Monday, January 21, 2013

Would Someone PLEASE Fix My Ankle

Sept. 2005

As I watched the nurse jog towards me with the wheelchair, all I could think was thank God. As we rushed to the nurses office I kept my head down so nobody would see me cry. Finally, we arrived in the office and I layed on the bed as the nurse put ice on my ankle. The nurse left to call my mom and all I could think in that moment was why in the world did I jump to catch that football. It was automatic regret. The nurse came back and told me my mom was on her way. She told her that I sprained my ankle, that an ambulance was called and continued to tell me how my mom didn't think it was necessary; she would drive me to the hospital. I chuckled to myself because I knew there was no way she would get me to the hospital in her car. A few minutes later, I heard my mom. She took one look at me and said an ambulance was a better option.

As the paramedics got me all buckled up on the cot and wheeled me to the ambulance, they gave me a shot of morphine to help with the pain. It did nothing. In the ambulance, as more pain medicine was being injected into my IV, the 2 paramedics started taking bets. They thought for sure I broke my ankle. Surprise! After I was wheeled into the hospital and had an x-ray, it showed there were no broken bones. The ER physician wrapped my foot up and gave me something that would change my life forever. Crutches. Little did I know, I would end up on them for the next 9 months straight.

The next day I saw an orthopedic who said I would be back on the soccer field in 6 weeks. I then had an MRI done which showed there were no tears, just a lot of swelling. I was placed in a walking boot, began physical therapy the following week, and used crutches as needed. For the next 2 months I went to physical therapy 3 times a week and was stuck using crutches because I could not put any weight on my heel without having terrible pain. The rubber on the front sole of the boot was starting to wear off from "walking" on my toes. At the next follow-up appointment with my doctor, he told me he didn't know what was wrong with my ankle. Then with a voice like a magician ready to pull a rabbit out of his hat, he says to me, "I wish I had a magic wand to wave to fix you". Good grief, I didn't need drama. I needed someone to fix my ankle. His solution was to dismiss me from his care without any suggestions of what to do next.

During this time I was attending school and watching soccer from the sidelines. I was so lost because the sport I loved and played several times a week was taken away from me. I also lost my social support since most of my friends were involved in athletics and I could no longer play. It was a very hard time. I felt like I had no control over what was happening to me. My mom had finished treatments for her breast cancer the year prior, and told me, "Sometimes we can't control what happens to our bodies, so take control of the things you can". From that day forward, I made that my mantra. I threw myself into my academics, learned to cook, and took charge of my own health and began researching ankle injuries.

In the meantime, what am I supposed to do now? I've been dismissed from my doctor without being given any sense of direction. My parents called that doctors office everyday for the next week until they finally ended up calling the physical therapist I was seeing to see if he would talk to my doctor. A few days later we got a referral to go see a specialist. When my parents called to make an appointment with the specialist, they were told he didn't have any appointments for 3 months. Waiting that amount of time was not an option. We were told his associate had an opening in about a week at the end of November so we took it.

On the initial appointment I was given a script to get an ultrasound done of my ankle. The ultrasound showed that 2 of my ligaments were torn. When I returned back to the doctor he put me in a cast for 4 weeks. At the end of December when I saw the doctor again, he took the cast off. I was still having a ton of pain in the outer part of my ankle. Since there was so much pain, the doctor wants me to go see a neurologist. I was so mad. It was an ankle injury. I knew it wasn't a nerve issue. Regardless of what I thought, I had to see the neurologist in order to move forward. It was just another hurdle put in my path. When I saw the neurologist in the beginning of January, he thought I might have RSD. RSD is a type of nerve disorder. Since I had some of the symptoms that correlated with RSD such as: swelling & stiffness in the affected joint, "burning" pain and the inability to move the affected joint the doctor suggested this diagnosis. Well, this diagnosis landed me back in a cast once again for 3 weeks. At this point I have been on crutches for 3 months straight. I hobbled everyday to my classes all the while carrying my backpack with all my books because I didn't have time to go to my locker. When the cast came off again, I still had the same amount of pain so the Dr. sent me for a stat MRI.

The MRI this time showed much more damage than the first. Two of my ligaments were completely torn, there was debris in the joint space and I had longitudinal tears in my peroneal tendons. Even with the results in his hand, the Dr still thinks I have RSD so he sends me to one of his neurologists to confirm. I saw the second neurologist and was told I do not have RSD. The orthopedic called my mom with results. He said, "Even though RSD has been ruled out, I just have a "feeling" that she has RSD". My mom "respectfully" said, "Dr. your neurologist ruled it out and quite frankly your "feeling" doesn't mean anything". The doctor then suggested we go to a pain clinic. Thank God we went there. The pain doctors looked at my MRI report and told me, "Of course you hurt because there are torn tendons and ligaments". They asked if I would be willing to see one more doctor. I agreed and they immediately called another orthopedic surgeon. I had ankle reconstruction surgery one week later. During the surgery my surgeon first used an arthroscope to look in the joint and found I had a lot of debris. He then made a bigger incision on the outside of my ankle and found I had multiple longitudinal tears to my peroneal brevis tendon. My peroneal tendons were also subluxating out of the groove so my surgeon deepend the groove, and he also secured my peroneal retinaculum via drill holes to give more stability to those tendons. He also used 2 anchors to reattach my anterior talofibular and calcaneofibular ligaments. It was a very painful surgery and explained why I was never able to get off of the crutches.

It took 5 months from the time of injury to get a diagnosis and have surgery. It was so eye-opening to find out that just because I was a 16 year old girl, doctors repeatedly thought I was being over dramatic, even with my parents assuring them that this was not my personality. When I found out I needed surgery I would have jumped for joy if I could have.  I was so relieved to find out that my ankle could be fixed. Surgery was at the end of February 2006. I knew I wouldn't be able to play soccer in the spring and I started mentally planning out how I was going to get back in shape in time for soccer in the fall. To my surprise however, when I woke up from my ankle surgery, my ankle was numb from a nerve block and all I kept saying to my nurse was I am having terrible knee pain. Surprise, the extent of injury from that fall was yet to be discovered...


  1. I remember this day in PE :'( so scary! Soccer was never the same without you Meg. The best center mid ive ever played with thats for sure. Miss ya! Hope all is well :-) ill continue reading your story!

  2. That must've been upsetting. The pain seems unbearable, and it’s a shame that the doctors you’ve gone to could hardly diagnose your condition. Anyway, I’m curious as to how it proceeded. It seems like there was some kind of issue behind that. Any updates?

    Jacqueline Hodges @ Dr. Koziol

    1. Hi Jacqueline,
      My ankle is doing pretty well now. A few flare ups here and there but nothing like the original injury. I ended up being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome a year ago which is a connective tissue disorder. This explains why so much damage happened to my joints and why things didin't really heal on their own. Do you have an email address? I can email you if you want.