My Broken Ankle Recovery Story

Positive Recovery

This is the story of how I broke my ankle and recovered from this fracture that should have left me limping for life, according to the doctors. It was originally published on a blog called MayJer Tales that we kept for a few years with Jerry. That site is not online anymore, but this accident was a huge turning point in my life, so I wanted to keep the story on my website.

It was written in 8 parts as I progressed from freshly injured, to surgery and finally recovery, and the biggest reason I absolutely wanted to share it here is because of the response I got from people going through similar experiences – people who were dealing with bleak prognoses and finding mostly horror stories online. If you’re one of them, this story with a happy ending is for you!

It’s here to show you that it is possible to have a positive recovery – and that it’s really within your power to create it.

(update for all of those who want to know if I’m still based in New Zealand: no – even though the accident happened in New Zealand, where we lived for almost 5 years, we left that country at the end of 2016.)

PART 1 – A Different Kind of Halloween (November 2012)

Wednesday, the last of October, started off fantastic. We were running full-steam from early morning, having breakfast while arranging the last details for our upcoming book 88 Kitchen Tales over Skype, and even managing to cook lunch in the meantime. Chaotic, but we were doing great. Jerry started work at 9 and I was meeting some friends for climbing around 10. Considering that the last time I went climbing with these girls we spent most off the day outside, I packed some lunch to take along (otherwise I’d spend the whole day on bananas). A little past 10am we[ were in the car and heading towards the Hospital Flat climbing spot. It was shaping up to be a nice day, with some wind but plenty of sun, meaning the temps would be in the 20s if all went well. After two months of indoor climbing, this was supposed to be my second time on a real rock. It’s totally different, I admit. More adrenalin, but falling can hurt a bit more as well.

The car is parked, our backpacks ready and we reach our destination after a few hundred meters of walking. Sarah gets out the routes guide and we decide on an easy thirteen to warm up a little. I put on my shoes and I’m on the rope and climbing first. After a few moves I start wondering how this could possibly be a thirteen, especially since the route begins with an overhang that still baffles me (very few good grips anywhere). First try; fail. I hang on the rope for a bit and think about where I’m going to put my feet, then go for it again. I almost get it when my foot slips, I fall, swing on the rope and crash against the wall. If it had been completely vertical, this would have caused a bruise at the most. Unfortunately, my right foot lands on the ledge. I feel a sharp pain, I yell out and they’re immediately asking me if I’m OK. The girls are used to me yelling out every time I fall on the indoor wall. But I’m not OK. Sarah asks again. I feel confident that I can continue climbing, but after a few seconds it becomes obvious that my ankle disagrees. Sarah lowers me down, I get a bit nauseous along the way and after two minutes my ankle is swollen up – it’s obvious I won’t be climbing anymore today.

The swelling doesn’t look too good and I’m still wearing my climbing shoes, which need to come off. I somehow manage, taking deep breaths and meditating on not feeling pain. After a few more minutes it’s only getting worse, so the plan is to go see a doctor. There’s a narrow path leading to our car, which is about 200 meters away. There’s a wire fence alongside it, luckily not electrified, so I can lean on that while I hop to the car. My good leg and left buttocks are immensely glad of the hopping and start cramping up along the way. We get in the car and in 15 minutes we are at the medical center, where Jerry is already waiting with a bag of ice and a worried look on his face. I tell him it’s probably only a sprain and he winces when he sees the egg-like swell on the outside of my right ankle. Ahhh… it’s only a sprain! I should probably mention now that I was planning to go to Dunedin in a week with Sarah and Claudia for the Circulation Festival. I was beginning to worry that I couldn’t go, but I told myself that it’s only a sprain after all, so it should be alright in a week. I’m going to Dunedin! (Well, I was right about that part, anyway.)

The egg-like bump on my right ankle and yes, laughter is the best medicine!

Wheelchair and a few minutes spent in the waiting room; I can be a bit clumsy when I put my mind to it, and I managed to spill the bag of ice that Jerry brought all over the floor. An elderly lady helped him pick the ice cubes up. Her comment? “All you need now is a little vodka to go with your ice!” Kiwis can be really amusing. Sally and Sarah come and join us. A few minutes later, the nurse comes to get me. Me and Jerry are both expecting to say goodbye to the girls, but we get a surprise! The nurse asks if my friends want to come along –  the more, the merrier! We roll into the room, I’m moved to the bed and my entourage gets chairs while we wait for the doctor. There’s a sign hanging by my bed saying that each every patient has the right to a chaperone during his consultation. If you happen to come in alone, one can be provided on request. Ha! Voila, instant friend for you!

I’m really happy the doctors don’t wear white coats around here. No matter how you look, those always put a person into a certain kind of mood, and it’s not a good one. A very friendly doctor takes a look at my ankle and sends me for x-rays. They do the front and the side view. When the nurse comes back she says “I’m sorry, but something seems to be broken.” I’m shocked and can’t hold back the tears. She immediately feels sorry for telling me before the doctor could look at the images, but I tell her I’m grateful. At least this gives me a few moments to process the information.

When I get back to the room Sarah and Sally notice at once that the news aren’t good. They’re just as shocked about my broken ankle as I am. The doctor repeats what I’ve already learnt and tells me I might have to go to the hospital, so she will ring them up and send my x-rays over to get their opinion. We wait. (Not very gloomily, though. I believe that laughter is the best medicine, so we crack jokes to pass the time.) The doctor comes back in the meantime, just to let us know she’s still waiting for a reply from the hospital. A few minutes more, and she’s back again:

“They want to take a look at you in Dunedin – you’ve fractured your talus and the break looks slightly misaligned.” Here we go! I’ll be in Dunedin a week earlier than I had planned! Just as I’m getting the news, the elderly lady from the waiting room passes my bed on her way out, tells me that she’s sorry about my ankle and goes: “Grab the chance to get some good drugs!”. Yep, Kiwis.

Hard to believe, but this was the most comfortable position for eating lunch.

PART 2 (November 2012)

The trip to Dunedin wasn’t exactly pleasant for me. The adrenalin which had flooded my body after the injury was slowly wearing off and my ankle was beginning to hurt more and more. I was determined not to take anything for the pain. I managed to last about half of the journey before it got too bad. I could feel all the hills and bumps in the road and braking or accelerating was a nightmare. After some paracetamol and almost 5 hours of driving we finally arrive to Dunedin where I’m put on a stretcher in the ED. The pain had intensified and I just want the doctor to come over as fast as possible.

A young doctor finally approaches and decides my ankle needs to be aligned at 90 degrees. I get a lump in my throat and beg him to anesthetize me for the procedure. They grant my wish and as I’m drifting off to sleep I beg them again not to make it too painful. A moment later I’m waking up feeling heat on my leg, but they tell me it’s just the cast setting. I’m transported to Ward 3B, changed into hospital clothes and I’m in pain.

Luckily, I get some morphine so I can fall asleep. The night is rough. I wake up every two hours to call the nurses and ask for more morphine. I’m in a room with three other women – one of them has nightmares and keeps talking in her sleep. Let’s just say she’s not very happy in her relationship and I hear things I didn’t really wish to hear.

Falling asleep with the new plaster on.

At about 7 in the morning my little toe starts to hurt. The cast has hardened and it’s apparently pressing on a nerve somewhere. An hour later the toenail starts hurting as well. It feels as if someone was putting a blowtorch to it and the pain is getting unbearable. I ask the nurses to help and they try to spread the cast a bit, but it’s like a drop in the ocean. I talk to the doctor and tell him about the plaster problem. After about 3 hours, they finally cut and spread the cast so my leg can breathe. Finally! That’s cast number 2 open. They still don’t know how bad is my fracture so I’m sent for a CT scan. I’m left hanging for a while because they don’t seem to be sure whether to operate or not. I’m not allowed to eat or drink anything in the meantime. Considering I usually drink at least 3 to 4 liters of water a day, the dehydration is already hitting me heavily and they only put me on a small IV drip after about 24 hours.

Cast number 2: split open to make it bearable.

I was sharing the room with three other patients – but if you want some privacy, you only need to draw the curtains around your bed.

I spent most of Thursday numbed by morphine. Jerry comes and goes to my room and tries to make me as comfortable as possible.

Friday’s rounds: the surgeon, Dr Birks, comes to my bed accompanied by two other doctors (one of them the young one who saw me on Wednesday). They had a look at the CT scans and the fracture doesn’t look too good. The talus is not only broken; I’ve also skillfully managed to crush it so my ankle joint currently has about 4 or 5 extra fragments inside. Dr Birks tells me he’s not even sure whether an operation would help or not. The joint might be permanently damaged, but they could simply put a plaster on it and let it mend as best as possible. The pieces of the talus are only misaligned by 2 millimeters, which shouldn’t by a big problem and if the fragments begin to bother me they can always be removed later. I can’t hold back the tears anymore. After a five hour drive and waiting in the hospital for two days they are telling me that surgery might not be necessary and that I might never regain full sideways mobility in my ankle?!? That’s too much for my Friday morning. I cry and the three men by my bed have no idea how to react. Well, I guess every male knows the uncomfortable situation when a woman is crying and you can’t do anything to help. Looking back, the situation was a bit comical. They leave and the duty nurse comes to comfort me. Jerry is on the way to the hospital but he seems so far away at the moment. They also tell me that even if the surgery does go ahead, it wouldn’t happen this weekend because the surgeon is not available. I try to calm down and succeed after a while, when Dr Birks returns to tell me that he’s decided to operate anyway. They’ve had another look at my CT scans and surgery seems the best solution. Next week, that is. The plan is to put another cast on my leg and send me home, then I can return next Thursday for the operation. Ha! I can also decide to stay in the hospital if I want to, but it would probably be best to go home. Jerry arrives again and finds out about everything. We are both shocked. I’m leaning towards staying in the hospital and he would like to take me home so he can look after me. Because the operation is only next week I need a new plaster to immobilize my ankle.

