Saturday, December 28, 2013

3 Week Update -- Ankle #2


My stitches were ready (enough) to come out on Monday!  Thank goodness...I want to start rehabbing as soon as I, I really didn't want to have to go back to DC again.  There was a bit of leakage from one part of my incision, so she decided to put some “super glue” on my entire incision.  It's not actual glue, but a liquid stitch sort of thing.  It takes about a week to fully absorb into your skin, so I have to practice cast care for another week, and not get my foot wet.  I can sponge bathe around it, which is what I've been doing...and that feels soooo good :)  I can't wait until I'm able to soak it in the tub!  It will be like heaven.


Christmas day...and officially three weeks since my operation.  I've been doing pointing/flexing with my foot, but that's pretty much it.  I wanted to wait until I spoke with my physical therapist to really do anything with it.  We had friends over for Christmas Eve, and, thankfully, my husband did all the cooking.  I was able to enjoy the holiday, but needed to mostly sit in my recliner with my wedge so my foot can be elevated high enough.  I sat at the dinner table for maybe 30 minutes, and my foot had already started to throb even though it was elevated in the wheelchair.  I find that unless it's elevated above my heart, it throbs.  I remember with the last ankle (#1), it was the same.


Went to physical therapy for the first time since my surgery.  My therapist, Jenn, took measurements of my ankle and did a bit of stretching to my foot.  She also did the ultrasound machine (I call it the wand) to the bottom of my foot because she said it was really tight.  Even though she didn't do too much to it, I still ended up with my ankle hurting a ton later that afternoon.  I was surprised how much it hurt considering I barely did anything with it!  Jenn says that she wants me putting some weight on it...not a lot, but as much as I can stand...which isn't all that much.

Today is Saturday, and I've noticed I can put a bit more weight on my ankle than a few days ago...but it's still not a lot at all.  The rest of my body is really aching.  I did ask about my Celebrex again when I saw the PA on Monday, and she said that I have to wait another month.  I'm going to have to figure out a way to get to acupuncture...hopefully that will take the edge off.  The PA also switched me to Tramadol...she said it's a non-narcotic pain reliever and that this may help with my overall pain better than the Vicodin.  I've been taking it on and off since Wednesday, and it's been really messing with my sleep.  It certainly doesn't work as well for my ankle pain, and I can't really tell if it's helped with my body aches.  I'm going to try to take it during the day for the next couple of days and take the Vicodin at night...we'll see how well that works.

Wish I could write more, but this new medicine is kicking my ass and making me so tired.  Next week I have therapy twice, so wish me luck!

Friday, December 20, 2013

2 Week Post-Op Appointment – Ankle #2

Remember the other day when I said people were good?  Well, they are!  My hubs and I had to leave the house at 7:30am in order to get into DC on time for my post-op check up.  So what do we do with the kids?  One of our neighbors agreed to let my daughter go over to their house when we left, and stay there until she had to leave for school.  And a friend of the family let my son sleep over their house the night before so he could go into school with their son in the morning.  This left us with no worries on how to get the kids to school, which was nice...especially considering I was worried enough about the appointment!

After arriving at the doctor's office, and were called back, I immediately told the cast lady (the cast people put on or take off your cast/splint) that before they get started on anything that I did have a pseudo-fall a week and a half ago.  Immediately, I can tell by the look on her face that she's starting to bug out.  I quickly explain to her that I had been in touch with my doctor's office and did everything I was instructed to do.  I tell her that although I had x-rays taken at my local hospital, I forgot to bring them.  So after taking my splint off, they have me take new x-rays.  

I saw my doctor's physician's assistant...she handles mostly everything for my doctor...I think she does everything he does, except for surgery!  I have one of those surgeons who is really good at what they do, but is not so much on the patient care/bedside manner thing.  Oh well, the PA is great.  She confirmed what my local ER doctor told me and said that my new ankle looks fine and that I did not do any damage when I stepped down on it.

I explained to her about the increased pain this time around and she said that this was definitely due to the trauma from landing on it...especially since it was so soon after my surgery.  She offered to give me a new prescription for the original Oxycodone that I was on (the every 3 hour one).  I told her that the Vicodin seemed to be working okay, and was a little easier on my stomach, so we agreed to stick with that for now.  So my current meds are: Vicodin every 4-6 hours, Oxycodone (extended release) every 12 hours, and Colace.  I was told I can stop taking my aspirin, which made me happy (one less drug in my system).  And I asked if I can start taking my Celebrex again, but she said 'no' because it interferes with bone growth/healing.

So the good news is that my bones are healing the way they should.  And NO CAST this time!  My doc had originally told us after I got out of surgery that I wouldn't need a cast this time around, but I wasn't believing it until it actually happened.  I can't even tell you how much this changes things.  The fact that I don't have to go another month being non weight bearing (NWB) really makes a huge difference.  Because of my SED, my whole body has arthritis and suffers.  When I'm NWB, it really takes a toll on my hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and back.

The bad news about the appointment was that my skin is being a non-cooperating bastard and not healing up the way it should, so I have to leave my stitches in a few days longer.  They cleaned up my wound and then redressed it and gave me the walking boot.  I was told that I was to treat the boot like a cast...basically in it all the time, even when I sleep.  I did take it off to shower though...but I can't get the wound wet, so I still have to practice cast annoying!  I can't wait until it's not a process to get showered anymore!  I miss that.

It's awesome how you can see the bruising on my heel through my gauze...ouch!

My foot feels sore in the back, where my Achilles lengthening was done and my big toe feels achy, which seems weird to me.  My stitches bother me...they pinch and make my foot feel tight :(  I have an appointment next Monday to get them out and they better be ready!  Until then, I'm mostly in bed, with my foot elevated.  I'm still taking advantage of my polar cube, which greatly helps with the pain.  I have it stuck in my walking boot kind of willy-nilly, and unhook it when I have to get up to use the restroom.  My foot feels so much better now that I have my stupid splint off!

