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

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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  • Kris

    Posted: Monday 09 February 2015

    Oh, thank goodness for Dilys' wonderful diary and the accompanying blogs! I had an op to fix my broken fibula 2 weeks ago and am now counting the days! The medics gave me very little guidance on leaving hospital, apart from 'Keep your leg raised'. In fact, the lovely guy who did the cAst was the most informative , stressing the importance of exercising the non-weight - bearing leg frequently, during the day. I had NO idea how limiting it would be - far worse than the replacement hip or knee.

  • Becky Mattson

    Posted: Wednesday 04 February 2015

    This diary made me cry and it was the first time I feel like I am not alone. I broke my fibula on December 26th and was given an air cast. Luckily no surgery but I broke it in 3 spots so I think it will be a long recovery. Was given approval to walk on it a little in the cast last week but this is the start of week 6 and walking even in the cast gives me pain. No driving has been the worst and living in Michigan winters does not help at all. Thank you for sharing.

  • Pauline Broadbent

    Posted: Tuesday 03 February 2015

    I am so glad I read this diary I broke my ankle and had a plate and screws put in. I am on my 5th week in a second cast up to my knee. I have experienced all the things she has and it made me feel so much better after reading your diary. Another 2 weeks and I should have my cast off can't wait to do physio and get back to normal. Thank you so much for making me feel better.

  • Beatrix

    Posted: Thursday 29 January 2015

    Broke my fibula right leg on the 2nd of January , had surgery but its all the same the lack of independence is quite something! Glad you are up and about. I can't even imagine this is me lying on my back with my foot on 4 pillows to keep the swelling down.strange thing is that the pain or discomfort is on the top of my foot just below my toes a numb and sometimes burning sensation . I can't wait for that to end.

  • Patrick K

    Posted: Thursday 29 January 2015

    Thank you for taking the time to chronicle your experience and journey to recovery. I broke my Fibula 10 days ago, and nice to know what to expect. I was not put in a plaster cast, but a velcro walking cast. The Fibula was a clean break, and was not misaligned. So that was good news.

  • Patsy Krieg

    Posted: Saturday 24 January 2015

    Oh my I am so glad I found this site. It certainly helps to hear what others are thinking. My cast came off a week ago after 6 weeks and doctor says it is healing nicely (1 plate, 9 screws) and can now begin to put weight on ankle. I have relied on a wheelchair (too wobbly at 69 years old for crutches) and a walker. But of course I overdid it walking too much one day because I felt so good and now have gone backwards and feeling pain again, so back to the wheelchair and a little walking each day

  • Diana

    Posted: Tuesday 20 January 2015

    This blog helped me better understand my healing time and yet scare the crap out of me. I broke my Tibula and Fibula while hiking just this past sunday. I was hiking with my four year old and my mother. It was a difficult path so I decided to pick up my son to help him get over and I ended up falling. I heard the crack and I hit the floor. My son is perfectly fine because he landed on me, as for my ankle doctor said I wont be able to walk for 12 weeks. I await the orthopedic dr tomorrow morning

  • Kellie McDonnell

    Posted: Monday 19 January 2015

    I broke my leg on the 31st October 2014 ,... They wanted me to have surgery to put pins n plates in ,.. But thankfully got away with it by promising the surgeon I would not walk or put pressure on my leg for 8 weeks ,... Reading your diary makes me more understanding that I need to learn how to walk again before I can run, ... I was hoping to go back to work next week but am going to give myself a bit longer ,... My leg is still swollen n sore especially when I've been on it all day xx

  • graham

    Posted: Tuesday 13 January 2015

    hi all, I broke my right tib and fib, plus broken ankle in one go march 1989 (aged 25).both malleolus (knuckles on the ankle) had broken away and broken in two.I was advised there was nothing left to screw the joint together, I was put in a full cast (toes to upper thigh) for 13 weeks. it took me another 6 months to recover fully and was almost a year before I could run again. all I can say is don't give up, do the physio and exercises. best of luck.

  • Linda

    Posted: Sunday 11 January 2015

    Thanks everyone for your posts, I broke my fibula, split my tibia and snapped my talus, after 7 hours surgery and 4 days in hospital, I am now home, having my 11 clips removed from left side of ankle and 18 clips from right side tomorrow. Already the frustration has set in, 8 weeks of "non weight bearing" ahead of me for starters. Was online checking things to do while recuperating and came across this site, helped me heaps, thanks again for sharing.

  • Maria Moorat

    Posted: Wednesday 07 January 2015

    Broke my fibula last Sunday and just wanted to know what to expect. Horrified that it will be 12 weeks until I can drive, have any semblance of normality. I am also very active, going to the gym three times a week and swimming daily in the summer. At least now I am forewarned. Thanks for the blog.

  • Susan

    Posted: Monday 05 January 2015

    This wonderful blog and comments are a true comfort! I fractured tibia and fibula on Oct. 14 and was lucky not to need surgery--just a monster orthopedic boot. Now I'm boot-free, beginning physical therapy, and able to drive and walk unaided. Here's a question: twice in the last week, I've stumbled and almost fallen. Once the damaged foot tripped over itself, and the second time I tripped over a branch in the road. Has this happened to any others? Are we more susceptible to repeat injuries?

  • 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.

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