The making of cast number 3.

They take me down to the fracture clinic around lunch time – Jerry is thankfully by my side. Because my leg has been free for more than a day the ankle has moved a bit and has to be reset to 90 degrees. Sick of the pain and scared of it, I almost break down and cry again, asking if they can put me to sleep. The funny nurse offers me laughing gas instead. I reluctantly take the mouthpiece and start breathing it in. After a few minutes I get a bit dizzy and the pain subsides. And since it’s laughing gas, I’m starting to laugh at things as well. I think they know that the patient is ready once she gets to this point. Jerry explains about the toe problems and the nurses promise to make this cast a perfect one. They set my ankle, I moan with a kind of pain that doesn’t feel like pain but really hurts at the same time, and I’m smiling. (Not because of the plaster, but the gas is really great). So there we go: cast number 3. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make it pink, but at least I got a pink bow to take with me.

First food in two days. Rice with chickpeas cooked in coconut milk, spiced with cilantro. I never thought I’d say this, but this hospital lunch was great!

You get a menu each day with your meal so you can tick your choices for the next day. Almost like staying in a hotel.

They take me back to my ward and me and Jerry sit around for a few hours (to be honest, I actually lie in bed) waiting for the plaster to set. I take a shower, before I leave they split the cast in case the ankle swells up while I’m home and I get some prescriptions. Jerry leaves about 100$ at the pharmacy, buying paracetamol, opiates, tramadol and some laxative – apparently the morphine and other opiates can cause constipation. Around 6pm we finally manage to get out of the hospital and head to Wanaka. I take 2 tramadols for the road to keep the pain down. Most of the time I spent in the hospital I was only half-conscious because of all the painkillers they were feeding me. I was dizzy and sick, or feeling that I had no control over my body. But we knew things would be better once we arrive home – around 10pm or so. Ahhh, how wrong we were! …

Cutting the plaster open before I head home.

Going home: new plaster, borrowed pillows and the initials of the doctor who received me.

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PART 3 (November 2012)

I’m sitting in the back of our Subaru feeling really happy we bought a big car. The leg inside the cast is supported by the two pillows I managed to borrow from the hospital with almost no hassle (I’m coming back to the same ward in a week anyway). I ask Jerry to drive very carefully, since every little turn makes me sick. I spend most of the time moaning – something between a meditative ‘om’ and painful ‘au’, which seems to make things easier for me. If you’re well, the New Zealand roads are awesome. If you’re not, they can be your worst nightmare. Let’s just say they’re a nightmare for both of us at this moment.

I ask Jerry to stop every few kilometers because I’m not sure if I’m going to puke or not. I keep asking him how far we’ve driven and it keeps being less than what it seems to me. What feels like 150kms turns out to be only 60. It’s getting dark and it’s obvious we won’t be making it to Wanaka by 10pm. Then, during one of the stops, I get an attack of some sort – I now believe it was withdrawal symptoms. Jerry looked it up online and found quite a few horror stories of people coming off morphine after a hospital stay. What’s worse: tramadol intensifies it. A perfect combination for our 300km trip back home.

When they were injecting me with morphine at the hospital it would get to my brain in a matter of seconds. I could literally feel the substance traveling up my arteries to the brain, followed by dizziness and the pain lessening off (unfortunately this lasted only two or three hours before I needed another dose). After that I would normally get very, very sleepy. In any case… in the car the feelings are similar, but much, much worse. I feel a tingling sensation shooting up my neck, dizziness and in a few seconds I’m feeling sick, I’m shaking and my teeth are chattering. To Jerry it seems like I’m freezing and he wants to turn the heating up, but I tell him I’m ok and that it would pass. I can’t even imagine how I must have looked like at that moment, but it felt like my eyes were turning up inside my head. I could feel a pounding in my leg and the ankle felt like it was going to explode. I managed to get a few sentences out through my chattering teeth to calm Jerry down. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be ok and how long the thing would last. Plus we were out in the middle of wilderness with no actual rest stops around. Luckily, I calmed down in a few minutes and we could continue on our way, but the attacks kept coming back worse and worse.

I spent the week lying down with my leg elevated.

The masterpiece on my foot.

At some point, driving for 10 kilometers without stopping was an accomplishment. I went through a few of these episodes, but at least after the first one we knew that they do, indeed, end at some point. Exhausted by this trip, we finally arrived home after traveling for 7 hours. I was in bed and asleep around 1am.

Then I woke at four. My body, unused to being still for such a long time, was growing really restless. Jerry jokingly asked if I wanted the barbells and I answer that yes, they would actually be nice! A short upper body workout in the middle of the night while lying in bed wore me out just enough that I could sleep for the next three hours.

The following week was spent lying down with my leg supported and elevated. The girls from the climbing gym kept dropping by, making the time fly faster, bringing me books, bananas and ‘sweet painkillers’… and of course, everyone who came to visit and ask if I needed anything was more than happy to grab a pen and draw something on my cast. There’s just something special about plasters and people appear genuinely happy to draw on them. Just like in primary school when someone broke something and then had the whole class scribble all over his cast.

Yeah, just like the Terminator, I’ll be back!

Like I said – people love writing on a cast.

I managed to keep the pain at bay with paracetamol until Monday, then it got too bad, so I reluctantly took some opiates as well. Like most patients, I’d gotten a ton of advice about laxatives and constipation caused by opiates. Hm, I guess it does happen to ‘average’ people. Why didn’t I have those problems? I eat only plant-based food and drink plenty of water (3 do 4 liters daily on average), so it’s simply impossible. I also decided I want to stay with smoothies during my recovery, since that’s the easiest thing to digest. My body has more important things to worry about than constipation. So my digestion is perfectly normal. Why do I even mention that? I just wanted to point out it’s not necessary to take pills when you really don’t need to.

As we’ve mentioned before, I was supposed to go to Dunedin on Thursday with Sarah and Claudia for the Circulation festival. So everything turned out well: I had to be back at the hospital on Thursday and they were going to the festival. We still shared the ride to Dunedin.

How to keep a bedridden person busy? Make her a do-it-yourself lunch – salad rolls.

PART 4 – The Operation (November 2012)

I was afraid of the trip back to Dunedin. I’ve already had a nasty experience coming home to Wanaka and for the past few days, my leg would start hurting every time I got up to go to the bathroom. I knew I would never touch tramadol again.

Sarah came to pick me up around 9am and Jerry menacingly told her she’d better drive carefully. Then we picked up Claudia and were off. It went better than I’d even dared to hope. I slept for half of the trip, we stopped for a long break when I did start feeling a bit sick, but we still arrived at the hospital in less than 4 hours.

Road trip to Dunedin.

To my surprise I got a single room with an ocean view all to myself! Well, not really – I couldn’t see the ocean from the window, but it would have been nice. Right after I arrived, some guy stopped by to ask if I’d be OK with students watching when they removed my cast (I was going for an operation the next day, anyway). I already knew by now that I had an interesting fracture. So I agreed although in the end it didn’t happen. I guess the fracture was a bit more serious than they thought.

My own room with an almost-ocean view.

I got a visit from a nurse that afternoon to talk about my experience with painkillers and she found it hard to believe that it could have been the morphine that caused such a reaction the week before. Hmmm… I remembered everything all too well, but I didn’t feel like trying to convince her. Then I got a visit from the hospital chaplain, but she realized after a few minutes that I have plenty of positive attitude for the operation to go smoothly without any divine backups. An hour later one of the doctors popped in to question me about my general health. We agreed that I shouldn’t get any more tramadol. Later, the anesthesiologist came by. An amusing person, we spent more time laughing than talking. He asked me how I manage to survive as a vegan in New Zealand, when their meat is so good. Easily! We also decided that I’d get a block in my ankle in addition to general anesthesia, so my body can recover faster. I wanted to avoid getting a spinal block, because that would mean getting a catheter as well. Thanks, but no thanks, unless it’s essential to my survival. “If all goes well, the operation will be tomorrow at noon.” That’s how he left me to Dr Birks, my surgeon. He explained the procedure again and told me what he’ll be cutting and how he’ll do it. The final verdict: my talus is not only fractured and dislocated, there’s some fragments inside as well (which I already knew) and it’s cracked on the other side, to boot. They knew from experience it’s better to put another screw in for the bone to heal better, so that’s what I got as well. The ankle was opened from the inner side (main procedure) and then from the other one as well so they could get in the extra screw. In any case… a very interesting fracture for the doctors!

Little black dress… or blue, in my case.

