Tag Archives: Haglund’s Deformity

Cast Away

My 5 year-old daughter tells me its 6 days till Christmas. She’s very excited. But Christmas arrives early for me because on at 08:45 on Christmas Eve I get my cast cut off. I can’t wait.

I have come to hate the cast (and being on crutches).

At first I was so caught up in the novelty of hospital and the procedure that was performed 5 weeks ago to fix my Haglund’s Deformity and dodgy Achilles’ that I couldn’t wait to blog about the process.

But a day or two later, clear of the hump of a general anaesthetic and overnight-stay, I started to understand the nature of what I was going to have to live with until I saw any improvement beyond what I had endured before the operation.

I was on my arse with leg elevated for the first 2 weeks, getting up only to visit the toilet, something I managed with a mix of confidence and terror nursed, as I was, in a split-level house.

I fell on both initial attempts of the 4 stairs (going down, coming up). I didn’t hurt anything apart from my confidence, always falling to protect the ankle.

Actually using the toilet was a trial, too. Having to sit to pee just didn’t work well as the heavy plaster cast I had on my leg for the first week wasn’t to be rested on any hard surfaces which meant I was always lifting it with my quads, causing a tension near the bladder which meant simple relief was often elusive.

Because of the falls, and the jiggery-pokery of hopping around and down into position, (and the lack of true relief), I tended to make sure the need was pressing.

There were more falls, some landing on the heel of the plaster, but being on a mix of 4 different painkillers (9mm of bone had been cut from the heel and my Achilles scraped) I felt no discomfort even though the plaster on the heel began to crumble from the impacts.

One week after the operation the cast was cut off.

I was so excited, I took many photos (the cast coming off, my naked leg, the scar and stitches, the new, lighter fibre-glass cast), but despite my intention to blog about the process, I didn’t.

What was happening became something to be endured with good spirit rather than preserved in words. Yes, the new fibre-glass cast was much lighter and it made walking on crutches very much easier. The plaster cast had acted like a heavy pendulum weight, no-doubt altering my centre-of-balance, adding to the challenge. With my lighter cast I felt much more confident on crutches and stairs. The ache in my quads eased as a result and, best of all, I was able to stand when I peed without wobbling-over like an incontinent Weeble.

But that change was 4 weeks ago and I soon felt shackled and crippled: in no way better off. I was still observing things and writing in my journal but, much like a wounded animal, I felt a strong need not to advertise any weakness, to crawl away somewhere dark until the feeling passed.

I took a lot of photos from the couch over the weeks, on phone and camera, but I took none of me (and I’m not shy of a selfie). There is one or two taken by the friend who was caring for me. He had recuperated on the same couch last year and knew the process.

You just don’t want to know. You want it to be over.

Which is the peculiar nature of such a procedure: the benefit is not evident till after many months of disruption and discomfort.

In the days after the op I was very happy to have gone through the procedure as the pain that I lived with on a daily basis for the last few years was no longer there. I could sit or lie down without having to move my leg every 30 seconds to ease the pressure and pain caused by my Achilles’ rubbing against the bony growth on the back of my heel.

It actually took me a week to realise that that improvement was thanks to the regimen of pills, rather than the surgery. Hooray for painkillers, eh?

In fact, I won’t know much at all about any improvement until my first attempt to stand on the leg.

That said, I am looking at 12 months until 100% of the tendon flexibility is reached and full muscle mass returns in the incapacitated leg. I will be walking, running and standing before then…but it will be baby steps.

I am no spring chicken and my incapacitated leg is literally wasting away in front of my eyes. The purple cast that was tight on my calf when applied 4 weeks ago is now so loose I can slip my hand in beside my calf.


Last night as I sat watching Masters of Sex (very entertaining and a tad frustrating as a single man on crutches at the start of summer with the silly season approaching), I noticed that the skin at the top of my calf was hanging from my leg with the same wizened droop and pudge of an old man’s scrotum.

It takes great effort to find the humour in such observations.

