Me and my new ankle - one hundred and thirty seven days after surgery


My apologies to those who have been anticipating my next posting, which I had promised would be in October, shortly after my three-month check-up.

I can only plead in mitigation that the delay is largely down to the many more things I am now able to do, that were not possible before my operation, and also to the considerable amount of time I have been investing in ensuring that the rehabilitation of my ankle (and the rest! - see below) proceeds as quickly as possible consistent with advice from my surgeon and physiotherapist.

So let me split this particular post into roughly three sections. In the first, I'll tell you about my three month check-up, which was in early October. Then, for those that have not already seen it, I must introduce you to the video record of my own journey through surgery which has now been captured for posterity. Finally, I'll relate to you what I've been doing since my three-month check on my journey to rehabilitate my ankle, and some of the challenges that has presented.

My three-month check was scheduled for 1st October at 3.00 p.m., and fortunately I had been able to slightly reschedule my first (RNOH) physiotherapy appointment for an hour earlier. The physio went through my relevant history, and then taught me several exercises, mainly aimed at developing core strength, including gluteal strength (through "kickbacks"), plus working on the muscles etc. of the foot by "scrunching" a towel on the floor with my toes.

I then inevitably bumped into Deirdre Brooking before meeting briefly with Mr. Goldberg to review progress. Mr. Goldberg seemed happy with the progress of the ankle, but asked that I only gradually weaned myself out of the Aircastst boot, especially outside the home (partly because I had to have some cysts filled as part of my surgery). He also re-emphasised to me the need to develop core strength.

Then it was off to Radiology to have another set of scans done on their Pediscan (??) machine, and finally a meeting with Jan Letocha to do the final recording of the voice-over for the film of my patient experience.

For those of you who haven't read my earlier blogs, and as a refresher, I wore a Go-Pro camera during my entire hospitalisation to capture the "patient" experience, and the edited highlights of this, with my voice-over, have now been published on the TARVA website - if you want a direct link to it, here it is -

As I mentioned in a couple of my previous posts, I have been fortunate, in addition to the RNOH physiotherapy, to have had access to private physiotherapy on a regular basis, with the bonus of having the same physio all the time. 

During the time leading up to my three-month check, we had been concentrating on ensuring the healing of the operation wound, and on managing the inevitable swelling of the ankle post-operatively.

Following the three-month check, we have moved on to concentrating on core strength, getting me to walk (properly) again, proprioceptive exercises (to do with balance and space/body perception), and on gradually increasing the range of motion in my ankle.

The most obvious visible gain has been the almost complete elimination of swelling in my ankle (unless I do "too much" on my feet at a time), to the extent that I am now able, for the first time for almost two years, to wear "normal" shoes (in fact I'm off to a black-tie ball this weekend, and was delighted to find yesterday that I could get into my dancing pumps)!

We have a one hour session each week in the physiotherapist's gym, where we go through a range of exercises, including -

  • walking, slowly at first, on a treadmill
  • cycling on a static bike
  • proprioception exercises using a BOSU ball (essentially a gym ball cut in half) - amazingly difficult at first, but really good for strengthening around the foot and ankle, and for balance
  • proprioception exercises involving standing on a wobble-board, and trying to keep a dot inside a circle as the circle moves around a screen - maddeningly difficult at first
  • strengthening exercises for core (including work on the BOSU ball), glutes, quads and hamstrings, and calf muscles.

I supplement this with walking on my own treadmill three or four times a week (I'm now up to five kilometres (reasonably) comfortably (see below), and the core, glute and calf exercises.

The major challenge for me has really been in learning to walk properly again - I knew I had been walking with my feet spread outwards (mainly to compensate for the arthritic pain) and, as I have started to try to walk with my feet straight again, this has inevitably put pressure on ligaments/tendons/muscles in other parts of my legs, so I have had more than a few aches and pains in both knees and hips on both sides of the body, but I'm gradually working through that and can see improvement virtually every day.

Ever since I came out of plaster following my six week check, my own personal goal has been to walk a full round of golf following my six-month check in early January (subject of course to Mr. Goldberg being happy), and I really feel I'm on course (no pun intended!) to achieve that.

As I alluded at the beginning of this post, life for me has changed so much for the better since my operation - we have a large garden and what with my restricted and painful movement pre-op, and the fact that I was "hors de combat" for six weeks following surgery, I have needed to and been able to devote a great deal of time to getting the garden back into shape. I can also enjoy quite lengthy walks with almost no discomfort, and nor do I feel like I'm always the one holding up a group of people I'm with.

So, if you're as I was six months ago contemplating whether to have an operation on your ankle because of arthritis, then I would say to you - yes, everyone is different and maybe I have been fortunate - but go into it with your eyes open, understand and discuss the risks with your doctor(s), but from my perspective it has absolutely been worth it.

If anything interesting/significant in my journey occurs before Christmas then I'll post again, otherwise please anticipate my next post right after my six-month check in early January.

As I may not therefore post before the end of the year, can I wish everyone who reads this blog a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.