And one of the best parts of the day...I came home to more goodies on my front stoop :)  A friend of mine dropped off a plate of cookies and some homemade hard candy because she knew I was going to have a long, hard day...people are good!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

13 Day Update -- Ankle #2

I've mentioned that I thought that my splint was not put on very well and that because of this, my pain level has been higher for the past couple of weeks.  I feel like it's too tight in certain places and I think that when the local hospital re-splinted it (after my pseudo fall), they placed my polar cube attachment too high.  With it being too high, the benefit of the cold therapy wasn't really addressing the places on my foot that it needed to. 

The pic on the left is the original splint that I came hope from the hospital in.  The pic on the right is after my local hospital re-splinted it.

So Sunday I decided to undo my ace bandages and wiggle the polar cube attachment down my foot as much as I could.  I then ace bandaged it back to stay in place.  It's still highly uncomfortable, but I think my pain level has been a teeny bit better now that the polar cube attachment is lower.  You should have seen the look on my husband's face when he walked in in the middle of the whole process.  He thought I had lost my mind!  In all fairness, I probably did.   But when you are in pain, you are willing to do crazy things.

My appetite the past few days has been kinda “meh".  Probably because of the pain meds, but also because I've been struggling a bit with depression as well.  Depression is something that I struggle with on and off, but it's always worse when I'm in pain.  So I've been purposely trying to keep my blinds open to let in more sunlight (this helps a bit) and I decided this morning that I wanted to try to decrease my pain medicine intake in case this was a contributing factor.  Being on so many drugs really messes with your body, and I want to get off as many as I can, as quickly as I can.  But this is a slow process, and because I have been struggling to keep my pain under control, I can't just get all gung-ho and cut things out.

For the past 5-6 days I've been taking 2 Vicodin pills every 4 hours.  Today I decided that I'd try to change that to 1.5 pills every 4 hours.  It's been a bit more painful, probably back to the pain level of a few days ago, but I've tolerated the half a pill difference.  It will be interesting to see how tonight goes as the nighttime always seems harder.  I'll try this for a few days and see if I can even stretch the time to every 5-6 hours.  This process may take a while, but I'm hoping that once I get this splint off and the stitches out tomorrow, that the pain will be better.  Especially since I've been blaming this damned splint for much of my pain.

When my hubs got home from work today I told him about the medicine change.  He was happy for me, but reminded me that tomorrow will be a long day.  Since we'll be traveling to DC tomorrow, I'll have to remember to medicate before we leave and to take my medication with me for the car ride back.  It's at least an hour drive to the hospital and then the appointment can take a while.  For ankle #1 back in June, we had a morning appointment, just like this one, and was at the doctors for 2-3 hours.  My husband ended up taking the whole day off of work instead of just going in for the afternoon because we were gone for so long.

Wish me luck tomorrow!  Hopefully all will be okay and my pain levels will finally subside...just in time for my physical therapist to kill it :)

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Polar Cube

Going in for surgery you are given a slew of information.  I was given a folder with instructions on pre-op do and don'ts (medicine protocol, Hibiclens wash), product information on devices that you may find helpful during your recovery (knee walkers, the Even-up), prescriptions for walkers and crutches, etc.  One thing I was never informed about was the little blue box that I would wake up, practically tethered to, after surgery.  What I'm referring to is the Polar Cube.

The pic on the left is the old one (our extra).  You can see the unit and the long tube with the attachment meant for the injured area.  The pic on the right is the current cube that I'm's on the floor next to my bed.

Now don't get me wrong, this may sound like a burden, but it has been one of the most helpful devices I have come across regarding recovery.  I first woke up to it after I had ankle #1 replaced back in June.   I remember asking the recovery room nurse what that blue thing was coming out of my splint.  Maybe it was some kind of drainage tube?  A bit scary at first, because that would have been some big-ass drainage tube!

The pic on the right shows my awesome cast sock!

When my doctor went over what to expect regarding my hospital stay this little beauty was never mentioned.  So what is it exactly?  It's a form of cold therapy.  You know how you put an ice pack on an injury to reduce the swelling?  That's pretty much what this does, except, because of the way it's designed, you can keep it on 24/7.   Picture a cooler with ice and water in it, with a pump attached...that's the basic concept of it.  Different attachments, made for different body parts are available, and it works by allowing a flow of ice water around the injured area to cool it down and reduce the swelling.  The different attachments can fit under splints and ace bandages, allowing you to keep it on for an extended amount of time.  By the time I get my splint off, I will have had my polar cube attached for 2 weeks.  The same amount of time I had it on for ankle #1.

This is the attachment that goes under my splint.  The blue part on the top is the part that sticks out of my splint and has the connector on it.

The attachment that has the ice water flowing in it does not have direct contact with my skin.  Under my ace bandages, there is a first layer of cotton gauze that acts as a barrier between my skin and the polar cube attachment.   The polar cube attachment under my splint has a connector that goes to a long tube (appx 5 feet long) that attaches to the actual polar cube.   I can undo this connector whenever I need when I get up to use the bathroom or take a shower. 

There is a pump that is built in to the top of the cube and the top is made to come off so you can fill it with water and ice. Once all the ice melts in the cube, you have to add more...this happens 2-3 times a day.  We go through a bag of ice a day and usually get the 16 lb bags at Shoppers (our local grocery store) for $3.  My hubs says the Shoppers ice seems to stay cubed better and the 16 lb bag fits better in our freezer (we have a side by side).  **Note:  when you fill up the cube, turn the unit off first.  This is very important as you can cause the pump to break.

After we came home with the Polar Cube for ankle #1, and realized how awesomely helpful it was, I had my husband go out and get one of those chargers for the car...the kind that goes into the cigarette lighter and has a regular plug outlet.  This way we could take the cube with us on the hour long ride to DC.  We used it when I got my stitches out for #1, when I came home from the hospital for #2, and will use it again on Wednesday, when we have to go back to get my stitches out for #2.  It makes the car ride much more bearable.

