably one who specializes in foot and ankle problems.