Friday, November 11, 2016

I Love Physical Therapy!

(This is my sixth post in My Fankle Journey.)

This past month+ has been filled with many things that have kept me busy, but the newest addition to my life is physical therapy. Five days after I met with my podiatrist for my last appointment, I was scheduled to meet with my new physical therapist—on October 11th. Being that I'd never been to physical therapy before, I was nervous. Even though I had no idea what exercises I would be given, I totally worried about how much my ankle would hurt.

After my first meeting with my physical therapist, I was pretty hopeful! :) We talked about everything related to my injury and recovery—up to that point. I was so pleased to learn of his years of experience—he really knows his stuff! Although, that sounds so silly to say because any licensed physical therapist must go through a lot of university schooling/training—they can't get a degree otherwise. (Check out the University of Utah's physical therapy program: PTAT Doctor of Physical Therapy.) I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at his level of expertise, but I was. So let me rephrase that: I was pleasantly surprised with my physical therapist's extensive knowledge—it gave me hope!

Another thing I appreciate about my physical therapist is the fact that he's an athlete. Thus, he totally gets how important it is for me to become as active again as I possibly can. Knowing he totally understands my desire for being physically fit makes me very happy! That said, I've done my research and sadly discovered that a true, full, complete recovery—returning 100% to the same level of activity I was before my injury—just might not be possible. :(

You see, the possibility of re-injuring my posterior tibial tendon is something I'll have to be careful of for the rest of my life. I'm also very aware of the fact that once a person badly sprains their ankle (like I have), it's highly possible for them to sprain it badly again. Both of those injuries—a sprained ankle and torn tendon—come much easier the second time around. So, yeah, I think my carefree "My body can do any athletic movement I wish!" days are over. :'( I'm still trying to come to terms with that idea. If I sit and really think about it, I lose my breath and want to cry.

All of that said, I'm incredibly hopeful and very prayerful that my body will repair itself to the very best of its ability!

When I think of the steps I've taken to ensure a complete and strong healing of my posterior tibial tendon, well, I absolutely know I've done everything I possibly could. And I will continue to do exactly what I'm prescribed by "my" medical professionals. Thus, if anything goes wrong with my posterior tibial tendon in the future, no one will be able to say that it was my fault because of something I did or didn't do. I have absolute confidence that I've done everything right—as prescribed by my podiatrist, physical therapist, and the "They" of Internetland! Ha ha.

So, I have to put those I won't be able to be as active as I want fears in a box in the back of my mind and have faith that my life will still be as wonderful as it always has been—even if I can't jump endlessly on a trampoline with my three darling children, and my extended family members...

I'm not exaggerating when I say that a trampoline-park employee once admiringly told me I was the most talented and fun parent he'd ever seen at the trampoline park! :) At the time, I so appreciated his words(!), but didn't think much of them five minutes later. Yet now...oh, what I wouldn't give to be able to do my famous, endless toe-touches and run like lightning from one end of the trampoline park to the other! If you don't believe me, my mom has me on video. :)

I won't bore you with all the details of my physical therapy exercises, but I will say:

Physical therapy is a marvelous tool for every human! It gives me at least an hour-and-a-half—sometimes two hours—twice a week (in the physical therapist's office) where I focus on only me! While I'm usually exhausted later that day, and I frequently experience pain (probably a 3–5 on the pain scale) during my more intense PT exercises, physical therapy is so good for me!

I also have a routine of nine physical therapy exercises that I must perform at home every day. I have to complete two sets of those nine exercises, twice a day. While my physical therapy at home and in the PT's office is time consuming, it's totally worth every minute!

I can absolutely feel and see a difference in my calf, thigh, buttock muscle strength, and especially in my ankle mobility! Granted, my ankle isn't as flexible as it once was, but I'm getting there! :) My posterior tibial tendon is still very tight where it attaches to the muscle—actually, my posterior tibial muscle is crazy-tight overall—but it's getting better every week. I just have to stay active, or else it gets worse, and I hate that!

I also love the fact that the physical therapist and his assistants are always willing to chat with me. I can talk a lot, so I'm guessing there are times when they're thinking, "When will Adrie ever stop jabbering?!" but they are always so kind to me. :)

The other physical therapy patients are also a benefit—I've met many interesting people! It's quite helpful for us to talk with each other and share our physical therapy stories. There's such a benefit to hearing someone else's experience with healing time-frames, and sharing the struggles of trying to improve our weakened physical conditions.

A woman I met in one of my earlier physical therapy sessions left an impact on me. She was at the PT facility assisting her father. He's struggling mightily with his recovery and it's plain to see she's vital to his healing. As I shared my intense discomfort while on the slant board (to stretch my calves), the woman started a conversation with me. I replied something like, "Never have surgery if you don't have to! It's the worst! Do whatever else you can before having surgery!" She said, "I completely agree!"

I asked her, "Have you had surgery before?" The lovely woman proceeded to tell me, "Yes. I've had lower back surgery, upper back surgery, knee surgery, and six breast cancer surgeries." She continued to share her experiences with her surgeries and I was speechless! But of course I had to respond! ;)

I said, "Oh, no! I'm so sorry!" She said, "It's okay. I'm just tired of dealing with surgeries." I said, "I truly can't imagine what you've gone're a living miracle! I've learned so much from my ankle surgery, I'm trying to remember it all so I never have to have surgery ever again!"

