Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Commuting 45 Minutes One Way

Hi Friends!

Long time no blog (again). A lot of life has happened since the last time I wrote, but I figured my second consecutive snow day was a good time to get you caught up on everything that was going on.

Since mid-December, I got to go home and spend a whole week back in Iowa with my family after Christmas, which was wonderful. One of my best friends in the whole wide world had her own ankle surgery and got to play with her own peg leg. I turned 30, and our oldest furbaby Seamus turned 5. I restarted physical therapy, this time for my shoulder. And the last week of February, I started a new job as the Curator of Education at an art museum about 45 minutes away from our house.

First, I have to say how amazing this job has been. I was pretty nervous going in, as my background has been entirely in history museums, but so far the transition has been great. The whole institution is going through some really exciting changes and there is such a positive energy.

The only downside is the commute. Spending an hour and a half in my car every day is taking a big toll on my shoulder, which I need to keep in check or I risk my migraines kicking back up again. A lot of the fight for me is about keeping my posture correct and keeping things relaxed. I have a few things I'm doing to help keep it a little more manageable:

  • I pulled out my old TENS unit. If you've ever done PT before, this is the electro-stim that they use at the end of your session, but a personal size. I put it on my shoulder when I get into work before anybody else or when I get home and am cooking dinner - my insurance covered the purchase of this when I first bought it. I don't know if my current plan would, but it would be something to look into!
  • I've got a hot pack that I wear to help remind my should to stay relaxed while I'm driving
  • I've had this lumbar pillow in my car for years to help with my posture. Seriously years. I got it from my physical therapist when I was still living with my parents back in college. When I get into the driver's seat of my husband's car, I reach behind myself to adjust this pillow and grasp empty air. 
  • At work, I have this stability ball chair in another attempt to help keep my posture correct while I'm sitting at my desk. I do still slouch a bit, but I catch myself more often than I do with a regular chair. Plus, it has the added benefit of being about to bounce. The wheels help take off the strain on my ankle that it would be as just the ball alone.
  • My laptop also sits on top of a desk stand so my head isn't tipped down. This is by no means fancy, it is made of plastic, and I don't use the fans at all anymore. I bought it years ago when I had a laptop that constantly overheated, and the fans did work decently, but now it just sits on my desk and lifts my laptop up to eye level. 
  • Every night before I go to bed, I lift weights. I do these in bed because several of the exercises require laying down, and I also do my ankle exercises at the same time. 
In addition to all of this, I am still taking daily migraine meds. I have another follow-up appointment next month with the neurologist. I am hoping I can start weaning off of these meds. The biggest side effect for me has been weight-loss. It sounds like a great problem, right? Overall, I've lost about 24 pounds. On one hand, this has been nice, because I definitely could have lost the weight. I had gotten to the point where my doctor actually printed out a sheet on BMI, which I would like to point out I was still at the high end of healthy for, but she told me it was something I needed to watch. However, I am now at the absolute bottom of healthy for where I should weigh for my height. Granted, BMI is not the only measure, and it is a flawed measurement at that. The other issue is that, if I'm not careful, I skip meals without realizing it. I have no appetite at all.

Here's a comparison:
March 2016
March 2017
Obviously, the lighting and outfit are very different in both pictures, but I think you can really see the weight difference in my face. I know, this seems like a dumb thing to complain about, but I want to start training for a 5k that our friend group has signed up for, and I'm worried about doing that and maintaining a healthy weight at the same time. Blergh.

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Why hello there, shoulder

Hello, friends! The good news is that my main reason for starting this blog, my journey with my ankle surgeries, has largely come to a resolution at least on the medical side. My flexibility has returned, and I am slowly continuing to build up strength.

On the other hand, I have still been struggling with constant migraines. In late September, however, I was finally able to pinpoint with what I felt was a fair amount of accuracy the cause. Following this summer's excitement with a round of vertigo, I had a follow-up appointment with an ENT specialist.

I went into her office and was blown away by how thorough and holistic this doctor's approach was. Although my ear, nose, and throat checked out fine, she put her hands on my neck and shoulders and said, almost casually, "Say, you've never had any trauma to your left shoulder or neck, have you?" Because you've got a tremendous amount of tension here and that might be what is causing these constant migraines."

