Recently, a friend of mine fell and broke both ankles. It was a severe fall and the injury required that pins hold together the shattered pieces of ankle bone. Additionally, the surgeon attached an external fixation device so that the entire structure would keep the foot and ankle straight to facilitate healing. Of course, a plaster cast encased each foot. Because both ankles and feet were in these boots up to the knees, there was no ability to drive. My friend was immobilized. As the healing process began, she had to learn how to transfer to a wheelchair and back to her bed. She was forbidden to put her feet on the floor.
It is easy to underestimate the strength and utility of our feet which give us mobility to be athletes or simply walk, get around and live our lives. When our feet are impaired and we need to have surgery it is downright gruesome, especially when the doctor says there will be no “weight bearing” for six weeks minimum and possibly longer if the healing is slower and/or especially if additional surgery is needed.
Not weight bear? Not even put one’s heel down? Not a good idea, especially if the fracture is a compound one needing the use of pins. The foot must remain suspended without any pressure on any part of it so it will set properly and the shattered bones fuse completely. The concept of non weight bearing is so far from the mind of a healthy person who is mobile that it is almost incomprehensible to register the meaning of such words. However, if one has to go in for any type of foot or ankle surgery, then the reality of the phrase hits deeply. First, the weeks of bone healing, then the gradual weight bearing, then the rigorous physical rehabilitation to return to complete healthy mobility and full range of motion, if possible.
There are information booklets to help one overcome the incomprehension and stress of the condition of being non weight bearing. In fact, if the foot surgery is cosmetic and elective, one especially should read through such pamphlets beforehand as an aide in the decision making process. Is it really worth going through all of the inconvenience and stress of immobilization to have “prettier” feet? On the other hand if the situation is an emergency and bones are broken as in the case of my friend, then surgery is an imperative. In that case it is important to read up on everything the non weight bearing condition entails, reinforcing the doctor’s and physical therapist’s directions about what can or can’t be done.
A comprehensive guide that is helpful to prepare and deal with such an impaired condition is The Complete Guide to Non Weight Bearing. It is accessible online as an e-book and is put out by the Knee Walker Team. This guide is particularly helpful in covering useful essentials from medical terminology to good nutrition which can speed the healing process. Unfortunately, I discovered it rather late for my friend, however, she will be able to use the information upon returning home.
Particularly important are the chapters that touch upon preparing one’s home for using crutches, wheelchairs or other devices to assist mobility. Clutter? Pets? Cords? Laptops? Scatter rugs? Shower paraphernalia to cover the boot? Portable commodes? These items and many more are discussed and check lists are given to help the injured to prepare the environment so the situation is easier after surgery. That is if one has the good fortune to avoid an accident emergency and has a choice when the surgery might be performed. Nevertheless, after one leaves rehab, it is important to prepare the home for damage control, reducing to zero the risk of a fall.
The guide is practical for anyone who faces such surgery or who is taking care of someone who has had such surgery and whose mobility is impaired. The information is especially useful in helping the one who is injured take control of a condition which saps emotional energy. The facts are empowering and encourage the reader to take a proactive stance. Focusing on things one can do, decompresses one’s stressful state and readies one’s emotional well being toward health. And as doctors acknowledge more and more, a positive mental and emotional attitude are crucial in facilitating a more rapid recovery.