A Bunionectomy when the Pain is Just too Much

There’s nothing poetical about getting your feet cut — voluntarily. The pain really has to be too much before you present yourself at the hospital, turn over all your worldly possessions, and naked under one of those drafty robes say just do it. My pain hit that tipping point coming out of Melbourne at 4:36AM last March. Add to this the fact that like many I have had to make compromises on health insurance (a $5000 deductible). BIG decision.

Since many have asked, here’s how it has gone so far:

Operation day starts at 4:30 AM. The choice between “twilight sleep” and total anesthesia is easy, KNOCK ME OUT. I don’t remember waking up, Michael driving me home, or how I got into the house. Total blackout. So far so good.

First couple days: Ice bags and keeping my feet elevated above my heart keeps swelling down. Where is the throbbing pain, say pain like I had on the airplane last March? This pain is tender when touched. When I leave the toes alone, no problem. I use a borrowed walker to get back and forth to the bathroom in my stylish black surgical shoes. A word about the shoes — they set me back in a couple of ways. They cost $60 each (not covered by insurance) and they are designed to throw me back on my heels when I stand. Michael brings me all meals and I watch waaaay too much television. Pain is about 4 on a 10 point scale. I only use the prescription pain killers at night to sleep, mostly they make me nauseous. Have to use a shower hose to wash while sitting on a shower chair, my feet wrapped up in plastic bags with rubber bands.

End of first week, Michael takes me to visit the Dr., in a wheelchair. He rewraps the feet and I get a peek. Black and blue with a red tinge gets rewrapped in an ace bandage. Still using the walker for getting around. Michael still preparing all meals.

Second week — I start to get out — in a wheel chair, using it kind of like a toddler does a walker. I try out the electric cart at Costco and the grocery. I learn that when you are in a wheel chair, people don’t make eye contact. They come at you, catch the wheelchair in their peripheral and then purposefully look away. It is an amazing insight. I promise myself to say hello to every person in a wheelchair from now on. I can fix a quick meal (toast or chopped fruit in yogurt). Elevate, elevate, elevate. Ibuprofen for pain, which is a little uncomfortable but no where near the pain I felt before the surgery.

Third week — Back to the dr. for exam and Xrays. No wheelchair. He says I don’t need the throw back shoes any more and rewraps the feet in new tube ace bandages and gives me new black velcro shoes with flat bottoms. Three and a half weeks, I fly to San Antonio for a three day workshop. I have no trouble standing to teach for 1 hour at a time. Walking slowly through airports and of course the flying causes extra swelling. The new shoes give me blisters, so I switch to sandals with velcro, adjustable straps. Hardest challenge is descending stairs because it hurts for my feet to bend. Good news! It’s okay to bathe. Feet are peeling like crazy for whatever dumb reason.

Fourth week — Freedom! I can drive an automatic car easily, but using a clutch is tricky because I have to use my arches instead of the ball of the foot. Manage to teach two full 8 hour days, but the result is some pretty significant swelling. Incisions are completely closed and scabs mostly gone.

Fifth week — first attempt to ride a bike goes well. Wearing hiking sandals. Descending stairs still requires thought and care, but am able to navigate the grocery and a short hike in the woods with the grandkids. Still walking stiffly and slightly reminiscent of a duck. Basically off of Ibuprofen. Incisions are smooth. Feet still too puffy to wear sneakers easily.

A friend of mine had this surgery last December and told me that she just ran a 5K. I’m not sure this will turn me into a runner, since I never was before, but hopefully in 6 months I will be free to walk in sensible shoes. Generous, heartfelt thanks to Michael for feeding and support, grudging thanks for ordering me to sit down and put my feet up.

Everyday is better than the last. Glad I got both feet done at the same time.

4 responses to “A Bunionectomy when the Pain is Just too Much”

  1. Glad you're feeling better tag time friend!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing this in such a complete and descriptive manner. I'm still trying to decide. As it was with you, $ is a consideration. IF I knew it would not get worse, I would avoid it more easily. I've recently purchased a pair of shoes (I wear a size 15 EEE and these are 17 EEEEEE)which has really lessened the pain and has taken pressure off the bunion. Did you consider OR were you told that it WOULD get worse? I know some who simply HAD to have it done and some who put it off. I'm just not sure why with some it's a "must do" and for some it turns out to be a choice. Thanks again!

  3. Very interesting, good to see people discussing this finally.


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  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi sitting here 15 days post op Austin bunionectomy and your account was comparable to mine with a few exceptions. I had a moderate bunion maye even towards mild. I was a runner most of my life, and when I go to weddings (big family so they come frequent) I wear heels and dance. I didn't do a lot of research prior to surgery. I got a surgeon with great reputation who said do it now before it gets worse. I am a proactive person so I did. That. The only reservation I had was the permanent screws staying in, I just have my own paradigm about forign objects staying in. My surgeon told me titanium's inert and will be no problem. She was positive it was the best way to go so we did. So I dI'd. Surgery went well twilight with block…loved the block.
    Had no pain for the first 5 day only took toradol. Then the pain started. Pretty bad intermittantly especcially at night. I don't hear this complaint so I'm probably very atypical. I took percocet from day 7-13. But I'm switching to motrin because I hate narcotics. Pain at night is still intermittently horrible but I'm just hoping it's no pain no gain and it works itself out. I also plan to have the permanent screws removed by choice at 3 months. I'd rather get the whole thing over with now than wait for problems with the screw after they have completely migrated into the bone. Kudos to all of you doing your homework!

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