Like I said, I woke up with mine in the hospital...and it was part of the hospital bill.  If you need to order one on your own, Amazon carries them... Polar Care Cube Cold Therapy Unit

I would like to mention that after I got my splint off ankle #1, at the 2 week mark, I had a cast put on for another 5 weeks.  Having the polar cube attached while in my cast wasn't an option.  I'm not sure why, but it wasn't.

Until this year I had never heard of the Polar Cube. Maybe it's commonplace now.  A friend of mine said her dad had one after his knee surgery.  Has anyone else used this?  Did you find it as helpful as I did?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

11 Day Update -- Ankle #2

I've been sleeping a little bit better the past few nights...since about Thursday.  I ended up undoing all the ace bandages that were holding my splint on and redoing them...and I added an extra one on because I felt like there was a bit of give (up/down motion) to my ankle.  Since doing this, I've slept better.

I've also switched pain medications, so that probably has something to do with the increased sleeping too.  I was sent home with Oxycodone 5 mg...that you take every 3 hours.  Like I said in a previous post, this medication can only be prescribed by hand.  Your doctor can't call it in to your pharmacy.  And since my doctor is over an hour away in DC, I had to switch to something they can call in.  So Vicodin it is.  It's a little better on my stomach...I don't have to take my promethazine (an anti-nausea) medicine anymore.  But I can only take the Vicodin every 4-6 hours.  I've been taking it pretty close to every 4 because I've been in quite a lot of pain.  It seems like if I don't have an extra ice pack under my knee or leg that my foot is burning in pain.  Well, I guess it's still in pain, just numbed down a bit!

This ankle has been much more painful than the last. I'm convinced that half the problem is with the way it has been splinted.  The first splint that I was sent home with from the hospital seemed really you put a tourniquet right below my toes.  And the current splint also seems tight...but more on the top of my foot and my sides.  I don't know.  Maybe this is all in my head and both splits were fine and it's just me.  All I know is that it burns with pain...pretty much all the time.  And I do NOT remember this happening with ankle #1.

I go to the doctor on Wednesday to get my stitches out and this frackin splint off.  I can't wait!  I'm really hoping it will make a world of difference.

And just because everyone loves to see yucky's my lovely bruise that's behind my's more colorful now ;)

People Are Good

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people just stop by my house unannounced.  Especially lately, with the surgeries and all.  I mean, I didn't even wear a bra at all last week. At. All.  At least if someone calls ahead I have time to put a bra on, a hat, and brush my teeth.  At least give me time for this little bit of human-ness.  Seriously, I hate hate hate when people just stop in. Hate.

Having said that, twice this weekend people showed up unannounced, and it was all good.  Saturday morning my mother-in-law (MIL) showed up.  Seriously, 10am and the doorbell rings.  I remember her mentioning that she was going to come over and help out this weekend, but I didn't remember it being the crack of dawn.  Yeah, yeah, I know...10am isn't the crack of dawn for most people.  But it is for us on a Saturday.  The hubs and I were still in bed sleeping!

But my MIL, being the awesome lady that she is, brought and made us breakfast...eggs, bacon, and toast.  My hubs brought me my food upstairs (I can't tell you what a hassle it is to get up and down the stairs at the moment).  My MIL didn't come up until later, and asked first, just in case I wasn't presentable.  Thank goodness I can get away without wearing a bra in front of her :)  While she was here, she cleaned out my fridge and cleaned up my kitchen.  Oh, and she brought me homemade ravioli that my sister-in-law made!  I have the BEST in-laws!!

Then today, Sunday, my husband had to leave early to head to his mom's house a couple towns over for my niece's birthday party (she's 5 and totally cute btw).  Both of my kids slept over my in-laws house last night just to make it easier on us today...this way the hubs didn't have to leave me alone as long.

So it's me, in the house alone, sitting upstairs in bed, you know...healing and all...and I hear the doorbell.  I can't get up to get it because of the surgery, and I don't think much of it anyway... figured it's probably one of the kids friends looking for them.  A little while later I check my email and find that a friend from church was the one at the door.  She had made me and my family some Christmas cookies and just wanted to drop them off and see how I was doing.  How nice is that?  Another random act of kindness for me!  And it's delicious food related...even better!

People are good. I realize that some people's goodness is easier to see than others...but deep down people are good.  I feel very blessed to be surrounded by very obviously good people.  And I've realized that I can forgive some of my pet peeves if it allows for these random acts of kindness :)

The moral of the story is: if you're going to show up up with food :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Week 1 Post-Op Ankle #2

Well, it's been a week since I had my right (#2) total ankle replacement surgery and I can tell you that its been quite a different experience than the left (#1).  Of course, each surgery has different circumstances, but it's been interesting just how different things have been, even though I underwent the same surgery...with the same doctor and all.

With #1 my biggest complaint for that first week was that I felt like I had the stomach flu... or morning sickness...or a combination of both.  I was sick to my stomach the entire week, could barely eat anything, and had no appetite.  If I had to venture a guess why...I would bet on it having to do with the strong antibiotics I was on (Clindamycin).  I decided that this time around that I wouldn't let that happen again.  I stocked up on my Greek yogurt and started eating it even before the surgery.   This seems to have made a huge difference.  The only hiccup I've had this week was Sunday afternoon I puked twice...yogurt and all!  My son had a stomach bug for a few days and I'm pretty sure I caught his crud.  Luckily, it only lasted a day for me.  Other than Sunday, my stomach has felt fine.  My appetite has been normal, although my digestion has been slow...the doc sent me home with a prescription for Colace, to counteract the constipative effects of the pain meds.  Well, isn't this lovely to talk about :P  I learned the hard way (no pun intended) that you want to make sure you take these on a consistent basis.  That's all I have to say about that.

