Now that I’m at one month post-surgery, I can tell anyone who’s contemplating a bunionectomy what to expect. Warning: gnarly photos ahead; not for the squeamish (this means you, dear husband)!!
Day of surgery
We arrive at the facility at 7 a.m., where the TV in the waiting room is endlessly replaying recaps of last night’s endless presidential debate at top volume. This is one time I would give anything for Keeping Up with the Kardashians or any of the Real Housewives.
I’m prepped, changed into a gigantic dressing gown and stuck with IVs and other stuff to measure my vital signs. My blood pressure is very low (100/70) so I am either actually relaxed or a zombie, not sure. Luckily, hearing Trump did not spike my BP to lasting effect.
We talk to the anesthesiologist, who is extremely thorough and asks detailed questions nobody else has. I see my doc and it’s off to dreamland from about 9 to 12, when I emerge in the usual post-surgical fog. (Note: they use a general anesthetic since they literally don’t want you to move a muscle.)
Here’s my “before” photo. Pretty ugly, I know. That’s why I’m here.
Once home, I settle into bed with the following:
- Wedge pillow plus another old pillow under leg to keep elevated (also brought to surgical center for the ride home)
- Computer and cell phone
- Glass of 7:1 water/orange juice to stay hydrated
- Meds and saltines to avert opiate-related nausea
- Stack of magazines and book (the latest from the excellent Alan Furst)
- Rented knee roll-about scooter (mine’s a nice shiny red) and crutches for tomorrow.
Today’s about resting, following multiple instruction sheets, eating mild food and sleeping. Lots of sleeping.
No pain yet so nerve block must still be working. I take pain meds prophylactically every four hours to avoid it though. My main job is to alternate ice on/off every 30 minutes and keep moving my legs and rotating my ankle to prevent blood clots.
I’m not at all hungry until dinnertime, and still in a drug fog most of day. My poor husband has to do all cooking/cleanup/etc. and it’s going to be a long slog until I can contribute.
My foot is bandaged like The Mummy, and just about as shapeless.
I’m now taking ibuprofen only if needed. The pain block (Exparel) lasted 4 days and is a bona fide miracle drug. Getting around on the scooter is quite a production. It doesn’t have much of a turning radius and I have to keep locking the brake so it won’t slip. Once locked in position, it gives me a secure place to rest my leg.
Crutches require upper body strength so I’m lifting hand weights to help. I can touch down with my operative foot (partial weight is ok) which is better than hopping. But it’s a pretty exhausting way to get around.
I’m officially allowed to shower, which is a multi-step process beginning by removing my safety shoe and encasing my foot in a knee-high plastic bag that looks like a giant condom.
Funny, I never noticed before how high the “lip” of the shower is; trying to get over it with one leg is quite a challenge. My DH (dear husband) helps lift me in; once in, I’m fine. His back, not so much. We don’t attempt this again– back to sponge baths!
My heel and the sole of my foot are quite bruised. I resume taking oral arnica, which I stopped a few days ago, and start applying topical arnica too. Hope this helps.
First post-op visit
It’s 8 days after surgery. DH drives me and the scooter over to the doctor’s office. His nurse removes the bandages. The top of my foot is swollen and my toes look like fat little sausages. She tells me that swelling can take 6 months to a year to fully resolve. Oh joy. The incision is about 3″ long and is healing well but I can’t transition to a walking boot yet; the bone a little softer than ideal for full weight-bearing so I’ll have to wait and hopefully get the boot next week.
I bump up my calcium intake to 600 mg twice a day, having slacked off to once a day during the previous month. (Note to those of you anticipating having this procedure: Make sure to increase weight bearing exercise and check your vitamin D levels well before surgery since vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption.)
Pain is low level but I experience occasional throbbing. Ibuprofen at normal levels (a 200 mg tablet every 4-6 hrs as needed) is helpful. Sleep is more challenging.
By now I have mastered the multi-step shower dance: first, DH places a chair outside the shower so I can use the chair back as support. I ease in and sit on the shower bench and then DH moves the chair so the door can close. You do not want to be in a rush for this one! If my shower didn’t have a built-in seat this would not work, since I can’t balance on my left heel for the time it takes to shower and do my hair. Best plan is to alternate with sponge bathing for now.
2nd Post Op Visit
Big disappointment at Week Two: Although everything is healing well, my nice doctor wants me to stay off my foot for another two weeks to be on the safe side. We do not want the pins in there shifting around. Ergo, still stuck with the scooter. On the plus side, my triceps are tightening up from lifting and repositioning the damn thing every few minutes. And since the incision is almost fully healed, except for a couple of steri strips, I have a new cleaning option (sans giant leg condom): the tub!
This is way easier: position the scooter next to the tub, step in with my good leg, then lower the other one, making sure not to step down. All good.
Weeks 3 & 4
Continue to heal, no pain although bruised areas are still sore, and finally when I see my doctor at Week 4 he lets me transition to a walking boot. It’s very space-age, with a pump to inflate and deflate pressure. Unfortunately, the sole of the boot is 2″ higher than my regular shoe, so I am listing like a drunken sailor. But, I’m ambulatory! BTW, you can order a sort of platform thingy from Amazon called EvenUp. It looks a bit like a snowshoe and adds 1/2″-3/4″ height to your normal shoe or sneaker. My hiking boot is almost the right height so I’m not too uneven for the two days I wait for Amazon delivery.
My tasks at home are to exercise the toe by bending it forwards and backwards (ouch) to keep it flexible (3 sets of 10 reps, twice a day) and to cover the scar with ScarAway, a silicone patch you cut to whatever size you need to help prevent and flatten the incision. So far, I’ve taken four baths and it hasn’t budged.
After 4 weeks I’m still swollen around the ankles as well as the ball and top of my foot (an ace bandage leaves indentations) but I can already see improvement. Best of all, I’m now cleared to drive so I feel much more independent. Come spring, I might even splurge on some Jimmy Choos!