1) Achilles Tendon Tear

A little background… I’m a fit 34 year old male who lives in Ohio. I’m 6′ tall and 165lbs, and my main exercise has always been racquetball. I play several times a week for ~2hrs and have done so for years.

On December 28, 2017 I was finishing up my last game of the night and it felt like someone stomped on my heel with a boot, I realized no one was near me and something bad had happened…. I stumbled out of the court, managed to shower and drive home but the pain was pretty bad.

By the next day the pain was gone, but my left foot really didn’t work, I could put weight on it in a locked position but that was it.

Some advice and googling led me to try the Thompson test, which is an easy way to tell if you tore (ruptured) your Achilles. I squeezed my calf and my foot didn’t move… not a good sign!

Here’s how the tendon looked…. pretty swollen.

8) Removing soft cast – 2 weeks post surgery

Exactly 14 days after my surgery I loaded my scooter into the back of my SUV, headed to the doctors office and scooted in with my aircast in the basket. That damn basket is great!

This visit wasn’t with the doctor, it was with another guy who took the cast off, snapped some pics of my leg, said it looked awesome, answered my questions, and added a realistic 4 part heel lift into the air cast.

I’m to remove each heel lift level per week, and in 4 weeks I see the surgeon for approval to get into shoes!

The aircast is nice, I’m allowed to put as much weight on it as I can tolerate, it enables pants (back in the world baby!), and I can remove to sleep and shower.

So after a day with the aircast, I could put partial weight on it. Then the next day I could put full weight on it, and strapped back on my even up shoe leveler. A day later I went from crawling into the shower (gotta be careful without the boot) to walking in gently, avoiding bending ankle or putting much weight on it.

I might have even climbed a short ladder to take down the Christmas garland around the door 🙂

7) Work from home if you can

My Achilles tear happened in the middle of winter in northeast Ohio, and I learned quickly that crutches and exposed toes in a soft cast don’t do well in winter weather.

I’m a sales manager, so luckily I already work from home and just had to stop flying for a month.

If you have an office job, I’d try to work from home for a couple weeks. Biggest reason? You can’t get any pants over that huge soft cast! So I lived in mesh shorts with super baggy sweats as my only other option. And the soft cast lasted 2 weeks for me… I also moved my computer downstairs to the main level, which was a smart suggestion by my brilliant wife! I travel a lot for work and spend a ton of time on the phone, so I already had a Bluetooth – but if you don’t this will also make crutch/scooter life easier. No hands!

6) Crutches Suck, buy a scooter

Hated the crutches like everyone… wrapped them in old tee shirts for padding, which helped… using them got easier and I felt like after a week my body adapted to using them.

Will all of my free time on the couch recovering post surgery, I had endless hours to shop for my solution… and went with a $160 scooter.

Amazon delivered to my doorstep, I dragged it in and assembled it and the rest is history.

My logic was this avoided going out in the winter weather to pick up a rental, and people sell these things on Craigslist for $125 used (except for when I needed one!), so I could easily sell the thing later and it would only cost me $60 in the end.

Oh how I love this scooter!! We have wood floors and firm carpet on the 1st floor and this made life so easy. Little things, like getting a cup of coffee – try that on crutches! Plus the basket is awesome for holding drinks, tv remote, etc.

Still used the crutches to get upstairs for bed, but was able to mainly scoot.

I was bored quickly, so decided to add some under cabinet lighting. The scooter basket was perfect for carrying my tools!

Not to bad, huh?

5) Those first few days after Surgery

Before having Achilles’ tendon surgery, I had spoken to a colleague who tore his and had the older, open surgery a few years back. He told me to do the following:

  • Take stool softeners with my pain meds, he didn’t and regretted it (he said that pain was worse than the surgery!)
  • Start taking pain meds before the nerve block wears off, otherwise you’ll be playing catch up.
  • He also recommended some mobility and rehab stuff, but more on that later.

When I arrived home, I enjoyed a nice big meal and fired up my CZ. (Comfort zone: any sort of super comfortable, relaxing setting. Think tv, blankets, food/drink nearby, limited commitments) I went to sleep that evening with my soft cast for the first time, it wasn’t bad to sleep in, my leg was still numb and no pain at this point!