The biggest complaint is my pain level.  Unlike last time, this time I've been in a lot more pain.   Once they finally got my pain level under control in the hospital, they sent me home.  So I had Thursday and Friday with manageable, reasonable pain levels (3-4 on the pain scale).  Then, Saturday night, after I took my shower, while I was trying to get dressed, I lost my balance.  Instinctively, I stepped down on my operated foot to keep from falling.  Since that happened, I have been in a lot of pain (6-7 on the pain scale) that has not been manageable through icing, elevating, or medication.  I was scared that I did something really bad to my new joint, so I went to my local hospital on Monday to have it checked out.  The x-rays came back fine... no fractures, or breaks to the joint.  The doc on call said that I probably just aggravated it when I stepped on it, and that was why I was having increased pain.  They re-splinted me after checking on my incesion ...and thank God because my splint felt incredibly tight, which was probably due to the increased swelling.  I was told that I couldn't get a new prescription for pain medication since my orthopedic surgeon was the doctor whose care I was under.  The biggest problem with this is the law in DC for getting certain classes of narcotics is that you need to pick up your prescription in person.  And, of course, my Oxycodone is one of these fancy medicines that falls in this category.  So I'd have to drive all the way to DC (an hour each way with NO traffic) to get a new prescription.  Yeah, that seems logical.  Have people who are in a shitload of pain go out of their way, end up in more pain, just so you can hand it to them in person.  Whoever is writing these laws is a fucking moron.  Period.

So, other than the unmanageable pain I've been under...everything is fine!  At least I didn't permanently damage my new ankle from my pseudo-fall.  So, I guess it could be worse.  Are these stupid medicine laws common around the country?  Seems to me that it shouldn't be this difficult for people who are in pain to have their pain managed in a more reasonable way.  I'm holding out...icing, praying, and hoping that I can sleep my way through most of the pain.  Hoping that week number 2 is infinitely better than this one has been!

Oh, and this is what I found behind the back of my right knee today.  Goodie :) 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

4 Days Post-Op

Well, I'm going to keep this post short today since my eyes are buggin even looking at the computer screen.  And the red squiggly line of spellcheck won't leave me alone.

Wednesday – The Day Of Surgery

We had to be at the hospital two hours before surgery to get checked in and whatnot.  So hello 5:30AM!  I had to get into a lovely hospital gown and lay on the bed/stretcher until they wheeled me into the OR.  I was stuck only once again for my IV, but it took a lot longer and that IV only lasted a half a day.  Because I needed a new IV, I had to wait on my pain meds.  Well, let's just say that it took until around midnight to get all my pain under control.  Not a good day :(


Pain under control.  Able to get in/out of bed to use the bedside commode rather easily.  I asked to see a priest that day for confession.  I figured that I may as well make good use of my confession and communion that day for me.  Thursday was a pretty good day pain wise and all other kinds of wise.  I went home that afternoon.


I slept most of the day.  Since I hadn't slept in over a week (I've been cat-napping), my body was really craving sleep.  And the medicines I'm on definitely contribute to the lack of sleep.


Most of this day was also spent sleeping.  I decided to shower Saturday night and this would prove to be my undoing!  Not only did I get the bottom of my splint wet while showering, but I also lost my balance and came down on the newly operated foot and it's been hurting more ever since.  I took off the big ace bandages that were on my splint and before replacing them with clean, dry ones, I took the hair dryer to it.  My husband helped and we both agreed that the wet factor didn't really seem like much of a problem anymore.  It was the increased level of pain that concerned me.  I waited until the morning and called the on-call doc.  He said for me to call the clinic first thing Monday morning because my doc may want to have my splint looked at and possibly get more x-rays taken.

So that's where I am today.   Really tired...foot pain at a 6-7 pain level.  And kinda worried that I fucked my foot's healthiness.

Anyone else out there a klutz like me? 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

5.5 Month ROM & Balancing Videos

STAR -- Total Ankle Replacement was done on my left ankle in June 2013.  This shows ROM (range of motion) on Dec 3, 2013...approximately 5.5 months later. 

Sorry for the sock obsession, but I was a bit manic when I filmed this!  Read here about my pre-op mental issues :)

This video shows off my super cool balancing skills.  Or not ;)  And loving on my socks (again).  By the cool does my rug look?  I'm glad it doesn't look as dirty as it really is :)

5 Stages of Pre-Op Insanity

I've been thinking about it, and it seems that I follow a similar pattern every time before I go in for surgery.   A pattern of behavior and thinking similar to the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), but mine are more like 5 stages of pre-op insanity.

Katie's 5 Stages Of Pre-Op Insanity

  1. Type-A Preparedness
  2. Anxious
  3. Manic
  4. Breakdown
  5. Fuck It All


Type-A Preparedness

I usually start out a week or so before hand being very type-A...getting things in order...preparing.  I'm naturally a type-A personality, so this stage sits well with me.  This is the time when I feel that everything is going to be okay, and be better than before.  For this surgery I ordered a new cast protector for the shower, paid bills, bought a cast sock, emailed the kids' teachers, etc.  I got all my ducks in row.  And just in time before the panic set in.


Then, a few days beforehand, I get anxious...this lasts for a few days.  I get headaches, nervousness, and sleep poorly.  This time around, I started with the headaches on Saturday (I'm having surgery tomorrow--Wednesday).  My headache got so bad on Sunday that I thought I was going to be sick to my stomach.  I had to go lay down until it passed.  In all honesty, I almost had a panic attack.  Those are not fun.