I was nervous on Friday morning. No matter how you look at it, it was still a major procedure happening inside my body and what I feared the most was waking up in the middle of surgery or feeling pain while they operated. I got a sexy little blue “dress” around 10 to wear into theater and they rolled me out of my room around 11. Because I still haven’t signed all the necessary papers, I needed to wait for the surgeon outside the OR. Every person passing was admiring my colorful cast and the ‘happy toe’ that Sali drew on. I guess it’s not every day they get a grownup with a painted plaster. Dr Birks came and I half-jokingly asked him if he slept well. He answered that he slept great and I shouldn’t worry. Then he asked if I’d mind having students in the room while they operate. Of course not! I’m more than happy to share my interesting fracture. I signed the papers, the anesthesiologist (who seemed a bit unhappy over me getting breakfast – I guess the nurses weren’t following instructions) wheeled me in and in a few moments I was in the middle of the operating room. I really loved the energy in there. Everyone came to introduce themselves (I was so nervous I forgot their functions, but there were 2 women and a man in there in addition to the surgeon and anesthesiologist). We chatted a bit as if we were just sitting down for a drink. Then they put a mask on my face, told me to relax, and my last words were: “You’ll take good care of me, right?”. Darkness…

I do all sorts of things when I’m nervous – as do most people, I guess.

PART 5 (November 2012)

Pain, nausea, morphine, my room, 4 p.m. and the nurse coming in to take my pressure every hour after surgery. I slept badly that night. The nurse was coming in every two hours now and when I wasn’t sleeping, it felt like someone was trying to crush my leg between two rocks. An unpleasant pain that dragged on throughout Saturday. I spent most of the day crying – because of the pills, because of the pain and because Jerry was still 300 kilometers away. Saturday morning, around 7am, my little toe started hurting again. Same as the week before, it felt like someone was holding a blowtorch to my toenail and that the toe itself was about to die off. After a nightmarish 5 hours the surgeon came in and apologized for the pain (!), then they split the cast number 4 and everything settled down in a matter of minutes. The morning nurse was a ray of sunshine – comforting me and trying to make me feel better. Unfortunately, the afternoon nurse was more of a rain cloud. I was trying to get a wheelchair to go to the toilet, but she insisted I get up on the crutches. She finally realized I was being serious when I told her firmly that I wouldn’t move from the bed and walk around with an open cast. The night shift took a long time arriving. I asked them for some more pain killers and spent the second night a bit better.

Five horrible hours later my cast was finally split.

In the morning, just before his shift was over, the same nurse from the night before came by and talked with me for a while. He told me about his own broken ankle about a year ago and his experience with opiates. He said it was strong stuff and that the withdrawal would probably make me irritable and weepy (as I was already, in any case, but at least now I knew the reason). To be honest, this talk helped me get through the days ahead!

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Because my fourth plaster had been split open I needed a new one before going home. They squeezed me onto the waiting list at the fracture clinic and had me down in the plaster room around lunch time on Monday. I got the laughing gas again and so everything was funny for a while. I asked the nurses to take care of my foot and my little toe. Just like the last time, having the cast open for 24 hours had caused my ankle to rotate slightly. They had to realign it and set it at 90 degrees, but the pain was much, much worse this time. And, presto, I got my cast number 5! Unfortunately the pain in my little toe came back in the afternoon. I let the nurse know, but she told me I had plenty of room to wiggle my toes, so it shouldn’t be a problem. I don’t think anyone understood that the cast was squeezing my foot about an inch below the toes. So I tried to get some pens inside before the plaster hardened completely so I’d have a bit more space available. That’s how I spent the third night. Waking up, sticking a pen in my cast, hoping it would get better. Jerry arrived in the evening and helped me by making some cuts in the cast with his Swiss army knife. I felt like some spoiled princess and I think the staff weren’t taking me seriously anymore. I mean, who in the world could have so much trouble with casts being too tight? I’d had five in the past 10 days! I couldn’t wait to get home because we’d already made a plan – as soon as we got to Wanaka, Jerry would cut off a piece of the plaster so my foot could breathe.

Cast number five – that’s when I was still hoping it would be the last one.

On Tuesday morning I asked for the pain killers and the nurse brought me some codeine besides the paracetamol – this was supposed to be a better option. After fifteen minutes my muscles were aching all over (like coming down with a flu) and I was starting to feel sick. The nurse took my temperature and said that I was fine. I got a pill for nausea which went straight into the waste bin as soon as she was gone from the room. Then, after a few minutes, my diaphragm (or possibly my liver) started to hurt. I still don’t know how, but I managed to curl up in a fetal position and sleep for half an hour. This helped a bit, and when the doctor came by, we decided I’d go back to the paracetamol-oxycodone combo.

I was released on Tuesday afternoon and I could go home! And what do you know, I even managed to sleep a part of the way back.

On our way home: sun, my cast and my VIP seat.

That evening, just before we went to sleep, I asked Jerry to do something about my cast. I could no longer feel my little toe and I knew I couldn’t hold on much longer. With the help of a saw, his knife and some surgical precision, he uncovered a huge, red lump underneath the plaster. Ha! I wasn’t making up all the pain after all!

Unfortunately, things still weren’t back to normal next morning and because my heel was still tingling, Jerry took off some more of the cast. We finally decided to go to the Wanaka Medical Center in the afternoon. They made no fuss about taking off the plaster and leaving my leg in the open for a while. They made me a new one after about 30 minutes and told me to come back the next day if things don’t settle down. Luckily, things did settle down – about 7 hours later, the tingling was gone and cast number 6 (in 14 days) turned out to be the lucky one.

The result of Jerry’s midnight cutting, and the big red lump we uncovered.

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PART 6 – Project: Recovery (January 2013)

I finished my ankle tale a month ago with cast number six. Things weren’t looking very bright back then, but the human body is capable of withstanding quite a lot, and mine did just that.

Two weeks after my operation I was due back in Dunedin for a check-up. Both of us knew the road by heart by then. It was funny, the way I remembered it – mostly, I could recall all the turns where I suffered on that first trip to the hospital. And I’ll admit I was looking forward to a pink fibreglass cast that was promised to me. Dr. Birks decided otherwise, to my disappointment, but also good luck – I received a moon boot. He felt sorry I suffered so much with all the tight plasters they put on and decided a moon boot would be a better option. So after a quick look-over, they put one of those on my leg and off we went, back to Wanaka. The good thing about a moon boot is, you can adjust the tightness yourself. No more pains, squeezing, numbness… a great way to start a new period.

I began physiotherapy in the beginning of December (one month after surgery). Getting the foot out of the boot for the first time was horrifying, to put it mildly. Not because it would hurt, but because my whole lower leg just felt powerless. After a month of no use, the muscles simply stop working. The therapy began so gently, though, that I’m still grateful to Sheryl – it was just a gentle massage to wake those muscles up. We continued a few days later with some mild exercises and stretching… I started going to the pool as well, just to move the leg around while standing in the water. I could already see progress after two visits – the tendons started to relax a bit and the ankle got more flexible.

I took Project: Recovery very seriously. I massage my leg twice a day (at least thirty minutes), do my exercises and stretch it well daily. I felt the biggest improvement in the first week, then it slowed down a bit. Actually, I sometimes feel like it’s standing still, although Jerry and Sheryl think I’m doing great. I’ll have to take their word for it, I guess. Right before I started physio, I also read up on other peoples’ experience. A lot of them complained about the pains and having to take pills for that, and about their foot swelling up. Sheryl actually told me to be ready for it. What seems to be the reality of my recovery? No pain and practically no swelling of the ankle (it just changes color whenever I get up). Awesome, no?

It’s also great that I never found out about certain things, and Jerry, who did, felt it was wiser not to share them with me as I was waiting for my operation. A talus fracture, it seems, can be one of the nastier things that can happen to a human foot. Blood is supplied to this little bone by three different arteries, and a fractured talus might never regrow properly due to this supply being disturbed – the broken part can die off, putting the whole bone, and, ultimately, the entire foot, at risk. The internet is apparently full of stories of people who waited too long to have it surgically fixed, had three or four operations, received a bone graft from a corpse and are still suffering years after the initial injury. If I’d heard something like that before my operation (it was mentioned, to be honest, but I took that to be the mandatory worst-case scenario that doctors always give you), I would definitely have started my recovery feeling much worse than I did. But Jerry was right in keeping all that to himself – he only let me know about these possibilities once he saw that I was doing good and that I’d programmed myself to heal my ankle without problems.

Moon boot.

Sheryl, my physiotherapist.

I made some changes to my diet during this time, which I’m sure helped my body greatly. While I was lying in hospital, I decided to keep mostly to smoothies, because I felt this kind of food would be the easiest to process for my body and demand the least amount of energy that I would need to recover. The morning smoothies changed color – they became green. Why green? Greens have tons of vitamins and minerals, similar to fruit. A great way to start the day. One smoothie (usually containing 6 ripe bananas, 200 to 300 grams of another fruit and 250 to 300 grams of greens) gives me up to 50% of the required daily amounts of minerals. This seems like a good plan for a healthy organism, and an absolute necessity for one that’s been damaged. I’ve gone mostly raw and drastically lowered the amount of nuts and other plant-based fats. I may eat one cooked meal per day, but if I do, it’s usually very simple – a cup of rice, for example. This may sound very extreme to some. I’ll admit it would have sounded extreme to me as well, a year or two ago, but mostly because I didn’t have the required knowledge. Fortunately, we live in a time when all the information is freely available to those who seek or ask for them. But like the say – to each their own – I know that my own body currently feels phenomenal.

