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Foot & Ankle Problems Message Board

Foot & Ankle Problems Board Index

I had surgery on my left foot on Nov. 30th, 2010. I am in my 5th week of recovery. My surgery was similar to what they do for bunion surgeries, but I did not have large bunions. Rather, the bones on my big and small toe of my left foot stuck up more on the top of my foot (and a bit out to the sides). I thought that I would write about my experience, in hopes to help others who are having or considering foot surgery.
First of all, I recommend that you try every non-surgical option that you can to reduce the pain you are having in your feet/foot.
If none of those options work, visit with at least three different doctors/podiatrists to hear different opintions and to find the professional that you trust the most. If you still don't feel comfortable with one of their personalities and/or opinions, see other doctors. < edited >. Talk to other people who have had foot surgery - get advice from them. Read peoples' stories online. I found those things helpful. That's why I'm writing! If you're nervous or anxious, that's normal. I was in tears with anxiety and contemplating whether or not surgery was the right thing. But since I left the hospital, I have been happy with my decision.
Once you feel comfortable with a doctor and his/her opinions as to what he or she needs to do to help you, decide if you're ready for surgery or not, and when the best time of the year would be. You need to make sure that you can be off of work for a certain amount of time (if you have a desk job, it will only need to be away for 2-3 weeks. If you have a job where you need to move around a lot, it will be a couple of months). Make sure you have someone who will take care of you for at least the first few weeks after your surgery and make sure that you will be able to get to and from check-ups that you will have with your doctor every-so-often after your surgery. Also, consider which foot you are having done and how much of an affect it will have on your driving. If it's your left foot, you can drive an automatic vehicle within a couple of weeks. If it's your right foot, you won't be able to drive for about 8 weeks or until your doctor thinks you're OK enough to make a hard, emergency stop on your brakes. I had my left foot done, so I have been driving myself around since the third week after my surgery. The doctors will assess your physical health, to see if you can handle the surgery, the meds and the recovery process. But, you should assess your mental health. If you suffer from depression, you might want to wait until you feel OK enough. Sitting around all day and being limited is not always easy. If you're a positive person and you will try to look on the bright-side more often than not, you're probably in good shape mentally.
Once you've picked a month/day that you are prepared to have the surgery in/on, book the surgery and prepare yourself by doing the following:
-Purchase the walking cast that your doctor recommends.
-Find the best crutches for you. I HIGHLY recommend asking around for a crutch called "The Only One" crutch. It's a fantastic crutch that allows for much more movement and freedom of your hands. I had this crutch and a pair of normal crutches. Depending on what I was doing and where I was going, I would use the appropriate crutch. Often, I'd use The Only One crutch indoors and the normal crutches when I'd be out and about. My podiatrist lent The Only One crutch out to me...but other people I know that have had foot surgery, never heard of it before. I highly recommend looking around for one. It is/was by far the most helpful tool I have.
-Prior to your surgery, put your cast on and practice using your crutch(es) for a few hours. Try going to the bathroom, moving around your house, going up and down stairs. It will seem annoying, but it's good to get an idea of how it will feel.
-Buy a shower head that you can hold and manuever in the shower.
-Get a stool with rubber on the legs to set in your shower.
-Try, before the surgery, getting in and out of the tub/shower without setting your foot down. Can you do it? If so, GREAT! If not, you need to create a way that will allow you to do this.
-If you're in good health, don't always think that you can rely on someone to help you. You should be able to find a way to do 95% of things on your own. People like to help, but after a certain amount of time, they get tired too.
-Purchase ice packs
-Buy comfortable pants with wide legs that can fit over your walking cast. You will not be able to remove your walking cast for at least 2 weeks, so you will have to find pants that will fit over it.
-Have a backpack to keep near/with you after your surgery. That way, you can carry important things around with you. Some things that I had in my backpack included my medication, a water bottle, snacks, tea towels for ice packs, my cell phone, a book and other things to do while I was resting. When I'd shower, things I needed during or after my shower, would be in my backpack.
-My staff at work made me a basket of great things to do. The basket included, puzzles, word searches, Sudoko books, DVDs, books, magazines, music, snacks, nail polish, etc. All of these things were helpful to have around.
-Buy some tube socks from a pharmacy. These socks might be called medical socks...but you can just ask the pharmacist about them. They come in a long tube of material and they cut pieces off for you (pieces should be about 2.5 feet long). They are sort of like a long leg-warmer with a hole on each end. You won't need these until your cast is off.
-The day of or before your surgery, shave your legs girls, if you do that, and trim your toe nails really short:)
-Buy a vitamin E ointment or lotion to put on the scars when they have closed, the stitches have been removed and they are healing. Do not put the lotions on until those things have been done.
-Buy some tape and gauze to put on top of the ointment/lotion, or just to cover your scars to feel like they are more protected.
-Have an exfoliant scrub on hand. When your foot wrapping is removed after 2-3 weeks and you are able to shower without your cast on, your leg will begin to shed skin like crazy! It will get all over your house if you don't remove it. When you start to see the shedding, spend a good amount of time in the shower scrubbing it off! The more you scrub, the more skin will come off. Keep scrubbing until no more skin comes off. BUT do not do this to your foot. It is SO not ready for any pressure to be put on it.
If you have those things, you will be in good shape:)

