Whew, what a month this has been! I don’t even know where to start…
I guess some background would help!
Ever since Ryan was four years old, he’s been a soccer player. He played year-round on club teams at a national level, and his pipe dream as a kid was to be a professional soccer player.
By the time Ryan hit his late teens, his movement slowly became limited due to pins-and-needles type pain in his shins, surrounded by numb feet and extreme tightness in his calf muscles. Coaches and trainers always told him he suffered from shin-splints, so Ryan never complained, thinking what he had was not a serious issue.
Fast-forward 10+ years, Ryan wised-up (ahem, and met me) and realized that maybe it wasn’t normal to have pain during every-day activity. Little things such as walking through the grocery store, climbing up stairs, standing on his feet for a few hours, and even shifting gears in the car became a challenge.
As Ryan matured into his adult frame, the tightness and pain in his legs escalated, and he realized the shin-splints diagnosis didn’t make sense, especially since he was no longer active like he used to be and sitting at a majority of the day at a desk job.
Ryan has spent the past three years visiting different doctors here in Charlotte, and it wasn’t until he saw Dr. Greenapple this past spring that he first learned of compartment syndrome.
When Ryan googled “compartment syndrome” and read the symptoms, he nearly fell out of his seat, as everything described on the page were things he had been experiencing for over a decade. Even more startling, some of the severe effects of the syndrome include loss of limbs and even death, so he knew he couldn’t afford to let it get any worse.
Ryan was diagnosed with Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (CESC) back in April, as the doctor performed the pressure test to determine how serious his case was. Turns out, Ryan was a “worst-case” scenario, needing all 8 compartments relieved. (You can read more about CESC, the different compartments in the leg, and the actual surgery in this academic journal article, here).
After a summer trip to visit his family in Arkansas, a few work trips across the US (he’s been traveling with the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team for work – lucky guy!!!), and a wedding the last weekend in July, Ryan’s schedule was finally free enough to accommodate surgery and the long recovery to follow.
About a month ago – August 1st, to be exact – Ryan underwent a double fasciotomy on both of his lower legs. This surgery aimed to “relieve” all 8 muscle compartments under the shin and calve area of his legs.
We were counseled about just how invasive and traumatic the surgery would be, so we made sure to prepare ourselves mentally and garner as much support as we could.
They told us short-term recovery would take one month to be walking again, and 6+ months for a full recovery. Now that we are about one month out from surgery, I’d say that is exactly right!
Ryan’s mom came into town the day before the surgery (July 31st) and stayed with us until August 5th. His surgery ended up going about an hour to an hour and a half longer than they expected.
When the doctor came out, he said that when he cut the muscle fascia of each compartment, Ryan’s muscles immediately expanded out to where they “wanted” to go. The doctor said the surgery was definitely going to work in Ryan’s favor.
Ryan’s surgery consisted of 6 incisions that were 6 inches long, each. Two on the outside of each leg on the calve muscles, and one on the inside of each leg. That’s a total of 36 inches of open wounds – three whole feet. THREE!
Ryan’s lower legs were basically held together with stitches and lots (and lots) of bandaging. Talk about painful.
Needless to say, it was such a blessing to have Ryan’s mom here with us for the first few days after the surgery. She was such a great support, and she even got to be with Ryan on his birthday (August 4th) – the first time they’ve spent his birthday together since early college!
The first two weeks were quite brutal for Ryan, pain-wise. He was given hydrocodone, but that only took the edge off the pain. The pain was so bad it would keep him from sleeping, so he felt pretty exhausted 24/7.
Also, Ryan developed a pretty nasty hematoma on the inside, right calf incision on the third day after his surgery, and it’s still there even now.
I even had to leave work and take him to the hospital unexpectedly the Tuesday after his surgery to make sure he wasn’t suffering from any blood clots.
Ryan has had great support from family, friends, and coworkers. People have brought over food, delivered gift baskets, and have sent cards.
His co-workers even organized a “gorilla-gram” (aka, a singing telegram) that completely surprised Ryan one evening after I got home from work. The pink gorilla delivered a pretty clever telegram one of Ryan’s supervisor wrote.
Ryan also made sure to let those taking care of him know how much he appreciated them. He went above and beyond to show me how much he cared by surprising me with flowers when I got to work one day!
Anywho, back to Ryan’s recovery.
The whole hematoma thing has been the most painful part of Ryan’s recovery process, as it’s presence is keeping him from being able to put pressure on his right foot, therefore making walking quite the struggle. If it weren’t for the hematoma on his right leg, he would be much closer to feeling himself again.