My friend Maja showed me a cream called Anaya Dermadol about a year ago. I’m a skeptic by nature, but both of us were surprised how effective it was for our various aches (strained muscles, small injuries…). When I started physiotherapy, I started using this cream on the ankle. Was it key to my recovery? Not sure, but I know the ankle is getting better each day.

I also began using an ointment called MEBO Skin Restore that Jools told me about – we found it at the local pharmacy. It’s completely natural and I use it on the surgery scars – its function is to stimulate the propagation of stem cells that can evolve into skin. It was funny, starting with it. For about two weeks I would feel something like a low electrical current running over my scar every time I put it on, which lasted for a few minutes. And after about a week of use I can already see a layer of fresh skin forming. Would this happen without this ointment? Not sure, but I think it helps.

Oh, and another thing… for 6 weeks after surgery I took a homeopathic remedy called Symphytum three times a day – it is primarily meant to aid in bone growth and recovery. Did that help? The X-rays they took of my ankle about a month ago looked great – the bone is knitting together well and, most importantly, looks to have an uninterrupted blood supply!

What next? I have another check-up at the end of this month (12 weeks after the operation) that will include a CT scan and, hopefully, the much-awaited OK to start walking on my right leg. Fingers crossed! Yaaayy!!

Green smoothies rock!

Banana ice cream with cinnamon sauce. Mmmmmm!

Symphitum C30 homeopathic drops.

PART 7 – My first steps after 3 months (February 2013)

The 12 magical weeks since my injury and operation have now passed. I had another checkup last Thursday, and we were both familiar with the morning routine: get up early (4am this time), leave early (5am) and drive all the way to Dunedin. This time it went by amazingly fast and we were at the hospital just a bit past nine. Come to think of it, it might have seemed fast because I was so busy taking pictures of the sun rising, the moon going down, the clouds changing colors…

I hopped on the CT table at 10am and then waited for my appointment with Dr Birks. It was mostly great news. Everything is healing ass it’s supposed to, the main talus fracture is fine, and if it weren’t for the two screws inside the bone, it would be hard to tell I’ve ever been broken and operated on. Isn’t that great? I think the human body is simply magical. It’s capable of healing virtually anything you do, practically by itself. Of course you need to supply it with the proper “fuel” for it, but everything else, it’ll do by itself. Great!

Well, apart from all the things that are ok, there’s another hairline fracture that hasn’t knitted yet. It’s because of this one that the doctors want to keep playing it safe. They’re not the only ones, though. I have been working on my patience for the past 12 weeks and walking without crutches will just have to wait for a while longer. But (!) I did get some great news: I can start putting 50% of my weight on my right foot, provided I have the moon boot on at the time.

So next day (Friday) I started walking, feeling immensely proud of myself because I was certain I was putting at least 30% of the weight on the foot. And it didn’t hurt at all! The moment of truth arrived that afternoon at physio, when I put my foot on the scale and pushed down on it with the same force. It went all the way up to about 5 kilos. Well, to be honest, it was more like 2, but it sounds better when I say “about 5”. What?! I was barely putting 5% of my weight on it! Uff, 50 seemed really far off. Considering my weight of 54kg, I should be putting around 27 on my recovering foot, and I stopped at about 5. OK… we made a plan with Sheryl: I’ll be starting with 10 and working up to 27 within a week. Done!

I currently still feel that 10 kilos is the most my body can handle, but I’m getting better. I kept hearing that my foot might swell up, but that doesn’t seem to be happening, and the pain is mostly bearable. It seemed logical to me that the whole leg would be putting up a bit of a fight after resting for 3 months, but I only feel a slight pain when I’m walking, best described as a moderate muscle ache around my ankle.

And as I mentioned in the beginning, if you supply the right “fuel” for your body, it will respond by gratefully healing itself to full health. I am currently on a mostly raw, fruit&veg diet (loads of fruit and plenty of leafy greens) and I’ve never felt better in my life. And even though the news we got at the hospital weren’t 100% great, we still managed to go on the best food shopping spree of the summer on our way back: watermelons, apricots, apples, mangoes, pineapples, peaches and avocado… Yummmmmy!

PART 8 (October 2015)

I can’t believe this month will be 3 years since my accident! So much has happened in this time, I learned a lot and most importantly, I helped a lot of people with similar fractures.

In 2014 I started with the Instagram page @maya.novak. I had no idea that so many people would find my experience so valuable. This page has grown into a real community and not long ago one of my followers wrote to me: To be honest the last couple of weeks have been the hardest, so it was very fortunate timing that I found you, and your Instagram postings have been really helpful.  In fact, just reading through what other people are going through; stages of recovery etc, have been brilliant. I feel really blessed that I’m a part of these tough times for so many people.

One of the milestones of my recovery was this year’s Challenge Wanaka. I did my first triathlon a bit more than 2 years after my accident. I’m sharing this part of my recovery story with you as well…

If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. - Broken Ankle Recovery Story Click To Tweet

Hey,

today I want to share a story with you (maybe a bit long one, but I really want to share this). We all have some personal goals we want to achieve, right? Yesterday was a really important day in my recovery… and maybe not just in recovery but in my life!

Before we moved to Wanaka almost 3 years ago, I was checking what kind of stuff is going on here. I realized that it’s a really outdoorsy place with a lot of sport events. One of them was the Challenge. I had never heard of the name before, because I was just familiar with the similar event called IronMan (you’ve probably heard of that one before, right?). I really wanted to see the event and my mind kept saying “it would be great to do it one day”. The Challenge is a long distance triathlon and consists of a 3,8km swim, 180km bike and 42,2km run.

We moved to Wanaka and that same year on Oct 31st I broke my talus; you probably already know the story. So, January 2013 came and I knew that Challenge Wanaka is coming. On the 21st, Jerry drove me down to the lakeside and we watched the Pros’ start of the swim at 7am. It was amazing and I was hooked. Jerry had to go to work, so I spent most of the day watching the event on live stream. In the afternoon we managed to go watch the first Pro finishing. I was fascinated with the crowd and how Wanaka breathed with the event. There were so many volunteers, so many families waiting for their loved ones and so many competitors. Some were doing it all by themselves and some were in teams. And I learned that it’s possible to do half the distance as well (1,9km swim, 90km bike, 21,1km run). Because my leg was pretty sore after jumping around for too long, I decided to watch the rest of the event on my computer. And I did – to the end. The last competitor came in sometime after midnight and I actually cried watching the last one coming through the finish line. It was unbelievable. Yes, I really wanted to do this. “Next year!” I said. Oh my gosh, how wrong I was! At that moment I didn’t know that a talus fracture takes such a long time to heal and that recovery can be really long. Maybe it was even better not to know, you know. A year passed and in Dec 2013 I managed to run for the first time. Well, it was a sort of a run – I ran for 10 sec, then walked and ran again. I had a really sore ankle the next day and the day after and the day after. In a way, I felt defeated, but I knew that my time would come and that my ankle will recover. I took a few weeks off.

I knew I wanted to do the Challenge, but there was an obstacle I had to deal with – I was not able to swim freestyle. I always wanted to learn, but never had enough courage to do it. I was always a breast stroke swimmer, a “dead body” swimmer, but never a freestyler. So, I got a swimming coach. I had my first session with Fiona at the end of January 2014. Months passed, I was in the pool 2 to 3 times per week and I did some steps forward, but definitely not enough to say I could swim freestyle. In July we went on our holidays for 5 weeks, and when we came back, I realized the pool was closed due to renovations for another 5. I was a bit scared to be w/o swimming for such a long time, but took that as a sign that I had to start working on my run. From Dec 2013 to July 2014 I rarely ran, but on our vacation we walked a lot and I had a feeling my ankle became stronger (I’ll skip the details of how sore my ankle was a few times – there were a few moments when I considered crawling to the toilet on all fours.) In Sept I said “it’s enough, I have to start running”. And I did. Slowly, but steady. I didn’t push it too much, but I pushed it enough that my ankle slowly became even stronger. Oh, and I was a bit too scared to damage my tendons. I vividly remember a talk between my PT and a guy waiting for his session and he said (I think he’s some kind of pro in running) that he managed to damage his achilles and took 18 months to be totally ok. That scared me enough that I knew I didn’t want to push it too much!

In Oct I talked to Fiona, my swim coach, and told her I wanted to do the Challenge (half distance). She looked at me, was quiet for a few reeeeeally long seconds and said: “Ooooookay.” I saw big doubt in her face, since I wasn’t able to swim 50m in a row, but I knew I wanted to do it and I strongly believed that my body will follow my mind and I would be able to swim that distance. It would probably take me more than an hour, but I wanted to do it. I had no idea how this would happen, but I kept my faith. Around that time I spoke with Sheryl, my PT, and told her the same. The reaction was pretty much the same and she told me that I could also do it in a team and somebody else would do the run. No, that wasn’t my plan. I knew that if I could do THIS, I could do anything. I had no idea how I would do it – my longest distance up to that time was around 3km. And yes, the run was the scariest part of this journey!

