I Broke the Machine

Every day is usually a “get better and better” feeling kind of thing; since the surgery and all. There’s days where I was tired and lethargic because I did not want to be inundated with putting my leg in a CPM machine then taking it out for 20, and repeat. Yet I kept at it. Even if I wasn’t doing all the exercises on my packet, I tried and made sure to do foot/ankle movements to improve dexterity.

Last Friday, after my Dr. attached one of my pointe shoes to the CPM machine. It broke. So for the last week I have been CPM-less. I have not missed it! Yet I still need it. My pointe still has further to stretch as well as my flex. There are no more CPM machines in the region and there is like an “industrial” version at a PT group I’m not interested in seeing because I like my Physical Therapist; she was once a Mickey Mouse and an Ariel!! I digress… I can also slowly work it at home, which is kinda difficult. Getting one of those weird foot arch boards is too extreme for my ankle right now. So I’m looking at an object that has piqued my fancy since I started dance. The Pro Arch. A lot of things in ballet are controversial, any where from techniques, shoe destroying methods, exercises, stretches, diets… this is no different. Some people LOVE it and some people despise it. I never thought I personally would ever need it, and at $200+ I wasn’t going to invest in something for someone like ME.

As the world turns, I find myself in the predicament of trying to achieve a further foot stretch on the top of my foot. Get my ankle used to tucking in further than it ever used to, with my shaved talus now and missing bone there’s so much extra space and degree of pointe I can achieve. This is what the CPM was supposed to help me with. I can also receive the treatment faster as the 20 minutes were often lost on the traversing from a flexed position to a pointed position, that took like 2 minutes in it’s own right. If I do get a Pro-Arch the only problem is it serves one function while the CPM served two (at a snails pace). So I was also looking at a foam half log: Pro-Tec half round foam roller. Nothing as fancy as the Pro-Arch, haha! Yet would help me safely get my flex. You’d think stairs would help, but I need small resistance to make it safe. While I love stair achilles stretches I’m not ready for those and have been instructed to not do them at all.  So I hope to consult with my PT about all these gadgets. Or alternatives that are more cost effective or don’t cost anything.

Seeing my Dr. yesterday I’ve now been OK’d for stair stepping exercises (which I promptly put into affect of just walking up stairs- a little weirdly and slow but I made it) balancing on one foot while holding up my free leg which then will eventually work to arabesques and penches when stronger. A lot of my strength hasn’t disappeared to my surprise. Just weakness and lack of flexibility holds me back. I have a lot of walking forwards and backwards crouch walking and pas de bourres to add as well. I’m finding I will be spending more of my free time exercising and restrengthening and stretching.

I’m hobbling around more freely. The numbness in my heel is begginning to ebb away. In general I feel more and more like myself everyday. I’m luck I have not hit a wall yet in my PT, there’s always small improvements. Like the last time my calf was a sad 32 cm in diameter. It’s now 33 cm! That’s big for not having full calf action! Speaking of my poor leg, it continues to disintegrate before my eyes! I can now see my femur bone pronounced when the lax muscle hangs from it. I’ve lost 3lbs in muscle tone since my surgery and now we 104lbs wet. During the height of Nutcracker season I weighed 113lbs! The most I’ve ever weighed. Happily though, as sad as my right leg appears, I have more mobility. My achilles is not as tight as it once was, there’s less annoying pain of relearning movement and I’m happy to move and flex and do everything I can for me leg and ankle. I still can’t plie for the life of me, but I’m taking it one accomplishment at a time.

Now if I do decide to get the Pro-Arch contraption I will still have to wait as there’s a 2-4 week wait. I guess every dancer got one for xmas this year :/ Ba-humbug!

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PT, OTR, and Life update

So I have been glaring horribly at my walking boot. I’ve hated it since they strapped me in right after my surgery. It’s heavy, has a thick sole, cumbersome, and very unattractive. I have always been so ready to be free of it, except when I was asked by my Dr. how I’ve been getting to the bathroom after the first week or so, (I didn’t wear my boot to the 10ft. it takes to get to the bathroom) he threw a hissy. Not really, just was very exaggerated that I needed to wear it so that I don’t ruin my surgery yadda yadda yadda…safe stuff. Well he insisted I wear it in the bath, to bed, and everything in between. I cursed the ballet gods.

Except I sure didn’t adhere to it. I only wore the boot when I left the house. I healed just fine and was lucky I had no accidents because I’ve literally been in bed for a month.