All this anxiety cannot stay bottled up too long before it needs to be released somehow.  This is my manic mode.  I started the cleaning yesterday, Monday, and would have cleaned the entire day, but my body hurt too bad.  I've also been writing a lot over the past few days...which is actually a good use of nervous energy.  Probably, the best way to get rid of nervous energy cannot be written about on my blog because my kids read it.  So I'll leave it at that ;)


Last night was time for the mini-breakdown.  This is when I realize that bad shit can happen when you have surgery.  I broke down and cried to my husband last night and had on and off crying this morning.  The crying (or being on the brink of crying) won't actually go away until the doc gives me my “happy drugs” before surgery.   So this stage actually overlaps with the last stage.

Fuck It All

Then I get in the “fuck it all” mode.  Shit's not done?  Fuck it.  House isn't clean enough?   Fuck it.  You don't like me saying fuck so much?  Fuck you.  Get the point?

Like I said, this stage overlaps with the last...and I'll go back and forth between them.  I guess my manic mode actually overlaps a bit too.  Honestly, at this point, I can feel any of these stages at any given time.   I feel a little mental.  They should really give you happy drugs a week before surgery...then maybe I wouldn't feel this crazy!

Am I the only one who feels this mental?  Surely, people get nervous before surgery, but I can't tell if this is “normal” crazy or “Katie crazy”...???

Monday, December 2, 2013

My Etsy Cast Sock

Even though today was a gloomy, sleepy, pajama wearing day, I got a package in the mail that I wasn't expecting for another couple days.  I love getting mail!  Like REAL mail...not bills :(

I ordered a "cast sock" from Etsy on Friday.  I have a big sock that the hospital gave me when I got my cast on ankle #1.  But I figured that it would be a good idea to have a second option since it's winter now.  I remember how cold my toes got sitting in air conditioning...I can't even imagine how 20 degrees out is going to feel!

This is what the package looked like when I opened it.

Isn't that nice?  I got a card!  Like a real, handwritten, hopeyourfeelingbetter card!  And I even got goodies too!  They were stuffed into the sock...stocking stuffers come early!

The sock itself is navy with pink stripes.  The picture doesn't do it justice.  I have to say, this is the way all purchases should be sent...with a personal touch.  If I do have to get a cast on after the initial two weeks of being in a splint, I'm ordering another one of these.  A great big THANK YOU to Grandma Silly's Shoppe!!

And after I get my cast off and no longer need it for my toes, I can use it as a hand puppet ;)

Anyone have other options for keeping your toes warm while in a cast...during the winter?

Sleeping Is Overrated

So I haven't been sleeping well for the past week...pretty much since coming off my arthritis medicine, Celebrex (you can read about why I had to stop taking that here).   I've been so achy that it's been hard to sleep...just tossing and turning all night.  And last night I couldn't fall asleep, which is a entirely different problem.  I think the anxiety of having surgery in two days is building up.  This may have also contributed to the smashing headache I had all day yesterday :(
by Hannah Hillam

I thought I'd sleep in today, since I didn't have any appointments, but I was too wound up this morning despite the lack of sleep the night before.  Nervous energy always translates into cleaning for I cleaned out half my refrigerator this morning.  I would have continued with cleaning (God knows we need it), but my body was angry at the fridge incident, so I will have to look at tinsel on my floor for another day.  

Yeah, we didn't even put tinsel up this year...ugh!

On the bright side, I got to stay in my flannel pajamas all day.  Don't judge.  You know you've had those days too.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Having Doubts About Surgery...Am I Crazy?

Over the past few weeks I've been telling family and friends that I'm having surgery again and I get the feeling that they all think I've lost my mind.  Well, sometimes I think they're right.

Okay, so don't tell my doctor this, but I may be rushing into my next surgery.  I mean, I'm not really 100% rehabbed with ankle #1's probably more like 85% healed.  I still feel pain when I walk on it and don't really know if that's normal or not (although it's a better pain than before the surgery).  And my biggest complaint is that it feels stiff when I flex it up.  My PT instructed me to do more calf stretches to help with this, but I haven't noticed much of a change yet.  I know, I know...I need to give it more time with the stretching to see a difference.  But time is something that I'm quickly running out of.

The biggest worry I have is going into a cast again, which will keep me non-weight bearing for six weeks instead of the normal two.  This will only happen if #2 fractures during surgery (click here to read why #1 fractured and how I'm getting screwed again).  I can do two weeks of anything, but six would really set me back (again).  And six weeks of standing on #1 only...eeek!  It's already in pain and I can't balance all that well on it.  I keep telling myself that I will be able to really get #1 to full strength once #2 isn't holding it back.  And I believe this statement about's that little 1% doubt that has the loudest voice in my head! 

I had both my hip replacements done at the same time and was back to school (college) within 3 months.  That was super hard, but I did it.  Of course, I was 19 at the time...with superhuman youthful healing abilities.  But still...I'm not that old.  Only 37...29 in my head.  I can do this!  Right?  Right???

Friday, November 29, 2013

Pre-Op Checklist--aka: Sh*t That Needs To Get Done Before I Get Surgerized

Grammar Nazi's--settle down.  Surgerized is a word my son made up.  He's ten.  And super cute and funny.  So now I use it in my vocabulary.

Below is a list of all the things to get done before I go into surgery again.  Some of these things I won't have to do again (like buy a wheelchair), but I listed them anyway, so anyone getting ready for this surgery will have a good place to start.  *All the things that are starred are items I already own from my last surgery. 
 Things to do:
  • Get pre-op physical from regular, family doctor
  • Do pre-op interview with hospital
  • Schedule babysitting for kids
  • Contact kids school about absences
  • Clean the house
  • Pay bills
  • Pack bag for hospital
  • Get haircut
  • Stop Celebrex
  • Make some extra food to freeze for extra meals
  • Clean out refrigerator
  • Make room in freezer for ice.  We didn't know this for ankle #1...after that surgery they sent me home with a Polar Care Cube Cold Therapy Unit (which is genius and one of those things I wish I invented).  Click here for my post on the awesomeness of the polar cube.