3rd week of Nov 2014 my body gave up and I started to swim freestyle for real. I was able to do 100m in a row and I felt like a champion. Fiona couldn’t believe her eyes and a week later she told me that she would write a program for me, if I still wanted to do the Challenge. And that’s how I started to train – 12 weeks before the event my mind won and my body gave up. I think this wasn’t just a result of my stubbornness, but the combination with visualization. I visualized myself coming through the finish line and everytime I did it, I started to cry. No one knows this (not even Jerry), but on most of my bike rides I cried. I cried because I saw myself coming through the finish line and because I was so grateful that my body is finally able to be active. After 3 months spent in my bed, after my doctors predicted that my ankle would be 60-70% functional and flexible at its best, after a loooong recovery, I was outside, riding my bike and couldn’t believe it was true.

On the 17th of Dec I applied for the Challenge (half distance – 1,9km swim, 90km bike, 21,1km run). My longest run up to then was 7km, I could manage to do 42km on a bike and I was in the 2nd week of my swim program. I was scared. What if I wouldn’t be able to do it? What if my ankle wouldn’t be able to do it? What if I wouldn’t be able to swim such a long distance? What if…? I applied. I predicted my overall time would be 8 hours and 8 minutes and I felt like I was cheating. No way that I would do it in such a short time. 8 hours felt like a fairy tale and I was more prepared for around 9 hours or maybe even longer. The day of Challenge Wanaka came! Yesterday, 22nd of Feb 2015, was D-day of my life. I had no idea what to expect, how long it would take me, if I would be able to finish and IF I would be able to walk the next day. I prepared the food for the day and repeated to myself one more time: “If I can do this, I can do anything.” The day was long and tough. I swam quite easily, the first 10km on the bike I cried because I was so grateful to have the privilege to be a part of the crowd (I think there were almost 1600 competitors – combining individuals and teams) and I couldn’t believe it when I came to the last part – running. I walked much more than I expected, but I did it. On 3.35pm I ran my last few metres on a red carpet and finished my Challenge. I started to cry, because I couldn’t believe that I really, really did it. I needed 7 hours and 14 minutes. I swam 37min, I was on the bike for 3h and 17min and managed to walk/run the distance of 21,1km in 2h in 54min. I won! I won for me and for you!

Thank you for letting me share this story with you. I had you in my mind during the day and I had in my mind all people who I managed to help with my advice and exercises for their broken taluses/ankles. Thank you for letting me be a part of your recovery! Talk soon xx

Maya

P.S.: If you don’t believe that I cried at the finish line, I’m sending you some photo proof 🙂

PART 9 (July 2017)

It’s been almost 2 years since I added anything to this story and soon I’ll celebrate my 5th anniversary. You probably agree that this story was long and I bow to you for reading all the way through to the end.

I’m over the moon with the response I’m getting on this. I never imagined that it’s gonna give so much hope to people like you. And if I already made your recovery a slightly better, it was worth putting it together.

A lot of things have changed in the last few years. The injury that should have left me limping for the rest of my life (to say the least) actually gave me an amazing opportunity to work with injured people.

Now I’m dedicating my time to help injured and courageous individuals, like yourself, so they can make positive changes in their journey and recover positively from their injuries. 

Their words about my work speak for themselves. I feel blessed to be a part of every single story. 

A few answers to the questions that are coming in constantly:

1. How is your ankle now?

My ankle is more or less back to normal. “More or less” because I still experience progress, even after such a long time. For example, earlier this year, when we were filming videos for the online program Iron-Built Flexible Ankles (the course with all the exercises you need to make your ankle(s) strong and flexible again), I was working out my ankle more than usual, and in a short amount of time, I experienced even better flexibility and strength.

Otherwise, I don’t have any problems at all.

P.S.: If you want to get a taste of the program before joining it, get access to my free online mini course 7 Essential Ankle/Foot Stretching Exercises.

2. Did you keep the hardware or did you choose surgery to get rid of it?

I still have the two screws inside my talus bone and they don’t cause me any problems. This is the reason why I didn’t decide for any extra surgery. If I’d experienced any complications, I’d probably think about it.

If you’re considering getting rid of the hardware and are not completely sure, here’s a video – Hardware Removal and Recovery – When Is A Good Time And Is It Necessary? – that can help you out.

3. Did you do any more races?

Yes, a year after the first Challenge Wanaka, in February 2016, I did another race and improved my time for almost 30 minutes. That year I didn’t feel my ankle at all, which was a super awesome surprise. But the weather was really challenging (extremely windy) which made the whole experience extra special (to say the least).

4. What ankle exercises helped you the most?

Anyone who is recovering from a broken ankle will tell you that getting back the flexibility and strength takes time and commitment. I started with very basic exercises (dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, inversion, and eversion) and slowly progressed to more difficult and advanced ones. These exercises made the biggest difference in my recovery and without them, I would not be racing and living my life to the fullest.

Here is an example of a simple but very effective exercise that you can do to improve your range of motion:

Want more? 7 Essential Ankle Exercises is a free video course that will help you improve the strength and flexibility of your ankle.

5. Do you think you were just lucky with your recovery?

I heard this one many times. If I had chosen a different kind of approach to my recovery, I wouldn’t be here today, writing this and talking to you. Of course, we will never know what would happen, but statistics for this kind of fractures are not really positive.

That being said, the approach I chose for myself and am now sharing with my clients (see question #5) does work. Honestly, I still don’t understand everything (I’m a life-long student of this process, and a teacher/mentor at the same time), but working on the mind-body connection gives great results to injured people.

6. What is the one thing you learned on this journey?

Injury recovery is not easy and only those that are going through really understand how bumpy this road can be. You truly feel like being on a rollercoaster and every day/week is a surprise. One day you can feel like everything is going great and you are standing on the top of the world, and the next one nothing is working and everything is sore.

The most important thing that I learned, especially regarding broken ankles, is to a) never give up and b) persist even when you don’t see any changes. The longer the recovery, the more subtle the changes. And when people don’t see big changes they give up on their recovery, accept that this is the end for them and that their ankle is never gonna get any better.

Talking with five years of personal experience, this is not true… unless you believe it is (see question #1).

7. I’d like your help – do you offer this as well?

Yes. I take a small number of private clients to mentor them through this challenging time. My work mostly focuses on the mind-body connection  (so this is more ‘internal’ work) with additional nutrition support that is adjusted to your injury and situation. To learn more, visit this page.

If you’re looking for more self-paced injury recovery programs, become a member of my Mindful Injury Recovery Hub and get access to those.

61 Comments

  1. Katie Carr

    So glad to not only find your story but to find that you are vegan as well! I too broke and dislocated my ankle. I missed a small step and ended up breaking my ankle in three places and needing surgery the following morning. I keep searching for articles about healing foods and supplements and I’m so glad to repeatedly see that a plant based diet is ideal for healing. I’m on day 4 since my injury and am trying to balance being a mom to three boys and being stuck on the couch resting! I know I’ll look back on this someday and it will be a distant memory but for now I’m trying to stay positive and know that even though I’m missing the boys’ field trips and all the great spring hiking – I’ll be back to it! And that resting and healing are most important. Thanks for the tips!!

    Reply
    • Maya

      Katie, I’m so happy that you found me! So sorry to hear about your accident and you have a great challenge in front of you – being an injured mum is not a fun thing, but you also have to know that it’s better to rest a bit more now (even though it’s hard) and take care of your recovery, so that later on you won’t have any problems.
      Regarding the diet – I wasn’t really taking any “regular” supplements (except B12), but I’m a big fan of whole foods, which I think are especially important during the recovery. Give your body the fuel that it needs.
      The good thing about this kind of diet is that you’re less likely to gain weight while not moving around – that was my concern, but it turned out that it shouldn’t be. You’re on a great path, Katie. xx

      Reply
  2. Gaelin

    I’m only 14 and I broke my leg. 🙁 the good news is as far as we know I won’t need surgery. It’s been a struggle everyday. But I really enjoy reading other people’s stories about their journey, it makes me hopeful of a great recovery.

    Reply
    • Maya Novak

      Oh, so sorry to hear about your fracture, Gaelin! ? How did it happen?
      Even though it might be hard at the moment, know that a great recovery is possible. And I’m really happy that you found this page – hope my story gives you that hope as well. ❤ xx

      Reply
  3. Robert Comtois

    Hello. my name is Rob and I am so glad I found your story, almost everything else I have heard or read about is so negative. My injury was pretty severe I was told by my surgeon with absolutely no bedside manners, my talus was broke in 3 pieces, all I was told was the worst, like possible amputation and that there there was no good prognosis for my injury and also that will live in pain. A story like yours gives me some hope, I get my cast of Friday feb. 10th and my accident was dec. 24th 2016. I was going up on the roof to fix my xmas lights and on my last step my later slid out from under me, so I quess I am lucky this is all that happened. Anyways thanks again.

