Just over three weeks since my ankle replacement surgery, and the big event of the last week has been my first follow-up visit to RNOH since the surgery.
In preparation, made my first journey down the stairs at home since coming home from surgery - despite the presence of my brother, decided to be ultra-cautious and do it using the inelegant but effective "bum-shuffle" method!
Taxi arrived bang on time, with a driver I know well, and we passed most of the journey talking about cars. Once again (this luck surely can't continue), both the M11 and the M25 we're flowing remarkably smoothly, so as a result (having allowed a "cushion" for traffic), we actually arrived at Stanmore almost three-quarters of an hour before my scheduled OPD appointment.
They really seem to be well organised and patient-focused there; first, a porter appeared within less than a minute and wheeled me to the admissions desk, where I was quickly processed and asked to take a seat. I imagined I would have to wait at least until my scheduled appointment time before I started to get "processed", but to my delight, within five minutes, another porter appeared to take me straight off to my first stop, the plaster theatre.
There, I was wheeled straight in, and helped up onto a table. The plaster nurse then cut away my existing cast (easy, just needing scissors, as I only had a back slab), and then for the first moment of truth as the surgery wound was uncovered.
Whilst the actual incision was somewhat longer than I had anticipated, the really good news was that the wound was healing really well - the nurse did not need to do anything at all to it, and even my untrained eye could see that it looked "healthy", confirmed by the nurse.
A quick wash of the foot, which was probably a bit rank after more than two weeks encased in plaster, and then the staples securing the wound were taken out - mildly uncomfortable only.
They were then ready to do the new plaster, and you could have knocked me over when the nurse produced a colour palette and asked me to select my preferred shade! Just like being in John Lewis' upholstery department! I went for the rather fetching bright red.
This time they put on a full below-knee cast, which I shall be wearing at least until my next follow-up, four weeks away. The finishing flourish was a soft, velcro-fastened "over-shoe" to give a flat walking platform on the bottom of the cast.
As if by clockwork, the (same) porter arrived the moment the new plaster was finished, and took me back to the foot and ankle clinic where, after just a couple of minutes, I was wheeled in to see Mr. Goldberg's SHO, Dr. Amanda Ifie. Deirdre Brooking also joined us, and made some notes on my TARVA trial file. We reviewed my progress since the surgery. I was pleased to get the news that the cysts they had dealt with during the surgery had revealed nothing untoward on a biopsy, and more pleased still to be told that I could move immediately to full-weight-bearing on my operated ankle.
After a routine blood test next door, I gingerly made my way back under my own steam to the waiting room, and was able to tell my driver that I was ready to go home at least two hours earlier than expected - great news!
Well, what a contrast the last few days since have been, now I can put weight on my ankle. Able to move around the house fine by myself so life has become infinitely easier (for my wife also!). I did find one problem - because there is a significant "heel" on the cast, and with the over-shoe, I was quite lop-sided, which caused a few balance problems, but fortunately I dug up a pair of walking boots with a deep, cushioned heel; one of those on the right foot succeeded in evening things out.
The only slight negative since getting back home is that I have been feeling weaker than I had hoped for, but that's my fault for not setting my own expectations appropriately - improving day-by-day, but I do need to rest quite frequently at the moment if I am standing/moving around doing things.
Will be working on building up my strength/stamina over the next few weeks, and looking forward to my next OPD appointment in mid-August, when there is a chance I believe, and depending on X-rays and - obviously - the view of my consultant, that I may finally be able to cast off the cast!
I need to say once again what a great bunch of people they have at RNOH - I couldn't believe how quickly and efficiently I got processed through all my steps there last week, and always with politeness, professionalism and good humour - thank you all.
So, feeling pretty good about things at the moment - hope that continues as I start to actually use my bionic ankle in the future.
See you here again soon.