Yes, if you’ve seen any of our Instagram stories over the last few days, you’ll know that I seem to have spent as much time in hospital recently as I have at home. Doing nothing more than turning to run, I felt like I’d been walloped from behind by a kick or a bloody baseball bat, went down like I’d been shot by a sniper and then experienced a pretty horrific pain. You could literally hear the snap. A mate of mine messaged me last night and described it as the sound of a “branch snapping” and he’s spot on. It was a ruptured Achilles.
The funny thing is at first I had no idea how serious the injury was and certainly had no idea it was a ruptured Achilles. I’ve had a bit of a niggly calf muscle for a couple of years now and always feel like I’m on the verge of straining it every time I increase distance or intensity on a run. In the adrenaline rush that followed, lying there on the floor, my brain convinced me that this was just my calf muscle but I’d done a ‘proper job’ (a phrase that came back to haunt me days later in the hospital) of it this time. I even, in my adrenaline-induced bravado and defiance, got to my feet and tried for a brief time to walk it off. I can actually laugh looking back at this now: my foot now lifeless and stuck in an odd position unable to move as I try and coax it back to some sense of action.
Unable to drive, I got a lift home and went through the classic RICE steps (rest, ice, compression, elevation) to try and alleviate what I still thought was a bad calf tear. However, over the next 24 hours, given the swelling, pain and more tellingly, the Frankenstein foot that lay there lifeless screaming at me to get help and bring it back to life; I admitted defeat and went to the hospital.
Before I left, I’d mentioned to Nat and a few mates who’d asked after me that I’d started to suspect it may be my Achilles rather than my calf but at no point did I begin to think it was a full-on ruptured Achilles. That was a worst fear stored far away in the back of my brain and not something that I even wanted to utter out loud if I’m honest. However, slowly the severity of what seemed a pretty innocuous physical action was dawning on me and it didn’t take the hospital much time at all to confirm my worst fears. Yep, ruptured Achilles.
First of all, they did a Simmonds’ test on me. Lying face down they squeezed my calf to see if my foot could move. Nothing. I suppose at this point a little anatomy and physiology is in order. If you didn’t already know, your Achilles is the strong fibrous cord that connects your calf muscle to your heel bone. It’s that thin strong section that runs up from back of your heel to your calf approximately level with your ankles. If you flex your foot up and down, you can see your calf muscle at work. Well, basically, if the Achilles cord ruptures or snaps, the two things aren’t connected anymore so no more foot movement. For those of you who have seen the Saw movies you may remember a pretty horrific scene involving the Achilles – basically it’s not something that you want to fail on you. It’s really not nice! So, with my leg now in a cast I went home for the night but with the instruction to report back to the hospital the following day to have an ultrasound scan that would determine the severity of the tear.
Now, the Simmonds test the previous day was maybe a 5/6 on the pain scale. Far worse than my tattoos but not so severe as to make me want to bite down on a piece of timber and cry. The ultrasound was an altogether different story. It started sedately enough…the doctor and nurse were chatty and familiar and I was looking at my insides on a screen. But the chattiness and familiarity were just a ploy to distract me. Soon enough the doctor uttered the words no patient ever wants to hear: “now this next part might be very painful”. Might?! Might be painful?! Was he kidding? You see, he now had to flex my lifeless and stiff foot forwards and backwards, up and down. I really could have done with that timber to bite on!
Just as the pain was subsiding and my senses were returning, I thought I was over the worst, but the worst was to come out of his mouth: “you’ve done a proper job of that – it’s a fully ruptured achilles tendon!” From what I’d read online when I had begun to suspect at home that this injury might be my Achilles, I knew this was bad, bad news. A combination of plaster casts and leg braces for anything from 6 -12 weeks and then physical therapy for many months afterwards means that your average recovery time – just to get back to a point where I can even begin gentle jogging on it again – is about 6 months! Gutted doesn’t come close.
Just as the nurse and doctor had finished discussing the surgery with me and making arrangements for me to come back in again on Monday, they then talked me through something that really hit home how badly this injury will affect my life over the next few weeks and month: blood thinners. They explained to me that there is a direct link between people with ruptured Achilles and blood clots because of how little and how often we’re able to move. Because no weight at all can be placed on the leg, I’m basically bed and couch ridden in my own home. Consequently, I was prescribed and shown how to self-inject daily doses of Tinzaparin which reduces the risk of clots and DVT forming in people, like me, who are severely immobilised. That’s exactly when it hit me how much my life will be restricted over the next few months. To compound matters, because I’m on these injections, I’ve now also got to have a weekly blood test at the doctors to count my platelets .
So, that’s where we’re at. I go back into hospital on Monday, after which the kids will have their third fresh cast (hopefully the last one too) to draw on and colour and then I’ll begin the long road to recovery. Nat has ordered me a little treat in the form of a waterproof leg cast cover to make things like showering easier – although I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to sitting on my arse in the shower – and, after days of crawling upstairs on my hands and knees and having to bum-shuffle downstairs, I’m now considering a Stannah stairlift or a mule haha.
I suppose the main thing is to stay positive and do as the doctors say. I’ve told Nat I fully expect her and the kids to get outdoors and have fun as we always have done as a family. There’s no reason for their fun to stop and I’ll just be content to live my life through their adventures, stories and experiences over the next few months. I’d also love to hear from anyone else out there who has ruptured their Achilles – I’m sure you’ve got some top tips and housebound hacks to share so, if you have, be sure to get in touch.