    Reply
    • Maya Novak

      Hey Rob! Happy to hear my recovery story is helping you and so sorry to hear about your accident. Keep a positive attitude – it’s going to help you a lot in the next few months. And if you need some extra support, please join our support group “Injury Recovery BFFs” and get connected with like-minded people with similar experience. You can join it here: http://www.mayanovak.com/community. Much love xx

      Reply
  4. Sara

    I am in tears at the end of your story .. I have felt no one understands. I had 4 fractures in my ankle and 1 bone broke in 4 places . I had 3 surgeries and a long hospital stay to control my pain. I’m still in a boot 4 months later and barely walking with a walker . Thank you for sharing

    Reply
    • Maya Novak

      Sara, so sorry to hear about your injury! This has to be tough for you. I know that sometimes it can really feel that no one understands but please know that you’re not alone. I hope you found some inspiration in my story. Take it one day at a time – you’ll recover. xx

      Reply
  5. Sherry

    Here you find me one week post accident and post surgery. In tears as the pain is a 10 this morning. Thank you for sharing your journey as no one can seem to give me any time line for recovery. Please tell me this too shall pass.

    Reply
    • Maya Novak

      Sherry, so sorry to hear about your accident! Hang in there and know that your current situation is NOT your permanent destination! Yes, this too shall pass ❤

      Reply
  6. Kris Cornett

    My wife && I were hit by a drunk driver early one morning.
    she broke her leg, needing 9screws and a plate.
    she also cut her liver and broke 2 ribs. Was life flighted. It was terrible.

    myself I broke my talus bone && they were talking about amputation
    and the dr. couldn’t even look me in the face, while telling me this.
    I went and got another opinion, actually I saw my wifes surgeon.
    He has been great and I went through the same process as your story
    we have taken it slowly everyday but we have 3 daughters
    so we still have to handle life. Of course. I did everything
    I mean my wife really got hurt. I’m happy to say it has been 3months
    and yes, it is still a daily struggle but we are so much better then where we started.
    thank you for sharing your story!! you give me hope for the future.

    Reply
  7. Marcia

    Need more tips on bathing and if it’s normal to be soooo tired? Perhaps due to the fact I’m soon to be 56, fractured each side of ankle bone and in a cast since last week. Unable to use crutches as I have a hip that needs replaced and it can’t bare my weight – my ankle I broke is on same side I had a hip replacement- so it’s the opposite bad hip that’s trying to compensate and doing poorly. I have a wheelchair but it doesn’t maneuver all parts of my home so I have no choice but to use crutches or walker part of the day.

    Reply
    • Glenda

      Marcia, I found a great bathtub transfer board made by a company called Savanah. It securely straddles across my tub. I sit myself on the end of the board, then swivel my legs into the tubs. There is a side handle you can buy, so there is something to hold onto. I also bought a gizmo called a SuperPole, which is a floor-to-ceiling grab pole secured with tension – no drilling. It is by my toilet. So I feel like the bathroom is now safe for me.

      My story: Missed a step, bimalleolar right ankle fracture repaired with ORIF a week after the injury. I also managed to sustain an avulsion fracture of the fifth metatarsal on the left foot – so seriously hobbled. I am now 10 weeks post-op, and finally feeling like I will walk again someday. I started physical therapy as soon as the cast was off, and I highly recommend PT. I truly believe that the kinesio tape helped to reduce stubborn swelling.

      This has been an experience I would not wish on anyone, and sites like this have helped me to know what to expect, and also helped me feel less hopeless. Like many others have noted here, it is an emotionally exhausting experience as much as physical.

      I wish all a good recovery – let’s all keep the faith 🙂

      Reply
  8. Joel

    Wow great story, i broke mine last week from a fall off a roof, i just got over a major back injury now this, and im self employed tradie so important im able to function plus im very athletic only 26 and im so worried i wont be able to move or get function back. I have read so many stories good and bad i think your approach to your healing was insane with the dieting but im by far a vegan so your normally diet would sound crazy to me. Thank you again for your story even had a tear in my eye when i seen you taking your first steps again thinking about the simplicity of normally being able to walk again at this very early point seems like it will never reach 🤔🤔

    Reply
    • Maya Novak

      Joel, so sorry to hear about the fall. I can imagine it’s really hard for you right now. I hope you’ll have a fast recovery and will be able to return to your work as fast as possible.
      Just something to think about… I believe these kinds of injuries happen for a reason. Since this is your second serious one, do you think this can be another sign that something is not working in your life and it might be a good idea to change it?
      Wishing you the speediest recovery ever. Love xx

      Reply
  9. Deborah Greenstein

    Maya,
    Sitting here with both ankles broken during Hurricane Irma last week, raised up on pillows. One ankle much less serious than the other. One in moon boot, one in removable splint. My injuries aren’t nearly as serious as yours, but, although active, I am almost 71 years old. I appreciate your diet adjustment tips and patience. I feel as if doctors ignore my requests for info about physical therapy, and other exercises that I can be doing during my recovery, because of my age. Feeling ‘written off” as it were. Do you have any advice for us older semi-athletes/dancers?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Maya Novak

      Oh, Deborah, I can’t imagine how frightening this had to be – having both ankles broken during hurricane Irma. I hope you and your family are ok!
      So sorry to hear about your experience with the doctors. I highly recommend to start doing some exercises when you get the green light for that. Just keep checking with your doctor so that you know when you’re allowed to proceed with this next step. You can also check out my mini online course – 7 Essential Ankle Exercises. Physical therapy is important since otherwise, it’s pretty much impossible to get back the flexibility and strength. This, of course, is not the only thing to take care of – there are also diet and nutrition, sleep and rest, and working on the mind-body connection so that you can bounce back as fast as possible.
      Hope this help and if you’d like to discuss any of these in details, please send me an email – click here.

      Reply
  10. Zia

    Hey Maya and broken ankle family,

    I fractured my fibula 10 days ago while trying to teach myself to skateboard and have since been put in a moon boot. Last week the orthopedist said that I might need surgery because the fracture looked slightly displaced. However, they told me to come back in a week to know for sure. So this Thursday I came back over. They took X-rays and did a stress test on the ankle to see if the fracture moved under pressure and rotation which It does not. They told me that I’m surgery free and to keep wearing the moon boot for the remainder of the 6 weeks. They also told me to put as much weight as I can tolerate on the ankle and to begin dorsiflexion exercises right away. I am posting this now because I’m worried that it is too soon to begin moving my ankle as it’s been less than 2 weeks. Can you give me any advice at this time? It isn’t painful to put fairly significant weight on the foot.

    Reply
    • Maya Novak

      Zia, I can imagine this is frightening for you right now. Since the doctor gave you the green light for partial weight bearing, he/she has determined that your body can handle this. I don’t know how come she/he decided this after 10 days – it might just be the type of fracture you have. Know that weight-bearing leads to healing and an increase in bone strength. [1, 2]
      If you’re worried, consult with him/her again and ask for some more guidance and information about your fracture. xx

      Reply
  11. Gail Miller

    Fell in kitchen and broke my ankle.I am 72 yrs old .No major health problems except take medication for high blood pressure .I don’t really know the extent of damage but I had about 15 or more stitches on both sides of ankle .My question is why have I had no pain ,This happened 7 weeks ago .Everyone says I am very lucky and I agree , but still wonder why no pain ! I am happy you are doing well .I am still in a rehab facility .Thanks for listening !

    Reply
  12. Laura May

    Hi, I am REALLY glad I found you and your story. This is so inspiring to me. I am currently 13 years old, and I fractured my ankle (major) during wall climbing as well. I don’t think I am getting surgery. My ankle got stuck in a rope, and then snapped it completely. This is really hard for me because I am an extremely active person. I go on runs everyday, I swim, play soccer as a sport, and many other things. I love wall climbing as well. I still have 1 month to go, do you have any advice for me? By the way, after I get my cast off, I can’t do any physical activity for 3 months. Please help, you are such an inspiring person, thank you for sharing your story. You should send your story to TheEllenShow, no kidding! Thanks!

    Reply
    • Laura May

      Hey, it’s me again. I just wanna say that everything, treatment, cast, is FINALLY over. Maya, do you have any advice for physical treatment and therapy so I can get back on my feet and run as usual. Thanks, lots of love, Laura.

      Reply
      • Maya Novak

        Hey Laura May. Congrats on your progress! Woohoo – this is really exciting! What did your doctor say about physical therapy? Since you are a minor, your parents are probably taking you to the PT? Let me know. Yes, I do have a course with the ankle exercises, however, I think it would be best if I talk to your parents first. Would that be ok? Love xx

        Reply
  13. Lee

    Wow! What an inspiring story and so happy I came across it! A month ago I misstepped at the bottom of the stairs, fractured and dislocated my left ankle as well as spraining my right one! It has been one of the most painful journeys I have ever been through and would not wish it on my worst enemy. I could only have surgery two weeks after the fall as the swelling had to be reduced. I could not even go to the toilet.
    During surgery, 6 titanium pins, 1 screw and a 90 mm titanium plate was inserted!
    Bionic woman! Except that was the last thing I felt!
    Presently my ankle is still very swollen, and I do have a moonboot as well as a walker.
    I know this is going to be a very long recovery that requires, humour, love and support.
    I am so glad you had that all and have recovered so well.

    Reply
    • Glenda

      I also injured both legs – right bimalleolar ankle fracture with ORIF, pkus avulsion fracture of 5th metatarsal bone of left foot :/ Injury to both limbs definitely affected my recovery and amount of muscle loss, not to mention my mobility. My survival tools: rented power chair, used a walker to transfer from bed to power chair, bathtub transfer board (lookebfor Savannah brand on Amazon) so I could bath with standing, and SuperPole grab pole by toilet. I’m 5 months post-surgery – still limping a lot and stairs a challenge, but I am walking – and I wasn’t sure I ever would. Go to a good physical therapist once you are cleared for weight-bearing. Hang in there – no matter what you may be thinking, you will get better.

