You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t been writing any 52 Hike Challenge posts lately. If you follow me on social media you may have noted that I have posted a few pictures like the one above. This orthopedic walking book has been my constant companion for the last six weeks. As you can imagine, I’ve not been able to hike and have had to pause my participation in the challenge. As much as I want to get back on the trail right now, I’ve made the decision to rest and properly address my ankle injury.
The Injury That Never Healed
The first time I can remember injuring my ankle was way back in middle school. [Holy sh*t, that was 20 years ago?!]. Between then and the end of my high school athletic career, I pretty much sprained my ankle at least once a sports season (basketball, volleyball, and track). Heck, I even sprained it once while trick-or-treating in 70’s platform shoes. I’m clumsy like that.
Due to the repeated trauma, my ankle never healed properly. I always pushed myself to get back in the game as soon as possible. I was horrible about wearing my ankle braces and didn’t rest enough. [Save the lecture – my Mom and doctors have that covered, lol] Once I was out of school, I didn’t participate in athletics frequently and only noticed pain during extended physical activity.
Over the years, I’ve done several rounds of physical therapy and even do regular ankle exercises at home to strengthen them. Still, my left ankle was not functioning as expected. During any long walk, hike, cycle, etc., I would feel sharp stabbing pain shooting up the outside of my ankle with every step. Being the stubborn mule that I am, I learned to deal with and push through the pain. However, that all changed when we started the 52 Hike Challenge.
At the start of our 52 Hike Challenge, I would rest for a bit when the ankle pain got to be too much. That was my tried-and-true coping mechanism. I’d find a downed log or nice rock and have a seat for 10-15 minutes. My ankle would get some rest, I’d watch the flora and fauna, and I’d be good to go for a bit. Unfortunately, by Hike 10 I was resting more than I was hiking.
A Fix, Not A Bandaid
After that Hike 10, I decided I needed to see an ankle specialist. I did some research on local orthopedists and made an appointment with one that was board certified and participating in Maintenance of Certification. [Side bar, I work in post-graduate medical lifelong learning. You all need to be checking to make sure your doctors are board certified and keeping up-to-date in their field through continuing education.] Anywho, I thought I would see the doctor and he would send me for another round of physical therapy.
Imagine my shock when he told me that I would likely require surgery to actually fix the problem. On top of that, my orthopedist said that I would likely need surgery to actually fix it. However, he noted that some people can see success with their peroneal tendonitis issues through immobilization. With that in mind, he fitted me for a walking boot and I went about life. After 3 weeks and no improvement, we added an internal brace to the walking boot. That, my friends, is a special kind of hell on earth. I was in near constant pain so we removed the internal brace and continued with the walking boot. In the end, we went back to the solo boot and continued for a few more weeks.
Last week, it was decided that I would need surgery. I have an MRI scheduled for next week so my orthopedist can get a better look at the damage. After that, we will know the extent of damage and be able to schedule surgery. Surgery was a last resort for me, but it honestly seems like the last and best option at this time. I’m trying to be the ideal patient by wearing my boot all the time (it itches, it’s hot, and ugh… it makes walking uncomfortable). Post-surgery, I’m going to make sure to take the time I need to heal properly so this doesn’t all happen again.
Post-surgery, I will be out of work for a couple weeks and off the trail for even longer. As a result, there is no way I can finish the 52 Hike Challenge in 2017 as I set out to do. I am disappointed but know that taking care of my well-being is much more important. So, instead of canceling the challenge, I am taking a few months to pause and will restart (number of hikes and timeframe) the challenge as soon as I am able. In the meantime, I will keep you posted on my progress and recovery.