The worst part about suffering an injury like a ruptured Achilles (especially on your right foot) is that you feel completely useless. And like most people I love my independence and the fact that I don’t require much from those around me. I just don’t want to inconvenience anyone, so I tend not to ask for help. But with my injury that had to change. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t drive, and couldn’t really get up from the couch to do much of anything. I had to deal with people constantly asking me if I needed any help, and in my stubbornness I usually said no. After surgery I was on some pretty serious pain meds for a couple weeks, so I was even forced to miss significant time at work. During that time I did what I could to try and stay useful, one day while I was home alone I even went around our bedroom on my hands and knees trying to make the bed. I was ultimately successful, but a task that normally takes 2 minutes probably took me close to 10 or 15 without the use of my legs. And I was sweating, so that wasn’t a great sign. Needless to say, most of my time off was spent binge watching One Tree Hill and dozing off during SportsCenter reruns. Even when I got back to work, I was pretty useless even though I had a desk job. Getting up from my desk just to get water or go to the bathroom now took me much longer than normal. And if I had to go to a meeting I had to leave a few minutes early because I likely had to go out of my way to use the elevator. Believe me, the smallest of things became increasingly difficult as a result of this injury.
Now, I’m really not trying to complain, I really just want to give a lay of the land for me at that time, and really just warn everyone away from attempting any sort of athletic movement when you’re suffering from Achilles tendonitis. Trust me, it’s not worth it. When my surgery was behind me and my initial 4-6 week healing period was over I was more than ready to start physical therapy, if for no other reason than I could start being myself again. But even while my eagerness increased, there was also a fair amount of trepidation, as much as it was an inconvenience to not be able to walk, I was worried about how my ankle would react once therapy started. I had never suffered an injury like this before. I’d had a couple broken collarbones and some sprained ankles, but nothing that ever required rehab, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. After the initial healing time, the next step was to put my foot in a boot and go through a brief transition time which meant I would use a large boot on my ankle, start putting some pressure on the injured ankle, and start physical therapy. But I would still use crutches for another week or two, just in case. This transition did not last long for me, I pushed as much as I could through it and really pushed myself through physical therapy. Every moment I could, I would try to walk without the crutches, putting more and more weight on the boot to improve my progress. Maybe I pushed a little too hard at times, but in my mind I was just doing what was necessary to get me back to where I wanted to be.
Once I ditched the crutches for good and could walk with just the boot, I was pretty ecstatic. Between that and my continued progress at physical therapy over a number of weeks, I started to think my recovery would be much quicker than even I could’ve expected. And when I look back at it through the prism of simply getting back to a normal life, my recovery was indeed faster. I was walking in the boot earlier than expected, and I was out of the boot and into regular shoes faster than expected. When I was just getting out of the boot, I even went out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, which was definitely risky considering the general state of mind one gets in on St. Patty’s Day. E (the Wife) and I also participated in a mini golf pub crawl, which carried many of the same risk as St. Patty’s and also added a fair amount of walking! While the ankle was definitely sore after these events, I actually wound more encouraged than anything because I felt good. I knew that the progress I was making was for the better, and the therapy was working. And for me and my now wife, E, this was incredibly important. Why? Well, because we were getting married tat August, not even eight months after I first sustained the injury. Right after the injury there was a brief moment of concern that I wouldn’t even be able to walk down the aisle or stand on my own during my own wedding. Not to mention the fact that our wedding was going to be a surprise, so we couldn’t even tell anyone about our concerns (yes a surprise wedding, another story for another day perhaps). Not even our parents knew of our plan. Not to worry though, it turns out eight months was plenty of time for me to get back on my feet. The wedding and all of the festivities went on without a hitch!
However, while my journey from crutches back to a more normal way of life was relatively quick and painless my journey back to the basketball court would be much longer and more arduous. After injuring my Achilles in 2014, I wouldn’t play organized basketball again until late in 2016. And I wouldn’t play in the Alumni Tournament (the ultimate goal) until 2017. The rest of this journey left me wondering if it was really worth it to play again, a thought that now seems ridiculous to me. And it also led me to respect injured athletes who make comebacks much more simply because of their mental toughness. But more on that in Part 3!