Those of you readers who don't know me in real life might not be aware, but I have had chronic pain in my left shoulder since 2008 when I slipped on some ice in my parents' driveway and fell onto my back. It took us nearly 4 years to figure out that when I fell I had detached the muscles along my scapula, and in 2012 I flew down to the Shoulder Center at the Lexington Clinic in Kentucky where I had surgery to reattach those muscles. As far as I am aware, these guys are still the only ones actually doing the procedure.

Here's what it looks like:



This surgery took me from missing a year of grad school and a 6-8/10 on a pain scale to a 2-5/10. It literally gave me my entire life back and made my shoulder something I barely noticed, to the point that when the migraines started up again in January, it wasn't until that ENT doctor mentioned my shoulder that it all clicked into place. 

Of course it is my stupid shoulder. On one hand, thank goodness I'm not adding another weird medical thing to my list of weird medical things. But, I'm really not thrilled that after all this time this stupid thing is still an issue. I made an appointment with my neurologist. When I got in to see (not the neuro, but one of his PA's) I explained what I had discovered to date, then said that I was interested in exploring physical therapy as an option. She said "I'd like to see you back in three months, and let's explore physical therapy then. First, I want you to try taking this additional prescription which is good for tension-type headaches." 

So, I walked out of that office and called my primary care physician, got in to see her PA the next day, and got them to write me a script for physical therapy. Low and behold, my near-daily migraines cut down to weekly.

And, when I got into a minor car accident that gave me whiplash in my left neck and shoulder (of course)? They jumped right back up to daily migraines. 

The good news is I have another appointment with the neurologists the second week of January. I'm going to take all of this information in with me, and if they don't listen, time for a new neurologist. Again. But, all of this is about being your own best advocate. And the best news is that I have an amazing physical therapist who is a dream to work with, and has really been a great part of my care team, through both my ankle and my migraine journey.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Modified Brostrom - See Ya Later, Alligator

Two weeks ago, I had my four-month follow-up appointment with my ankle surgeon after my third surgery on the left ankle.

AND

I am completely released from my ankle surgeon's care.

We're DONE!!!

Granted, the ankle is still a thing, and it'll never be 100%. Case in point, that following Saturday I went to a wedding and danced like an idiot, then this weekend had a big event at work and so now it is a little grumpy, but nothing some ice, aleve, and my wrap brace can't handle.

But I can't tell you how relieved I am after four years and three surgeries to finally be done with this.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Happy Independence Day!


Today was my six-week follow-up appointment after getting the stitches out after my Modified Brostrom surgery. The appointment itself was a pretty quick, he checked the flexibility of my ankle (a little stiff) and we discussed the knee swelling (shouldn't be an issue now that I'm out of the boot) and the game plan for the next six weeks. Here's how it looks:

  • Heavy-duty brace (seen in photo) all the time for the next four weeks
  • After the first four weeks, transition out of the brace, the wear it when on grass and rough terrain for the foreseeable future
  • Physical therapy on my own, unless I feel like I'm not improving
I've been in physical therapy more often than not over the last four years, and "you know the drill at this point. No point in wasting your money on co-pays when they're not going to tell you anything you don't know, and I don't see the need for any physical manipulation at this point." His recommendations were using a theraband to do 12/6s, 9/3s (although not pushing the 9:00 side, as that's where the repair is), as well as doing calf raises, towel toe scrunches, and building up from there. All the stuff I'm used to doing. I will keep you updated!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Keep On Keeping On

Hello Friends,

I'm sorry I haven't given much of an update but at this point, there hasn't really been a whole lot to report. The last month has been one of the more difficult ones I've dealt with in awhile. While I'm still dealing with the headaches and migraines, the most difficult part has been coming to terms with the fact that my family lost my beautiful, vibrant cousin Sarah in a car accident earlier this month. Needless to say, it has not been an easy few weeks, and traveling out to Oregon in a walking boot while using a cane was a bit of an adventure, but it was good to get to spend some time with my family, even if it was for a very sad reason.

On the ankle front, things feel like they're stuck in a holding pattern. I don't have my follow up with the ankle surgeon until the 5th, so at this point am just sort of waiting, clomping around in the walking boot until that point. Hopefully, when I do go back in, I'll be able to gradually start weaning out of the boot, as well as being able to get into physical therapy. I'm pretty frustrated that I haven't been allowed to start that at all this time around, but I understand the need for patience. Sort of.

