Finding Out the Hard Way: Overdoing it is still possible 8 weeks post-op!

I had a fabulous week last week. I drove to Murfreesboro on Tuesday and spent the night with a friend; had lunch with my Bible study friends Wednesday, then drove to Franklin to spend three nights with my kids. I went to my two older grandsons' "Art Show and Poetry Day" at their school on Thursday. Thursday night I went to see "Blue Like Jazz" with Danny (that's another blog post I've been wanting to write). Friday morning I attended a habitat class at the Edwin Warner Park Nature Center with my oldest grandson (the class included a nature hike through field, stream and forest). And my feet did great. It was the first time I've worn tennis shoes since surgery and my feet did better than I expected them to. After the park, we went to Chuck E. Cheese. I babysat all three grandsons Friday night while my son and daughter-in-law went to a rehearsal dinner. And then I got up Saturday morning and drove the 400+ miles back to my new home in West Virginia.

As I was saying good-bye, I stooped down to hug Pax. And at that moment, Joshua and Andrew ran over and threw their arms around me too. In the stooping position, I could not support/balance my weight and theirs. And I fell back into a sitting position on the garage floor. I'm wondering now if that sweet moment may have put a strain on the internal incision of my right foot. But I didn't feel any pain until I got home Saturday evening. Both my feet were sore and the right one hurt a little more than the left. But I assumed they would be fine in the morning.

Sunday morning the right one hurt more than it had Saturday night. But I was still able to go to church, walk around Tamarack for a while in the afternoon and go to dinner at Outback with John in the evening. When we got home from dinner, the right incision started to hurt enough to concern me. I noticed there was a little bit of redness, a bump under the skin near the top, and swelling. The stinging pain was inside (there is no external separation of the incision), but it also felt bruised inside and out. I have been able to rub Mederma on the tops of my incisions for weeks without pain. But last night the skin was sensitive to touch (externally) in that area. I applied ice for the first time ever since surgery. (My surgery was March 6; eight weeks ago tomorrow.)

Because my feet have healed so well and seven weeks had passed since bi-lateral neuroma surgery, I didn't give any thought to lifting my youngest grandson and carrying him whenever I felt like it. My incisions have been closed for weeks. Perhaps, in hindsight, that was unwise. I don't know. Maybe my pain is simply a byproduct of overuse. We went to Williamsburg the weekend before I went to Tennessee.

Although I still have swelling if I'm on my feet too long (like after four hours of walking through Colonial Williamsburg), I've been very pleased with my progress and steady healing. I was informed that the swelling would be a side effect of overdoing it for several months and my feet would let me know when I needed to give them rest. Dr. Yu's nurse told me it was important to rest them a lot for a full four weeks. And I did. I guess I assumed that after four weeks I could do as much as I felt like doing. Including lifting my grandson. Dr. Yu had told me that since it was a soft tissue only surgery, I wasn't going to do harm to my feet by being on them too much. But I could cause additional swelling, which could affect how well the incisions healed cosmetically. Cosmetically, I think they have looked fine. Well, considering they have been cut open. I frequently say they are looking less Frankensteinish every day. I am not extremely vain about my feet. The scars don't bother me.

The pain was not bad enough to keep me from sleeping. I woke up around 4:00 am and walked into the bathroom. I thought they felt better until I was on them those few minutes. And then there was stinging pain for about forty-five minutes that did keep me awake. John and I visually examined my incision before he left for work. And neither of us knew what to make of it. I just wanted to be certain it wasn't infection. I didn't want to neglect to get medical attention if necessary. But I didn't want to go unnecessarily, either. That would just mean being on my feet when perhaps all they needed was rest. I also didn't want anyone messing with my incision other than Dr. Yu, to be quite honest. And it's a long drive back to TOA in Nashville!

So, I took an anti-inflammatory (I have a few left over from my frozen shoulder ordeal). I elevated my foot. I waited until the office was open (we are Eastern and Nashville is Central time zone). And then I called and spoke with the triage nurse. She said it would be highly unlikely to have infection eight weeks post-op with completely closed wounds. She thought I overdid it last week and/or possibly there was an internal stitch that was trying to pop out. I was advised to stay off my feet and rest, then check back in a couple of days. But, to my relief, she did not advise me to rush out to a doctor's office or ER!

I hesitated to share pictures until I knew if I was still at risk for infection. The red area does have an appearance of possible infection and I was afraid concerned friends would react to the visual. I was already a little bit anxious about it. But now that I've spoken to the triage nurse, I will show you what the incision looks like this morning.

It's hard to take a picture that does not make my foot look better or worse than it looks in "real life." I think it's the flash. You can see what I mean by contrasting these two pictures. You can also see how good the bottom half of the incision looks. The incision in my left foot is a flat, thin line like the bottom of this incision...
The bump looks white in the photograph, but it really isn't. The incision is shiny in that one spot (possibly from swelling) and it reflects the flash. But there is redness, obviously. I think both the swelling and redness have improved a little bit even since I took this picture an hour or two ago. I am feeling more hopeful that it isn't a stitch trying to pop out. I don't want it to be that!
I have been doing so well that I had stopped posting updates and pictures. But this little setback seemed significant enough to share for the benefit of other post-op patients. Also, because it may have been entirely self-inflicted, I thought I would share as a precaution to others. No matter how happy you are with your progress, it's still wise not to push your luck! Ha Ha!

The bump looks a little smaller and I just touched my incision to see if there was any improvement in the external tenderness. It is definitely less painful than it was first thing this morning.

I think (I hope!) I'm on the mend.

***Adding a post script to this...The above swelling is probably stitch irritation (inside) from overdoing it. After gently massaging the swollen area this morning (5-1), it came to a head and began to drain. I continued to massage and apply pressure, using neosporin ointment. My incision now looks and feels much better. But I spoke with the surgical nurse this afternoon and she wants me to stop all manipulation, cover it with neosporin and a bandaid, and leave it alone now. Her expert opinion is stitch irritation, but just in case there is any infection involved, I'm going to take an antibiotic for a week. If I were in Nashville, I would go in and be checked tomorrow. But since I'm in WV, we are just going to err on the side of caution so I can have peace of mind.
Here's one more picture.


Bonnie said…
So sorry, Shari! It's hard sometimes to know when enough is enough for our bodies. I know for *sure* I would have been down getting those hugs from grand kids, though! (If I had any...they're on order. :0)
Shari said…
Thanks, Bonnie! The hardest part about this little bump in the road is having to take another break from working out. I feel better and I want to go get on my bike. But John thinks I should give it a few more days and I forgot to ask the nurse what she thought. I'm sure she will call to check on me and I'll ask her then. I realize now that I did push myself too much last week and probably inflicted this upon myself. But I have no regrets. I had a great week. And I'm surviving. ; )