SO, I go and see him again for a post op to see how I’m doing. I’m now able to put 50-60 lbs of weight on my foot for the most part comfortably. No pain on my incision, it just hurts where it’s still numb on my heel. When the pain receptors/nerves reconnect they have a tendency to register pain first. So instead of just pressure, it’s like ‘YOU’RE IN PAIN FOOL!”. It is not a comfortable pain but it’s not unbearable pain. It’s just you’re mentally fighting with yourself that you’re NOT in super pain and to keep applying pressure – ENDURE. I think that’s a major hurtle for a lot of people getting over surgery. For the first 3 weeks you’re told to baby wherever was cut up. Then the doctors act all shocked that you haven’t been practicing treating it like normal! Sure docs, thanks! So when he saw I was able to put more weight on my foot, he started informing me that some of his Dancers with the surgery DIDN’T EVEN USE THE BOOT AFTER THE SURGERY. They walked in wedged mules.

Open backed wedged shoes.

My Husband and I exchanged looks that could kill. I have been known to get free drinks and food for this look, so no one wants to serve me when I’m tired or peeved.

So anyways, I am now free to walk in my favorite signature bright pink sneakers! I hobble and am easily exhausted, but I am re-learing to walk. When my PT learned of my new found freedom she was like “I wondered why you were still in a boot!” UGH. So she worked with me on gait training- except I know it’s heel, ball, toe, transfer weight, then lift and swing. Like every human, and I didn’t forget. I’m still on crutches doing this, it’s just a lot of people returning from surgery continue to hold themselves back. Like working your knee will ruin everything! Poor things, I feel for them. I’m just ready to be on my feet again.

I have a lot of practice this week which will now fill my time. I’m to work on doing very slow grape vines, “tight rope” or the drunk driving straight line walking test helped by a wall, gait walking with my crutches, and shifting my weight from one foot to the other. While also reconditioning my tight achilles, re-establishing my core, LOTS of stretching as my body is often wonky and tight from re-transitioning my weight to the other side of my body, and doing tendus with a thera band to restrengthen all that I’ve lost. So now I have to be my own trainer and motivater. After being a slug for a month. Just gotta do a mind chant “you can do this! You can do this! Wanna dance? You gotta do this!”

While I have this new freedom, I’m still otherwise fairly lame. I was able to wear a sock for the first time in a long time and a normal pair of shoes! I opted for my cool biker looking boots. We went out and had a date night, Husband and I. We went and saw Mocking Jay at iPic. If you’re not familiar with the theater you can select your seating, which half the theater is decent leather seating. Since I was handicap still We get to have premium seats that are leather recliners! Despite this comfort my right foot felt as though I was still in a boot just not cumbersome and heavy. So I started getting fidgety by the end of the movie. Not as fidgety as the girl in the seat over from me, but fidgety. I’ve already come to terms with stares from my crutches. I just never realized there’d be so many blatant staring. Like- a quick look okay. Except these people are like STARING. It’s weird; like I should have a card that explains my surgery and hand it to them. Crutches are TIRING and dangerous, and hurt my hands. So it’s another form of motivation to get working on my walking and reconditioning.

In other news. I’ve been to two Nutcrackers this year! Last Friday and the Friday before that. The first Friday was where I used to dance and do Nutcracker. Since my Mentor retired they changed up the whole thing and it was very hard to not ask for a drink after watching that train wreck. The only thing I remember most clearly now is a poor girl who was in a pair of pointe shoes she wasn’t ready for. The look on her face was “FEAR” and her bourres made her bobble around, and she seemed so unsure of herself her shoulders were up around her ears. I could spot her instantly in any number she was in. It’s all I remember very clearly as I was scared for her. Otherwise the choreography and the music was cut and butchered so bad it was “I need a drink” worthy.

The other performance was at the old performance center I used to dance at when I was a kid. After the last 20+ years it’s been renovated in an arts center and is very nice! I don’t remember too much of the theater because when I looked out into the audience it was always dark! I do remember the outside which was very art deco, originally a High School it was built in 1909 but was given an art grant in the 1939 and renovated to the art deco look.

We were supposed to watch one of my favorite students I TA’d for, she admired me and She’s such a lovely dancer! Unfortunately she came down with a bad respiratory infection and was unable to finish dancing the show. We watched it despite this, my Mentor and I. It was lovely and charming. Very well done. There was one girl though, who had the body image of a vaganova student. Tall and lithe. Except she was KNUCKLING so bad in her shoes. She wasn’t altering her shoes, or buying shoes that supported her arch. At first I thought she had dead shoes already, it just turns out she has bad pointe technique. She was cast as the main flower soloist… and had her do fouettes. While the crowd was very jovial and clapping for everyone doing something impressive. Very few clapped at her performance. I was literally drawing in breath in fear. It was SO scary to watch her. There was also one girl who had “dead face”. Everyone was so bright and cheery and she had NO expression, no smile, and was staring at the floor. She wasn’t a bad dancer, she just had “dead face”. So it was a little bit of a bummer. OTHERWISE, it wasn’t a bad production. They had ex pros dance the Sugar Plum, Adult Clara and Cavalier. So they were nice, I just like watching students though interpret the rolls more I think.