Over the last week, one of the problems I have encountered as a result of using the walking boot has been swelling and pain in my left knee, the same side as the boot. I know what this is, as it is the same problem I had while using the boot after the first surgery. It is a result of an uneven gait for too long, so I've started using a cane again. It is 100% the last thing I want to do, but it really does help. One recommendation? Be careful how many waterfalls you agree to hike up. Granted, I only went two viewing points above the bridge, but it definitely left me hurting a bit this week. Hard to resist the view, though.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Modified Brostrom Surgery - Return of the Frenemy

I apologize for being a bit slow to update you with my progress following this latest surgery. Unfortunately, I'm still battling this darn migraine on top of the ankle, so  I've been limiting my time on the computer, which seems to aggravate everything. Sorry, but thanks for sticking with me!

On the plus side, the ankle recovery seems to be going smoothly. The first few days immediately post-op were a little rough. I was a little surprised by the initial pain levels, but that was purely my own fault for expecting this to be more in line with the hardware removal, rather than an actual surgical procedure. Silly Jenna. Added to that my stomach's usual disagreement with pain medications and it was a slow start, but once we got a prescription filled to help that out everything settled down quickly.

I spent a very long two weeks and two days stuck on our couch, keeping my ankle elevated and being entertained by the kitty cats. I did a full read-through of my favorite book series (Percy Jackson), watched a few movies, had some great friends stop by and say hello, and took a lot of naps. I'm not a good sit and wait person, so honestly I'm so glad to be back at work and back in the swing of things.

Last Wednesday, I had my first post-surgical follow-up appointment. I didn't see the surgeon himself but saw his PA who I've seen before and like quite a bit. I also met with a student that studying with them for the year, and a nurse who was there to remove my stitches.

After the stitches were out, the student physician and the PA took a look over everything. They were quite happy with the lack of swelling and redness around my incision, but apparently during the surgery, both the anterior talofibular and calcaneofibular ligaments were exceptionally thin. Although they were still able to do the surgery as planned, that did change their post-op a bit. Initially, they thought I'd be in the boot for 2-4 weeks after the splint/cast, but now I get a full six weeks at least. Woohoo.

I'm a little frustrated by that, but after three separate surgeries on this ankle, I'm trying to remind myself that it is better to move slowly and do this correctly than to rush this and risk injuring everything all over again. I'm bummed I won't even be able to touch physical therapy until July, but I guess this is a good opportunity to practice being patient.

Initially, when the student physician came in and talked to me, he said that a lot of people who have had this procedure go into a half boot at this stage, rather than the full walking boot. But upon looking at my surgical notes and the thinness of the ligaments, plus hearing the demands of my job (outdoor historic site, chasing after 4th graders, giving walking tours that cover uneven grounds) they put me back into my old friend/enemy/frenemy, the walking boot. Check out my first, painful little baby steps below. By day two back in the boot my calf had stretched back out enough that I was walking comfortably again, but that first day or so was not super comfortable.


The next morning following my appointment was my first day back to work. And of course, it was an insane chaotic day where we had one 4th grader pass out from heat stroke (because why wouldn't it be 90 degrees in May) and had to deal with a volunteer being exceptionally rude to my new intern (wheeeee), plus just the general chaos that comes with trying to shepherd 75 ten-year-olds around a historic site. According to my Jawbone Up Move activity tracker, I went from taking about 300 steps on Wednesday to taking almost 4,000 on Thursday and 5,200 on Friday.

So, from here, it is really just trying to be patient with myself, not pushing too hard at work, and doing what I can to keep the rest of my body healthy while I wait until July 5th, which is my next appointment. My stamina levels are slowly returning, so after another few days of work I'm going to try heading back to the gym and will start doing some upper body weights. Gotta start somewhere!

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bathing with a Leg Cast


***UPDATE 5/13 AT BOTTOM OF POST***

One of my dear friends (and I know occasional readers, hello Debbie!) has also dealt with some unfortunate ankle issues, and the other day asked me about the realities of keeping my cast dry while bathing. I was more than happy to answer her, but if she has questions maybe some of you do as well so today I thought we'd get up close and personal. Obviously everyone's experiences are going to be a little different, and as always I am not a healthcare professional, but here is my reality of bathing with a cast after three ankle surgeries.

Supply list:
Dry shampoo
Cleansing wipes
Cast protector
Shower bench
Handheld shower head
Relaxing bubble scent of choice
An extra towel, hand towel sized
Whatever other regular bathing supplies you use (my favorite shampoo & conditioner, FYI)