Achilles update: cramp then swim

Things have been going pretty well since I got my boot. I thought I’d be in the pool the next day, but it took a long time to get used to the idea of having my injured leg unprotected. At home, I’ve been taking the off to stretch and move my ankle, with copious warnings to the girls to keep away when my boot is off. And things are returning to working order slowly. The first week my foot was tingly and numb enough that I called Drake White to see if that was normal (it is). Swelling is slowly diminishing, as the natural shape of my foot returns and I’m able to move it more on my own. I’m still not walking–crutch use continues and will for a while–but I can bear some weight on my repaired leg, which makes balancing easier, and I’m doing stretching work daily to get some of my range of motion back.

My only major setback came early Sunday morning 12/18. About three am I woke to a full-on cramp in my calf. Agony. Obviously, I couldn’t straighten my leg to release the cramp. I tried massage, and that helped, but it still hurt like hell. The pain was so bad I was shaking. I was too wobbly to use my crutches, so I crawled to the bathroom for some hydrocodone and a hot washcloth. I went back to bed, stretched my calf as much as possible, and decided I’d call 911 if things didn’t get better in ten minutes. I guess I passed out. Next thing I knew my alarm was going off reminding me to submit final grades. (More on that later.) I was still in pain but it was tolerable as long as I wasn’t standing. Upright, even with my leg bent at the knee, the pain was intense. I was worried something bad had happened. Another pop? No, no, no, I hoped not.

So I stayed in bed and tried to keep calm. I called my doctor the minute his office opened. The receptionist put me on hold immediately and got Stephanie, his nurse, who ran through a bunch of questions and assured me it didn’t sound serious: Dr. White was in surgery but would get back to me soon. About noon, his nurse called and said White thought I was just having a spasm because of muscle atrophy. She called in a prescription for Valium (“We aren’t going to fool around with Flexeril,” Stephanie joked) and Jason Covert kindly delivered it to me. Immediate help. The next morning, I saw Dr. White and I was relieved to learn everything was okay. In fact, he suggested I could be more aggressive about stretching than I had been. He got down on the floor with me and showed me some ways to work my achilles safely.

The next few days, the pain wasn’t as bad, but I still had a tough time. I fell a lot. I was no help around the house. But I kept up the hot baths and massages, and figured out how to wrap a heat pad around my leg for nighttime. Things slowly got better.

Friday 12/23, Erin took the girls to the Y to swim with Amelia while Madelyn had a lesson. I eagerly joined them. I had to crawl from the locker room to the pool, but I didn’t care. And it took a while for me to feel confident about moving around without my leg unprotected. Thankfully, the pool was nearly empty. I chose a lane close to the lifeguard (just in case). Joan, Madelyn’s teacher, suggested using a buoyancy belt in addition to a pull buoy. I swam two or three laps at an easy pace and stopped to check my leg and make sure things were okay. In the next lane, Erin and Amelia were smiling at me and saying “Go, Daddy, Go.” I was smiling and weeping too. How good it felt to exercise. How much I had missed it.

I swam about 45 minutes Friday, Saturday, and today, and I hope to do the same every day for the foreseeable future. My parents are here now for Christmas, which is helping with the logistics. After nine-plus weeks with no cardio, I’m sore in a few places. I’ll take it.

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4 Responses to Achilles update: cramp then swim

  1. Glenn says:

    Go, Bradley, go!
    I remember long stretches of not really believing I would get back to normal after neck surgery. You will!

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  3. Rizwan says:

    So glad to hear about your progress. When in the moment it feels terrible . . . a few years from now it will make a great story. I thought I would never play basketball or any racquet sport ever again after my wrist injury/surgery . . . 10 years later I am playing harder than I ever did. I have all the faith in you!

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