Follow your doctor or nurse’s instructions regarding taking any medication and wound care. I’m not medically qualified so I can only tell you what my experience has been. If in doubt, phone your doctor or the ward where you had your surgery.
Get everything you’ll need within reach for the two weeks immediately after your surgery when you will be in bed. This could include your music, your phone and mp3 plus chargers, laptop, and any books you want to read. Also, I found a portable DVD player useful whilst flat on my back in bed for two weeks.
Sort your kitchen out too so you don’t have to reach for things as well. Standing on tip toe is not going to happen for a few weeks! If necessary get yourself a pole or grabber of some description to reach up to windows if you need to open or close them. I guess this bit depends on how much help you will have during your recuperation period. I have been very lucky and have had my mother staying with me and giving me 24/7 support, but I know in many cases this level of support isn’t possible. If your partner goes out to work you’ll have to fend for yourself during the day.
Carrying things is impossible while you are using crutches, unless you can manage with one crutch. A wheelable small trolley or table could be useful to transport a cup of tea or hot food without spilling it. You can find this kind of thing in a mobility or aids shop for the elderly or disabled. Or you could put a chair and table in the kitchen if there isn’t one already, so you don’t need to move hot drinks or food very far. When I was alone one day I made a flask of tea and was able to transport it back upstairs so I had tea for the afternoon. That works, but the tea tasted of that strange flasky taste.
If you need to use a taxi to get around (for your hospital appointments) then get enough cash as you won’t be able to get to the cash machine later.
If you are having a general anaesthetic then get some sore throat lozenges. You might appreciate them after your surgery as sometimes it can give you a sore throat. And if you don’t get one, then just save them for your next dose of flu!
Get some painkillers and ibuprofen. You’ll probably be given some painkillers immediately after your surgery by your doctor, which are stronger than normal. I was given a week’s worth of Tramadol. But after this time, you will probably need to take some pain killers or anti-inflammatories, so get stocked up.
Two weeks in bed
During the first two weeks you will need to stay off your foot as much as possible and elevate it a lot of the time. This means spending two weeks in bed and only getting out to shuffle to the toilet and back. So you may be eating food in bed, if you’re lucky enough to have someone to assist you with your care. Make sure you sit up to eat it and stay sitting up for about half an hour afterwards or you run the risk of gastric reflux, which is unpleasant. Prop yourself up with good pillows or buy a bed wedge or back rest.
I found these two weeks frustrating, due to the inevitable discomfort and pain in my foot and also just because you are lying there for days. I got back ache as I couldn’t sleep on my side because my tender foot had to be propped upright and kept away from the sheets and mattress. I found a roll to rest my foot on was a really good idea, because it kept my foot elevated at night, and later on when I got a bit better, I could sleep on my side with my ankle on the roll and my foot slightly elevated off the bed so my wound didn’t touch the mattress.
Showering and washing
Use a plastic bag, with some kind of tape, to cover your foot if you want to take a shower. It’s very important that you don’t get your bandage wet while the wound is healing. In my case, I decided to avoid taking a shower for the six weeks I had my bandage on to avoid any risk of getting it wet and therefore risking infection. So I opted for a flannel wash, which is not that pleasant but it’s not the end of the world and it only lasts six weeks. And when you can finally get in the shower, you REALLY appreciate it!
When the bandages come off – dry feet and stitches
Buy a big tub of E45 cream for when the bandages come off. This is cream for dry skin conditions and was recommended by the plaster technician who removed my bandage. The skin on your foot will be dry and flake or peel off for a while. It’s a bit gross, but it’s perfectly normal and will be sorted out with the cream in a week or two.
I also bought some Bio-Oil for use on the scar. I haven’t started using it yet, but will when the dissolvable stitches have all come out (I’m nearly there, only one left in!). I found my scar/wound was very hard at first, and the E45 cream has gradually softened it up. I’m sure the Bio-Oil will be good for that as well.
Get a large pair of socks (or two) for when your bandages come off. I appreciated having a roomy sock to put on when I got rid of my bandage so my scar/stitches didn’t rub too much against the sock.
Get yourself a walking stick to use when you are finally learning to walk again in your flat surgical shoe. It will feel very strange when you walk in your flat shoe, after walking about in the wedge shoe for a few weeks, and you’ll need some support. You could still use the crutches you’ve been given. Walking sticks however are not that expensive and can be useful to signal to other people that you aren’t steady on your feet, even if you don’t really need it to walk with. When I started walking again, I found that I was imbalanced on my right leg due to lack of weight bearing on it for 6 weeks. The muscles need to get stronger again, so you experience a period of one leg stronger than the other. A walking stick will help you with this!
Back ache when walking
When I stopped using my two crutches to walk around, I noticed that my good foot in its slipper was lower down than my post-surgery foot, which was high up in a wedge shoe (and later on in the flat surgical shoe). This caused an imbalance in my walking which put pressure on my lower back. So when you start walking about without crutches wear a shoe on your good foot, which will raise your leg up so you are not putting pressure on your back.
A roomy shoe or trainer to wear when you get your bandage off. It took me a week to be able to get my foot into a shoe, after my bandage came off (7 weeks after surgery), despite the fact that my doctor told me it should only take a couple of days. I don’t think they know because they don’t get to see you for another three months (in the case of my hospital) and probably don’t think to ask what your experience of shoe wearing has been (after all, it’s not clinical!). In any case, there is no rush or competition to get your shoe on so take it easy. If you do go back to work, you can always wear your flat surgical shoe for a while.
The type of shoe you might use is one with a short tongue (the bit at the top), so you don’t have to flex your toe too much to get your foot in. Also one which has an extra wide fitting so it can accommodate any swelling, and give your scar/stitches room without rubbing and irritating them. I had a shoe made by Websters when I had my bunion, and it has a wider fitting for the right shoe. I find it is perfect now for accommodating a foot liable to swelling. However, you might prefer to go out and look for a cheaper alternative, such as a roomy trainer. Do this before your surgery so it’s ready for when you need it.
You may not need this, but I was thankful that I had an ankle support tucked away in my draw at home. Now that I’m walking again and have returned to work, I found that my ankle is a bit weak due to lack of use (6 weeks of non weight bearing), and I have developed a bit of soreness in it due to struggling to walk. I wear an ankle support to help me.