Now, for your surgery. It will go very smoothly. You may or may not be "asleep" during your surgery. It's up to you and your doctor as to what is best for you. I was put to sleep for 5 minutes while they froze my foot. For the rest of the surgery, I was sedated - meaning, I was awake but totally "out of it". Although I was awake for the surgery, it felt like it was 30 seconds long. Once out of the surgery, you will rest for the amount of time the nurses think you need. Your foot will be wrapped up...and you will not be able to remove this wrapping until you see your doctor in a few weeks. Then, the nurses will put your walking cast on your foot for protection. This cast cannot be removed until you see your doctor in a few weeks. DO NOT REMOVE IT! There will be times you will accidently touch your foot down or hit things....and if the cast is off, even for a few seconds, you will regret it!!! Once, in the middle of the night, I woke up from a nightmare and sat up really quickly and my foot slammed the ground. Had I decided to take the cast off for the night, I could have messed up the pins in my foot. After the cast has been put on by the nurses, you will be gieen a snack/drink and instructions on how to take your medication. Had I known now, I would have taken the strongest medication they gave me right away so that it would have been working in my system for when the freezing went out. They told me to take the medium-strength medication now and the strong-medication when needed. I was fine for the first 8 hours after my surgery, but the pain came on REALLY bad afterwards. I tried taking the strong-medication, but it was too late. The pain was so awful, I called the emergency line they gave me. They told me that if the pain didn't go away in the next hour or so, go into emergency. My mom pretty much just told me to wait it out..eerrrr. Eventually, the medication I was popping knocked me out at 4am....and when I woke up the worst of the pain was over. I think people just have to endure the pain that happens when the freezing comes out. It's part of the deal..
The first couple days after the surgery were the worst. I was sick and itchy from the meds and I was in pain. After the first couple days, I was groggy from the meds, but OK. I mean, I just had major surgery...some pain and uncomfort SHOULD be expected. No one said it would be a walk in the park.
During the first week or so, keep your foot elevated as much as possible and apply ice as your doctor or the nurses recommend every half hour or so. The nurses told me to wrap the ice pack in a tea towel and apply one ice pack on the top of my foot, but away from the toes (so kind of on the top of your foot where the ankle is), and under my knee (weird spot - I know!).
People always ask how I slept with the cast. Well, it sucks and it's uncomfortable, but you've got to do it. And for the first few days, you're so tired from the meds that you fall aslesp anyways! When in bed, move the covers aside and put a pillow down where your leg/foot will rest. Keep the cast up like that and bring the blankets around the rest of your body. Your foot/leg should be warm enough in the cast. Try and stay on your back as much as you can. Your leg and hip might become what you need to do to reduce the uncomfort.
Take your meds as you should for the first few days. After that, it's up to you. I wouldn't take my meds unless I had to. I was done using even one med a day after the 7th day. If there was uncomfort, I'd just ice it.
As you know, when you shower, cover your cast in plastic and tape the edges so no water drips down. If water gets into your cast before the cuts have healed, it could cause problems and you should see a doctor.
Most of your first few days will consist of waking up, getting to the couch and hanging out there with your leg elevated and iced all day. Going to the washroom once in a while, then going back to bed.
Visitors are changes up the boring day. So, don't be afraid to ask people to visit or to say "yes" when people ask if they can visit.
Good advise would also be to drink lots of water and to eat healthy. You'll be sitting around for quite some time. Healthy food and water will help make you feel better....Don't pig out too much! It will have it's effects...
As soon as the first couple boring weeks are over, I recommend getting up and going for short, 5 minute walks around your house or outside. It keeps up the strength of the rest of your body.
One little side not, make sure you set you crutches down in safe places...Places where no one will trip on them and where they won't fall and damage things (LIKE MY PARENTS' HARDWOOD FLOOR.... :-l oops )
2-3 weeks after your surgery, you will have to see your doctor again. He/she will cut off the wrapping, remove the stitches and see how your healing is going. At this point, he/she will check to see how much the swelling has gone done and how much movement your have in your toes. It will be minimal!!! But complete stiffness is not good. My doctor then showed me some big toe exercises he wanted me to do 15 mins/day to gradually increase the range of motion in my big toe. He did not need me to do the same to my little toe. I think it's not as important. He then told me to stay off of it for another 3 weeks. So, in total, I won't have stepped down on my foot once for 6 weeks. Every doctor is different though. MAKE SURE YOU DO EXACTLY AS HE/SHE SAYS!!!
I'm in my 5th week post-surgery now. Things are going well. I still don't step down on my foot and I won't be able to for 2 more weeks. I get up and go shopping for a half hour some days. I feel little-no pain (unless I move it of course). I can shower with the cast off, but my doc still wants me to wear my cast for the most part - to protect it. The range of motion in my big toe is increasing from the toe exercises I practice. So far, all is well. I apply polysporin each day to the scars...then I cover them with gauze and tape. After a few hours I take off my cast and the gauzes to let the scabs air-out.
I can now wear normal pants and jeans that fit over my cast - because I now remove the cast, put my pants on carefully, then put the cast back on and cover the cast with my pants. My foot turns blue if I'm standing around too long. It's puffy...but it looks like it's healing gradually. When I elevate my foot, it goes back to white!
I look forward to my 6-week post op appiontment:) I'm sorry that I can't tell you if walking feels better, because I can't walk on it yet. But, I don't have the bones sticking out I'm sure it'll feel better in shoes!
Recovery is a long road. There will be times you will be down on yourself. Maybe you'll even regret having done it. You will feel sorry for yourself at times, too. But you have to think positive, laugh and stay strong, because there will be moments when you notice progress (even if it's really small), and those little moments will make it all worth it:) And before you know it, you will be (literally) taking small steps and aiding your foot back to normal:) I hope my journal entry has been helpful:)

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