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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  • Pam

    Posted: Tuesday 07 April 2015

    I broke my ankle in 3 places in February last year. I was in plaster 6 weeks. I had private physio every week for months as NHS physio wasn't very good. My ankle now is still terrible. Without wearing my Sketcher trainers I walk very badly. They re the only shoes I can wear otherwise I have a terrible limp. I still take Codeine some nights and my ankle is very painful during the night and wakes me up. Any suggestions anyone? Has anyone had their screws taken out? My ankle is so stiff

  • grace luciano

    Posted: Monday 06 April 2015

    Broke my right ankle the lateral mallelous part got fractured, im now in 7 weeks and 4 days, will be back to hospital on april 8, 2015 to take away my cast. Your diary is a bjg help for me since i expect it will be a painful recovery but after reading your diary i will have more courage to face it. I will promise to love my legs and happy to walk, run and do yoga again...

  • clare

    Posted: Sunday 05 April 2015

    I just wanted to say, to those of you who casually mention your partners, in the blog and comments. Be very grateful, you cannot imagine what this is like without someone around. I an at the beginning of this difficult road back to walking, and live up five flights of stairs on my own. I would not take a partners help so lightly. Count that blessing.

  • Sheila

    Posted: Sunday 05 April 2015

    Thank you for this diary - as others have said, makes you feel that you are not alone in the experience of frustration and setbacks...but there is hope ahead.

    Broke my ankle in 3 places on Jan 23 in Mexico. 6 weeks in a fiberglass cast, now 6 weeks in an air cast with heel weight-bearing only. Hoping the next step is out of the air cast and full weight bearing...but know it will be slow. I've used a wheel chair and walker, I'm overweight so crutches were out.

  • carady

    Posted: Thursday 02 April 2015

    Thank you so much for writing this diary. It was great
    Reading something by someone who can relate to exactly
    What I've been and am feeling. It really helped me.
    I broke my ankle in three spots, my tibia fibula as well as
    The back of my foot. I still have aways to go but your
    Diary has inspired me and has given me motivation
    To keep going.

  • Helena

    Posted: Monday 30 March 2015

    Dear Dilys, This is fab. Thank you so much! I've recently injured my ankle and I'm struck by my lack of independence and the struggle to even have a cup of tea. This article was almost a release to know my struggles are not specific to me.

    I hope your recovery continues and wish you the best.

  • joan

    Posted: Saturday 28 March 2015

    Thank you for answering so many of my questions and giving me a timeline to refer to. broke 3 bones in my ankle Jan 18, surgery to place plate, screws. slipped on crutches and broke my wrist a week later. casts removed at 6/5 weeks, began walking with walker around house for a week, then around block, 10 steps walking 10 steps seated, and increased daily. Walking unassisted slow, Released to my part timejob at 8 wks. Hurts but keep up w exercises, ice, elevating. Be positive, pray, eat healthy

  • Carolanne

    Posted: Friday 27 March 2015

    6 weeks into a broken fibula and just had my lovely pink cast off. Thrilled to have my leg back but it is diminished and the ankle and foot are still very swollen.This post was great as it gave me patience and i know i am exactly half way to full recovery.The loss of independence is a big shock and i had alot of burning pain from about week 3 in my heel at night. Think it was partly weight pressure and also some cramping. Still using crutches but its so nice to rotate my ankle again. Best wishes

  • Chris

    Posted: Tuesday 24 March 2015

    Broke my ankle 1 jan2015 had six screws and plate plus a small clamp because my tendon had come away from the bone had operation two week in heavy plaster two weeks in light plaster two weeks in air boot four weeks physo still can't walk properly terrible pain on top of the foot and very stiff

  • Mary

    Posted: Thursday 19 March 2015

    Thanks for a great diary and posts. I broke fibula 6 wks ago- simple break. Cast blisters big issue for first two weeks but relieved with window cut in new cast. Looking back, first 3 weeks were big struggle. Shoulders & hands ached with crutches and I was very tired. Life was made more bearable with an office chair to swivel around the tiled floors, a shower stool & limbo cast cover and a high stool in the kitchen so that I could sit up at the cooker. Cast off today and tho shaky, I can walk!

