This is the third in a series of articles about recovering from a broken ankle caused by a sports injury. The specific injury was a dislocated ankle with a broken fibula.
Here are the previous stories:
For two weeks following surgery to repair a broken fibula, I wore a soft cast with a split. I did not have pain, which was something of a blessing. However, the cast itself was not at all comfortable, and those two weeks seemed like they took two months.
I do not have a video of my own soft cast, but there are YouTube videos that show exactly what mine looked like. Here is one of those videos:
Here is a picture showing both the soft cast and my tag showing that I was a “fall risk.” This was on the day of the surgery.
Icing a Soft Cast (Well, Sort of)
The soft cast, much like a plaster cast, is hard and does not expand. When my ankle did not feel as if it were swelling, the cast was not as much of a problem. However, when my ankle swelled, it rubbed up against the splint, and that became uncomfortable very quickly.
About the only thing you can do if your ankle does swell is to put ice packs on the cast. We learned later that this method can only be effective if you leave the ice packs on for a couple of hours. I am not sure we ever made it that long.
The nurses suggested that I may have to rely on taking sponge baths while I had the soft cast on. That didn’t fly with me. We went to Walgreen’s and bought a SEAL-TIGHT Original Cast and Bandage Protector, which was long enough to fit over the cast and over my knee. The protector fit snugly around my leg and did not allow any water to get through. I took at least one shower a day with it, and my cast never got wet.
Crutches always seemed fun to play with when someone else suffered a broken leg. They are less fun when they become a necessity.
The good news is that it is relatively easy to get used to crutches. I experimented with my foot in different positions as I moved forward, and I was able to start moving around pretty quickly after a couple of days.
The biggest key to using the crutches is to know what to avoid. First, do not use your armpits to hold yourself up because the nerves in the armpits are very sensitive. Instead, put all of your weight on your hands. Second, be sure to pick both crutches off the ground as you move forward. I have had a couple of instances where I dragged a crutch accidentally on the ground, and I nearly tripped. That would have been bad news.
Great News: An Air Cast
I saw my surgeon 15 days after my surgery. He would decide on two options:
1. Put me in a removable air cast, which would allow me to stretch my ankle and sleep without a cast on.
2. Put me in a plaster cast, which would prohibit movement of my ankle and probably cause greater muscle atrophy.
Given the options, when I heard I would get a removable air cast, I could not have been happier. The cast is larger than the soft cast, but the air cast is lighter. It is supported by a fiberglass frame, and the cast provides support when I inflate the air cushions on the side.
Here is an actual picture:
I was able to sleep without a cast or a splint for the first time in 17 days after getting the air cast, and that was the first time I slept for longer than three hours at a time.