Friday, November 1, 2013

Bunion post-op update. The agony of de feet.


It has been over four weeks since I had bunion surgery on both feet.  I walk like Frankenstein (which seems appropriate since yesterday was Halloween).  My feet are still bandaged and probably will be for another three weeks.  I tried to get a photo of my unwrapped feet but I blacked out--not from the sight of them, but from the pain.  If you want to see gory photos of stitches and swelling, the internet can provide you with plenty. 

I'll give you a few highlights of post-surgical progress, but remember, how you fare after your own bunion surgery depends on how severe they are and what type of procedure you have done. (See post just prior to this one.)  My bunions were severe and I needed an osteotomy on each foot, plus some fancy bone drilling on one foot.  I'd lost a lot of cartilage on one toe.  Curse you, Mrs. ____!  (My ballet teacher.)

After one week, I went to the doctor, who removed the bandages.  He happened to mention, "This is going to hurt," a split-second before grabbing a foot and re-wrapping it.  On a scale of 1-to-10, the pain was a startling 8.  Not as agonizing as childbirth, but it made me cry and I started shaking.  Fortunately, I was tanked up on painkiller.  But all the progress I'd made in the first week seemed to disappear, because I hobbled out of there as if I had just had surgery all over again.  Two days later, after applying ice packs for many hours, I felt better.  And when I say ice packs, I really mean bags of frozen peas.  They drape around the foot better than ice.

Two weeks post-op, I went back for a bandage change, tanked up on a fuller dose of painkiller.  This part of the proceedings went better than last time, but then my doctor did something I did not expect.  He bent the big toe on each foot forward and backward as far as he could, to gauge range of motion.  On a scale of 1 to 10, this was a ten.  It was brief--just a few seconds--but very intense.  He says that when he does the toe-bending, sometimes his patients yell at him, order him to stop or even kick him.   I was better behaved than that, but it took will power. Some patients refuse to let him bend their toes during this phase of recovery and even refuse to bend their toes themselves at home between doctor visits.  Unfortunately, these patients then end up with severely stiff toes that do not make contact with the ground.  The toes stick up and won't flex when the patient tries to walk.  It's a major problem and ...I guess it cannot be undone...? I'm not sure if it's permanent or not, but dammit, I am NOT going to find out.  I know the importance of having it done, so I let the doc bend my toes.  I cannot sugarcoat it.  It hurts.  Or at least, it hurt like hell to have my doctor do it at two, three and four weeks post-op for the type of surgery that I had done.  I've heard other people say the whole bunion thing was no big deal.  I don't know why it varies so much from one person to another.

Three weeks post-op, the doctor recommended that I bend my toes myself 2 or 3 times a day.  He says I don't have to bend them as far as he does, but I need to start bending them a little more each time and make progress each day.  When I bend my own toes, the pain is mild--perhaps a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10, plus I feel better knowing I have control over the pain.  Even as I increase the range each day, I still only feel a level 2 pain.  And bending my own toes frequently in the course of the day does have the added benefit of helping me walk (or hobble) increasingly better, without crutches.  It is only when my doctor bends them, really forcing the range of motion, that the pain is intense.  At one visit, I started blacking out.  At another visit, I nearly threw up.  But as intense as it was, it only lasts a few seconds.
The bunions, before surgery.

So, if I had it to do over again, would I still have this surgery?  I can't answer that yet, since I am only four weeks through recovery.  But I don't think I had much choice.  I suspect I will never be able to run or dance again.  But walking and cycling are vitally important to me and I was beginning to have trouble with both.  I'm hopeful for a good outcome.  Meanwhile, I sleep a lot and feel achy from lack of exercise.

Hope this info helps, but without giving you nightmares.

dj runnels
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