She said, "Well, I wish I would learn what I'm supposed to learn from my surgeries so I can quit having them!" I felt so badly at that point. Yay not me for putting my slanty-feet in my mouth! Yet in that moment, the Spirit testified truth to me, so I said to her, "You know, maybe it's not you who needs to learn from your surgeries. Maybe there are others around you who need to learn from you." I highly doubt my words helped, but I felt (and still feel) strongly that her experiences were/are absolutely helping others around her. She smiled and thoughtfully said, " could be right." Then our conversation ended.

So, yes, speaking with others about life before/after surgery and physical therapy is mighty beneficial to my mental state. There is something truly healing about being able to talk about life with others in a similar situation. I think it's because we all enjoy it when others understand where we're coming from. Isn't it wonderful when we feel truly understood?!

Today, I have another appointment which completes my fifth week of physical therapy! While I can't believe it's been five full weeks(!), sometimes it feels like I will never be done with my expensive habit! Ha ha. I'm so beyond grateful for our health insurance, you have no idea! Granted, I have to pay 20% of my physical therapy bill, so it's still very pricey—think of a gym membership for the elites of our country...of which I'm most definitely not one! But if we didn't have health insurance, and I hadn't already met our deductible this year, well, I shudder to think of what would happen to my family's financial state! It would most likely be dismal...

Thus, if you, or anyone close to you, is ever in a situation where they're trying to decide whether or not to go to physical therapy, just do it! :) I love physical therapy and believe it is truly invaluable! Besides, if we don't have our health, it's pretty difficult to fulfill our life missions!

I chose a green background and happy flowers for this typographic design to represent the happy growth I've gained during physical therapy! I wanted to make a couple more changes to it before I saved it, but sadly, PicMonkey was being glitchy today, and I don't have time to start over! :( Thus, my creation stands as-is. But isn't that just like life?! :) We think we'll always be able to make more changes, but sometimes life is what it is, and we must be satisfied with what we've accomplished. Yes, we must always do our very best—to the best of our abilities, but we must also realize that what we are and do is enough! :)

Here's an update of how my posterior-tibial-tendon-surgery recovery is going:
  • I'm currently three months and one week post-op, but, technically, it's been 14 weeks and two days since my surgery.
  • My right leg, a.k.a., chicken leg, is still an inch smaller than my left leg, a.k.a. beef leg.
  • My right leg still feels weak in certain situations, but it's gotten a lot stronger over the past five weeks.
  • I'm able to bend my right ankle in every direction, but some directions are harder and more painful than others.
  • I still have pain in my ankle when I try and stretch/flex my right foot up too far—yet I'm pretty excited with how far I can go now! :) Before I began physical therapy, I wasn't able to flex my foot very far at all!
  • I am definitely making progress, but I still absolutely feel the effects of surgery on a daily basis.
  • My foot is nowhere near completely healed, and that bums me out more than I can say. I just truly had NO idea how extensive, lengthy, and painful my posterior tibial tendon surgery would be.
Finally, if I could give my advice for future PTT surgical/physical-therapy patients, it is:

Be prepared!

You must be able to have all of your physical needs cared for by others (on an as-needed basis) until at least six weeks post-op. Find someone you trust completely to help you during your recovery. Your caregiver must also be someone who can handle what is to come—because the extent of help you'll need is significant.

Mentally, you'll need to utilize all of the positive thinking you can possibly muster! The frustrating fact is, you will have occasional major down days that will blow. your. mind. I was completely caught off guard at the extent of disappointment I've experienced during my recovery. The constant ups and downs in my recovery is one for the history books! I have been forever changed by them.

Physically speaking, many days you'll take two steps forward and one step back. Other days, you'll continually take one small step forward, followed by a few more little steps, and you'll feel pretty good! But other days, you'll take one huge step forward and be sidelined for the next five days (aarrrggg!) because your body is figuring out that it still has a lot of repair work to do!

According to my physical therapist, ups and downs are absolutely typical in recovery after a major surgery. I needed his comforting words because I worried that my new/additional pain and swelling meant I had done something seriously wrong to my ankle that would negatively affect my recovery forever. That might seem like a pretty extreme reaction, but when you've been through what I've been through, you'd understand exactly what I'm feeling and know that it's not an overreaction.

So, posterior tibial tendon surgical patients, you must not get discouraged! I tell myself that all the time! :) You must have and continually keep the perspective that, "I'll be somewhat back to normal one year from the date of my surgery." I know that sounds so depressing(!), but from everything I've researched, it's the truth.

You must keep a prayer in your heart continually for your physical and mental state to be healthy. :) It's very helpful to remember that our marvelous Heavenly Father made your body, and He will help you utilize your body in the ways that are best for you. Yet that's the only thought that gets to me sometimes because I wonder, "Will I get back my full physical abilities that I love so much??? Is there a reason I'm not supposed to have my full ankle mobility and strength???" Those wonderings are hard to deal with, for sure. But I try not to dwell on my worries for very long because they do me absolutely no good—and they won't help any other posterior tibial tendon surgical patient, either!

Thus, when all is said and done, remain faithful, do everything you can to heal your body, and keep a positive attitude even and especially when your recovery looks bleak. :) When all else fails, remember that sleep heals both body and mind! I can't count how many times a good night of sleep or a luxurious nap has been exactly what my soul needed! :)

If any of you have thoughts to add about your physical/mental recovery after surgery, please feel free to contribute your comments! Let's learn from each other's experiences! :)

The next post in My Fankle Journey is "Fankle Recovery, Month Seven."

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