Joint Fusion Surgery Part 2- Dealing with Pain, Physical Therapy & a RA Diagnosis

Finally, I’m doing an update on the progress I’ve made since having ankle fusion surgery in June. It was actually difficult to write this post because my recovery has taken several twists and turns and most of them painful…very painful. If you haven’t read about my surgery, please take a look at this link Joint Fusion Surgery-Part 1.

I’ll pick up where I left off in Joint Fusion Surgery -Part 1. My staples were removed and my surgeon instructed me to wear my walking boot at all times except when showering. I also had to keep my leg elevated in order to keep from getting blood clots and lessen the swelling. I can’t tell you how difficult this was to do. Swelling in my foot and ankle was and remains to be a major issue. I still managed to cook, clean, and shop for myself for the most part with some help from family and friends.

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I tried using the knee roller while shopping with another person. I figured they could push the cart while I rolled around and selected my groceries. The knee roller took more time and effort than I expected. Sharp pain in my back nearly crippled me. Bad idea. In fact, using the knee roller for any outing was cumbersome. Most places aren’t handicap friendly and I risked tipping the darn thing over and falling on the ground.

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The alternative was to order my food online and simply pick it up. I gave it a shot with Giant Eagle and loved it. I was allowed to drive because the surgery was done on my left foot and not my right. So this system worked out perfectly.

One of the scariest steps was returning the knee roller and moving using crutches full time. I soon learned how to master walking short distances on the crutches, but I couldn’t shop on crutches. 20160816_1510131

 

 

 

 

 

So I decided to pack away my pride and used a scooter. To be honest, I still use store scooters when my foot is sore. It’s awkward because you obviously can’t reach the items on higher shelves.

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Nearly two and a half months after my surgery, I returned to work. I was able to walk with the assistance of the boot and a crutch. Yes, one crutch. Awkward. My attempt to return to work full time did not work. Swelling…swelling…swelling. By the end of the day, my feet looked like this.

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Water balloons.

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My surgery foot was so puffy, I could barely walk on it. By this time, I was on extra strength Tylenol and Ibuprofen only. Pain was a constant issue.

 

The ankle incision was very sensitive and so was the incision where my Achilles tendon was cut. The end result was I had to take an additional week off to allow my feet to heal and from there my doctor gave me permission to work part time only since my feet swelled up after four hours. After five weeks, I returned to work full time. I still have a lot of pain and swelling but I just deal with it.

Physical Therapy

Now, let’s talk physical therapy. I was supposed to start physical therapy once I was out of my boot. We’ll it took longer than I expected to leave my boot behind. It gave me security, protected my foot, and most of all it helped me walk. It also caused problems. My muscles were extremely weak because I’d been wearing my boot for nearly seven months except for two weeks right surgery when I was in a cast. There is a large hard lump on my leg where the top of the boot hit. My physical therapist “forced” me to lose the boot and I was surprised that I could walk without it. I have to wear a brace on some days for extra support. Physical therapy or physical torture as I like to call it is tough, but I’ve seen a major improvement. I have screws in my ankle and due to the swelling, my walking is well…quite comical, rocking and swaying as I move along. It’s embarrassing but I know it will get better.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis

My orthopedic surgeon discovered that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis after reviewing an MRI of my ankle. By that time, it had already caused too much damage and I needed surgery. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disorder. Basically, my immune system attacks my joints, causing inflammation and severe pain. Here is  more information on Rheumatoid Arthritis.

One of the worst symptoms of RA is a debilitating fatigue. I had been dealing with low-energy and sluggishness for about a year before my diagnosis. I found it difficult to get out of bed and do anything. This became worse after my surgery and made returning to work difficult because I was exhausted all the time.

Once I saw my rheumatologist, things began to improve. I was put on the drug, Plaquenil aka Hydroxychloroquine which takes about three months to take effect. This drug has done wonders for my fatigue. My RA symptoms have gotten better as well although I still have arthritis flare-ups. I find that I have these episodes when I’m stressed or if I eat unhealthy foods. My primary goal is to make a major lifestyle change: a healthier diet, an effective fitness program, and avoid stress as much as possible. The healthier I am, the less progressive Rheumatoid Arthritis will be. There’s no cure for the illness but I can prevent further damage to my joints and fewer episodes by adapting a healthier lifestyle.

I will have more updates in the future. This will be a long process. Currently, I’m still dealing with pain and swelling. I’m hoping that I will eventually be able to walk without a limp and become more physically active which will help me lose weight. If anyone is dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis or having joint fusion surgery, please leave a comment below. I learn from other people’s experiences. Hopefully, my experience will help someone as well.

Stay Blessed,

Barbie

 

 

 

 

 

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