      Reply
  14. Guru Raj

    Most people lose hope but yours never give up is a hope booster.

    Reply
  15. Jenna

    Hi Maya. My name is Jenna. I’m 14 and had surgery on my ankle 3 months ago. I’m a competitive gymnast (broke ankle vaulting) ready to recover. I broke my fibula and talus bone. The talus fragment was removed and they drilled holes into my bone to grow. I was on my way to healing. I have been walking without a boot or crutches for a month now. I tumble on trampoline and do skills on bars, beam, and floor that involve no impact. It’s been easy sailing pain wise until yesterday. I did an aerial on the grass and landed all my weight on my surgical side. Stupid idea. My ankle is almost as swollen as it was when the injury initially happened. I went from running with a pain of just 2 to walking at a 6. My therapist expressed that my ankle seemed much more restricted and limited when he was stretching it. I haven’t told my mom or therapist because I don’t want to seem dramatic, but should I be worried that I might have done some more damage to my ankle? Should I ask my mom to make an appt. or wait a few days?

    Reply
    • Maya Novak

      Hey Jenna. Telling your mom and your therapist is not at all being dramatic! It might just be a shock for your ankle and it’s nothing serious, but since it’s just a bit early on in your recovery, it might be a good idea to check it out. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
      Let me know how this goes and I wish you an amazing new year! ❤

      Reply
  16. Sarah Hyland

    I have been reading this story over the past few days as I am now 6 weeks post op for bi-malleolar fracture (climbing accident – gahhhhh!) and am about to attend the fracture clinic in two days with the hope that rehab can commence.
    It is the rehabilitation that scares me the most: how long will it take, when can I drive, train, climb, pick up my children, commute to work, clean my teeth whilst standing on two feet…..it is very comforting to read about your recovery and other’s stories as there is a lot of negativity out there (can’t go out without being told about so and so who broke their ankle and now has lasting pain/limp/discomfort). I will continue to come back to your site and story to remind me that it is possible and to be patient with myself and others around me.

    Reply
  17. anyia edwards

    Hi Maya,
    On May 5,2017 I injured my right ankle talus bone just the same as you. Since then I’ve had some days better than others and have had an okay recovery process. I’ve read your story time after time and i use it for inspiration. I appreciate you sharing your journey and being a guiding light for others who may be dealing with the same situation. My only concern is wondering if you were able to wear heels and properly walk in them? My doctor told me that it’s possible but lately i feel as if it isn’t. Besides meditation and exercises what would you suggest for my healing process since it’s been 8 months since the injury?

    Reply
  18. Kristen

    Hey my name is Kristen. very inspiring story. I have a broken tibia and have been in a cast now for 2 weeks. Honestly this is embarrassing to say but the smell coming from the cast is getting quite bad, I asked the doctor about this and she said it was Normal. I am finding it very embarrassing and am very self conscious about it. Did your cast pose this problem? What did you do about it? Any tips or tricks for dealing with this would be appreciated. My toes are so dry it’s also irritating me very very much. I can’t put up with this for 4 more weeks! Help!

    Reply
  19. Gene

    Hi,
    I’ve been searching for a forum on talus fractures and came upon your posts. I’m also in the talus fracture club. I broke mine waterskiing and as the surgeon put it “in 15 years at metro hospital trauma orthopedics, never saw a break this bad. I had a 6 hour surgery and 7 months of non weight bearing. That was 18 years ago. However, pain is always near and fuseing the ankle is in my future. I liked reading about your ordeal. I could relate. Sorry you had to go through that.

    Reply
    • Maya Novak

      Hey Gene. Lovely to hear from you. I hope the fusion won’t be necessary for you and that your ankle won’t cause any problems in the future. Love xx

      Reply
  20. Nikki

    This story has been such a relief. I came back from studying abroad in Japan about a month ago, with plans to study in Korea for six weeks this summer. Just about 2 weeks after coming home, I slipped while turning a street corner and fractured my ankle in two places. I got surgery the next day. Tomorrow makes 3 weeks since the surgery. They’ve taken me off pain medication – was on oxycodone up until two days ago – and the OTC medication doesn’t seem to do much for me. I also have the moon boot now, and should be beginning to put weight on it starting early-mid April. I try to move my foot a bit every hour, and the pain scares me. Everything scares me. The doctor said I should be okay to go to Korea in late June, but I’m still scared of everything. The pain, the long wait to walking, the even longer wait to putting on a shoe, it’s all overwhelming. Reading this really did help. Thank you so much for writing this! I’m going to work hard to make sure I can get to Seoul like nothing ever happened!

    Reply
  21. Tasnim

    Thank you so much for sharing your story so determinedly.

    I teared while you took your first steps, mainly because it looked as if I was walking in that video.

    I’m trying to clear my limp now, and thanks to your journey I believe it can be done.

    You are a star.

    Tell us more about your recovery even if it is ten years down the line, you are special.

    Thank you again.

    Love, Tasnim.

    Reply
  22. Jarret

    I’m about 4 weeks post surgery on my shattered tallus requiring two plates and 11 screws. Didn’t take much coming off a double on my dirt bike. My left foot hit first. And Bam! I’m a pretty active 38 yr old male I haven’t had my second x-ray / ct yet. I’m Soo nervous. Thanks for giving me an idea on where this is heading. At the moment, I cringe thinking about putting weight on it. I googled full recovery tallus fracture stories and yours came up. So stoked for you. You’re very strong and seem to have a solid support team. Real impressive recovery story thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  23. Russ

    I severely fractured my ankle October 21/2017. Right now I am going on 8 months since my accident, and I am walking and going to work. My foot sure has its good days and bad for sure.
    Some days I can really walk and with no soreness or pain, and the next day it hurts getting out of bed. I really appreciate your story a lot because not many people understand the difficulty getting back to “normal” or new normal.

    Reply
  24. Leah

    This is a welcoming forum, and very happy to have found it. I fell from a small step and managed to break my left ankle in three places. Surgery was completed the next morning, and after one final nights stay in hospital I was released, with a cast. 11 days later the cast came off, and the stables came out, and I now have a boot, and purchased an I-Walk 2.0 (think peg leg). I still have another 4 weeks before I can start putting any weight on my ankle. I have been doing as much exercises as possible, given my position on the couch. (wiggling toes, leg lifts, stretches, etc). I can remove my boot from time to time, and will do some ankle “circles”, as much as I can). I too am a busy mom of three, and they have been my little helpers. (aged 6, 9,and 12). My goal this week is to master my peg leg, as I plan to return to work in another week. Like so many others here, thank you for sharing your story. During this unexpected turn in my life, it’s refreshing to see so many others willing to share their experiences. Being summer here in Canada, I find wearing a dress with pockets so very helpful! I can make a cup of tea in the morning, put it in a take out mug, and slip it into my pocket to hop back to the couch with, and stuff the other with apples, etc. It’s a small thing, but the hardest part of the last two weeks is not having my hands available!

    Reply
  25. Jackie

    Hello and thank you.
    I read some of this with tears, as I knew exactly how u were feeling! I’m only week 5 out of a three bone break and dislocation. Surgery has me with a metal plate, 6 screws and a big pin that needs to come out in two months time…. 🙁
    I know it’s going to be a longer road that even I thought possible, but I am filled with hope that I too can run and swim ‘normally’ once again.
    Thank you for telling your story, I am constantly after the reassurance that this is not a forever injury!!
    💖 fellow breaker xx

    Reply
    • Maya Novak

      Jackie, I’m sending you tons of love and courage! I’m glad our paths crossed 💞 xx

      Reply
  26. Evadne Bibby

    Thanks for sharing your story. It was encouraging. I broke my left ankle almost 4 weeks ago. I am a person who is always on the move so it was very difficult for me. Everytime I get up to go to the bathroom etc my foot gets swollen and the cast gets tight at that time. I also stick a straw inside it because of the sensation. I try to lift the foot up also to the left and right hoping that will do me well when the cast is off. I try my best to keep a positive outlook and to laugh a lot as I know when the spirit is well it does the body well. Once again, thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  27. Marina Weems

    Hi Maya.
    Thank you so much for your honest and very encouraging story of your injury and miracles recovery and your challenge triathlon. You are an inspiration to me.

    I had surgery on my ankle 8 years ago but recovery was 8 months. Then just few weeks ago I had to go through another surgery on the same foot due to my previous surgery the bone did not healed right and it was crooked and it was a lot of gab where they made surgery on so they had to go and puncture those bones so they will expand and fill in the gab and my talus can be free to move normally.
    Three days after my surgery I was able to put weight on my surgery left foot. Then it’s been roller coaster due to my blockouts. The last time it happened I was on my crutches still… I have to take it easy now days. The doctors do not know why it happens yet.
    I too had “moon boot”. I were it on and off. It is so heavy like 50lb…feels like anyways.
    So then I was on crutches and now I am walking slowly but most of the time my foot is elevated. I am thankful that my husband’s mom is here to take care of my daughter.
    It is almost two weeks like I had my surgery, my doctor said that I can start physical therapy next week. I am so looking forward to be able to run again cause it is my favorite thing to do.

