The next three months

After three weeks
Figure 2: After three weeks

After three weeks
Figure 3: After three weeks

Three weeks after the operation, I was discharged. By this time, I was walking around for 15 minutes or so at a time with the compression bandage on the leg. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it really began to get on my nerves, spending the 5-10 minutes to bandage the leg before the walk, and the same again afterwards to remove the bandages and to roll them up. After another week or so, I was walking something like half an hour three times a day. Walking for half an hour on crutches is hard work! Although, in fact, sitting with the foot down (but bandaged) is almost as good for the foot if not for your general well-being.

I hired a wheelchair to get about on. It took me a while to find one that had a high enough seat (I’m six foot five -- 1.98m) and the support for the leg. The one we found was not very new, and too heavy for my girlfriend to lift into the car. Fortunately, our flat is reasonable wheelchair-friendly. Initially, I couldn’t use the wheelchair on the underground on my own, simply because I hadn’t got the knack of getting the front wheels off the ground to get in and out of the carriages. With a good leg, it wasn’t that hard once I’d worked out what to do. I never managed it completely on my own -- sometimes the floor of the train was too high, but someone always gave me a push.

After four weeks
Figure 4: After four weeks

After four weeks
Figure 5: After four weeks

After four weeks
Figure 6: After four weeks

Four weeks after the operation, I was measured up for a compression stocking. This was to replace the bandaging that I had to do every time I wanted to go for a walk. Because my leg was very thin due to muscle wastage, and the foot was unusually big, they had to put a zip in it, and it took them over two weeks to make it. When it was finally finished, I was nervous about wearing it because I was worried that it was too narrow for the foot. However, the plastic surgeon put my fears at rest, and it is a big improvement on bandaging the leg every time. It takes me now perhaps a minute or two to put on, and ten seconds to take off.

Six weeks after the operation, I was measured for a foot support (the German hospital called it an Allgöwer). This grips, corset-like, between the calf and the knee and has a stirrup which goes below the foot, allowing me to walk on the leg, without putting any weight on the foot. It took a good week before I was comfortable getting it tight enough so that it didn’t slip, but not so tight that it didn’t restrict the blood circulation. Having got to grips with the support, it is a huge improvement over walking with crutches. By this time, I had lost the majority of the muscle in my leg.

Allgöwer
Figure 7: Allgöwer

Allgöwer
Figure 8: Allgöwer

Wot no muscle!
Figure 9: Wot no muscle!

The pressure sore that was stitched together became infected in two places seven weeks after the operation. The scar opened up quite a bit in one of them. One small place on the foot also became infected at the same time, but within a week, it had healed.

Since I was released from hospital, I have been able to work from home, thanks to a very understanding boss, and the wonders of modern technology.

Seven weeks after surgery, blood work done did not show raised levels for tumour markers. A cautious hurrah!

Progress with the foot seemed to be in stops and starts, and the weather made (makes!) a huge difference. I was able to have the foot down for an hour or more, four or five times a day.

After seven weeks
Figure 10: After seven weeks

After seven weeks
Figure 11: After seven weeks

After seven weeks
Figure 12: After seven weeks

Twelve weeks after the operation, I started using a provisional shoe, which looked like a big slipper. An orthopaedic shoemaker made a insole from a foam casting made from the sole of the foot. With a physiotherapist, I practised standing (on a set of scales) and then walking (with crutches) whilst only putting 20kg (50lbs) of my weight on it. Back on crutches! But with the foot on the floor, walking on crutches is much less tiring.

Up to then, I had always had to shower sitting down, because I wasn’t allowed to have the foot down without the compression stocking. After checking with the plastic surgeon, I took my first shower standing up for three months. Much better! Except that I could see just how far I still had to go when the foot started going red and swelling up. I finished the shower OK and the foot was back to normal within a couple of seconds of being up.

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