Yes, it’s pretty amusing the first time you tape your leg into a giant plastic bag in order to shower while sitting on a plastic stool. But it takes quite a lot of effort and you feel very precarious hopping around on a wet floor with a bag on. The process quickly went from novel/little-bit-scary/touch-of-kink to being something you avoid as the effort leaves you sweaty and worn out (which isn’t the point of a shower).

I began to understand how those dogs with humiliating buckets around their heads feel.


I have tried to think of a moment when I felt glad that I have had the procedure. Apart from my deluded drugged-up moment, I can’t.

The cast feels like a sweaty cuff, a cloying shackle, and there isn’t an evening when I don’t fantasize about freeing my leg, just for a minute. I want to get some secateurs and cut the fucking cast off and let my suffocating leg breathe.

So why am I unloading all this frustration when I clearly want no one to know?

Because today, I fell at the top of stairs.

For a moment, I felt I was tipping backwards down the 5 steps that join my split-level house where I returned 2 weeks ago (my wonderful care-givers next door have shifted away). It was an awful and unexpected feeling. It’s nearly a week since my last fall (2 in 24 hours due to tiredness in leg and arms and mind) and I have become pretty confident, even being able to hop down the steps backwards …wearing a jandal (there are many hours to kill living by yourself).


I was so angry and freaked out by the feeling. I went down on that knee hard, but it didn’t hurt. The helplessness and sudden loss of confidence did.

I hated my situation. It wasn’t that bad but it felt it. I sat for a bit with my leg up letting it drain, then pegged along to the office to remove the cork and bitch about my lot.

I know my trials are minor and will eventually be for the better.

But I can’t wait to cast off my cast on Christmas Eve.

I will progress to a non weight-baring moon boot, remaining on crutches, unable to work or drive for another 6 weeks (really? truly? …how?).

Marooned in a moon boot at the busiest time of year, at least I will be able to free my leg at night and not have a dirty old cast dragged through the street in my bed. My right leg will be clean between the sheets as I will be able to shower my whole body without wrapping it in a plastic bag.

At least, that’s my Christmas wish.

I’m as excited as a 5 year-old.

Couched In


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.


View from the couch.


Post-op Blog


I must say that I wasn’t expecting to be awake and lucid so soon after a general anaesthetic.

5 hours ago I was lying in theatre waiting for the drip in my hand to send me off, chatting with the nurse who has a child in my daughter’s class, reminiscing about the school show the kids did last week performing the Pukeko Stomp in cute wee masks; joining in on the anaesthetist’s discussion about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call for people to reconsider a consumerist Christmas…then suddenly it’s 2 hours later and I’m with all the other post-ops, being reminded to breathe (that’s the morphine, love) and eating the yummiest lemonade ice-block I’ve ever tasted.

Where was the disorientation and distress I recall so vividly from my last general anaesthetic 40 years ago when I was 5?

I guess the drugs have got a lot better.

My bright red toes are sticking out the huge lump of plaster that will be my friend and foe for the next 6 weeks, while my good leg has a sleeve on it that keeps pumping up & squeezing my calf to keep things moving.

This is the easy bit. The recovery/rehab will be in 6week blocks…rather intimidating. The nurse who brought me up to ward said her husband also needs the op to fix his Achilles but the long rehab is such a hurdle (pun intended).

I’m not thinking about that right now.

I’m gobbling ham sammies and tomato soup, waiting for a visit from my wee girl, keen to show off my cast… I have a pen ready for her to sign it.

She will be excited.

4 hours later.

Well, I guess I was being a little sentimental. She was rather unsure about seeing me. Very wide-eyed and hanging back. Fair enough. I may be chipper but I’m not the looming, tall rumble-tumble Dad she’s used to.

Not sick or sad, but not quite right.
She was very keen to get down from our awkward cuddle in bed.

I imagine it will change when the surroundings are more familiar after I get home tomorrow. I say home. I’m actually going to the neighbours but that’s as good as home to her. She know’s where the boy-next-door keeps his felts so my bright white cast will be well-decorated after she gets back from school.

Can’t wait to see it.