Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Post-Operative Recovery and then there were Clots

November 13, 2012

It's been a while since my last blog post.  I have some pictures to show you, so I thought it might be time for an update on my recovery process.  As you remember, I developed severe blisters on my heels during the final 200 miles of my AT hike.  I made the decision to have the bone spurs removed by surgery, one at a time.  I did the first one - the right heel - last month.  The surgery went well.  The bone was chiseled down and ground smooth.  The Achilles tendon only had to be retracted by about 15%.  Recovery was going well until we discovered I had developed blood clots - deep vein thrombosis (DVT) from my ankle to the back of my knee.  It was a real complication that threw me for a loop.

Now I am on blood thinners to reduce the chance of the clots increasing or additional clots forming.  I have to wait 3 months to make sure no more clots form and the current clots dissolve on their own.  Needless to say, the second surgery is out of the question for now, if not permanently.  At least I got the worst one done.  I think I can deal with the left heel, as small as the protrusion is for now.

As of today, my heel has almost completely recovered from the surgery.  I have two more weeks before I can really put pressure on the leg and begin the physical therapy required to regain my strength and walking/hiking capabilities.  The ankle and foot are swollen from the effects of the clot(s), but that will fade with time I am told.  In the meantime the swelling will just have to come along for the ride.

It was a real shock learning about these clots.  But looking back, they may have formed initially when I got off the trail to recover from the Plantar Fasciitis.  Apparently one of the causes of blood clots is a dramatic change from activity to inactivity and that's exactly what I did while waiting for the PF to heal.  As pissed off as I am for this turn of events - after all, this was an ELECTIVE surgery that I chose for convenience sake - family and friends keep reminding me that were it not for the surgery I might not have learned of the clots before they became more of a threat.  Oh well, the search for a silver lining is always ongoing.

So here I am, trying to enjoy the boring rest and recovery while I wait for my body to heal.  Still, I am visiting the gym every other day to work on my upper body and that uses up some pent-up energy.

Here's the updated plan of action, assuming my recovery goes as expected:
  • In May of 2013 I will go to Damascus, Va. to attend the Appalachian Trail 'Trail Days' festival.  From there I will get a shuttle ride up-trail to Harper's Ferry where I left off.  I will then hike north-bound the remaining 1,184 miles to Mt. Katahdin and complete my AT adventure.
  • In the Spring of 2014 I am making plans to travel to Europe to hike an extended version of the Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James).  It is a set of pilgrimage trails, beginning wherever you want, and ending in the town of Compostello de Santiago in Spain.  The typical camino is about 750 kilometers long, starting in St Jean Pied de Port in France.  But I plan to start in Germany, travel through Belgium and France before connecting to the traditional camino trail in St Jean.
  • I have not yet picked a journey for 2015.  Any ideas?
Here are some photos from my surgical journey for your 'Ick-factor' and pleasure.......

Happy Trails.

Two weeks in a cast - time to be free
The vibrating saw actually tickles...
 All the padding has to be cut away...
 7 or 8 stitches, but the wound looks good, healing properly...
 Getting rid of the stitches, one at a time - first a good cleaning...
 Then snip snip snip...looks good.

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