A Grim New Reality -My Steps to Ankle Replacement Surgery

To Help Others Understand–

I’m writing this blog to help those either going to have or are contemplating having Ankle Replacement Surgery. There’s not a lot of info out there on what to expect especially about the recovery process. What’s out there, a couple of good blogs about the entire ankle replacement surgery process and what to expect were written eight and nine years ago so some updating is in order. 

Here’s an entertaining one by Suzanne: https://myanklereplacement.blogspot.com/2011/03/day-after-tomorrow.html

And another by Christine: http://mytotalanklereplacement.blogspot.com/2010/10/introduction.html

I must say in reading some of the accounts, testimonials and talking with a friend who got the STAR or Scandinavian Total Ankle Replacement implant six years ago, I feel like a bit of a wimp. The damage to their ankles from bad fractures and End Stage Ankle Arthritis were much worse than mine. Some couldn’t even walk, couldn’t climb stairs or ladders and all hobbled around in constant pain even after surgeries or fusions.

My ESAA, End Stage Ankle Arthritis, is limiting. I can hike a couple miles but with pain even after taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen and rubbing in strong CBD ointment. Working around my cabin was difficult especially with forty acres of yard work to do. Climbing stairs and walking up hill was relatively easy, going down, another thing entirely. It affected my balance, was always sore throughout the day and especially at the end of the day. But again, unlike others worse off than I, it didn’t bother my sleep.

The Beginning of the End

A year and a half ago in the spring of 2018 Yolanda, my partner in life and crime, and I traveled to Morocco, Amsterdam and Ireland for six weeks. I’m a professional photographer. I love nothing more than to wander around exploring a new area with my camera. (Check out my website: www.dreamcatcherimaging.com)

All through Morocco and Amsterdam I was walking fine, feeling no pain, on my feet for hours a day searching the ancient tight alleys of the Moroccan medinas and along the beautiful canals of Amsterdam for meaningful photographs to add to my portfolio.

You never know what you’ll find behind the doors of the ancient Medina in Fez.
The Dutch enjoying a gorgeous spring evening on the canals of Amsterdam.
Spring near the historic village of Kells, County Kilkenny

Less than a week after arriving in beautiful Ireland things suddenly changed. My right ankle had been swollen for a while. Now though, it began hurting with every step, a sharp pain on the interior side of the ankle.

I took ibuprofen which lessened the pain but hiking long distances like I had been became difficult. And the pain persisted. We had an incredible trip. Weather couldn’t have been better. Our AirBNB hosts were all wonderful warm-hearted interesting people and I found a cornucopia of beautiful images. When I got back home to Vail  I made an appointment with my GP who took one look and sent me for x-rays.

I got a call the next day; “It’s not pretty.”, he said, “Seventy years of walking around on the earth.” and gave me some names of ankle specialists in the area. I quickly made an appointment with one who took a look at the x-rays, diagnosed End Stage Ankle Arthritis and said, “You need an ankle fusion.”. He shot my ankle up with cortisone, had his assistant give me an ankle brace and some shims and send me home to contemplate my new reality.

With that I got online and started researching fusions. I was in no hurry to have any surgery, never had one before and didn’t want to start now. I tried the brace, felt the cortisone help, ate ibuprofen and suffered through.

A Second Opinion

After about five months I got another cortisone shot which helped again for a while. Yolanda and I were going to spend some time in our condo in Scottsdale so I researched ankle docs there for a second opinion. After getting a CD of my x-rays, and this time armed with lots of questions about alternative treatments, I met with the doctor who basically gave me the same prognosis except with an either ankle fusion or ankle replacement surgery scenario. 

I asked about stem cells which he said were expensive, not covered by medicare and unproven. Syn Visc was a possibility but he doubted it would give me much relief. I had heard of PRP or Platelet Rich Plasma but he didn’t think it would be effective. He could give me more cortisone though and a prescription for a custom brace.

I had talked with my friend in Colorado who’d had her Total Ankle Replacement Surgery using the STAR ankle replacement and was very happy with it and her surgeon, Dr. Thomas Clanton of The Steadman Clinic, perhaps the top sports medicine clinic in the world. 

I had known of The Steadman Clinic since moving to Vail twenty-six years ago. There’s no questioning their expertise in sports medicine. Top athletes from all over the world come to get fixed. Skiers for knees, basketball players for knees and ankles, top football and hockey players for everything. Even ballet dancers come for their debilitating ankle and leg injuries.

Next, what I found at The Steadman Clinic and the decisions I made.

By Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

Copyright 2019 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

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