    Reply
    • Maya Novak

      Hi Marina, thank you for your kind words and so great to see you here! Yes, my moon boot felt as heavy as yours. I really hope your recovery goes smoothly after this surgery. I just replied to your email as well 🙂 Much love xx Maya

      Reply
  28. Darren brown

    Hi Maya
    The most scariest break in my life, both right ankle bones broken with a plate and 10 screws, previously had broken bones from sport etc, but recovery from this injury has its trepidation’s.
    Mentally character building, but does have a longer term effect/experience.
    Still recovering

    Reply
  29. Shenay

    Hi Maya,
    My brother recently fractured his talus & just got out of surgery this week. Its been heartbreaking seeing how his life has completely turned around & the hard road to recovery he has ahead of him. Hes been told all the negative things you were told & hes lost a little hope but i keep trying to keep him positive even by showing him your website. I was just curious in what you did while you were right out of surgery to stay on a positive recovery road & what foods, supplements, or exercises you recommend for someone so recently out of surgery.

    Reply
  30. Digby

    Just found and read this. Seems your break was a little worse then mine. I didn’t need surgery on my Talus they did contemplate it though. What I am interested in was the pain. I went to hospital about 11 hours later because it was still sore, and I couldn’t sleep. No painkillers by that stage besides weed. Got to hospital at 6 they had x-rays, CT and a backslab plaster done by 12. Then I drove home Adelaide to Melbourne with a broken right ankle in a manual car with no crusie control say my foot on the dash and off I went. I did 8 weeks in plaster ate shit food in comparison to your diet and got really stoned every day. The pain you describe simply wasn’t there? They didn’t even give me painkillers when I left hospital. Maybe I was lucky, maybe I have a far better pain tolerance. Took me two weeks to start walking once the plaster was off and probably 2 months before walking was pretty normal again. 5 odd years later I’ve lost about 10% of my vertical movement otherwise you wouldn’t know I broke it

    Reply
  31. Luke moore

    Hello Maya
    First, thank you for sharing your story. I broke my tailus on June 19, 2018 when the latter slipped as I was going up to the roof. The surgeon placed an External fixator on my ankle while the swelling reduced and a week later did reconstructive surgery. They put four pins in my tailus.
    I am two months out and I am starting to do touchdown Weight bearing. Prior to my injury, I would run 20 to 25 miles a week and brew beer regularly (lots of heavy lifting). My goal is to get back to a point where I can run 15 to 20 miles a week and can brew regularly again.
    Luckily, I have had a wonderful support system. I started swimming recently and that has helped quite a bit. It has helped to work out atrophied muscles around my leg. Hopefully my ankle will continue to heal and my quality of life will get back to a point that it was prior to my injury.
    Again, thank you for sharing your story. One of the most frustrating things about this whole ordeal is how isolated I have felt at times. It really hit me in the feels reading your story.
    Warm regards

    Luke Moore

    Reply
  32. Dudi

    Thank u so much for the journey.
    On 6 June I broek my foot (my fifth toe) and my ankle and they had to put me on hard cast for 6 weeks and I used crutches. On 18 july I went to the hospital and they removed the cast and did xtray and the orthopedic said there is misplaced bones and my ligaments were destroyed and we need to do a surgery (they had to put metal and screws) and then i have to stay in hard cast for 8 weeks. I had my surgery on 23 July it went well I guess but main while I suffered a lot in these months (i live alone) and its not an easy job to manage anything with a hard cast on for this long. On 12 September they will remove the hard cast and I hope everything will be fine and good.
    I am so scared that I can’t recover from my injury! I don’t know how long it will take me until I can walk again normally! I don’t know if I can work in factory anymore! (I used to work at Nike before my injury). Everything is mixed up and I’m so confused and scared…

    Reply
    • Nichole

      I feel for you. I had a cast on for 6 weeks, went back she wasn’t happy with the healing wanted to recast me for 3 more weeks, but I talked her into a boot… I’m terrified I will need surgery…going for a second opinion… dont know when walking or driving is in my future either. Best wishes and prayers to all

      Reply
  33. Loreli

    Hey Maya!
    Like others before me, I too am grateful for you posting your story and positivity. I think a lot of us read negative stories online and it can make recovery daunting.

    I broke my ankle skateboarding back on August 24th. Did a great job of it and had a trimalleolar fracture as well as a talar done fracture. Had surgery a week ago and I’m still in a splint.

    Thus far the pain has been manageable, but man, I’m going crazy! I try to get out with my family and friends, but it’s difficult on a knee scooter and due to swelling. Thanks for helping me see there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

    Reply
  34. Flor

    Hi Maya, thanks for sharing your amazing experience, I found your article on a sleepless night and it got me!
    I broke my ankle and 5 months later still hurts after a day of work, my main concern is my weight, for lack of activity is going up, will you share an example of your daily menu. Will be greatly appreciate it. You are such an inspirational human being. Hugs.

    Reply
    • Maya Novak

      Hi Flor – I’m glad you found me and my website. Of course, I can – in fact, you will get that and so much more in Nourishing Remedy. If you are interested you can check it out here. Much love xx

      Reply
  35. Catherine

    My daughter has just had a life changing accident with her ankle that was broken into 26 pieces. She will have have her second surgery this week. Would u mind sharing your smoothie recipes that we can make for her and where would you suggest buying these vitamins and creams? Thanks so much!!

    Reply
    • Maya Novak

      Cathrine, I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter. I hope her surgery goes well. For the creams – you can check on Amazon. Here, for example, is Mebo Skin Restore that I used for my scar. And when it comes to smoothies, you can simply go with 1 to 2 ratio, which is 1 green leafy vegetable + 2 type of fruits. But of course, if you’d like more, I invite you to check out Nourishing Remedy. Love xx

      Reply
  36. Bernadette Reilly

    Thank you for your story which I really enjoyed because I’ve suffered a compound fracture in my left ankle and had surgery on September 5th. It’s the feeling of fear and isolation which has been hardest. I know how important it is to have the right attitude. Your article has lifted me up. Well done. I will keep on believing for a full recovery

    Reply
  37. Colin

    Thanks for sharing a positive story regarding your healing experience! I suffered two badly broken ankles along with my non dominant shoulder five months ago in a motorcycle accident. I started weight bearing and walking a month ago and still have severe pain at times. I am seeing a physiotherapist regularly, but after reading your story I plan to supliment my rehabilitation with some of your recommendations. Here’s to hoping I can get back to where I was before! All the best.

    Reply
  38. Wondra Harris

    Thank you for your story. I broke my ankle and torn fibula I was jet skiing in Cozumel Mexico and a big wave hit and my left foot hits the jet ski this has been a long process for me long recovery I’m just not used to not doing anything pain after surgery oh my goodness it was so unbearable I was putting tissue pins anything to get the cast off my pinky toe was crushing so finally my mom get her scissors out and start cutting away to get the pressure off my toe and felt so much better I to never liked taking medication I never like the way it makes me feel I’m not in control of my body or my thoughts I broke my ankle October 10th had surgery October 17th and I’m so over this so over it but I am so thankful for my family and friends I’m thankful to God that it could have been worse the thing is I had fractured big toe on the same foot so I’m just grateful I still have the cast on I’m just ready for it to be off

    Reply
  39. Terrie

    my brother fell today on wet grass and broke his ankle. 3 or 4 bones broken and it is dislocated. It also was an open fracture and contamination in the wound. Tonight he had an external fixated surgery and doctor say after swelling goes down and skin looks good he will then have to have the final surgery with plates and screws. I am freaking out because I am the only one he has and I live in a townhouse with 15 stairs to all bedrooms. Prayers please and any suggestions appreciated.

    Reply
  40. Bernadette

    Terrier , the answers will come. I will say a prayer for you and your brother. Try to trust. I’m sure the help you need will come. God bless

    Reply
  41. Jiri

    Hi Maya, i found here some answers, or at least other person experince in regards to sporting after/during recovery… which helps me;-) … we do snowboard, skiing, surfing, cycling, hiking etc…
    I am 2nd month after surgery, trimall. ankle breakage on skateboarding with my son;)
    Is nice to see your optimism, power and will.
    Btw… your surname sounds like roots might be from my country Czech,)
    Take care and thank you for sharing!
    Cheers,
    J.

    Reply
  42. Ruth

    Thank you for your wonderful info and i send you prayers and great thoughts for you to have a super vibrant healthy smooth sail for the rest of you life!!
    With great Gratitude!
    I too broke inner tibia at the end, also crack inline fibula, I did not know it was broken but went to the chiropractor for three days in a row about 4 days after the injury. 9i knew bones were out of place) One bone was put in each day. The last one was the tibia and it hurt to go in.. but went i went to doc and xray next day, all the bones were in place. Surgeon wanted plate and screws but was open to me trying without. So 12 days after break, got cast. This was not planned but just happened… After two weeks xray shows great healing and bone reattached. Doc says in two weeks will get boot! I will be 65 in a few months. Eating some veggies cooked but more and more raw smoothies.. tons of veggies and fruits and also cooked beans, almond milk.. what body says it wants. Now harvesting microgreens. Been playing Anthony Sommer on youtube bone healing sounds and can feel them work. lots of sleep slow life. It is a challenge to drink enough water. need tons of water to do this. Shooting for full pain free recovery!

    Reply

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