Going Under The Knife…

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.

Look at that blond hair! (bottom row, second from right)

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and pain in his legs escalated, and he realized the shin-splints diagnosis didn’t make sense, especially since he was no longer active like he used to be and sitting at a majority of the day at a desk job.

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This shows his calf size almost 10 years after he stopped playing soccer, so you can imagine how they were when he was actually playing…

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.

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Chillaxin’ at Ryan’s parents house in AR for the 4th of July

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My alma mater, Furman Univeristy

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The Happy Couple!

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Epitome of a fun night!

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.

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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.

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Me and Ryan’s mom, Rhonda, waiting for Ryan to come out of surgery!

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Two and a half hours later, the surgery was over.

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.

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all wrapped up and ready to go home

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Finally home from surgery

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ice ice baby

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Unwrapped for the first time, day #3. Not looking too shabby!

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!

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Birthday cupcakes!

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Peanut butter, Chocolate (x2), and Red Velvet (I die).

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.

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It may look like he is sleeping, but I assure you, he is not. This is what ultimate pain looks like.

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.

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Oh hey there, hematoma (Day 4 after surgery)

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.

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Unexpected trip to the hospital. “So, uh, can we take these wheels home with us?” (Day 6 after surgery)

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Getting an ultrasound on his lower leg, checking for bloodclots

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So many buttons. So tempting to push.

Ryan has had great support from family, friends, and coworkers. People have brought over food, delivered gift baskets, and have sent cards.

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SO funny!

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Ryan’s best friends since elementary school (who are now married and expecting a baby girl!) sent him this awesome care-package

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Cookie basket from Ryan’s family in Arkansas

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“Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down…”

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So many cards… so much love!

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Ryan’s all-time favorites!

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Gourmet popcorn from Ryan’s grandma

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“I like tur-tels”

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.

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“Ryan, we want you, no scratch that…we NEED you, to come back to the office”

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!

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Goooorgeous!

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Melt my heart.

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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).

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PT at home. With Happy’s leash.

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“What is this using my leash for a non-walking purpose nonsense!?”

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“Don’t even try to explain. I’m not listening”

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More visits to the PT

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).

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Changin’ up the bandages. Right leg still draining quite a bit. (8/16)

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War wounds. (16 days post surgery)

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See the swelling in the right leg? Painful.

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Before putting sterri strips back on (8/16)

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.

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First trip hobbling outside… didn’t even use the crutches! (8/23)

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Success! (And babying that right leg)

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.

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Our latest follow-up visit, 8/23/12

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Right leg… looking so much better!!!

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.

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Out to eat to celebrate Ryan’s huge jump in progress! (8/25)

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!

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First time back at the wheel!!!!!!!!! 8/26/12

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!

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Man’s best friend. Woof. (Picture from 8/4/12)

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Someone was spoiled while I was off at work…

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Feeding the dog by candle light… because that’s what happens when Ryan’s bored…

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.

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Relaxing and elevating on the couch after his first full day back at the office! (8/27/12)

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Check out that hematoma… it looks WORLDS better! (8/27/12)

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.

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Going cross-eyed

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The final (first) draft! DONE.

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!!!!!!!!

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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!

16 Comments

Filed under CESC, Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome, Compartment Syndrome, Double Fasciotomy, family, graduate school, recap, Ryan, sick, the boy

16 responses to “Going Under The Knife…

  1. wow, girl! i feel like it must have taken you all of august to write this post, haha. i’m so glad he’s feeling better. it was really interesting to read about his surgery and journey to healing. i can’t even imagine the pain!

  2. I’ve seen your status updates on Facebook and Twitter and was curious what was going on. Now that I’ve read the whole story, it looks like quite an adventure you two have had this month. I’m so happy to hear that everything is starting to look up and the road to recovery is a slow and steady climb. I’m sending all of my healing powers your way!

  3. WOW the two of you have been through it!!! I am so glad that Ryan is going so well! I don’t know how you wrote 41 pages with all of this going on! You are amazing!! Sending best wishes to you both!!

  4. I am so happy that Ryan is doing better. You’ve certainly been through a lot this summer! Thinking of you both. 🙂

  5. Debbie Wyatt

    Finally we understand what has been going on. You are a good caregiver, Allison. Glad he has turned the corner and is doing well. Enjoy this weekend for your first wedding shower. So exciting! Tell your mom Hi and we plan to see you at the wedding in June!

  6. I am so glad you explained everything! I saw you posting things on twitter all month about his recovery but I had no idea what from and didn’t want to ask! So glad to hear he is doing better!

  7. Rhonda

    Thank you, Allison, for the honorable mention. And, also for a thorough recap of this past month since Ryan’s surgery. I was thrilled to be there during the week of his surgery and birthday, and it pained me greatly to have to leave on Sunday, knowing how much pain he was still enduring. I cried most of the drive home to Tennessee. I’m so happy to hear how much progress he’s made these past few weeks, and am in awe that he drove himself to work less than a month after the surgery! Wow! Thank you for being such a loving and selfless caregiver. And, thank you for any sacrifices you’ve made in order to look after his needs. Looking forward to seeing you both on Saturday. Love much…

  8. You’re really brave I’d be so scared

  9. And I though getting my wisdom teeth out was bed. You are so amazing taking care of him so well! I hope he is feeling 100%!

  10. Mel

    Wow I just found this post and I had to comment because when you began describing his symptoms, I knew exactly where you were headed. I’m sorry Ryan’s had such an extreme condition but it’s great news he is doing better; I’m sure you’re an awesome caregiver.
    I have anterior compartment syndrome – mine is chronic and comes and goes with exercise so I’m lucky in comparison, but it’s one of those conditions no one seems to understand. I always feel like I’m missing out because I can’t run for more than a few minutes without some sort of extreme pain. (thank goodness for 30 sec sprints!) Best of luck to both of you throughout this healing process!

  11. Pingback: Grad School = DONE! Time to Decompress. | Happy Tales

  12. Pingback: Grad School = DONE! Time to Decompress. | Happy Tales

  13. Racquel

    Hello, thanks for posting your story! I couldnt find anything about having compartment syndrome for a decade, as i have. Good to know what to expect guys:)

    • Hi Racquel! My apologies for only now getting to you (I’ve been horrible about updating this thing!) but if you have any further questions or want to know how Ryan is doing almost a year out from surgery, by all means, let me know! Good luck to you as you deal with CESC — it is tough!

  14. Lisa Lyons

    I found this on Google. My husband just had the surgery and he’s been on so much pain! I feel really bad for him. He’s in the military so it’s just us, no family it here :/. I hope his pain soon settles, just because there is only so much I can do having a 4 year old and being 8 1/2 months pregnant. Ugh thanks for the inspiration tho 🙂

  15. Liz

    Thank you so much for writing about this journey. I had double bilateral fasciotomies done about a month ago and had some complications due to a nasty hematoma too. So much of what i’m currently going through sounds just like Ryan’s experience. Nice to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

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