Wednesday I went back to the hospital to get my splint cut off and the sutures taken out. What struck me as interesting as I crutched out to the car in the driveway was how it seemed like I had just done that same thing yesterday, even though I had last gone out front two weeks ago.
After a two hour drive, I finally arrived at the orthopedic clinic at the hospital. The doctor that brought me back cut the splint off, and I gingerly lifted my foot out of the warm protective shell of the cast. At first it felt great, but very soon after I was aware of how vulnerable and injured my foot really was. I tried moving it a little and was met with pain in almost every direction. Then the surgeon came out and examined it and said it looked great, that the swelling had gone down significantly, and that the incisions were healing up perfectly. I asked about putting weight on it, and he basically scared me into waiting the six weeks necessary for the bone to completely heal, saying that if I mess anything up by putting early weight on it my ankle will turn into a salvage operation and may have to fuse the joint. As the pain level of my ankle is high, I am content for now to restore its full mobility before I try to bear weight.
Next, we went to take x-rays, and so I crutched down the hall with my exposed foot to the x-ray room. I took the opportunity while waiting, to touch the floor with my foot to see what it felt like. It was the strangest feeling: the cold floor felt alien, like nothing I’ve ever touched before. It felt like something was attached to the bottom of my foot, but there was nothing. The experience was alien and frightening, and after resenting the cast for almost a month, I desperately wanted to be back in its safety. They gave me a hard boot with a soft interior lining that velcros onto my leg, which instantly made my foot more comfortable. Back at home, I began the work of restoring mobility, but it was difficult. Spreading my toes, and rocking them up and down is the only thing I can do without pain. I started massaging my foot, and moving it up to the point of pain, and down to the point of pain, and repeating that process. I got the splint off on Wednesday, and now it is friday and I have probably increased my range of motion by about .5 inches. In order to get over the alien floor feeling, I have also been resting my foot on the floor, and making an attempt to move my toes around and feel the texture. This is somewhat difficult because as I lower my foot, my ankle swells up and I lose mobility, and attempting to move it initiates an uncomfortable tight feeling, as if everything is being stretched to its limit.
The doctor tells me they had a lot of work to do during the surgery, so no doubt a lot of the
pain is from the operation itself. But there are definite effects from simply having my leg encased in a warm soft protective shell for a month. The largest visible effect is the size of my calf muscle. After only a month of non-use, it has become soft and small, and barely useable. I can contract it halfway, but only with great focus and difficulty. This speaks well of exercise and strength training, but more importantly, it speaks well of shunning a lifestyle of comfort in general. What happens to our bodies, and our minds when we are surrounded by constant protective comfort?
It is only through the work of bearing and balancing my entire body weight that my right calf has managed to maintain something of its former size. Through difficulty and challenge. Without use, what happens to your body also happens to your mind, and your will in general. This experience has taught me the importance of providing my life with challenges and difficulties. That without them, I will shrivel up and become soft.
The exciting thing about having an injured ankle and a weak calf muscle is the challenge of building them back up again. I finally have a difficult goal that I need to overcome. Over these next few weeks I will restore mobility to my ankle. Once I am able to walk on it and regain my strength, I will continue to improve it until it is stronger and more flexible than it ever was before.