Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Post-Op Update

Several people have asked me over the past few weeks how my foot is recovering since my bunion surgery. Several others of you told me that you are planning or considering to have this surgery done sometime in the near future, or you know someone who is. And since I'd like to remember all this in case I end up having to get surgery on my left foot (fingers crossed I don't!), I'll kill three birds with one stone and update you with my progress so far...

The first week after surgery was spent entirely on the couch and/or in my bed. Most of the details are in my previous surgery post. For the first 3-4 days I had to keep ice behind my knee for an hour, off for an hour, and so on - this significantly reduced the swelling. I used crutches to hobble around for a few days, but I really did not move much at all. My foot felt like it weighed a hundred pounds. Unfortunately, no showers were allowed for two weeks, since the bandages can't get wet (leads to infection - no thanks). Even more unfortunately, we only have a shower in our home - no bath tub. So I had to wash my hair in the sink, and I managed to sponge bathe myself while sitting on the floor of the shower with my foot stuck out and wrapped in a garbage bag. Fun times. Most of you know that I prefer to shower, shave, and wash my hair every single day - so in my opinion, this was by far the worst part of my post-surgery experience. And for this reason alone I am glad I had the surgery during winter!

That Friday, I had my one-week follow up appointment with my doctor to get some x-rays and make sure everything looked okay. They kept the original dressing over the stitches, re-bandaged my foot, and put the boot back on. I started weaning off the hydrocodon, but kept up with the ibuprofin because that really helped keep the swelling down.

The next Friday, I went back in for my two-week follow-up appointment with my doctor. More x-rays and poking and prodding. Again they kept the original dressing over the stitches, and re-bandaged my foot. This time I actually looked at my foot and it wasn't so bad since the stitches were still covered, just some light bruising. That day, I got clearance to wear normal shoes (no more boot!), drive (freedom!), and most importantly - shower (cleanliness at last!) !!! Which I did immediately upon returning home - it was glorious. They gave me a brace and a few ace-bandage-looking-wrap things to provide support and help with compression. Over the weekend, I weaned off the ibuprofin as well.

down to just the original dressing

Week 3 I started getting back to normal. I could drive myself around and I wore the brace with my shoes, though I still walked pretty slow and with somewhat of a limp to be cautious. Towards the end of that week I (finally) started exercising again. I started out on our stationary bike - I was SLOW but at least I was moving, and it felt good. I also started doing "toe exercises" as recommended by my doctor to bend the main joint back and forth to regain range of motion. They offered my a dynasplint to help gain the range of motion faster - basically a brace for "home physical therapy" that forces toe movement. I didn't get it since it wasn't covered by our insurance (aka: very expensive) and I didn't really think it was worth it. Even now, I can say I'm glad I didn't bother with it.

lovely brace

At the beginning of Week 4, I started walking for exercise again - only every other day, otherwise my foot got really irritated and swollen. At this point, the original dressing over the stitches were still holding up (despite showering and getting them wet every day for two weeks!).  I also stopped wearing the brace during the day and only wore the ace-bandage-wrap.

Ace bandage wrap

Week 5 was pretty similar to Week 4. I started walking further for exercise, and even started some light jogging - still only every other day. I felt especially slow when Molly would race ahead and then look back at me as if to say "hurry up" - she is cute, but she is not fast by any means. She's more of a snuggle pup than a speed racer. And she's quite good at snuggling :)

At the end of Week 6 I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor and he finally took off the original dressing that was over the stitches from the original surgery. At this time I learned that the stitches were underneath the skin and would dissolve if they hadn't already. I couldn't even tell - all I have is a fine line where they made the cut, and the scar has faded quite a bit already. There were two "knots" at the ends where the internal stitches came up through the skin, and he took those out at this appointment. The most scarring I have is where those two knots were - you can see this in the next picture. I also learned that I was a little ahead of the healing curve by starting to walk/jog, and he said this was really helping with my recovery since my range of motion was pretty good already. Apparently most patients don't start exercising until after this appointment and he informed me that I was supposed to be wearing the ankle brace whenever I exercise. Oops.

Towards the end of Week 7 I went on my first real run (with the brace), and took Molly with me. She was a very happy puppy.  Coincidentally our girl scout cookies came in this week, so I needed to get back into running for multiple reasons! Also, even though the doctor told me to wear the brace when I exercise, it really bothered me, because it made my right foot huge and generally uncomfortable in my shoe. I stopped wearing it over the following week, and I've felt fine ever since.

hello, fat foot! the right one is much bulkier than the left

It's now been just over 8 weeks since surgery, and I still wear the ace bandage all day long so that my shoes don't irritate the scar. I can walk/run/bike every day without any irritation. I am not yet back up to my pre-surgery speed or distances, but by the time I go back for my 3-month follow up appointment in mid-May, I should be 100%. If not sooner....I hope much sooner. My sand volleyball league starts up next month, which I am very much looking forward to. We have a scrimmage coming up, so that will be my first real test :) I am taking a break from softball though, easing back into one sport at a time. My foot feels pretty good most of the time so it seems somewhat back to normal. It's still kinda fat (swollen) so not all of my shoes are comfortable to wear just yet. Almost all of my sandals have been ruled out for the time being since the strap rubs right against my scar..ouch. I am mostly wearing flats with the ace bandage, which is the most comfortable right now. I have not even attempted wearing heels - not that I need them at 5'11", and I really don't miss them. I do, however, miss getting pedicures, which I am hoping to do sometime in the next few weeks!!

Thanks again for all your concerns, support, thoughts, and prayers! The surgery has definitely made a difference in my foot, for the better, and despite the not-so-pleasant parts of the post-op experience I am glad I had it done.

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