Life on the couch is full of challenges small and large.
My challenge of the moment involves sitting around with my leg up in plaster while it heals from an operation on my Achilles. The tendon has been split and 8mm of bone cut away.
The condition is a bony growth called Haglund’s Deformity, or ‘pump bump’. But I have never worn pumps. I can’t even tell you exactly what they are. But they’re bad for your feet, okay?
It’s 4 days since the 1 hour procedure that put me in this cast. It was a success, apparently, so I now have 2 weeks with my leg up before the great lump of plaster gets cut off so the wound can be checked and stitches removed. I then get a lighter cast for 4 weeks when I can be more active and less couch-bound.
A unexpected challenge of this situation is having to sit to pee. Doesn’t sound difficult and I didn’t expect it to be (others manage it) but keeping the cast off the floor (as directed) adds quite a trick.
At first I thought the reason I couldn’t pee was because, in fear of the stairs, I had waited too long and now couldn’t get my bladder to relax. Then I realized that by holding my right leg up, much like a dog, the resulting tension at the top of my thigh was making it hard to ‘let go’.
Doesn’t seem too bad, then, facing such trifling things while being on your arse for 2 weeks, thinking only about your next trip to the toilet. Life has been mad busy and doing nothing is a treat in so many ways. I’m not in much pain, the greatest discomfort coming from the pressure on my bum cheeks from too much lazing.
I’m being well looked after by generous friends and the greatest challenge has been building up my confidence going down stairs on crutches. After a couple of falls at the start I began to dread the unnerving feeling of hanging above the 4 steps picking the moment to drop down, one step at a time, with nowhere to go if a wobble started.
It was easy at the hospital with the big, wide steps the physio had me practice on. I whizzed up and down with ease. But these are narrow split-level steps, only 4 of them, but each must be negotiated one hop at a time on a leg that has spent its life following the lead of the other.
It’s all a bit of a surprise to my left leg and my muscles are straining under the effort to replicate the strength and stability of my right leg. Being laid-up all the time won’t be helping, either. I’m asking a lot of a body that’s laxing-out, I suppose.
The good old Tramadol also adds to the general challenge of being up on sticks. Slippy, slidey, wooze, wooze, grin.
Yesterday, I ditched that level of pain relief to try and get some clarity. It worked in more ways than one.
The big clarity came at 12:30am last night, when I awoke after a couple of hours in bed with an urgent need to let go of all that had been blocked-up inside me by the opiate: to be blunt (but coy), I hadn’t had a movement since the morning I went to hospital, and that concern was also driving my desire to can the painkiller.
I had tried many times, drank lots of water but nothing till that awful moment at 12:30 when I awoke sweaty and in urgent need of the toilet.
It is a particularly nasty shade of terror wobbling on sticks in the dark of night in fear of soiling yourself and the carpet.
My friends are good friends but there are limits.
My non-weight baring foot hit the ground several times as a struggled through the door, slipping and banging my way towards relief.
I slept well that night.
Today, day 4, I feel confident approaching the stairs which may be a result of cutting the opiate and moving on from constipation, or more probably because yesterday I got up off the couch every hour to do gentle laps of the house, educating muscles and brain.
And today, with my confidence a little greater I give myself the challenge of having a shower. I should have done it earlier but sitting on a plastic seat with a wet bum and big plastic bag taped around my leg doesn’t sound too appealing. And crutches on the wet floor? Hmm, can’t get my cast wet if I don’t have a shower.
Such are the challenges, small and large, of life on the couch.