November 21, 2016: Four days after surgery, Mia Rose had her first post-op visit with the surgeon. At that point she no longer needed the percocet and was able to manage the pain with Aleve, which she only took for a couple of days after that. Although she was not pain free, she really disliked taking the meds and like many gymnasts, she has a high pain tolerance so she was happier medication free and I think that being fully aware of what increased her pain helped her to chose her activities more appropriately than if the pain had been blunted by drugs.
The surgeon took x-rays to confirm that everything was as it should be, and it was, and then put her in a hard cast to protect her foot as it healed. She was not thrilled with the color of the cast (orange) and when asked said that she preferred blue, but they didn’t have that so orange was it.
She was given orders to remain on crutches *strictly* non-weight bearing and to elevate her foot as much as needed to control the pain and swelling. We also asked about using the iWalk (aka “peg leg”) instead of crutches so that she would be able to have her hands free and keep her leg and glute muscles more active while she was recovering and the surgeon said that was fine.
One good thing was that the surgeon told her she could swing bars as long as she was absolutely certain that her foot never touched the ground. He also told her that she should keep her conditioning up throughout her recovery. Armed with that information we stopped by the gym on the way home from the doctor to say hello and update her coaches, but she opted not to go to practice until the next day.
The nerve block wore off after about 12 hours at which point the pain in her foot was intense and she definitely needed the percocet that the doctor had prescribed. While she was grateful for the pain relief she really did not enjoy the way it dulled her thinking or made her queasy so she was anxious to get off of it as soon as possible. Thankfully she only needed to take them consistently for three days.
She spent a lot of time in her dad’s recliner with her foot propped up an lots of pillows which helped to keep the pain and swelling controlled. Cuddles from her kitties and lots of good books were her preferred distractions though there was plenty of television in the mix too.
Friends and family were incredibly sweet and supportive, she had lots of visitors, cards and phone calls which really helped to get her through.
November 17 was surgery day. The surgery lasted about 90 minutes though we were at the hospital for about 9 hours because of a 4 hour delay getting her into the OR. She had not been able to eat after midnight…so it was a very long and hungry day for her. The surgery went well and the surgeon was able to get all of the bones properly aligned which is the most important thing for proper healing. The anesthesia made Mia Rose rather sick, so getting through that was rough. But once she stopped vomiting and had a short nap in the car on the way home, she was feeling pretty good and was ravenous. They did a nerve block to numb her leg from the knee down during surgery, so once she was awake she had no pain and thoroughly enjoyed her dinner.
We saw the first orthopedist on November 10th and she was immediately suspicious that Mia Rose had sustained a lisfranc injury. She ordered a weight bearing x-ray, meaning that Mia Rose had to stand on her injured foot while they took the x-ray (not fun). Ten minutes later the doctor showed us the x-ray you see here and explained that it indicated an unstable lisfranc injury with a 2 mm separation and that surgery was required. She said that the lisfranc ligament was torn which was what allowed the bones to dislocate and that in order for the ligament to heal the bones had to be put back in perfect alignment and kept that way with screws. This was devastating news for Mia Rose who was getting ready to head into her competition season with the expectation of a great season.
We saw two additional orthopedic surgeons over the next few days to make sure that the diagnosis was correct and surgery was truly necessary. All three shared the same diagnosis and need for surgery with us. We opted to go with a surgeon who had the most experience with this injury and with treating gymnasts including Olympians and national team members.
The doctor we selected, explained that during the surgery he would remove any bone fragments that were in the area and insert anywhere from 1-5 screws as needed to stabilize all of the joints that were unstable from the injury. He said that during surgery he would be able to determine exactly which joints were injured so that everything could be put back in perfect alignment in order for the ligaments to heal. He explained that after surgery Mia Rose would need to be 100% non-weight bearing in a hard cast for at least 6 weeks and then immobilized in an orthopedic boot with progressive weight bearing for an additional 4-6 weeks. He also explained that after 3 months she would need to have a second surgery to remove the screws and that she would not be able to do any impact activities such as running or jumping until after the screws were removed because of the risk of the screws breaking from impact.
We scheduled the surgery for later that week so that she could get on the road to recovery as quickly as possible.
During the beam rotation on November 9th, while practicing “timed warm-up” to prepare for Mia Rose says that she was rushing a bit and didn’t set up quite right before for her back tuck. That unfortunately meant that when she landed her right foot missed the beam entirely and her left foot landed partially off the beam with her full weight on in in a deep squat. She experienced intense pain and the top of her foot swelled up immediately (a classic symptom of a lisfranc injury). Her coach called me to pick her up and take her to have it looked at by a doctor. We were all hoping that nothing was broken, little did we know that broken bones would have been much easier and faster to recover from than the injury that she had actually sustained!
We went straight to the local urgent care for x-rays and were relieved when the doctor told us that there were no fractures and wrapped her foot in a bandage with instructions to follow up with an orthopedist if it wasn’t better in a week.
We went home and elevated and iced her foot, but with the amount of pain and swelling she was experiencing I decided to make an appointment with an orthopedist the next day just to be sure. As it turns out we are very glad that we did that since lisfranc injuries are often missed initially and delayed diagnosis and treatment can make recovery even more difficult and uncertain.
Mia Rose is a 14 year old level 9 artistic gymnast who sustained a lisfranc injury to her left foot on November 9, 2016 while doing a back tuck on the balance beam. We decided to start this blog because there are so few positive stories of recovering from this injury out there, and none that relate to female gymnasts. She is now 3 months into her recovery and doing extremely well so we’re taking time to share her story and will continue to update on her progress as she continues to recover. There is tons of information online regarding what a lisfranc injury is, so I won’t go into that on this blog.
The mental impact of a lisfranc injury and long recovery process on a competitive gymnast is at least as difficult as the physical impact. We are very fortunate to have had wonderful support from other families at the gym and especially from her fantastic coaches who have been very encouraging from the moment of the injury. They have also been extremely patient with me as I have spent a lot more time on the gym than usual watching to be sure that Mia Rose strictly abides by her doctors orders (gymnasts are notorious for pushing through injury and in this case the consequences of not following orders could be catastrophic), grabbing them for frequent updates, and taking lots of videos of what she was doing throughout her recovery so that I can share through this blog in order to give others going through this some hope as there is so little hope to be found online right now.
We would have loved to read about other gymnasts who had successfully come back from this injury and are hoping that by sharing her story, we can offer hope to other athletes who are working hard to come back from this serious injury.
In order to avoid the world’s longest blog post and make this blog easier to navigate in the long run, I’m going to write a series of posts to cover the first three months of her recovery.