Items to purchase:

Did I miss anything?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cast Care T-Shirt Tip

So I decided to share a little cast care tip that I got from the guy who put my original cast on ankle #1.  This should work with any cast (anywhere).  All you need is a cast protector bag that you buy from the drugstore, and a t-shirt.

   Anybody have any other cast care tips to share?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pre-Op Medicine Protocol

After yesterday's post, I had a friend comment, “Happy Graduation!”...this was in reference to me having my last physical therapy session.  I just wanted to clear something wasn't my last day of PT because I'm done rehabbing that ankle.  Hardly.  It's because I have to stop taking one of my everyday pain medicines.

Today is Tuesday, and is the last day I can take my Celebrex, which I take to control my arthritis pain.  Before you have surgery, you have to stop taking certain medicines, usually a week or two before surgery.  Sometimes your doc puts you on extra medicines as well...thankfully, this wasn't the case with my ankle surgeries (I had to do Lovenox injections before I had my knees done).  Every surgeon is different with their pre-op protocol.  My current surgeon has instructed me to stop all NSAIDS...Celebrex is in this family of drugs.  Also included is: ibuprofin, Alleve, and aspirin.  All these meds thin the blood...which is not good when someone is about to slice into you.  The last thing you want is to have to have a blood transfusion.  Been there, done that.  Don't want to do it again.

I am nervous about stopping my Celebrex again, as last time it not only caused me to be in a lot of pain, but also caused a smashing headache for about 3 days straight.  I've been taking Celebrex for 2 years now.  My prescription says that I can take one pill, 2x/day...but I only take one pill at night, unless I'm having an ultra bad day...then I'll take one in the morning as well.  I hate having to take medicine, so I try to take as little as possible.

Anyone else have a similar experience with coming off Celebrex or any other kind of everyday pain med?  Do you have any tips that have worked to ease the withdrawal symptoms?

Here's hoping that this time around the withdrawal symptoms are better...Geronimo!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Last Day of PT...for now

Well, today was my last day at physical therapy before I have ankle #2 done.  I was going to make another appointment this week, but the only day that is available is Wednesday, and I have acupuncture that day...and doing both in the same day isn't an option.

I had my therapist, Jenn, take measurements of both ankles.  I thought I'd be all scientific-like with the comparisons since my right ankle measurements are really my baseline for my left.  Here are my numbers...all are active range of motion:

Plantarflexion                L=40 R=40
Dorsiflexion                   L=7 R=10
Inversion                       L=30 R=30
Eversion                        L=5 R=10
Standing Calf Stretch    L=15 R=30

Remember: my Left is my new ankle, or ankle #1.  The Right is still my old ankle, or ankle #2.

The inversion on ankle #1 is still weak, but I can get it to what my other one is.  Jenn says my numbers are reasonable, but would like to see me keep stretching my calf.  She wants me to do it every hour!  Oy...

Psoas Muscle.  From Wikipedia.

I can do 9 minutes on the treadmill, at 1.8 mph. It doesn't seem like a lot, and it's probably not, but I can't overdue ankle #2.  After about the 7 minute mark, my left hip starts to hurt a bit.  Jenn says that it's probably caused by my gait and did some hands-on stretching of the psoas muscle...which was feels like she's pushing on your gut/groin.  Good times.

Also included in my PT routine: the thigh machine – 45 lbs, the knee machine – 15 lbs (just started this 2 weeks ago), the pilates reformer, the total gym (level 5), and table exercises (leg lifts, table top marching, etc).

At home exercises: gray theraband, core work (table top, pelvic tilts), stretching, leg lifts (straight up and side).  Also, I'll sit with my knees at 90 degrees, and put as much weight on my left knee as I can...and then do calf lifts with my left foot.  This is a cheat, because I can't do standing calf lifts yet...mostly because if I try to do them one legged (on the new ankle), I can't do it.  And I can't do it with both feet because my old ankle #2 is still shitty and will crumble to bits.  I know this because the last time I did calf lifts I couldn't walk on that ankle for a good six weeks.  Ankle #2--it's time for you to hit the road Jack!

I know everyone is different, but I always wonder where other people are at this point in their recovery. Is everyone else running marathons at this point? Or are you struggling like me?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pre-Op Testing

Well, I went to my regular GP this week to get my pre-op physical and blood testing done.  I should have written down what blood tests were ordered, but my brain was elsewhere.  I had a regular physical...he listened to my breathing, took my blood pressure, my weight, looked in my ears and throat...nothing invasive at all.  After all that, I had my blood drawn by the blood lady.  That's one of those nice perks about my doctor's office...they have their own Quest Labs person there so you can have a little one stop shopping.

The blood draw is the only invasive test before my procedure.  I made sure to drink a lot of water the day before and the day of, to insure that the blood draw would go quicker.  I'm one of those people who has non-cooperating veins, so anything I can do to help the lab people out, I do.  I was lucky and she got me in one stick.

On a related note...when I had to have my IV put in right before my last ankle surgery, the hospital lab lady got some warm blankets and placed them on both of my arms...then checked my veins several minutes later.  This helped my veins come to the surface more (or something like that) and she was able to get my IV line done in one stick...this is the first time I've EVER had an IV done in one stick.   I think I was stuck five times before one of my knee surgeries...that was 5 times and 3 different people doing the sticking.  My rule is that each person gets two tries--then they're done.

Back to pre-op testing....

This is the same testing as last time.  The only other thing I had done before my last surgery was have a bunch of x-rays taken of both ankles.  I had this done at my first visit with my orthopedist.   I didn't have repeat x-rays this time, probably because the others are only 6 months old and I had already discussed, and agreed, with my doc about having replacements on both ankles.  It was a matter of which one did I want to do first...and honestly, I randomly picked...they were both shit.

Has anyone else had similar experiences before surgery? 


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Acupuncture: How Does This Voodoo Actually Work?

