“What a disaster. This seems to be one let down after another. Will it never end?” These were my thoughts with yet another setback immediately after No. 6 Alabama lost to Notre Dame who played their way into the tournament. Oh . . sorry. Did you think I was talking about running? Not yet. I was just bemoaning another year and another trashed bracket by the end of the first round. Freakin’ Kentucky . . .
Anyway, I’m sure since I published my last update about running, you’ve probably been on the edge of your seat waiting to hear news of my followup appointments. For some of you, you probably haven’t had this much anticipation since waiting to find out who shot JR. (I may have just dated myself a bit there but it’s no secret that I am old.) Well, wait no more. If you care, feel free to read on.
When last we left off, Sue Ellen was back in rehab and Pamela had been killed in a fiery crash after colliding with a fuel tanker in broad daylight on a wide open Texas road with miles of visibility. Wait, sorry, wrong story. I know, I had a prescription for physical therapy in my hot little hand and was waiting for word from Dr. Kerry Casey about whether I a) should get PT and may be able to continue running or b) needed my right leg amputated from the knee down. So where are we now?
Well, Dr. Casey did call back and while she didn’t give me clearance to start running marathons again, she did say the MRI results weren’t as bad as we expected and we should move ahead with the PT. My running future still depended on how that went.
I started digging around for local therapy options. In the past, I’d have not hesitated and gone back to see Venessa Bowers who now practices at Novacare in Phoenixville, PA. It was a no-brainer for me to go see her for my post-surgery treatment in 2017. I had worked with her for past ankle and foot injuries and had learned to trust her. But it used to be pretty convenient to go see her after work when I used to go into the office. But since the COVID-19 Pandemic began (Google it if you haven’t heard of it), I haven’t been going to the office. My morning commute involves walking 15 feet from the bedroom to the office in our house in Reading, PA. That same house is a good 30 minute drive from Phoenixville and gas prices have soared to over $4.00/gallon so I decided to leverage one of the several local physical therapy offices. I logged in to our insurance plan to find a good choice.
My search led me to Taylored Physical Therapy which is just a single-leg hop, and a jump-rope jump from home. Assuming I don’t schedule appointments for when the school buses are dropping kids off at every single house . . . every 50 feet . . . Taylored PT is only a five minute drive.
I knew the owner/founder, Nate Taylor, from both his time at Commonwealth Orthopedic where I worked with Vanessa and from the now-defunct Valhalla gym where we were both original members. Knowing Nate’s history made choosing Taylored Physical Therapy an easy call. Oh, and the fact that he, apparently, brings his french bulldog Dot to work now and then. I called and made my first appointment with Dr. Kaylie Vrabel.
Dr. Vrabel was a fairly new addition to the staff at Taylored PT but it turns out she looked really familiar (despite the masks we all had to wear). When I mentioned working with Vanessa at Commonwealth (actually SIR by then), it turns out Kaylie had interned there and worked with Vanessa. I had a few sessions with Vanessa when the post-tibial tendon dysfunction first reared its head and Dr. Vrabel (then student Vrabel) worked there at the time. Go figure what a small world it is. Anyway, Kaylie and I set to work immediately.
At this point, I’m getting much more familiar with the PT process than I’d care to be. I’ve met some nice providers through the various PT sessions I’ve done, and it is highly valuable and should not be downplayed but all things being equal, I’d rather not have the need.
The first step at PT is an evaluation where the therapist measures pain levels, range of motion, strength, etc. The tools used always remind me of navigation tools way back when we used to use paper charts on boats but they seem to get the job done. Once those measurements are accomplished, PT typically starts out fairly conservatively and progresses through the days, weeks, or months to more advanced exercises as the condition being rehabbed improves. The patient does a series of advancing exercises with each PT visit and is also given daily homework. No, not like a book report but actual exercises to do at home.
I won’t bore you with the day-in-day-out of my weekly PT appointments and subsequent followups with Dr. Casey (there have been two). Instead we’ll fast-forward from December to March where we are on the cusp of spring. At my last check-in with Dr. Casey, the pain in my ankle was almost gone. Where I had trouble walking in December I can now walk normally. The pain will never be totally gone unless they come up with some sort of bionic foot replacement (or we really do amputate). But the discomfort is localized to basically the post-tibial tendon itself and some bit of the foot with a long name basically right below the visible ankle joint. (Note to self: Ask Dr. Casey what the heck that thing is called.) But the pain is well within spec of what it has been for years and I was given the green light to resume running up to 10 miles a week beginning with 1 mile at a time. It was also legit, according to Dr. Casey, to add in some more walking. The caveat for all this was to brace up and give the arch in my foot and ankle plenty of support.
So for the last month, I’ve donned my brace and run mostly on the treadmill. I figured if I had issues, it was easy to hit stop and get off then find myself a 1/2 mile from home with a bum foot. With the nicer weather I’ve also began walking the development in the evening. I have to admit, that first run on the treadmill in the physical therapy clinic felt pretty good! I also have to admit that the first time I did run outside my legs and lungs were wondering what those hill things were and why they were so hard to run up.
Overall, my foot feels pretty good. I usually have a little soreness around the ankle when I get out of bed in the morning but it quickly passes. I’m trying to stay diligent with the PT and stretching exercises. Dr. Vrabel has paid equal attention to giant, arthritic big toe which is certainly a contributing factor (and also a result of my scoliosis and right foot smashing into the ground hyper-extending the toe). I’ll continue to work on that too but every doctor I’ve talked to has unanimously said “Don’t do anything to that until you literally can’t walk anymore”. Apparently toe surgery starts a gradual downward slide.
I see Dr. Casey again on Monday. I’m hopeful that the positive reports from Dr. Vrabel and my own positive reports gain me official permission to resume a bit more of a vigorous running schedule. I’m probably not making the Philadelphia Love Run on the 27th and maybe won’t even attempt any more half-marathons but this weekend marks the first day of spring. With the melting of the final snow (hopefully) and the blooms of the first crocus there is hope and thus there is hope to run again!