If you’ve been following my story on this blog or my social media channels, you will know that for me, 2019 was really defined by my being injured.
I say “being injured” because it most accurately describes the state I was in; I was in pain, I had swelling and inflammation, I was unable to dance, I was limited in my daily activities, and I needed treatment. However it wasn’t exactly an injury, in that I didn’t experience any trauma such as a tear, sprain or break. I actually had pain and inflammation in my ankle caused by a little extra bone inside the ankle joint called an Os Trigonum, and the problem it caused me is called Posterior Impingement Syndrome. Arriving at that diagnosis actually took months and months, and I won’t write about that now as I already wrote a post about this before my surgery. If you haven’t already read it, start with that- you can find it HERE.
The first thing that I did before surgery was seek out the best place I could find to do my rehab. On a great recommendation, I opted for Isokinetic medical centre in Harley Street. This is probably one of the best decisions I ever made, because the team at Isokinetic set me up for surgery in the best way possible, and have overseen my recovery since. It is thanks to them that I am improving so much day by day, week by week, and I’m on track to get back to full fitness stronger than I was before. I plan to write another post all about Isokinetic, but basically as a patient, your care is overseen by a doctor, and you can attend physiotherapy and hydrotherapy sessions as prescribed by the doctor. You see the doctor every few weeks, so your progress is monitored really well. I did several sessions of physiotherapy before surgery, which is important because when you undergo surgery, you lose a lot of strength.
Although I paid for my physiotherapy privately, I had my surgery on the NHS as I really could not afford private surgery. In London, there was a very long waiting list for surgical treatment, and so I had my surgery at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham. This complicated things slightly as it meant that we had to travel, but it was worth it to be seen that little bit quicker.
We travelled to Birmingham the day before my surgery as there was an early admission. I was lucky to be the first on the list that day, so I didn’t have very much time to be nervous! I was really frightened about being anaesthetised, and started to panic when that time came, so the anaesthetist gave me a sedative first- I don’t know what it was, but it made me feel so instantly relaxed and happy that if they’d told me they were going to operate without anaesthetic I probably wouldn’t have cared! Then they gave me the anaesthetic and I was off to sleep. Next thing I knew, I was waking up in another room. When I came round, I was confused for a few seconds- the first thing I remember is stupidly asking the nurse if it was raining because I thought that I could hear rain. I was shivering for a while afterwards, because of the anaesthetic, but that subsided after some time. My ankle was in a ginormous bandage and felt all stiff, but I could wriggle my toes and move the ankle a tiny bit. When the surgeon came round to see me, he advised me to start flexing and pointing the ankle straight away, and wiggling the toes, at least every hour, so that the ankle would heal with maximum flexibility, and not become stiff with scar tissue. I was diligent about this during the healing process.
I was released from hospital later that day with a very attractive shoe to fit over the bandages (I have quite big feet and the bandage was massive so I had to have a men’s large shoe! The shame!). I was lucky in that I was able to put my foot down immediately, with the crutches taking most of my weight. There was no danger in putting weight on my foot, but as I’d had a bone removed it was extremely painful to do so, which is why I needed the crutches, and I also did not have a lot of movement in the ankle. Jake and I stayed in a premier inn in Birmingham that night, and I actually had an amazing night’s sleep due to the nice bed (I do love a premier inn bed) and being tired out from the anaesthetic. I felt a little sick but otherwise okay, and excited that it was all over with.
It was difficult getting home with the long train journey as I had to keep my foot elevated, but we made it. I remember when we got home, Jake had to go to work immediately so I was left alone. I felt so overwhelmed as I realised I couldn’t even make myself a cup of tea or carry a glass of water to another room. However things got easier over the next few days- I had to go and get anti-sickness medication because the pain medication I was taking made me feel really unwell, but otherwise things were fine.
I went back to university after only a few days. In retrospect, this was a mistake, because walking on the crutches was extremely strenuous. All of the walking I had to do in order to get around London on public transport ultimately lengthened my recovery time, and it took me many weeks to be able to walk without crutches. I started physiotherapy after about a a week and a half, and had the stitches out after a couple of weeks. After the wounds were completely healed, I was able to start hydrotherapy.
I did have a plateau in progress after the first couple of weeks, probably because being able to get around the city required me to walk more than I probably should have been. For about four weeks I didn’t really progress in my recovery, and I had a lot of swelling. However the doctor and my physiotherapists at Isokinetic gave me a new programme of exercises and I was able to really get back on track. Since then, progress has been continuous. I was able to slowly get rid of the crutches, and start walking more and more normally again, I was able to return to ballet just for barre, and now I’m even starting to stand en pointe and practice jumping in the hydrotherapy pool.
The surgery journey was not an easy one. I’ve never had a significant injury, or any kind of surgery, I’ve never even broken a bone so it was a whole new experience. The worst part wasn’t actually the surgery, it was the months of waiting and trying to get a diagnosis. It was also really difficult for me when I had a plateau in progress, and I honestly wondered if I would ever really be able to dance again. My ankle was so stiff that I could barely bend my knee at all, I had no proper plié, and I couldn’t imagine how I could get back to the plié I had before surgery. However in 3 weeks my doctor and physiotherapists took my knee-to-wall measurement from barely 3cm (with a lot of pain!) to 16cm without any pain. A big part of that was doing my key rehab exercises every day, so if you’re in recovery for any kind of injury, know that putting in the effort really does pay off.
I’m not at the end of my journey yet, but I am almost there, and I finally feel like I’m coming out of the other side of this long process. I hope that this blog was interesting, and maybe helpful if you’re going through something similar yourself. Feel free to share your surgery experiences, too- one of the most helpful things for me when I was contemplating getting surgery was finding other dancers who had been through similar things. It was so comforting to know that people had gone through that and still been able to dance at a top level. So please do comment below this post to share!
Wishing you lots of health & happiness,