Thankfully, physical therapy has been helping out quite a bit. Ryan always looked forward to his PT appointments as it was the only time he got out of the house (riding in the car was *super* painful due to his legs not being elevated).
We had a follow-up appointment with Ryan’s doctor on 8/16 where we learned Ryan might need a second surgery to alleviate the painful and seemingly growing hematoma on his inside, right leg. If the wound didn’t heal up by our next follow-up appointment on 8/23, they were going to go back into that inside right leg incision and drain out the hematoma (shudder).
War wounds. (16 days post surgery)
A few days after that follow-up appointment, Ryan really took a turn for the better. I’d say it was about 8/21 or 8/22 when he started to actual stand up on his own and attempt to “hobble” around. Leading up to this time, he had been scooting around everywhere on his butt (well, by everywhere, I mean to the bathroom. He hadn’t been in the kitchen since July b/c he couldn’t stand up, and he’d been sleeping on the couch b/c getting up on the bed was too painful).
Needless to say, this whole standing up and hobbling business was a HUGE improvement, even if he wasn’t really putting much pressure on his right leg.
Ryan even attempted to go outside and grab the mail.
We had a follow-up with his doctor this past Thursday 8/23 to see about that second surgery for the hematoma. Thankfully, because the incision the hematoma is surrounding has officially stopped draining the doctor decided to wait out the hematoma and let it dissolve on its own. Ryan said he’d rather embrace his hobble and be limping for a few months than open up the incision again to extract the hematoma.
Since our follow-up visit with the doctor this past Thursday (8/23), Ryan has gotten exponentially better. On Saturday (8/25), we ventured out and got him some new running shoes (for support, not for running, ha!) and later that evening we went out to dinner to our favorite Mexican joint.
Sunday, Ryan offered to drive our rent check down the block (his first time driving since July!) and he declared that it felt the same as sitting on the couch… no extra pain!
And on Monday? Ryan has had his biggest achievement yet!
He drove himself to work and had his first day back in the office!!!!! (Ryan’s been working from home for the past week since 8/20 – and before that, he was on short-term medical leave. Let’s just say Happy has been in heaven this past month having him home all day– talk about quality time!
I am seriously so proud of the huge progress he has made since last Tuesday/Wednesday when he was last scooting around our apartment to get everywhere. It broke my heart into 1000 pieces seeing him in so much pain. I even broke down crying in the car driving to work one morning because I had to leave him when he was in a state feeling so, so sad (early August). Seriously y’all. Seeing loved ones in pain is one of the most heart-wrenching things. I am so, so thankful that those first stages of recovery are behind us.
Whew, what a ride August has been!
Ryan is doing so, so much better than he was at the beginning of the month… but we still have a long road of recovery ahead of us. We’re now facing a lot of nerve pain (like, extreme shooting pain up and down his lower legs all the way to his toes, sometimes coming from nowhere, and other times due to our dog body slamming herself), and the doctor warned that this nerve pain can last a few months, to even a year or two. We’re hoping for the best, though. Only time will tell!
So yes, as you can see, August has been quite a busy month.
It’s actually been quite the challenge for me to balance everything.
On top of working full time, finishing up my 140-hour practicum, and taking care of Ryan, I’ve spent the past month trying to write the first draft of my Master’s Paper.
Trying is the key word, here.
It was due August 21st, a self-set deadline I established for myself knowing I wanted it done and out of the way before my two Fall classes started on 8/21/12. (The final paper is due November 21st if I want to graduate in time, and we have to go through a few drafts before turning it in).
When Ryan’s complications came about, my attention to schoolwork completely fell by the wayside. In fact, I don’t even think I started writing until the 18th of August. My focus was completely on taking care of Ryan and getting him to and from all of his physical therapy appointments and follow-ups with the doctor. Well that, and working. I’m only human.
Thankfully, I have a super-understanding advisor and she told me to just turn it into her whenever I could. So, after spending this past Saturday (I was up until 4AM) typing and editing away, I finally got my paper turned in Sunday evening! All 41 pages of it.
I can’t even express into words how good it feels to know the first draft is done. I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling.
Also? I’m pretty sure I need a vacation.
Thankfully, we have something fun to look forward to this Labor Day weekend. Ryan has gotten the “ok” from the doctor to travel to Cincinnati with me (he’ll be elevating in the backseat, probably feeding Happy peanut-butter with a golden spoon from a crystal bowl), and we are attending our first wedding shower!!!!!!!!
We are both *beyond* excited and can’t wait to be surrounded by friends and family and relax after such a trying month. Only four more days until we hit the road!