Well that’s been my week, I’m now going to do my stretches and exercises and get ready for the Seahawks gaaaaaaaame! WOOOO!!!!

More Os Trigonum Recovery and Physical Therapy

I’m tired, and stiff, which equals a whole lot of uncomfortable-ness and irritability. I had another round of PT yesterday and it went well. My achilles is unbelievably tight. I couldn’t be asked to do a plié if my life depended on it. It is a very slow and long process to get it to budge. I have blind determination though to get back into working order. Determined.

Good news is my foot does not sting, throb, or feel on fire any more. That has long passed and it feels otherwise normal despite some numb spots still fading and the stiffness and lack of mobility. My pointe has returned, and still has farther to go. So the CPM machine my Dr. designed will have to be fashioned with one of my old pointe shoes to further achieve my pointe. You do not comprehend (unless you’ve had this surgery) the AMAZING feeling of expecting your bones to collide only for you to painlessly and freely pointe your foot. It is AMAZING. Say again, AMAZING. I have a left ankle to compare it too as well! Left ankle, bone click – right ankle FREEDOM. It is a near cry worthy feeling as there is no pain, there is no anticipation of contact, my mobility is unhindered.

My scar is looking less horrifying every day and soon I’ll get to massage it to loosen up the scar tissue so it doesn’t become irrevocably immobile. I do find myself in the mornings waking up stiff, from my lower back all the way down my leg to my foot. I have to spend time in the morning warming it all up with a heating pad to alleviate the stiffness and then just stretch. Every possible stretch I can find to lengthen and revitalize my stiff and stuck muscles and tendons. Then follow through with strengthening exercises to regain regular motion. Flexing your foot up is nearly impossible. You find yourself scycling your foot during rehabilitation. I have come to terms with the benefits of scycling since summer intensive, so it does not bother me, just still a foreign sensation. I do not condone it for technique though.

Other than that, things are on track. I’m placing a lot of weight on my foot/ankle. I’m still weak so I have no stamina and my walking is impaired with a boot still. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to just wear orthotic sneakers. The tendon that goes from the back of your ankle to your big toe is one of my most painful hurdles. Since it has no support and it’s in a new position a little compared to the old way it used to sit in my foot. It is tight and painful. Gentle massaging with a tennis ball has been prescribed (YES!) Lots of exercise you do at the barre where you pointe with the ball of your foot, then move to toes then toes go first then ball and flex.

Might I also add how AMAZING it is to have a physical therapist who is experienced with dance. She’s done everything from Broadway, to Disney, to stage performing in Japan. She’s amazing and such a cute lady! I LOVE chatting with her and she GETS it. SHE GETS how a dancer’s body works and what’s expected. I’ve had other PT’s who disregard what I do. When we get into strengthening she’ll help me with working in my pointe shoes. She’s also determined to make sure my turns won’t be a struggle. I’m worried that I’ll be too over the box of my favorite shoes but there’s no way to get fitted for a new pair right now, so we’ll have to work with it. The studio is as far as my podiatrist, but it’s so worth it. It’s so worth the heavy Seattle traffic to and from. I get electric stimulation therapy, I get ultrasound, massage, and exercise, most importantly just understanding dance.

On a side note, since I’ve been stuck in bed all I’ve been able to do is think. Think some more. In less than a week I read the entire Hunger Games Trilogy again. My Mentor gave me a copy of Ivor Guest, The Dancer’s Heritage, I’ve yet to dig in. Also began re-reading Pride and Prejudice (snore [formal english]). I’ve also been able to scratch out ideas for my etsy store. The other day I was able to even work on skirts! A previous day I had cut 5 new skirts out. Then the other day I serged the edges of them. There were two other skirts that needed hemming, so I did that. It takes SO much energy to work on sewing. I find myself exhausted and tight because I’m asking a lot of my body apparently. I’m getting ready to dye a few of them, and I want to make it worth it because the dye batch is so large I hate wasting and really don’t know how to dispose of the chemical dye! I keep it in a large glass container when not in use. Because I have no one else to boast to, I bought a teflon foot and leather needles for upcoming projects too!! No doubt to RP’s disdain I purchased fold over elastic in fancy metallic prints to add flair to your hair or wrist. I like flair RP and I’m going to go with the trend! I wonder how cool they would look though sewn to a pair of pointe shoes… *ponder*

Recovering and Atrophy

I knew I would get weak while I was up off my foot for a while. I didn’t realize it’d be this bad.

IMG_9171My left leg is beginning to atrophy since it’s only supporting me when I crutch. It’s nothing compared to my right. My right foot is red because I had just finished a treatment of 20 min rest and 20 min cpm machine. While I rest I use a heat pad around my foot/ankle to keep everything warmed up so when the CPM pushes my foot down at a 50° angle (currently, I need to up it soon) it needs to be flexible. This also has a tendency to cause swelling, which is why my foot is red in the photo. I’m seriously not sure how one works a leg that is that much weaker compared to the other into shape. I’ll find out today since it’s my first physical therapy appointment.

