Exciting news in my ankle surgery recovery: I graduated to a boot today. What does this mean, you ask? I still can’t put weight on my leg, BUT I can wash my foot, I can ice my foot, I can let my foot breath fresh air. Unfortunately, the air cast/boot manufacturers appear not to have discovered lightweight materials, but my left leg probably needs the extra work right now.
As I was sitting in the doctor’s office, wondering how they actually remove casts, the nurse walked in with what I could only assume was a handheld circular saw. When I looked at it in horror, she said, “this makes a lot of noise but it does not cut”. I was silently thinking, “then how the hell does it cut the cast off?” No offense to this particular cast cutter, but it did not appear to be a high tech gizmo that would sense my skin milliseconds before cutting into it. A few tense moments ensued, but she did manage to remove my cast without taking bits of my leg off.
I keep expecting to see an actual foot each time my leg emerges from it’s protective shell, but so far this hasn’t happened. When my surgeon came in to remove my stitches today, he exclaimed, “it looks good!”, and all I could think was “I’d hate to see something that looks bad. I don’t have a visible ankle, my toes look like Vienna sausages, my foot looks like something you’d use while filming a zombie movie, and my calf looks like saggy elephant skin”. [I love my surgeon, by the way, he reminds me of a big teddy bear; a big, brilliant, talented teddy bear, but I still want to hug him.]
My calf. This brings me to the subject of atrophy. We all know that atrophy happens with immobilization, but it’s hard to believe just how quickly it happens. I read somewhere that most of the atrophy happens in the early days of immobilization. I guess that is supposed to make you feel better – the damage is done, eat some more chocolate! But I don’t think I grasped the full meaning of the word ATROPHY until I saw it happening on my own body. I don’t appear to have any visible calf muscle in my left leg. And the elephant skin – well, let’s not go there.
If you’ve ever had to take significant time off from training for illness or some other reason, you understand that detraining happens quickly. It requires significantly more training time than detraining time to reach the prior level of fitness. It’s not fair, but unfortunately it IS true. Atrophy follows the same pattern. It is much easier to atrophy than to de-atrophy (not a word, but it’s descriptive, is it not?). I found the following quote in an old paper on the NCBI website “An almost complete recovery from atrophy is possible, yet often the recovery phase is much longer than the total immobilisation period.”. Well, isn’t that encouraging!? ALMOST?
On that note, I’m off to the gym, where my right calf will be looking in the mirror flexing it’s big muscles while my left calf hides in it’s boot, weak and embarrassed.