  • susan Davis

    Posted: Tuesday 17 March 2015

    I broke my ankle new years eve, I was 6 weeks in a cast & after that 2 weeks in a pressure boot im now walking without the boot but ankle still swollen &painful.im elevating it as much as possible but I think it's going to take some time before I can walk normal again.
    The doctor told me it takes a year to get back to normal.

  • Deanna

    Posted: Sunday 15 March 2015

    This blog has been such a source of support and encouragement for me! Broke my left fibula on Feb 15th. I'm in a aircast with no weight bearing for 6 weeks. It has been 4 weeks today. It has been good for me to refer back to your story to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel! Thank you for sharing .

  • Carol

    Posted: Friday 13 March 2015

    I agree with everything I have read but found the following really helped me. I have a typing chair in the kitchen which allows me to go from fridge, to sink to cupboards and just stand when I need something high. To get a hot drink from the kitchen to the lounge, bring on chair to the work surface near the door, put a tray on the carpet, whilst on chair place cup on tray, stand up and push with crutch, slowly. This is also ideal for clearing bits up but you need a shiny bottom tray.

  • Michelle

    Posted: Wednesday 11 March 2015

    Really helpful to read the shared experiences! Spiral fracture to right fib & chipped tib..2 weeks ago, walking the dog! have had zero pain and feel confident that body is healing itself..due to lack of pain and good alignment I was reluctant to consider surgery - this led to a horrible experience with an orthopedic consultant (he was rude and arrogant) there is some instability in ankle but I said I would prefer to treat conservatively if he thought it would still heal so no surgery for me!

  • Roy

    Posted: Monday 09 March 2015

    Just fractured my ankle a week ago, when I put my leg down from the couch I feel a rush of pain and then it starts to swell and discoloration becomes present? Anyone experiencing this? Any solution?

  • Linda Hammond

    Posted: Sunday 08 March 2015


    I was walking on a broken foot for 3 weeks thinking it was a sprain and now have a cast because it was broken.
    I am 59 and very unfit no upper body strength.I find it impossible to use crutches or stand on one leg as I have no sense of balance.
    I am so lucky to have a wonderful husband and cannot imagine how people manage who live alone.
    I have spent four weeks sat pushing myself around in an office chair with the zimmer frame in front to help me to stand.
    Thanks to everyone here.

  • Shanthi

    Posted: Monday 02 March 2015

    I broke my ankle in three places 5 weeks ago.I had surgery to put a plate with seven screws in the fibula and two screws on my tibia. It was hard at first with only crutches, and given the pain, any jumping or sharp movement hurt. But the best thing that happened is getting a knee scooter. It enabled me to put weight on my knee and not all the weight on the other leg.This made a huge difference- made it so much easier to get around, using the NOVA knee scooter.Ask for it or rent one -worth it

  • Lori

    Posted: Sunday 01 March 2015

    This blog has saved my sanity. I slipped on the ice and broke my right ankle on January 27 in 4 places, and I have been non weight bearing since then. You can not imagine the magnitude of the situation until it happens to you. I am trying so hard to stay positive, but I have been unable to leave the house due to bad weather here in Pennsylvania. Snow, ice, and frigid temperatures have made it impossible to leave the house.

  • esha

    Posted: Thursday 26 February 2015

    Hi I broke my rt. Fibula in jan. Never thought I'd break any bones i had jus a wrap cast I have a plate&6screws jus got my ankle support. I'm scared to walk on it but i have to I'll start my therapy on apr fools day Lol so much for my bday weekend but I'll be back to my old self sooner then later thanks for the post...

  • Derek B

    Posted: Tuesday 24 February 2015

    Thanks for the marvellous diary. I slipped over on some ice three weeks ago and broke my leg in 2 places. Had ORIF last week, so
    virtually limited to bed rest & the sofa. Pain's gone off a little, but once I lower my foot below waist level it starts
    to swell up & change colour. Looking forward to next Fracture Clinic in 10 days. Biggest gripe is that there's no way of getting a temporary disabled car badge. I feel as disabled as
    anyone at the moment.

  • < 1 2 3 4  ...  18 >

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One step at a time: diary of a broken ankle

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

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