“The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be.
It may seem to be much worse, but in the end it’s going to be a lot better and a lot bigger.”
If you follow me on social media at all, then you probably know that I had some kind of ankle surgery. Maybe you’ve seen the pic of me on a knee scooter at my work Christmas party. Or maybe you’ve seen the one of me getting out of a taxi with crutches.
Before having surgery on November 15, 2017, I searched high and low for blogs of “real people” with whom I could identify, just to have some idea of what to expect from this particular surgery. But I never found any. I found many medical sites, but no personal experiences. So this post is twofold – to share my experience with those who have asked and are unsure of why I walk with a terrible limp, and also for those wanting to know about a real life experience before, during, and after an ankle fusion with an illiac crest bone graft.
And before I even get started, in the spirit of honesty, these have been some of the most challenging months of my life. It’s been one of those “seasons” that I am ready to be out of, and one where I find myself asking “why?” pretty often. Life has changed drastically in many ways for me. But guess Who has not changed? God is the good and faithful writer of every bit of my story…even the chapters that I feel aren’t so “good”.
There’s a lot of background that goes in to this, so here we go…
My first foot injury goes all the way back to 2007. I was working at UAB and there really was no “injury” (I am sure it had a lot to do with High School sports and Intramurals in College), I just kept feeling like I was tying my shoes too tight. But I would loosen the laces and it would still hurt. Finally, my boss told me I should probably get it checked out. The next thing I knew, I was in a walking boot and crutches. I had a fracture and torn peroneal tendon that I had been walking around with for who knows how long. The peroneal tendon is the one that runs behind the outer ankle bone. It attaches to the outer part of the midfoot. I went to UAB for surgery and the recovery was a pretty easy one. Two weeks in a splinted cast and I’d be on my way…or so I thought. One day I was doing physical therapy and the therapist had me go up on my toes. Then she said the words that put me backwards… “now put all of your weight on your bad foot”. The sound I heard after I did that was one I will never forget. It sounded like a gigantic rubber band that snapped.
I had torn the tendon.
The same one.
So back to the operating room I went.
Another surgery and I would be on my way.
But my foot would never be the same. I started walking on the outside of my foot and it just took its toll. My ankle was always swollen and deformed.
But I didn’t let it stop me. In 2013, I started running and it actually became something I enjoyed! The highlight of my weeks were to hit the trail and run. It cleared my mind and I lost a lot of weight!
I even got up the nerve to try something I never thought I would.
I became one of “those” people who did burpees and stuff like that.
And I loved that even more. I actually got pretty decent at it and could do 20 inch box jumps!
I was in the best shape of my life – physically, mentally, and emotionally. THRIVING. It was so good for me! But about a year and a half after I started, so did the tendon issues. I had just left the “box” after doing a pretty intense workout and went to my church’s trunk or treat. My ankle was bothering me but that wasn’t abnormal. I was walking around the parking lot (ok, I was walking to a trunk that had snickers bars) and I heard that sound again. And I knew I was in trouble. I hobbled to my car, and the next day I was back in a boot.
Another torn tendon.
Talk about discouraged.
But again, I didn’t let it stop me! I went to CrossFit despite that heavy boot being on my right leg.
And I pushed myself to do what I could.
After two months of wearing it this time, I was ready to get back at it…but my ankle wasn’t. I kept trying to push myself sans boot, but I kept rolling it so much that I eventually had to stop CrossFit. It would hurt from my ankle all the way up to my sciatic nerve. I remember one day, I was walking at the park with a friend and I couldn’t even make it around the track. That’s when I knew I HAD to have something done – and I knew I had to go to the best place I knew – Andrews Sports Medicine – to get this thing figured out once and for all. The orthopedist that I saw here in Gadsden had mentioned an ankle fusion but I passed it off and didn’t think too much about it. But when I saw Dr. Norman Waldrop and he asked if I was born with a club foot, I knew a major surgery was probably in my near future.
He gave me two options – a total ankle replacement or an ankle fusion with a right illiac crest graft.
36 years old and we are talking fusions and replacements.
But I knew it had to be done. He explained that he would go in and fuse my 3 foot bones together, and the bone from my hip would promote the fusion, along with plates and screws. He answered every question I could think of and I was ready. Or so I thought.
So on November 15, I went under the knife…preparing myself for what I thought was a recovery I would tackle with no problem.
You know, sometimes life doesn’t go the way we plan. Sometimes our plans are interrupted, but it’s not because God doesn’t care. It’s quite the opposite. It’s because He cares so deeply that He would never let us keep our plans if they didn’t line up with His. In the midst of life’s interruptions, it can be hard to remember that. But it’s true. And it’s in those moments that are the hardest that we must cling with everything we have to believe that truth.
I hope you will join me next week as we journey into where I am now…after surgery and into this long road of recovery!
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”