11 Month Update

It’s been a while since I last updated my blog, so I’ll begin this post with a little backtracking.

In my last update, I mentioned I would be getting a second opinion on my Achilles repair. On August 19th at almost nine months post-op, I visited a highly recommended doctor in Baltimore whom I’d met with the previous summer. After I caught him up to date, he examined my calf, resting tension, and decreased strength, before giving me an uncertain prognosis even less optimistic than the one I’d received from my regular doctor.

calf_muscles_oct_15

The doctor told me there are multiple factors contributing to my persisting lack of strength. Foremost, my calf is still so atrophied that it would need to generate twice as much force to obtain the same results as my unaffected side. After multiple surgeries and months of disuse, regaining that muscle is extremely difficult. Not only that, but the resting tension of my new Achilles is not optimal, which makes achieving that strength even harder, if not impossible. The images below show my resting tension before and after my second surgery.

To address an overstretched Achilles tendon, a shortening operation can be performed. A small section of tendon is removed and the tendon is sutured back together, at which point it fuses back together naturally. However, because my Achilles is not my native tendon, the doctor told me such an operation would not be possible. The foreign tissue in my leg acts in much the same way as a piece of rope would, simply anchoring my heel and calf muscle together. Thus, should a section be removed, the remaining tendon would not heal back together. In order to shorten my tendon, it would have to be detached from my calf muscle, shortened at the top, and then re-sutured to the muscle.

resting_tension_mikhaila_markham

The doctor presented this alternative to me in a way that suggested he wouldn’t endorse it. Even after such an operation, I might still lack the strength to return to dancing as a third surgery would cause even more atrophy. He explained that I would still continue to make progress until the one-year mark and advised me to carry on with my exercises, but cautioned that I probably wouldn’t regain enough strength to return to Scottish highland dancing.

I’m now almost 11 months post-op and it’s hard to say if I’ve made any improvements in the past three months. My single-leg heel raise still gets stuck about halfway up and I can’t control my landings when I jump on my left foot, so my heel slams into the ground every time. My calf is still noticeably atrophied and I still walk with a limp sometimes, especially in the mornings, following more strenuous exercise, and when I wear shoes that offer little heel support.

At the beginning of September, I relocated to Michigan to attend Alma College, where Scottish highland dancing is offered as a class. I’d be lying if I said I came to Alma for any other reason than dance, so it’s frustrating to continue to be sidelined, not knowing when or if I can return to my sport. It's so hard to cope with the potential loss of something that’s been a part of my self-identity since I was three years old.

I’m visiting my doctor next time I'm home. I’m hoping he’ll be able to give me some more concrete answers at this time, as I’ll be closing in on my one-year anniversary. Until then, I’ll be continuing with my regularly scheduled exercises and hoping that this is just a strangely prolonged recovery… Cheers.