Fracture Recovery Part 4: The First Week Post-Op

xray showing ankle with plate and 6 pins

You can read part 1, part 2 and part 3.

No matter what kind of surgery you’re headed for, recovery is tough. You’re going to be taking a lot of pain medication, and you’re going to need it. The recovery from this particular surgery means adjusting to life with a piece of metal in my leg. That might sound funny, but it takes our bodies a while to adjust to foreign objects, even when we need them, so on top of the surgical site being painful and the fact that though my fracture and ligament damage are secure, my leg is still broken and there’s a whole lot of pain radiating up the whole left leg.

The reality of the first few days post-op is that I didn’t do anything. I barely had the energy or attention span to even binge watch some tv shows. General anaesthetic kills your productivity. Any delusions I had that I would be productive while laid up in bed for a few days were thoroughly shot down by my body’s reaction to the medications and trying to heal itself. I think that is one of the biggest things to remember. Your body is healing from a major injury and surgery. Even though the bone is now stable, the plate doesn’t eliminate the fracture, it just stabilizes it and returns the bones to their correct places in your body. It’s a lot of healing to do, and that takes a toll on your body. Your body is trying to save you, it’s going to focus on the most pressing issue, which in this case is healing the fracture/surgery site.

So advice for this stage, take your painkillers (even though they make you feel groggy and not like yourself), rely on your support system and try to find something you like that you are able to do, whether that’s watching your favourite show (in short bursts before falling asleep) or reading or whatever it is you like. You’re not going to feel like yourself, especially if you’re an active person, so take the time to figure out what you can do that you enjoy and make the time for it, it’ll help manage the mental and emotional side of the recovery process.

On the same note, keep in mind that you are probably going to struggle mentally and emotionally. I’m sure it happens at varying levels for different people, but when you don’t feel like yourself and you’re losing your sense of purpose, it would be impossible to not feel at least a little down. Rely on the people in your support network and keep track of the little victories. It’s going to be a long time before you reach your big goals (like walking, running, playing sports) but there are lots of little victories that will help light your way to your big goals.

Some of my little victories:

  1. Staying awake during an entire 40 minute tv episode on Netflix
  2. Getting up a flight of stairs without being completely exhausted
  3. Carrying something that isn’t in a bag (I managed to carry a closed water bottle a few feet, this was a big deal)
  4. Being able to go into a store, pick up something I needed and get it back to my car
  5. Sleeping through a full night
  6. Picking up my keys when I dropped them on the floor

This list looks a little sad when I write it all out, but the reality is there was a time between when I hurt myself and now that I couldn’t do these things and each day there’s something new I can do again or something I can do better than I could the day before. If I don’t recognize these tiny victories, I’ll lose all sense of my progression and hope will seem lost, but with a list like this, as hard as it is, I can keep my perspective. I’m making slow, steady progress and that has to be enough for now.

 

-Alicia, Endeavour Office Manager

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