Oops! I Didn’t Want To Break Both My Heels
This article was initially posted on my old (now defunct) WightRunner.com blog on 30th November 2014.
Oops wasn’t exactly what I said! I think it was something a bit stronger than that. But I did break both heels.
Off for a weekend of running?
On the 25th September all was going well, I’d recently been running well and when I awoke that morning I was looking forward to a weekend away. I was due to be travelling up to the Lake District the next day to take part in the Rab Mountain Marathon with my good friend Chris. What came next scuppered all that. In fact it ended up putting pay to any running for the rest of the year.
Forget the weekend then
Around lunchtime on that eventful Thursday I was about 20feet up a set of ladders, an old set of ladders, cleaning out gutters. I had finished all the cleaning and was just about to come down the ladders when the ladders slid sideways, giving me no option but to come down a whole lot quicker. I knew there was a rail, a planter and a few steps below so I instinctively jumped from the ladder and landed in the middle of the road.
The landing was something I was rather chuffed with. Not a cut or graze anywhere! But it hurt bad, it was excruciating and I was now experiencing the worst pain I have ever known. Amidst feeling sick and the agony I knew I had to check myself over – back felt fine, pelvis and knees felt ok. I expected to find my ankles broken but even they seemed to be in place. So I tried to get up – no, that wasn’t going to happen! My friend Eric was checking on me too and I said I’ll give it a few minutes to recompose myself. Still nothing, I couldn’t get up! I asked Eric to help drag me from the road as getting hit by a car wasn’t something I wanted to add to this experience. With Eric’s help I was soon on the driveway with my feet elevated and after 5 minutes or so of me convincing myself I was just bruised and telling him I didn’t need an ambulance he got the home-owner to make the inevitable 999 call.
A cup of sweet tea later the local 999 responder arrived shortly followed by an ambulance. Shoes off, socks cut off, onto a trauma board and into the ambulance I went. An IV line of morphine and lots of gas and air helped compound my diagnosis it was just bruising even though the paramedic was telling me I’ve probably broke both heels!
I was soon in A&E. They gave me more morphine, x-rayed my feet, looked after me, and it all seemed very efficient, treating me with an urgency I’d never had before.
Whilst laying on my trolley I had a conversation with the senior staff nurse, similar to the one I had with the paramedic, telling her my feet were just bruised and how I’d be running in the Lake District Rab Mountain Marathon at the weekend. She told me she didn’t think I would and I probably wouldn’t be running for a while. Once the x-rays results came back she told me that I had calcaneus fractures to both feet, that I’d broken both heel bones. ‘Damn, well recovery will only be a week or two’ I thought, ‘There’s still the OMM in a month’. She duly informed me this is a serious injury and as well as not going away this weekend I’d be making the hospital my home for a while. ‘I’m having none of that I thought’ so I asked her to tell whoever is responsible for that decision that I’d like to go home. It only seemed like a few minutes and the friendly nurse was back and told me I could leave and to return the next day to see the orthopaedic consultant.
Using the crutches I’d been given I tried to walk but it was useless. I nearly sobbed but had to put on a brave face. Eric found me a wheelchair and wheeled me to the waiting room, to wait for my father to pick me up.
Once at home I put my knees to good use. I wasn’t able to walk, let alone bear any weight on my feet, so I resorted to crawling when I needed to get around.
Will I be able to walk again?
The next day I saw the orthopaedic consultant at the hospital and straight away he told me “It’s a severe injury and even though it’s severe you’ve been pretty lucky!”. (huh?). His opinion was that the seriousness is up there with traumatic spinal and neck injuries and I was lucky to have no injury to the pelvis. He told me I should be in hospital for at least 6 weeks but he wasn’t going to impose that on me. I think it was starting to sink in now and he also told me that failure to follow his advice could mean I won’t be able to walk again, or not in the manner I had been used to walking.
Bi-lateral calcaneus fractures are what he said the injuries are. The left heel bone has a very slightly displaced fracture (1-2mm), the right heel has a non displaced fracture, and both are intra articular and involve the subtalar joint.
After reiterating how serious it was the consultant said I could be walking by Christmas and might be able to run again. But he made it clear I was to rest or I wouldn’t recover, failure to due so and he’ll chop my legs off at the knees!
I was fitted with a ‘bootee’ to protect the left foot, then off to the hospital pharmacy to collect a carrier bag of oral morphine – and yes, it was now beginning to sink in!
Over the next few weeks I tried to rest and relax as much as I could. The morphine helped to dull the sharp pain I had in both heels but with all the crawling my knees had become leathery and tender. To alleviate my tender knees I bought a pair of knee pads which helped. A kind friend lent me her mother’s mobility scooter which I used a few times to go the village and once or twice my father wheeled me to the pub in a wheelchair.
10 days after the accident I had a second appointment which consisted of further x-rays. There was still a lot of bruising but the x-rays showed the calcaneus bones had started to heal. The consultant mentioned he can see no complications at that time and that I might be able to start weight bearing in 6-8 weeks time.
During those first 6 weeks things didn’t seem to change much. I still had sore heels and was crawling most of the time. I didn’t feel recovery was going to happen quickly!
It’s now just over 9 weeks since I fell from that ladder and things are looking a whole lot better.
A few weeks ago I started trying to weight bear on both feet, ditched the knee pads and started to use the crutches.
Last week I had my first physiotherapy session. The physiotherapist gave me some exercises to help get some mobility back into my ankles, where there is tendon and ligament damage. Most importantly she told me to start trying to walk properly again. This was the affirmation I wanted, it gave me the go-ahead to try and do more, and so I have. I’ve managed to walk the best part of a mile without any real pain or bother. And even better, she’s booked me in at the main physio centre around here which has a gym and a treadmill. Hopefully I’ll get to use the treadmill next week.
Recovery really seems like it’s sped up like crazy in the past 3 weeks and every day seems like a new day instead of groundhog day.
I do have one eye on not rushing things too much as I don’t want to risk setting the recovery back. And when I do start to run again it’s likely to feel awkward and different.
All-in-all I reckon I’ll be ok.