I wore a compression sock last night which felt great actually, until I woke up early this morning and felt one part was biting into my achilles on my heel. I altered it to fell better and went back to sleep but when I woke up it was still bothering me. This one has the heel and toe opening, so I may have to have one that’s a full sock. They are SO not fashionable, but they are helpful.

Today is also the last day that I have to necessarily keep bandaids over my incision. I can opt to not have them on, or have it on for a little longer, which I’ll find myself doing until I feel more comfortable with how my incision is healing on the outside. It’ll be nice to have stimulation over my incision since there’s a lot of nerves cut there, but we’ll see. I hope all goes well at PT. I’ve been lethargic as of late because it’s that time. It seems to be draining of energy yet no unforeseen horribleness has arisen.

Os Trigonum Recovery, Sutures Out!

I’d like to say how good it is to have my sutures out, but that was such an awkward sensation and feeling as they were clipped and removed. I think I may have liked it better if I watched because it felt like WEIRD things were being pulled out of me. I couldn’t help but think alien abduction horror stories during the procedure. Kinda don’t want to experience that again.

Either way, it’s a GREAT sign for me on the road of recovery. I’m now allowed to put weight on my foot, mind you not full weight. It was actually funny when I was allowed to put weight on it. We get me officially set up in my walking cast, your leg has to be inserted at a 90° angle which surprisingly I achieved easily. He asked if I was in discomfort as we strapped me in. “Nope.” I replied. He pulled out this old, giant 1950s personal weight scale. I had always wondered what that thing was there for. While on my crutches my job was to put as much weight as I can manage with my “bad” foot on the scale. So I go *stomp* 40lbs. All the while he was trying to preface with “sometimes you can manage 10, or 20, depends. Maybe you’ll need padding at your heel because you’re not ready to feel flat footed yet etc. Just put what you can.” After his shocked assessment he had me repeat pulling off weight and reapplying it to 40 lbs. After about five or so tries at it my ankle started to hurt. It just wasn’t ready to bear that much weight for an extended period. So we dropped it down to 30. That, I achieved successfully in walking. Which is like, really barely at all walking in my shoe. I still need to do it as an exercise, walk around the house at 30lbs. Haha! I’M WALKING! Honestly it’s just hobbling with crutches.

Also with sutures being removed, that means I get to wear bandaids for the next 3 days and then- NONE at all! I can submerge my foot into water *weep* Today was actually the first day I washed my foot since the surgery. Gross I know but it was pretty hard otherwise and knowing my Husband he would have gotten water on me anyways. I have to keep wrapping my ankle in that spongy soft brightly colored wrap. They often use it for animals, the humans get boring plain or bright colors. We have to buy our own for me to wrap my ankle in and I’m attempting to order vet versions because THEY COME IN COOL PATTERNS. There’s a safari one, they have camo for some reason, and paw prints, as well as stars and hearts. WHY DON’T THEY MAKE THESE FOR HUMANS. Ehh… it doesn’t matter so says my Dr. He said that it was okay to buy the vet ones since they’re the same. He usually refers people to buy the vet ones because they’re cheaper for some reason. I’m excited for that.

For the first time after my appointment, even though my ankle was kinda killing me. We stopped at the mall! Broke out my handicap placard. Almost got ran over by an old lady in a prius trying to park next to us in the other handicap spot. AND WENT AND GOT A BURGER. I usually am begging my husband to take me straight home after the appointments because it’s really exhausting. Yet every day and every visit I feel more and more like my old self and the physical therapy is going to be tiresome but I’ll get it done! I will be back to dancing in no time. I think that’s really the biggest drive of it all, is just to get back to dancing. While I waste away here (my thigh has now begun to atrophy. It hurts to cross my legs or rest my good leg on my bad because it’s so bony and there’s no cushion, it’s bone on bone- yick!) I have not necessarily missed the feeling of dance. Even when I have working feet I miss swaying and movement. Somehow though my body feels reserved, knows that it’s better to not move around and ruin my surgery and recovery. So I lay still every day. Work on my CPM machine, do my tiny physical therapy exercises and dream of going to see the nutcracker performances by my fellow old classmates and my old student. As well as try and get to the Seahawks game that we bought tickets for on the 28th!

Those are like, my short term goals. I WANNA GO TO THE SEAHAWKS!!! RAWR!

Also a big shout out to AdultBeginner who featured my etsy store on her blog! All this sitting here at home doing nothing has helped me secure a line of products I want to make for spring. So I hope you’ll bear with me until I update it for y’all. Thanks AB!