I’ve been pretty pessimistic regarding my progress lately and was overdue for some reassurance; I hadn’t seen my therapist for a few weeks, hadn’t seen my doctor in months, and was feeling very behind schedule. I saw my surgeon last week and the appointment was very encouraging. To test my strength, my doctor told me to hold a plantar-flexed position while he pressed against the ball of my foot, trying to move it back towards dorsiflexion. He was very excited when he couldn’t move my foot an inch.
Overall, my doctor and his team of medical students were very impressed by my strength. However, I still had some concerns. My physical therapist told me I would be able to perform a fully-extended single-leg heel raise at 6 months post-op, yet I was only a month away from that deadline and the heel raise was utterly impossible. This impending due date had definitely been contributing to my discouraged attitude, so I questioned my doctor about the issue.
Though I am very confident in my current physical therapist, I know she’s never worked with an Achilles allograft patient before. Therefore, when she told me I could achieve a heel raise by 6 months post-op, she was citing a timeline better suited to a normal Achilles repair, which is much less invasive. In fact, my doctor estimated that a single-leg heel raise in an Achilles allograft patient could take closer to 9 months. He also reminded me that it will take an entire year to regain my full strength.
While this new deadline was reassuring in that I no longer felt behind, it was also a bit disappointing. I had hoped to begin dancing again this summer, but I now understand that this goal is most likely not reasonable. I’ll just have to find some patience and trust the process, because there’s no speeding this thing up. In the meantime, I’ll be attending all the local competitions and jealously watching all you healthy, able-bodied dancers out there.
At the end of my appointment, I was given permission to remove the final heel lift in my shoe. Every time I transition to a lower lift it becomes harder to walk, and this has been one of the more difficult shifts. Now that I can walk at neutral without shoes, I’m trying to walk barefoot around my house. It’s really slow and uncomfortable, but I know with time it will get better.
As a final note, I spoke to my doctor about the heel pain I’ve been experiencing. He was not terribly concerned and related that pain is a normal part of the recovery, even at this stage. I’m one of those people who does not enjoy taking medicine, but I don’t want any soreness to further disrupt my therapy. Yay ibuprofen!