Post ORIF Recovery: Week 1

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I broke my leg two weeks ago, skiing on my incredibly fun new skis. It was a warm afternoon and I considered going on a run, but had a fun workout planned so I took off behind our house on the forest service road. Looking back, I should have trusted my instincts to run since it was funky snow, but what can you do...

My online research for other ultrarunners' experiences of a broken fibula and the return to sport came up pretty lackluster, so I thought I'd contribute in the off chance that our website SEO works well and I can add to the small sample size. And maybe by me going week by week, I'll be able to see gains and positive sides that right now seem pretty far away.

Jan. 16

Today I had surgery and while it seems like it was a success, I’m trying to be realistic and not get attached to any ideas of being able to run anytime soon.   I’m so glad I decided to go the surgery route as based on the x-rays, my break was on the cusp of needing surgery. The surgeon said for 90-95% of the patients he sees, he doesn’t deem it necessary and the patients return to full function. I asked what he would do, being very active himself (one benefit of knowing the doctor) to which he said he would let it heal on its own. When I told him just how much running I do and plan to do he rethought his answer and recommended treating the break aggressively to fix the 2mm displacement in the fibula.

He scheduled me into his full schedule on his lunch break (possibly another benefit, he’s extremely committed to his patients, or both), for today so in the span of a week’s time I broke my ankle, went to the ER, saw a specialist, and had surgery. Without this becoming a political post, I have to believe that’s one of the benefits of our (albeit expensive) complex system. With my degree of displacement, I wonder if I would have even been given the option to have surgery in other countries, but I digress.


Jan. 16

Today I went in for a routine ORIF (open reduction internal fixation) of the fibula, and came out with that and more. In addition to the four screws and plate I planned on having, he fixed other issues that didn’t show up on the x-ray with a pin and a few more screws. Since surgery took longer than anticipated, he quickly filled Sam in as he went back for his other patients.

My lower leg is still dead to the world, which is potentially the strangest feeling I’ve had. I look at my foot and think, ‘wiggle toes’ to no avail. On the other hand, I don’t feel any pain right now, which is great. Thank you western medicine and medical technologies; how CRAZY, that we can turn off a nerve?!

That’s all for tonight. The nerve block will wear off in the coming 24-48 hours, so I’m sure I’ll have a different attitude about all of this.

Jan. 17

My lower leg is still numb, which I guess is a good thing, as I don’t feel anything. Hopefully when the nerve block goes away it will be after the worst of the pain. It’s an odd feeling, to try with all your might to wiggle a toe with no response. I’m diligently doing my 50 leg raises three times a day, and since I still need to put wood on the fire and change baby diapers, I’m getting decently adept at moving around on crutches. My left leg, already stronger than my right, is getting closer to being able to do a pistol squat, which is a fun challenge and takes my mind off of the fact that I can’t do anything else. Pull-ups are another challenge to start working on, once we (read Sam) put up a hangboard inside the house so I don’t have to crutch down snowy stairs to the garage.

Jan. 18

2am-Pain came in with a vengeance! I started regaining my leg yesterday around dinner but still didn’t feel pain. The nurse who followed up with me warned me to take meds to pre-empt the pain. I awoke at 2am with the worst pain I’ve ever felt. It makes sense, given that I had screws, a pin, and a plate drilled into my bone, but still: whoa. This morning is better, and if I can separate myself from it, once again I’m struck by how interesting it all is. Our brain controls everything and when the nerve is turned off we don’t feel a thing, even while my ankle had all the same things going on as it did yesterday.

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Jan. 19

What a difference a day makes. The pain is much more manageable today, and I can envision being able to at least go to the gym. I’ll wait until the follow up with my doctor before I go, but my overall energy level is much better, as well as my mental attitude.

Jan. 20

Well, apparently I did too much yesterday, as I woke up in the middle of the night in exrutiating pain. Today has been spent totally on the couch, which is quite annoying, but probably best for recovery. 

Jan. 21

Rough day today. It was the second day of the pursuit, a Nordic ski race I planned on doing.  I know there are ups and downs and I try to look at the ups, but today felt like a lot of down. I’m cognizant of the fact that I’ve never actually had an injury that kept me from running. I get sick which takes me out, and I related pregnancy to an injury, but now I know that they’re not the same. I try to train in a way that I don’t get overuse injuries, but traumatic injuries from falls never cross my mind. In some ways, I suppose you can’t think about them, or you would never do anything, but I’ll be curious to see how this injury affects me in the future. I’ve wrecked and broken myself mountain biking before, and never really got my confidence back. I finally found the type of skiing that I can really get into, so I can’t let the same thing happen. How do you get confidence again? I’m trying not to overthink something that was just bad luck, but it’s hard not to ruminate on it when you spend 16 hours on the couch in moderate pain that turns all attention to the injury.

I know I’m not unique to have a setback, and I know that in the grand scheme of things this isn’t a big deal (well, hopefully), but man am I bummed out right now.

Jan. 22

The sun is coming through snowy trees and into our living room so I’m going to focus on that right now, rather than the news today at my follow up that I can’t be weight bearing for another three weeks and won’t be able to start running again until April when he takes the pin holding a ligament in place with the tibia and fibula out. I went in knowing that was a likely prognosis, but it still wasn’t fun to hear. On an upside, our sweet new wooden hangboard shipped, so I have that to look forward to. I’ll also get to see my PT friend next week, one of her very last appointments before having a baby and since I haven’t been able to see her in a long time, that will be great too. I'm going to give myself today to be bummed and throw a little pity party, and then it's time to move on (or at least try) to the fact that I still have my overall health, two awesome kiddos and husband. 

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