When people hear that I have acupuncture treatments weekly, they often ask, “Does that actually work?”  I'm so tempted to say “No. I just like wasting 2 hours of my time and pissing away my husband's hard earned money for fun”...but I fight the urge and tell them how it really is.  Acupuncture has made a huge difference in my life and I'm so grateful that it was recommended to me.

If you haven't been to acupuncture, let me give you the skinny on the basics.  Acupuncture was started like a million years ago in China and is still practiced today. It's an all natural way to control pain and keep you in good health. The basic treatment is done with very small needles.  Sometimes they can enhance this with electro stim therapy (similar to the way physical therapists use it).   Cupping, bloodletting, and herbs can also be incorporated into your treatments.  I'm sure there is way more involved, but these are the things that I've experienced.

What Happens First?

My acupuncturist escorts me to a private office and we have our “chat”.  I sit down and I'm asked how I've been feeling since my last visit.  After I tell them all my ailments, they feel my pulse on both wrists (to doubly make sure I'm alive) and then I stick out my tongue.  I don't know exactly what all this does, but it's part of the Chinese magic that gets recorded in my chart.  Next, I'm off to the treatment room.

The Treatment Room

I first start out by stripping down to my underwear (settle down!).  This makes it easier for your acupuncturist to have access to all the places that may need treatment.  When I had my cast on my ankle and it was a pain in the ass to get my pants on and off, I just left on my shorts (it was summer at the time).  As long as your knees are available and you have a waistband with a little give that allows for your lower back to be treated, you should be fine.  Occasionally, I'll need a needle or two in my hips and they'll need to lower my underwear to about my butt're welcome for the visual ;)

I'm given a paper sheet to cover myself and after I get situated I ring the little bell to let them know I'm ready.  The treatment starts out face down with the paper sheet covering my buttocks and upper thighs.  I usually get about 20 needles on both sides (so ~40 total).  I don't know if that is the usual for everyone or if it's just me (I think it's just me).  They unhook my bra to get full access to my back, and after all the needles are placed, and the warming lamps are put over me, they leave me to lay there anywhere from 15-25 minutes, depending on how busy they are and how long I have to “cook”.

My own personal cupping set

If I have cupping done, they'll do that before the needle acupuncture.  After cupping, they apply this ointment that has a cooling effect on the skin.  I don't mind the smell, but my hubby hates it.   The funniest part is that it's called "Po Sum On" a redneck version of "pour some on!" 

After my back is done, they come in and remove all the needles, then leave the room so I can flip over and lay face up.  This is when they'll do spots on my hands, feet, legs, face, and sometimes (rarely) my stomach.  I lay there again and cook...rinse, repeat.

But Needles Are Too Scary!

Most people are kinda freaked out by the whole needle thing.  Please understand that these needles are NOT the same as the needles you get at the doctors...those are injections...they are bigger because they are administering medicine or drawing blood.  Acupuncture needles are smaller than silk pins you use in sewing.

That's the scary needle in the to a .7 lead pencil.  The part of the needle you get "poked" with is the I-can-barely-see-it part on top.  Only the tiniest bit goes in your skin...they are put in very superficially.

Most of the time the needles don't hurt.  Sometimes they burn after they're put in, but then calm down after several seconds.  The ones in my sinuses usually hurt the whole time they're in...a hurt like you are poking at a black and blue.   And the ones on your ear hurt the whole time too.  Only one time did a needle hurt so badly that I cried.  My acupuncturist removed it immediately.  It was in my right shoulder and it felt like someone stabbed me.   Even after he took the needle out, I could still feel pain.  Again, that happened ONCE.  If I get, on average, 40 needles per week, that's over 2000 needles per year.  And I've been going for about 4 years.  Even if you count the first year that I went twice a month...that's still over 7000 needles.

All their needles are individually packaged and before each needle is placed, they apply a swab of alcohol to the area.  They don't wear rubber gloves...I asked about this a few weeks ago and was told that contact with blood is rare and even when bloodletting is done, the amount of blood is so little that it's inconsequential. *side note out of left field--did you know that not all urologists use gloves? :0 True story*

How Long Does The Treatment Take To Work And How Long Will It Last?

A treatment usually lasts me a week or two, depending on what's hurting, the weather, my activity level, etc.  Initially, it took 4 treatments for me to start feeling the positive, healing effects.  Everyone's body is different, so it can take people shorter or longer for it to work and the lasting effects will also vary.  Usually, I feel better the next day, but sometimes the acupuncture “kicks in” pretty immediately.  It's all very mysterious and magical to me.

Who Performs This Magic?

I realize I'm using the term “they” a lot...that's because I get treated by two different people.  Depending on the schedule, I'll see either just one of them for both back and front, -or- one for my back and the other for my front.  It doesn't matter much to me...both are licensed acupuncturists and are great at what they do.

If anyone is interested in finding an acupuncturist, I would recommend you ask around and see if you can get a recommendation from someone you trust.  You can even ask some of your western medicine doctors, as more and more doctors (especially pain management doctors) are getting educated about the healing effects of Chinese medicine.  And remember: do not ask Aunt Betty to poke you with sewing's not the same thing.

Costs And More Praise Of Acupuncture

That's the basic on how it's done.  I've been having acupuncture treatments for a few years now, and it has really helped with my chronic pain and has also kept me in better health.  I don't get sick as often and when I do, it doesn't seem to last as long.  I've taken various herb concoctions for pain, illness, anxiety...some have helped and some haven't.  All the herbs are out of pocket and cost anywhere from $15 -$30, and are about a week's supply.  Each acupuncture session is $85 and my insurance covers part of it.  I used to have to pay out of pocket for everything...when I did, they only charged me $60 per visit.

I love acupuncture and recommend it to everyone who will listen.

