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Sharing the story of my peroneal tendon surgery and recovery on my blog has put me in touch with so many amazing people who are going through a similar process. I recently shared my “Year Later” recovery update and am happy to share that I’m finally in a great place with my recovery. I hope that post will encourage others who ended up with not so ideal outcomes. When reaching out to me, people most often ask for an update and then tend to slip in a question about what tools I used during my recovery. So, I’ve decided to write an entire post dedicated to this topic!
Preparing Your Space for Surgery
Get your ducks in a row! ;) For real, though… plan your recover, get your tools, subscribe to Netflix, and borrow some audiobooks from your local library. You will thank me later!
Ease of Access is Important
If you are like me, you will have weekly post-op checks and then will be heading to physical therapy several times a week. Each of these trips requires you to exit your house, enter a vehicle, and drive to your location. Believe me, you will be exhausted after each of these trips in the beginning. Know that I would be making this many trips made me nervous about venturing up and down the stairs in our three-story above grade townhouse. I knew I would be most comfortable recovering in our bedroom. However, our master bedroom (and both guest rooms) is on the third floor. That meant two flights of stairs each way and that wasn’t going to work for me.
Next, I looked at making our living room my recovery space. This is on the second story and would only require one flight of stairs each way. I like the idea of being on the same floor as the kitchen and television. However, I would have to navigate one step up to get to the kitchen from our sunken living room and would have to navigate down a half flight of stairs to get to our half bath (townhouses are weird like that). The half bath also presented a problem because I would have to go to another floor to shower.
So, we turned to our first-floor to find a solution. The first floor is all on one level and would only require one step to get into and out of the garage. It also has a full bathroom so I would be able to shower without climbing stairs. The main problem with the first floor is that the “bedroom” is really small and a third of it is taken up by a built-in desk and bookshelf combo. So, we ended up turning our never-used den into a dorm room sorts that would serve as my living and sleeping space for the next several months. Before my recovery, the room was most used by our dog as that is where he had access to his doggy door. Other than that, it was used to store unused furniture and exercise equipment. We were able to easily moved our guest bed (and one nightstand) from the third floor to the first to set up a makeshift bedroom in the den.
Outfit Your Recovery Space
I knew my husband would be home with me during the first week and half of my recovery, but after that, I would be on my own during the day. So, I needed to be able to fix myself breakfast and lunch, get to the bathroom as needed, and most importantly, entertain myself. Once Hubs got home after work, he would take care of dinner, would watch tv with me in the evenings, and then would crash with me at night. While it was great having him by my side for half the day, the other half had me really worried at the start. The following tools are what I used to help me get through this recovery.
Get “Dorm Room” Basics
The first thing we did was purchase a mini refrigerator/freezer combo from a local online resale group. (I’ve included a similar one below in case you are interested.) This purchase allowed me to keep cold water, snacks, microwave lunches, etc. close at hand. We borrowed a microwave from friends (again I’ve included a similar one below). We also set up some folding chairs for visitors and used a tray table as an actual table so that it would fit our small space. I also made sure I had access to a TV, our Tivo, and Netflix.
|Combination Mini Fridge and Freezer||Small Microwave||TV Trays||Folding Chairs|
After getting the big items on my list, I then turned to the little things that would make my life easier. First up was disposable plates, bowls, and utensils. I know they are horrible for the environment, but I didn’t have any way to easily clean dishes. I did opt for plastic-free versions that were a little more expensive, but better for the environment. Loading up on snacks and quick meals came next and I tried to get a variety to keep it interesting. However, by the end, I was living on GoMacro Bars and Nutty Buddy’s. I ensured that I had bottled water, again convenience beat out sustainability because I couldn’t get up to make multiple trips to refill my reusable water bottle. Lastly, I secured reusable ice packs. At first, I tried the gel ice packs for the sake of convenience but they don’t stay in one place easily – like on an elevated ankle. So, I ended up with ice trays and these reusable ice bags because they fit better around my ankle.
|Natural Round Disposable Plates||Disposable Wooden Cutlery||GoMacro Bars Organic Variety Pack||Reusable Ice Bag Packs|
Bring Me All The Pillows
I needed so many pillows to make my bed rest period comfortable. They helped me prop my leg up, sit up and read/eat, and get comfortable when trying to side sleep while elevating my ankle. While I’ve included all of the pillows I used below, the first one with the leg cutout was most critical! It’s not super tall but was enough to elevate my ankle while laying down. Also, when I would sit up, I would add sturdy pillows or the wedge under it to elevate it higher. My favorite part about it was that the channel to rest your leg in kept my booted ankle from turning giving me the stabilization my doc wanted.
