One step at a time: diary of a broken ankle

By Dilys Morgan

When I broke my ankle I had no idea of the impact it would have on everyday life, but over the following months I kept a diary of my progress - as well as my setbacks
Bandaged ankle"I can’t do anything spontaneously; everything will involve forethought and a loss of independence..."

On October 24 I slipped on a small step in Leeds and crashed to the ground. On getting up, I couldn’t put any weight on my right foot without excruciating pain.

At home, I hopped from car to front door - leaning on my husband. Each hop made me nauseous as it exacerbated the pain, so progress was slow. For want of a better idea, I crawled up the front steps, up our internal staircase and into the apartment.

When three days brought no improvement, I visited our local minor injury clinic on two walking sticks. X-rays revealed a clean break in the fibula, (the thin outer bone) which would require six to seven weeks in plaster. Once in the cast, I was given a pair of crutches and sent home.

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October 27

Back home, I’m slowly coming to terms with the implications. Having two ankles that work is what keeps you stable and allows independence. Being without one is suddenly so limiting that I see doors closing all around me as I tot up all the things I won’t be able to do. Elbow crutches that you grip with your hands mean you can’t carry a thing. Even a carrier bag or handbag makes me unstable.

I can’t have my grandson to stay; keep fit; drive; shop; do housework; kneel down; change a light-bulb; get things down from a high shelf; hang washing out; carry plates or food or drinks. I can’t do anything spontaneously; everything will involve forethought and a loss of independence...

My world centres on the sofa and the low table beside it. Here – with hubbie’s help – I gather together everything I need for everyday life.

Luckily, I work mostly online.

October 28

A bad night. Earlier, the weight of the duvet on my foot was excruciating but now with the cast, it’s uncomfortable in a different way. I suppose it’ll take time adjusting to this heavy weight that goes everywhere with me.

Getting up go to the loo, I chicken out of using crutches and revert to crawling. It feels safer.

But now that I have crutches I can at least reach the basin. (I couldn’t work out how to do my teeth or wash when crawling.) But my balance isn’t good - so find anything requiring two hands difficult.

Even the smallest tasks defeat me. I can’t get clothes into or out of the wardrobe or drawers. Getting dressed involves perching on the edge of a chair or bed and takes an age.

Our apartment staircase looms large - a huge barrier between me and the outside world. Going up and down on my backside is hard work; just hope it’s giving my arms a work-out!

October 29

When I move around with my foot dangling, it quickly goes blue. I can return it to near normal by elevating it again. So in a restaurant I ask for an extra chair.

Chairs become my saviour. I’ve positioned one in the bathroom where I can perch and wash all over with a flannel. It’s not ideal but it’ll be a long while before I have the confidence to stand on one leg in the shower or lower myself into a bath.

With a chair by the wardrobe, I can carefully place the knee of the injured leg on the chair, ditch the crutches and balance enough to get things off hangers. Not that I plan much ferreting around in the wardrobe: dressing for comfort’s essential. Balancing on one leg is still scary, so I lean against the bath or basin and try not to wobble.

October 30

I’m supposed to keep the foot elevated but also keep mobile...presumably so the rest of me doesn’t waste away. So today I attempt to walk 100 yards but give up three-quarters of the way. Feel pathetic and stupid but had no strength to go on.

October 31

A new high chair for the kitchen enables me to reach the sink, hob and kettle and fridge. Can now make tea or coffee, but still have to drink it on the spot!

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.


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  • denise

    Posted: Thursday 01 January 2015

    oh my word I'm due to have cast removed mon5th I'm still in pain .reading your diary has ansewed my questions .so I know what I'm in for ,thank u

  • Deborah

    Posted: Tuesday 30 December 2014

    I broke tib and fib sept 21st and was in full cast for 2 months, have just had final cast removed yesterday and been given a removable cast to wear for no more than 4 hours per day.... Physio will start soon, I can relate to so much on here, will certainly never take walking for granted again. Its a slow process but I'm sure will get there

  • Ali Grove

    Posted: Sunday 28 December 2014

    90 degrees dislocation so double fracture of right leg with the inevitable pins and plates.
    plaster off last monday but no boot given so am trying to do my best but it gets very swollen and terribly painfull. My main problem is the pain under my heel which makes correct heel placement nearly impossible. Has anyone else experienced this to be able to offer advise? Thank you

  • Peter Smith

    Posted: Tuesday 23 December 2014

    Thanks to my wife who I married 4 months ago. Had NO IDEA this would put life on hold....for so long by the sound of it. Can help a bit from wheelchair, but ankle gets uncomfortable after a while. I have a plate with 7 screws. In the xray the screws go in all directions! Looking forward to a bath or shower, only have WC downstairs! And using the loo is another story! Suggest men use a pint glass, sorry girls, can't make suggestions for you! Happy Christmas all, I'll update in the new year. Xx

  • Karen

    Posted: Sunday 21 December 2014

    I'm on day 17 after a bilateral break of both bones going down into my ankle resulting in surgery with plates. I was feeling so sorry for myself and stumbled upon this diary whilst googling a healing timeline. I have tears rolling down my cheeks from laughter. The writers humour has cheered me up along with the comments. I'm going to refer back to this article every time I'm feeling down. Everything that I'm going through is echoed by the writer. I am a bit distraught at the recovery time.

