I recently broke my ankle, and it has truly sucked. I have found it helpful to read blog entries written by others who have gone through this, so I thought I would do the same here. I’m still at the no weight bearing part of the recovery process, but I have already gone through ORIF and will soon learn how to walk again. There are a lot of physical and emotional problems that surround breaking your ankle, especially if you live alone, work as a contractor without benefits, and are an athlete or frequent the gym. Hopefully this helps anyone searching for guidance!
Day 1: February 13
On February 13th, I was out at a friend’s house and I fell in some mud in the yard. My body went down, but my right foot was stuck in the mud and didn’t fall with me. It was not great. I like…fell, fell. “Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” kind of falling. I laid there and screamed for help until someone came because I couldn’t move. My ankle turned black and it looked like someone had shoved a golf ball under my skin.
I already had an appointment for Adderall with my GP on 2/13, so I called and asked to come in earlier. They gave me a script for an x-ray, and I went off to the hospital. At this point we’re about 12 hours out from when I fell, and I was in pain, but mostly just when I was being driven or moving. Every time my foot moved with the car, I could feel that things were not properly connected. The x-rays confirmed what I already knew: my ankle was broken. The paperwork they gave me said that it was a “spiral fracture through the distal fibula with extension into the ankle mortise. Minimal medial angulation at the fracture site. There is also a fracture through the posterior distal tibia with intra-articular extension.”
The x-ray guy told me that my GP told him they had given me a list of orthos. They had not. My father had been with me and neither of us had anything. The guy told me there was an ortho upstairs to try, so we wheeled me on up there. Thankfully my insurance doesn’t require referrals (THANKS OBAMA!!!!), so they took me back around 4.
Everyone had been super nice to me all day, until I saw the ortho. Instead of telling me “it’s 4 months of recovery,” she walked in and slowly started telling me step by step what we were going to do. “First we’re going to put a splint on it!” she said, “and then we’ll do surgery in a week or so.” I didn’t know surgery was even an option on the table, so I got pretty freaked out. Her diagnosis continued that I’d have ORIF surgery the following week (Feb 21), six weeks in a cast without walking (April 4), six weeks in a boot (May 16), and four weeks in a brace (June 13).
I lost my shit. I’m a contractor, so I’m not eligible for paid leave or unemployment insurance — and honestly, probably most people won’t hire me with the boot. So at this point I’m thinking maybe 3 months of being unemployed. Add in two months to get a check, and we’re looking at 0 paychecks for five months. January is pretty slow for me, and mid February is where things start to pick back up. On top of that, my live in boyfriend (who I financially relied on) had just dumped me and kicked me out of the house because his secret girlfriend and child had moved back to DC. On a more emotional note, the only thing that had been motivating me to get out of bed while dealing with my boyfriend drama had been the gym — obviously not an option anymore. I started crying. The ortho asked me what was wrong, and I told her all of that. Her response? “It’s just a few months of your life. You’ll be fine.” COOL.
They put a splint on me and wheeled me out to the waiting area of their office. My dad had to wheel me out of the hospital, which I think they’re supposed to do, but what do I know. We went to CVS and they sold us some crutches through the drive through, along with my painkillers.
Day 2: February 14
I spent the next day super focused on getting a new doctor. I found the best doctor I could find, and set up an appointment for Monday. I took the painkillers because I was afraid of hurting again, but honestly the pain was pretty much gone since they had put the splint on. This was my last day taking them.
Day 3: February 15
I tried to start the journey of getting a knee scooter, and here was what I learned: the stores that my insurance said had scooters did not exist, and to get a scooter covered by insurance, I had to drive like 3 hours away. No thanks. Just order yours on Amazon. I promise I’m saving you so much headache.
By the 15th I wasn’t touching the painkillers, and I was really trying to have a more positive attitude. It still comes and goes, but I have had the fortune of not being in pain. I still don’t know why that’s the case — I hear this is generally quite painful for people.
Day 4: February 16
On day 4, I moved into a studio apartment so I could live alone. No joke. About a month prior, my boyfriend had moved in his new family while we were on a day long date. He drove past the house, said “we have to break up,” and dropped me off at my mom’s. Since he was who I relied on (and we have/had a business together), he had agreed to sign a 3 month lease for me and pay it. Thank. God.
Moving meant going to Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and the grocery store on crutches. Do you know what sucks? Doing all of those things. I set my crutches to be about 3 inches below where they are supposed to be, and I have never had any pain from them whatsoever. I have no idea why they tell people to set them higher, but I was warned repeatedly that even just using them around my house would hurt me.
Now, I was always moving on the 16th, but the only friend who ever volunteered to help was Justine, an internet friend from NYC. Once I broke my ankle and couldn’t drive, that (disappointingly) didn’t change. I was upset, but did not yet know how incredibly lonely and isolating my injury would prove to be. My mom packed up some of my stuff and took me to my new house. Justine drove down to DC little while after, and was truly a godsend — she unpacked my things, cleaned my floors, the whole nine yards. I have no idea what I would have done without her. If you’ve recently broken an ankle, find a Justine. You’re going to need her.
Day 6: February 18
Six days after I fell, I finally had my appointment with my ortho (and I got my splint replaced!). Her timeline was a huge improvement: they would do surgery in 3 days, take off my cast and stitches after 2 weeks, and then figure out if I needed to have another cast or if I could move on to a boot. I started to cry again, but this time because I was so happy.
I also tried searching for actual advice about what I could and could not do, or things I would need. Most advice I saw online was to stay in bed for months, and I guess have some magic fairy come pay your bills and take care of you. So let me share some important things with you: get a lot of tiny trash cans for all over house, use an office chair with wheels to fling yourself around, and put jugs of water with spigots that you don’t need to pick up to use.
Day 7: February 19
I play skeeball once a week, and the 19th was supposed to be a skeeball day. I sat and debated on it for a while, and then decided to head out. It was my first time crutching out of my house alone — I live in a basement, so I have a couple of very scary outside steps without a railing to navigate. But I did it! I had a couple glasses of wine and skeeballed on one foot. A couple people told me they would have just stayed home, which might be true, but is depressing. It is lonely enough when you still do leave your house, never mind willingly never going out. If you can leave, do it. If you go do something, it’s probably the only thing you’ll do all day, and that’s fine. But it’s so much better than just sitting around your house!!
And that was the end of my first week. I will say I was much more positive during this week than later on. I truly believed my friends would still go out with me, even if it meant doing low key stuff and coming to my house first. I truly believed people would help me with dishes, cleaning, and laundry. I truly believed my ex would continue to help me out financially. I was a moron.