One week post-surgery
This last week has been a bit of a blur, but I am happy to report that my surgery on May 16th went very well.
I arrived at the OHSU Center for Health and Healing at 5:45am and went home around 1pm after a four hour long procedure. In addition to sedatives and general anesthesia, I was given two regional nerve block shots in my right leg before the surgery, rendering it completely numb from mid-thigh down. The anesthesiologist used an ultrasound device to place the nerve blocks in the correct spot. It took longer than expected because they said I had so much leg muscle it was hard to find the nerves! After the procedure, the anesthesiologist installed a nerve block catheter in my leg to numb the sciatic nerve for 72 hours after surgery. A slim tube protruded from behind my knee which was attached to an external pump releasing a set amount of nerve block per hour. I believe this absolutely helped me control my pain levels with less narcotics after surgery.
The first few days at home were challenging. Getting used to life on crutches, especially with one numb leg, was its own hurdle. I needed help going to the bathroom and getting in and out of bed, which was where I spent most of my time. Pain management consisted of elevating my foot above my heart 23.5 hours per day, staggering Tylenol and ibuprofen, and occasionally taking prescription pain medication if I had breakthrough pain. I had a series of alarms set on my phone to remind me to take my medications before they wore off, and a notepad to keep track of what I took when. Overall my pain levels in the first 72 hours never got above a 2 or 3 because of this system.
I was also prescribed a 'baby aspirin,' 81 mg 2x/day to help prevent blood clots from forming due to inactivity.
One thing that surprised me was my huge appetite. I ate so much the week after surgery and drank about twice my normal amount of water - which is already a lot! I tried my best to stick to my diet of high quality protein, fresh veggies and fruits, and whole grains, and my amazing husband brought me all my meals (and coffee!) in bed. I started drinking cups of bone broth throughout the day, because it felt nourishing and was high in collagen.
On Thursday morning my nerve block catheter had to be removed - a moment I was dreading, because this meant the feeling in my leg would return. In anticipation of higher pain levels I took an Oxycodone an hour before the removal. My husband gently pulled out the catheter from my leg, which in itself was a painless procedure. Then I braced myself for what ended up being the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life.
About an hour later, I could acutely feel the screws and plate bracing my 1st metatarsal. I could feel the large incision on my lateral ankle, inside which my newly sewn ligaments and tendons were throbbing. Bone and ligament pain was a brand new - and nauseatingly visceral - sensation for me. It was something I had to breathe, and occasionally scream, through. Thankfully, this passed within a few hours and I was just left feeling exhausted.
One sensation that has not gone away after the nerve block wore off was a burning pins-and-needles feeling in my right great toe which extended to the sole of my foot. My toe, which is poking out of the bulky Jones dressing, is hypersensitive to any kind of touch - if a blanket or piece of clothing brushes it, a zap of pain shoots up my leg. I am hoping this is temporary nerve damage or bruising and not a permanent problem. It seems to improve every day but is still very much present.
Throughout the week I have had a number of visitors which really brightened my mood. Boredom has not fully set in yet because daily life tasks take so much energy. Regular naps are imperative. For instance, taking a shower was such an ordeal that I slept most of the day after. Although still cumbersome, crutches have gotten much easier although I am in bed 99% of the day.
Yesterday evening two friends came over for a backyard BBQ. It was gorgeous out and I was grateful they could carry me down the four steps so I could sit out in my backyard. When things were wrapping up I crutched back over to the steps, thinking I could make it up to the house by myself. I was not so lucky. After two steps, I was about to lose my balance and caught myself on my splinted foot to stop from falling. It was excruciating, partly because I landed on my great toe, and partly because I was so angry at myself for not accepting help when I could have used it. I sincerely hope touching down with part of my weight for a split second doesn't prolong the healing process. Of course I can't make it a habit, but ultimately I don't think it did too much damage.
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