  • lucien

    Posted: Saturday 13 December 2014

    Broke my fibula and ankle the same time whilst playing soccer . feel it was the end of my term as a sports men . Why did it happen...
    2009 October, year later built up myself and believe it's not over until God said is over.
    played volleyball, jumping, spinning, falling kicking etc . Just take it step by step and overcome fear . Do what you has done before the incident . Keep well

  • Angie M

    Posted: Friday 12 December 2014

    I was told by the ortho Dr. 2 take the boot off & do the alphabet with my footto help the ligaments men in to help me with the range of motion I'm a server so my job depends on me standing on my foot and walking all day lets pray it all works. Also I want to wear my high heels again

  • Angie M

    Posted: Friday 12 December 2014

    Just like you I broke my ankle also on October the 24th of 2014 the worst pain I ever experienced in my life, is worse than having a baby recovery is slow & yes you will feel like an animal in an everyday task will become enormous projects daily went to the doctor today December the 11th 2 have my cast taken off I was given a walking boot still in a little pain was told by the doctors to put weight on it.

  • gwynnhoskins

    Posted: Wednesday 10 December 2014

    appreciate all comments, but my cast came off 2 weeks ago, after a full length cast for 5 months, still cant walk, and still in pain

  • Lucy

    Posted: Monday 08 December 2014

    I, too, broke my fibula. It was October 2nd, 2014. Our recovery timelines seem similar, to that's very encouraging. (meaning hopefully around January i will be able to walk/drive unaided). it has been 8 weeks post surgery, and I have started physical therapy with weight bearing as tolerated. I am able to put as much weight as I can in the boot, and my physical therapist said I may be out of it as soon as two weeks! Things are indeed finally looking better. :)

  • Gaillovesdiamonds

    Posted: Tuesday 02 December 2014

    I broke my fibula (non-displaced distal fibula fracture) back in October - got taken out by two football players while photographing my son's college game. A little over 7 weeks into recovery, doing physical therapy, learning to walk again. I have so much enjoyed reading your diary - it speaks to all of the challenges and small triumphs of recovering from a broken leg. Strangely with me too, it has made me feel better reading it! Just wanted to thank you and I hope that you are doing well now.

  • Elise

    Posted: Monday 24 November 2014

    This ladies blog is so refreshing! Freaky we broke our ankles on the same day however my cast comes off on the 11th of December. I really can't wait I am feeling so miserable and nervous about how it has healed. I just want my freedom and my foot back. Going up and down the stairs is pretty difficult, and I just want to have a shower standing up, maybe even put some nice clothes on instead of the ugly baggy clothes I have had to wear I feel horrible. Counting down the days.. 17 days

  • June

    Posted: Sunday 16 November 2014

    im so happy I was able to read your posts. I broke my tibia and shifted the fibia off the top of the foot. I had surgery and I have a plate and 9 screws. The break happened on Aug 29 and surgery on Sept 4. Today is November 16. I went from a bandage cast to a hard cast and now a boot. For 3 weeks I was on my back and needed assistance to get to the bathroom. Now that the boot is on I use crutches. Doctor said to put full weight on it but it aches sometimes like a tooth ache.

  • Nic hall

    Posted: Friday 14 November 2014

    Over 19 weeks for me and I still cannot walk unaided or with full weight on my foot. I have 2 plates and 11 screws which only just now are showing through my skin as the swelling is only just started to subside. I don't know when I will be able to walk properly again let alone drive my car. I still have pain daily but of course nowhere near as intense as it used to be. I have to say the pain has been the most excruciating pain I've ever felt in my entire life, I cannot yet see the ending

  • David

    Posted: Thursday 13 November 2014

    I just got a really bad fracture on my left leg on November 12 2014 and I'm in 8th grade. Life feels different with a cast. I had the worst sleep that night

  • Margaret

    Posted: Monday 10 November 2014

    I also had a freak accident at home (garden hose and step) followed by ORIF surgery for 3 breaks with 1 plate and 12 screws. Two weeks after surgery exchanged splint for a boot but no weight bearing for at least 2 more weeks, likely more. Physio started 2 weeks ago and helps the flexibility. This cousin across the pond thanks diarist and commenters. It will be a long, hard road back but it helps to know others travel it too with grace and humor.

  • amanda barnetson

    Posted: Saturday 01 November 2014

    The lack of independence is awful. I have gone from a busy working mum of 3 children (who have been marvelous!)to sitting in a chair with my foot elevated constantly...i am a very active person, who enjoys going to the gym, I've lost just over two stone and am devastated by this injury at the risk of weight gain. The muscles in my right leg have severely wasted and my heel burns against the cas, especially at night when trying to get off to sleep. I haven't actually slept fully since the injury.

  • Dawn

    Posted: Tuesday 28 October 2014

    Oh! thank you for writing this! I broke my ankle on August 26. the doc doesnt want my tendons to tighten up, so I have pins, with no cast. I had a split for 10 days following surgery, only. I spent the first little while nearly falling often and wound up jamming the bad foot down every few days. My husband bought a knee scooter, which has been helpful for mobility. I have about had it with being a public spectacle everywhere I go, though! your diary echoes so much of my recuperation.

  • Jessica

    Posted: Tuesday 14 October 2014

    Donna sounds like you have a similar injury to me hope this helps take paracetamol 4 times a day and exercises four times a day even if its sore you must get your ankle working .go to pool remember to ice and elivate but walking will help get swelling down .I bought ASH leather boots on line a size bigger and put in hell insoles there supportive and comfortable look like converse they ve been great good luckb

  • Jessica

    Posted: Tuesday 14 October 2014

    Hi thought I d give you an update .Its 17 weeks since I dislocated an broke my ankle in 4 places .now walking with a slight limp .The surgeon described my condition as complex ankle reconstruction. So here s a few tips on recovery get to the pool and do your exercises in the water .get a pedometer and put it on every morning and watch your steps increase every day your ankle is going to be very sore every day while you work it keep going. Repeat every day I m getting better.good luk x

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