I wrote this last January just after my ankle fusion, I considered it best not to rewrite it with the luxury of hindsight and a knowledge of the outcome, but to publish what I was genuinely thinking at the time. This operation was a big deal for me. I had been fighting the fusion for so long, trying to find alternatives that were not so permanent. The thought of a fused ankle was terrifying, but it all came down to one thing in the end… pain.
I have been really nervous in the lead-up to this operation. This is the first operation that I have voluntarily undergone, the others were dictated by the trauma team and then later by the orthopeadic specialists. There is so much resting on the outcome of this operation for me. I know that this really is the last chance saloon for my mobility.
I had a frank discussion with my foot and ankle consultant last September where he laid out all the options I had. It was a depressingly short list.
1. Do nothing and carry on with the intense pain in my ankle joint
2. Fuse the ankle
The first is really not an option, I can currently only walk around 50 yards at a time with crutches. I cannot walk on rough ground, manage stairs without handrails, run, jump, ride a bike or dance. I cannot manage the pain with steroid injections anymore – the law of decreasing returns saw my last injection give me respite for only 10 days. So perhaps it wasn’t such a free choice after all.
Once I decided to go ahead with the fusion, things moved pretty rapidly. A month later, I had an operation to remove the longest of the two plates in my lower leg. Apparently the position of the plate and its attendant screws were incompatible with the fusion. Within three months of my decision to proceed, I had an operation date for the fusion. No time to back out now.
My admission was 11:45, so I had quite a civilised morning, managing a light breakfast first thing before going nil by mouth. I could also see my two boys off to school before I left for the hospital. At the hospital, I was prepped for the operation. A kindly nurse helped me on with the sexy compression stocking for my good leg, and rather sadly took off my newly painted pedicure on the bad foot. My pointless vanity had ensured newly shaven legs, a neat bikini lime and rather fetching scarlet toenails. Although I hope that the surgeons have more on their mind than my hirsuteness, I was cognisant of the fact that I wouldn’t be able to shave my bad leg again for at least two weeks whilst I had the cast on. As for the bikini line… well you can never be too prepared.
The most important part of the whole preparation is the pre-op talk with the anaesthetist. What I have discovered from previous operations, is that me and morphine do not mix. Any opiate based pain relief makes me really sick for up to two days post-op. Being able to control pain in other ways, for example, with a nerve blocker makes the initial recovery so much more pleasant.
I am always nervous going into an operating theatre, a fact that is hard to disguise when your heart rate is being broadcast to the whole room. However, a medicinal dose of “G&T” into my canula gave me the warm and fuzzies and as I am a total lightweight where drugs are involved, the mild relaxants actually caused me to pass out completely.
I woke up in recovery, bizarrely mid-conversation with a nurse. Apparently I am rather chatty when sedated. I cannot recall what we were discussing, but I imagine it would be a great time to winkle out my deepest, darkest secrets. The nerve blocker was doing it’s job and I had no pain in the leg, even better I was not nauseous at all. An hour later, I was eating my hospital dinner and settling down for a quiet evening in the hospital.
My lower limb is in a cast, and I have been instructed to be completely non-weight bearing for two weeks, when I will come back to have my cast and stitches removed. Luckily, the last two years have made me pretty adept at mobilising on crutches so I do not forsee this posing too many problems.
Fingers crossed, the recovery is as uneventful as the operation.
By the way, do all hospitals get photos of boats to hang on their walls? Has it been scientifically proven to reduce patient anxiety or something? They are a feature of all wards and clinics that I have attended.