|Milliard Foam Leg Elevator Cushion with Washable Cover||Wedge Support Pillows||Corduroy Bedrest||Acanva Pillow Cushion|
I am warning you all now, your foot is going to be SUPER gross after surgery. Your foot is going to be in a cast or a walking boot, it will itch, it will shrivel, and it will smell. Oh, lord the smell! On top of that, you aren’t going to be able to stand in the shower or soak in a tub. For the first week or two, I used the NoRinse bathing wipes and shampoo below to clean myself (think sponge bath). After that, I used the swivel stool (and the help of my husband) to easily get in and out of the tub. While in the tub, I rested my surgery ankle outside the tub on our toilet (it was convenient). Finally, I was so thankful that our tub/shower combo had a handheld showerhead with an extra long hose like the one shown below. It really helped me keep the water off my ankle.
|No Rinse Bathing Wipes||No-Rinse Shampoo||Carex EZ Swivel Shower Stool||Handheld Shower Head|
These supplies will vary depending on your surgeon and personal recovery, but these are what I used. I changed my dressing 2-3 times a day during the first two weeks. After it started to crust-over (TMI, I know), I cut it down to twice a day. Towards the end, I was only cleaning it once a day but was taking “regular” seated showers at that point and the water/soap that ran down my leg helped as well (my doc ok’d this). When cleaning my wound, I would use q-tips to gather the gunk around the incision before using the alcohol wipes to sterilize the area. I would then wrap the entire incision area (ball of the foot to my low calf) with these wide gauze rolls, before using the elastic bandage over the top to keep it in place. I found that the elastic bandage with the velcro closure worked best because it didn’t give me pressure points in the walking boot like the metal closures did.
|Care Touch Sterile Alcohol Prep Pads||Gauze Stretch Bandage Roll, 4 Inch X 4 Yards||Cotton Elastic Bandage with Velcro Closure||Q-tips Cotton Swabs|
Get Comfortable Clothing
After surgery, you will be in bed for a long time and comfort is going to be key. I wore athletic shorts or sleep shorts 98% of the time. This made it easy for me to use the bathroom, clean my incision, and adjust my temperature with blankets as needed. Ladies, I also lived in cami tanks with the built-in bra (like these: standard and plus). I found laying on my back very uncomfortable when wearing a normal bra after a few hours and these solved my problem.
Set Yourself Up for Changing Mobility
I know this post is focused on my peroneal tendon surgery recovery, but I’m going to detour slightly to share some pre and post-surgery device issue. I spent about 3 months leading up to surgery in a walking boot. My first boot was from the surgeon’s office and wasn’t comfortable at all due to my large calf muscles. Honestly, the folks at the office had trouble getting it on my leg and adjusted. We eventually decided (do not be afraid to speak up!) that a shorter boot would be best for my body. Once I got my first walking boot, I did ok. I even learned to sleep in it. While it worked, it wasn’t super comfortable. After reading reviews online, I ended up ordering the Aircast model shown below. It was much more comfortable on my leg and the top angle worked well with my calf muscle.
With a walking boot that finally worked for me, I also picked up a shoe balancer to help me align my right foot height with the walking boot. IF YOU BUY ANYTHING ON THIS PAGE, get the shoe balancer!! I didn’t get one for the longest time and the uneven gait messed up my back and hips!! I also found this knee scooter super helpful for giving my arms a break during the non-weight bearing period. I even used the basket to do small loads of laundry, pick up quick items at the store, and carry around my laptop when I eventually made it back to work.
|Aircast Walker Brace/Walking Boot||EvenUp Shoe Balancer||Steerable Knee Scooter Knee Walker||Adjustable Aluminum Crutches|
Visiting Restaurants and Stores
The first time we went out to eat in a restaurant was a milestone for me. We purposely pick a restaurant that we knew wouldn’t have a line at the time we would arrive. This served two purposes: avoiding standing for a long period of time and being able to secure a booth. I was on crutches my first time eating out post surgery and hobbling through a packed restaurant wasn’t going to be fun. Our plan let us get seated early and allowed me to rest and (somewhat) elevate my ankle on the booth.
It took me a long time before I felt comfortable going to a store alone. Eventually, I just needed to get out of the house and just went. I took my knee scooter for in the store and my crutches for getting from the trunk (where I stored the scooter) to the driver’s seat. It worked out pretty well, even if I could only grab what I could fit in my little basket.
Tips for Success
• Check Craigslist and online resale groups (Facebook Marketplace or local online buy/sell/trade groups) for items you may need for your recovery. They often have them at discount prices.
• Give yourself a solid week before you allow visitors to drop in. I was SO out of it my first week and don’t remember most of it, including a visit from a friend.
• Do you physical therapy homework. Just. Do. It.
• If something doesn’t feel right, speak up. Talk to your surgeon or physical therapist. They can and will make adjustments to your treatment plan.
• Understand that your recovery is about convenience for you and your family, not the environment. It nearly did me in to purchase so many single-use items, but it was worth it.
Catch up on Other Posts about my Peroneal Tendon Surgery
• Learn about when my injury forced me to pause and ultimately abandon my 52 Hike Challenge.
• Read my post-surgery reflections and frustrations.
• Find out how my recovery is going a little over a year later.