Ankle replacements–unlike knee replacements–are still rare, but I am one of the vanguard, and got a new, metal and plastic thingamajib implanted in my right ankle two months ago. So far so good. But how did I get here, two months later? Here is my diary of the journey. I will be posting my progress in a series of posts over the next few weeks.
Summer, 2014: My ankle has been giving me a hellava time for years. I sprained it badly about a decade ago–just a little bump in the kitchen, tripping over a step I knew was there. It didn’t feel so terrible immediately, but an hour later, my ankle was screaming in pain. A trip to the doctor confirmed a bad sprain and I did RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Big deal. My ankle was screwed, and I instinctively knew it.
I have loose joints which makes me ace with yoga but sometimes my ankle just collapses when I am walking and I stumble. Years ago I probably should have done exercises to strengthen my ankle muscles to hold the ankle itself in place. But I did not.
After this last sprain–in my late 50s–I wore a soft brace for a while, stayed off my feet, and was cleared to go back to one of my favorite pastimes, jogging, in a couple of months. I did not start running until I was in my mid-thirties when I discovered that I loved it and almost with little (to none) training could place in my age group. I was a 5K runner and usually ran in a couple of races every summer, and have a drawer full of ribbons and medals for placing first, second or third in my age group–40s, 50s and 60s (once I was the only woman running in my 60s so that hardly counts).
SHE’S SO VAIN
I continued to run and race for three or four more years after the sprain, but ultimately the pain in my right foot from the ankle made me stop running. I went to physical therapy and had to come to grips with the fact that I would never run again. Dear Reader, I cried. Running had been a big part of my life–it gave me runner’s high, lots of endorphins, kept my weight down and allowed me to eat anything I wanted, though I know when I was running a lot I didn’t feel like eating a lot. I REALLY loved running. I remember once thinking that I hoped I could go on running all my life. It was one of the great pleasures, and no other sport ever made me feel so good. And the benefits: a low cholesterol count, low blood pressure and even in my fifties, I had no issues with weight! At just under five feet, five inches, I weighed between 114-118 when I was running 3-5 times a week. I am small-boned and so that weight was good on me. I am vain enough to love the way I looked at that weight. Today I weigh 10 pounds more, 128, and I am convinced my life would be better if only…I weighed 5 pounds less. Enough about that, but that gives you a better idea of Me and My Ankle (and attendant issues).
Two or three years ago, I noticed my ankle had begun to swell, which was irritating because–dare I say it–my slim ankles were one of my best, ahem, features. It is true. I got them from my mother.
About a year ago, I started walking with a limp. The swelling increased. Buying shoes that fit both feet became an increasing problem. I once had a AAAA width (age made it slightly wider) but this meant finding shoes that fit both feet was nearly impossible. I used all manner on insoles, heel grips, arch supports, whatever I could find, to make two shoes fit without buying two pairs. Shoes aside, difficulty in walking increased. I ignored it as much as possible, glad that I have what doctors call a “high pain threshold” or tolerance.
WALKING BECOMES A CHORE
As walking became increasingly hard for more than a short distance, my mobility was decreasing. I live in a village (Sag Harbor), about a half mile from one of the best Main Streets in the U.S., according to the American Planning Association, and walking downtown, one of the great pleasures of living where I do, this village, became painful and frustrating, and finally, this spring, impossible. When guests come to visit, I was unable to do all of the sight-seeing I wanted. I cut down on trips to Manhattan. Taking the subway became iffy. My life was shutting down. Yet oddly enough, I had little or no pain when I was off my feet.
All this sounded good, but through Facebook I encountered someone who had had an ankle replacement more than a year ago, and he was still in pain, x-rays had confirmed that he his ankle had been too large for his bone structure, and he was sorry he had ever had the operation. Yikes. Now what?
Next: Ankle replacement or ankle fusion?