Monthly Archives: February 2014

My New Ankle – The Countdown begins

Well, it’s not technically a ‘new’ ankle, although it will feel like a new one when it’s done!

I’m four days away from my operation to have the bones in my ankle fused.  Yesterday, I made the massive schoolboy error of googling images of the procedure and it’s fair to say I’m now shitting myself.  I’ve had plenty of operations in the past but I think as you get older, you feel as if the recovery leaves you that bit bit further short of where you were before.  My amazing wife Justine will always say that it’s all about the recuperation and physiotherapy, but deep down, I can’t get away from the fact that I’m getting older and will never be able to do what I did 20 years ago.

So how did it come to this?

I played a lot of football when I was younger.  Not to a brilliant standard but decent enough for me.  The West Sussex League mainly, with a bit of Hampshire League and a brief foray into the Southern League (one game actually, but in the same way that Carlton Palmer can say for the rest of his life that he was an England International, I can say I played in The Southern League!).  I got used to playing on Saturday and Sunday, with training on Tuesday and Thursday and I absolutely loved it!  I turned my ankle a few times with varying degrees of seriousness, but when you are in your twenties, it doesn’t really matter.  You run off the less tricky sprains and rest the more serious ones.  Physiotherapy for beginners.  I always used to play a week or two before I felt really comfortable but bandage, strapping and will-power saw me through.

The worst injury came in the summer of 1987.  I was 28 and the fittest I had ever been.  I was working really hard in pre-season and got my reward when I was selected to play for Andover in a pre-season friendly against Farnborough Town at left-back.  This was my chance to finally make the break-through into the First Team and I was having a decent game against a good non-league team.  All that changed when I went up for a header and came down fully on my ankle.  I felt a crack and horrendous pain, worse than anything before.  Because I was 28, single and obviously knew everything, I didn’t go to A&E, I just strapped it up and went for the tried and tested routine of ice/heat/ice/heat and so on.

I was never the same after that and psychologically, there was always a doubt in my mind.  I played on for years afterwards but never with the same intensity and even though I loved all the football I played, at whatever level, I always wonder what may have happened if I hadn’t had that bad one in ’87.

Fast forward to 2006 and I was in the middle of one of my periodic campaigns to gain some level of fitness.  I used to go running around Hedge End in Southampton and had a decent route mapped out – 3.3 miles, out and around, past Burger King, Pizza Hut and then back up past the chippy – oh the temptation!   I noticed my ankle was sore to start with, but after about half a mile it would calm down and all was good.  Trips to the beach and charging around putting up tents and dragging a ton of stuff onto the beach made it worse and at the end of that summer, I went to the Doctor.  He just advised rest, as they do, and I carried on just doing my thing.  The running died off but I did do a bit of cycling.  By 2009 it was bad again and this time, the Doctor referred me to the Podiatry team.  I had a support made but they also mentioned the dreaded word ‘arthritis’.

I was self-employed, working from home, so a slight limp and a bit of pain was bearable.  I just got on with things and took my tablets.  In 2010, when I started part-time work at Best Buy, I was on my feet a lot more and the ankle started to get sore again.  But not as sore as my left knee!!  So I had another problem to contend with.  When Best Buy closed and I moved to B&Q, both the knee and ankle got worse and I had a half-knee replacement in 2012.  The recovery from this was about 6 months, but after that I had no problems at all.  My ankle though, was getting much worse and I spent more time at the Podiatry clinic and the doctor.  After more tablets and more consultations, I saw a specialist, expecting him to say that they were going to make me a much better support, similar to the one that Andy Murray wears when he plays tennis.

The Surgeon however, dropped a bombshell, by saying that I needed an ‘Ankle Fusion’.  I wasn’t expecting this and didn’t really take in what he was saying.  I really DIDN’T want another operation but knew that it was the only option.  I was on too much medication and it wasn’t really keeping all the pain at bay.  To further confirm things, about three weeks ago, I got an episode of ridiculous pain that left me completely incapacitated.  To make matters worse, I was 150 miles from home on a training course, which made getting back to Southampton interesting to say the least!  Since then, I’ve had four more of these painful ‘episodes’ and I feel as if I’m (literally) walking on eggshells every time I get up from the chair.

So here I am, three days away from the operation and I face 2 nights in Hospital, 2 weeks in a semi-permanent cast, 4 weeks in a full cast (non-weight-bearing), then 4 weeks with a removable ‘space-boot’.  It will be a nightmare in many ways, not least of which the fact that Justine goes in for shoulder surgery the Monday after I go in, but that’s another story altogether!

I will be back, to tell the story of the operation and my recovery.