Have you ever had acupuncture?  If so, how did it work for you?  If you have yet to try it, what is the reason?  Anything that I didn't cover or other related questions for me?  Ask away!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Total Ankle Replacement #1 -- 5 Month Update

It's been a little over 5 months since my ankle #1 (left) total ankle replacement and I'm gearing up for going under the knife with ankle #2 (right) in a little over three weeks.  What does this tell you?  That having it done was worth it.  Worth it enough that I can't wait to get #2 done and rehabbed so I can have a bit of normalcy back in my life.  And by normalcy, I mean I can go grocery shopping without having to cancel all the rest of my plans for the week.

Range of Motion

My range of motion (ROM) isn't what I'd hoped it would be (I was hoping I would get to at least what I had).  I don't know what the numbers were before the surgery, but here are my newest measurements...

Ankle AROM Dorsiflexion: 5, P=20
Ankle AROM Plantarflexion: 35, P=55
Ankle AROM Eversion: 10, P=15
Ankle AROM Inversion 20 P=30

AROM means Active Range of much I can move my foot on my own.  The “P” means much my therapist can torture it to :)  My therapist says that I'm still within the “normal” range for walking, but that I won't be a ballerina any time soon.  My Nutcracker dreams dashed!

"The Dancing Class" ~Degas


I started the treadmill at physical therapy just a couple weeks ago, and I think that has helped me experience less pain when I walk.  I wish I could workout more on the treadmill, but ankle #2 limits me as it is very susceptible to overuse.

Using my new ankle is getting easier...I can walk on it and stand on it longer with less recovery time.  I went to the grocery store just a few days ago and spent about 15-20 minutes in the store .  This was the second “real” outing I've had… the first was when I went to the craft store about 3 weeks ago.  The difference between the two outings is that I felt less sore this time than last, so that's progress.  I'm only using my aircast when I go out of the house...otherwise, I'm wearing my Birki's around the house for support.

Over the past month I've started doing a little more housework, including:

  • laundry
  • vacuuming for very short periods of time (my left hip will start hurting--probably due to my gait)
  • hand washing dishes (our dishwasher broke about 6 weeks ago--great timing Murphy!)
  • Cooking.  Well okay, I only cooked once...but I'm counting it as progress!

If you add all this to my two outings, I'm on my way to “normal”...well, my normal.

Overall, I feel like I'm much stronger than 3 months ago when I started PT, but I know I have a bit more to go.  I can now balance on #1 for several seconds.  This will be VERY important when I have #2 done, since I'll have to be non-weight bearing anywhere from 2-6 weeks, depending on if my bone fractures again during the surgery.  Being able to balance will be my biggest struggle for those first few weeks.

Anyone else have total ankle replacement?  Or other ankle surgery?  How long did it take for you to feel “normal”?  Would you do it again?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Adam Levine Is Magic

What do Adam Levine and puppies have to do with a blog about having a shitty bone disease and living with chronic pain?  Not much...on the surface.   But lets look a little deeper.

Adam Levine is hot.  And talented.  And seemingly funny.  And this all makes me happy.  And studies have proven that happiness makes you experience less pain.   And less pain is good for someone who has shitty bones.

So if a + b = c
and c = d
then Adam Levine with a puppy is an analgesic.

Imagine if I could see Adam Levine with his puppy in person...I might be magically cured from overwhelming happiness.  Like a friggen miracle!

Plus, this is a great excuse to post a pic of Adam Levine and a cute puppy.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Update-Facet Joint Injections Day 3

Just a quick update... (for some background click here)

I can no longer start a bonfire with my face...happy day!


When I woke up, my face was no longer hot to the touch and I slept better insomnia! I did notice that my knees hurt...this also happened the last time I had a steroid shot. Last time the knee pain lasted approximately 2 days, so I made a *note to self* to have my acupuncturist address this later on.

Mid-Morning Acupuncture

My acupuncturist did normal needle acupuncture and some bloodletting on each cheek, on my left jaw, and on my third eye area, in hopes of relieving the neck pain and face pain caused by laying on my stomach during treatment. I felt immediate relief after the bloodletting in my jaw. After my treatment, my knees felt better and my cheeks were flushed again and warm to the touch. This went away after a few hours.


My left cheek still felt warm to me...but not to the touch. My neck was still tender from where the injections were, and I felt like I had more energy this afternoon...but that could be from the acupuncture.

The best part of the whole day was the random act of kindness that was gifted upon can read about it here.

A Random Act of Kindness


This is what makes the world a better place.  And no, I'm not talking about the chocolate cupcake...although chocolate cupcakes DO make the world a better place.  I'm talking about...


I found this chocolatey treasure at my front door when I got home from acupuncture.  I haven't been feeling well the past couple of days, and may have possibly, kinda sorta mentioned it via social media.  When I saw the gift of love, I figured it was one of my awesome peeps who wanted to put a smile on my face.  And I was right.  And it did.

A friend of mine, who has been keeping up with my blog, decided to leave me this deliciousness to cheer me up.  Just because.  Not wanting anything in return.  Just to bring a little cheer to another human being.  She took the time out of her busy life to leave work, go to the store, purchase the yumminess, drive to my house, and leave it at my front door when I wasn't home.  Heaven points galore.  Many blessings to this wonderful woman!

How about that Karma?  I'll be driving my friend to the train station next hour away, early in the morning, in rush hour traffic.  I agreed to do this on Monday...and Wednesday I get awesomeness at my doorstep.  Coincidence?   I think not.

After Gorging Revelations

Funny thing is that I totally ate it before I even knew who left it.   I figured someone left me a message via facebook or email (which they did) and that I'd eat the little piece of heaven first and check later.  Priorities people!  What I realized later on was that someone could very easily poison me with a chocolate cupcake...seriously...I'd be dead before I could even lick my fingers clean!  Snow White is to apples as Katie is to chocolate cupcakes.

Yessss...I even managed to work in a Disney reference...booya!