The following day (1 day post surgery) I enjoyed a whole lot more CZ time, and started taking my pain meds (and stool softeners!). They prescribed me Percocet for pain and a nausea medicine. I took the Percocet with food, and never needed the nausea meds. I was lucky, the Percocet pills didn’t have any real effect on me that was noticeable – I wasn’t sleepy or loopy.

Finally after 36 hours, the nerve block wore off. What a way to start day 2! It was 4am, I scarfed down some crackers and took a pain pill – it helped after about 30 min and I fell back asleep.

The rest of day 2 was moderately painful, but the pain pills helped a lot and their ability to reduce pain was the only effect I could notice – no side effects for me. Took one last pain pill at 10pm and went to bed, day 2 over.

I woke up with much less pain on day 3, which was a Sunday. Didn’t feel the need for a pain pill, it still hurt, but I could tell it was getting better. At this point I was done with the pain pills and the pain! Not too bad. Just a lot of laying around, CZ’ing…

Here’s the timeline:

Thurs – surgery, home by 7pm

Fri – nerve block still working, started pain meds but no pain

Sat – pain all day, but manageable with pain meds

Sun – minimal pain, didn’t need pain meds

Mon onward – no more surgical pain!

4) Surgery

The worst part of surgery was the IV, because the nurse missed my massive veins several times before she called in another nurse who was able to get the IV immediately. All in all, not bad – just a little annoying.

Then into the room for a nerve block, HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU GET THIS!!! It was two tiny pricks that they say will be like bee stings but I could barely even feel.

Then we rolled into the OR, and they said they were giving me some meds and that’s all I recall.

My next memory was waking up in the recovery unit. I rubbed my eyes, came to and it was like waking up in the morning- no other anesthesia effects. My leg was numb from the knee down and in a soft cast, and it hurt pretty good despite the nerve block. They gave me some meds and that helped. 10 min later I asked how long I needed to stay, they said I could leave whenever, so off I went home, about 3 hrs after I arrived!

3) Surgery? Surgeons? PARS vs Open?

I ended up canceling the appointment they setup for me after the prompt care visit and setting up another appointment with a doctor that was recommended to my wife (she’s a nurse anesthetist). And thanks to my wife’s contacts at the hospital I was able to get a very quick appointment.

At the time I just figured this surgeon would be nicer than most and do a good job….I was naive. He was so much more!

Here’s what he brought to the party:

1) super nice guy, easy going and smart

2) no pressure, he outlined pros and cons of surgery vs non surgery and left it up to me

3) he uses a progressive approach using minimally invasive PARS technique

Thankfully I had done my research and knew I wanted surgery, but I had no idea how important the surgical method would be…

The minimally invasive PARS surgery was a no-brainer for my situation, vs the open surgery and non surgical option.

The PARS surgery will have you walking in an aircast after a few weeks vs months in a hard cast on crutches…

The PARS surgery requires a small horizontal incision and 2 tiny heel incisions. It uses a jig to effectively suture the tendon back together within the muscle sheathe around the tendon.

Or you could have the open surgery which is a huge 4-6″ vertical incision that requires months more of recovery time and 3 months in a hard cast after surgery.

Or you could avoid surgery, but that requires a lot of time in the aircast 24/7 until it heals naturally… much longer of “no cheating”, and that means sleeping in the big plastic boot! Big risk here is rerupture if you screw up, and the time/inconvenience. From a lot of my research it seems like the nationalized healthcare countries use this method a lot. (Canada and some EU countries came up a lot)

2) What to do until you see the doctor?

So after I realized I had torn my Achilles, I quickly realized it was a Friday before New Years weekend… which meant it would be a few days before I saw a doc.

My wife suggested an orthopedic prompt care, which sounded better than an E.R.

After a few hours, the doc at the prompt care confirmed the tear, setup a meeting with a surgeon and set me up with an aircast.

Here’s my advice for the DIY folks out there… if you diagnose the tear at home through the Thompson rest and need support – go on amazon and buy the aircast for $85.

The prompt care charged $550 for the air cast and $150 for 4 pieces of styrofoam… no wonder our healthcare system is broken!


Heel lift

I also highly recommend spending $25 to get an evenup shoe riser off amazon, that will lift your other shoe to a comfortable level and keep you from hurting your back/hips when walking in the aircast.