As I was prepping for bunion surgery, I spent a lot of time googling recovery stories and photos. I was scared shitless to be honest. Every time I mentioned I was having bunion surgery to someone, they would give me that look and share a horrifying story of someone they know who had a horribly painful experience with bunion surgery. Very reassuring, I can guarantee you. 😉 I was training for a half marathon when my bunion hit the point of no return. I had been dealing with the pain and the deformity for some time. Apparently longer than I thought because my husband said it was at least 7-8 years of me complaining. The more I ran, the the more I walked, the more it just hurt non-stop. I went to a recommended podiatrist and he told me I was a candidate for surgery. At the time, my amazing insurance was changing so I decided to plug through the pre-operative work to get it taken care of in case my insurance was less amazing after open enrollment. Paying less than $200 vs possible thousands was a no-brainer.
So here is my story of my bunion surgery recovery in 2014. This is my experience and only my experience. Everyone is different and has a different threshold of pain and a different recovery, but I felt the need to share my story for those contemplating surgery too.
To be clear I had a modified Austin bunionectomy for my big toe and a bunionectomy for Tailor’s bunion (or bunionette) both on my left foot. These photos are not graphic in the sense that they show actual surgical procedures, but most people don’t like to see beat up feet after surgery. You’ve been warned.
My foot surgery day. Moderate bunion and bunionette. No nail polish since it was surgery day. At this point, I was in near panic attack mode.
My doctor’s markings and initials on the surgery foot for good measure. In permanent marker of course.
After Surgery – Day 1 & 2
Surgery started at 7:30 am and scheduled to be done by 9:30. I woke up in the OR at 10ish and quickly focused on the clock and realized the time. I’m notorious for waking up shortly after sedation and trying to regain my senses ASAP. First thing I asked for were my glasses and wanted to know why it was so late. If I would have had my phone handy, I would have been checking my email (which I did 5 minutes after coming to after my wisdom teeth were removed). Apparently, some patients react to the sedation by jolting their limbs. Not exactly what you need when you are performing delicate surgery on bones with pins in a foot. They had to knock me out with general anesthesia halfway through the procedure so it took a bit longer than they anticipated.
I was wheeled into the recovery room shortly after. I asked for ice chips and they had my husband come into the room with me. I had a nasty headache brewing attributed to my caffeine intake and the fact that I hadn’t had any water or food since the night before. After about 10-15 minutes, they gave me some coffee and water. I was wheeled towards the bathroom to get dressed maybe 5 minutes later since I was sitting up and coherent. By 11, they were discharging me since I was fine and so were my vitals. I’m thankful I have always done really well after sedation or anesthesia (I’ve had a few procedures under sedation and one surgery before…tonsils and adenoids as a kid). There were patients that went in before me that were still in recovery when they were getting me ready to go.
At this point, I have NO feeling in my foot…or leg for that matter thanks to what is essentially an epidural from the ankle/calf down. Getting dressed with the boot is not easy so I’m glad I brought lounge/workout shorts with a wide leg hole. Ray helped me get dressed and I was wheeled out in a wheelchair, helped into the car and then home sweet home.
At home I pre-planned and made a “den” for me to hang out in. I have a nice, comfy sectional so I bought a body pillow, some extra cheap bed pillows from Target and reusable ice packs to have on hand. I had books, tvs shows and my laptop ready to go. I decided on the sofa instead of my bed so I could restrict my movement and prevent myself from rolling over. My doctor didn’t tell me anything but to keep my foot elevated and iced throughout the day and take pain meds as needed. We have pets (as shown in the photo below) and I knew that sleeping in bed the first few days would be tough since I’m a roller. I’m happy I picked the sofa.
The first two days were really annoying. I’m not one to ask for help and being useless is a very strange feeling. I couldn’t walk, it took forever to get to the bathroom and I needed help to take a freaking shower. That said, my foot didn’t really hurt. Around 3pm that afternoon I took my first pain pill. I was prescribed a lot more but only took 1/2 a pill. It was more of a throbbing and regaining sensation feeling. I was scared it was the start of real pain so I was proactive though in hindsight, I probably didn’t even need it.
The one thing I can without a doubt recommend is a knee scooter. My insurance covered it under durable medical goods and if you have the option, I strongly suggest you buy or rent one. I was non-weight bearing for two full weeks. I would have been even more miserable and dependent if not for the scooter. I bought mine from www.goodbyecrutches.com. It was a great scooter and it took a beating. From me actually using it and my coworkers taking it for a joy ride every day when I went back to work, it was worth its weight in gold.
At this point, my foot looks good from what I can actually see. No bruising and no real swelling. Last night I slipped off the sofa trying to get up. I felt the only real pain I’ve known through this. For the most part, what I’ve experienced can be categorized as just real discomfort. I hit the left side of my left foot (pinky side). I saw stars. I didn’t even hit it hard since I’m bundled up. I called the doctor this morning and the nurse encouraged me to come in today. Xrays looked good, but it does look like I shifted the pin on the small toe a bit. Not a concern to the doctor given the way he expects it to heal, but it explains why it was the first time I actually took a pain pill because I needed it, not because I was taking it in advance of real pain. For comparison, my prescription was 1-2 Percocet every 4 – 6 hours. The first day I took 1/2 a pill every 4-6 hours when it started throbbing. Second day 1/2 a pill every 6ish hours to be safe. And day 3 only 1/2 a pill in the morning. That’s it.
This is how I spend my days. Foot up with a dog on top of me while I’m icing it or asleep. I’m bored out of my mind and I’m not used to depending on people to do things. Everything in my body is sore from using the scooter, trying to get up the steps in the house with one foot, using my arms in different ways, etc. I just want to take a shower without help, stand up and walk! The mental part is the hardest. The foot doesn’t really bother. No pain pills except Advil once since Day 3.
Yes, there are two cats and two dogs in bed with me. The other dog decided to nap on the dog bed instead. This it the first time in bed and it was for a nap.
Week 1 Post-op
I finally got to see my franken-foot. It honestly looks worse than it feels. They took off my bandages, cleaned up my foot (woohoo!), and checked my range of motion. Doctor is very pleased at my range of movement for my big toe and I was very pleased that I had my foot cleaned. Please note, getting your toe moved is not pleasant. At all. It feels strange, painful and I didn’t really like it.
The iodine makes it look every nastier than it actually is. At this point, I’m not taking pain killers at all. Haven’t since the morning of Day 3. My ankle is swollen as can be and is actually the part that bothers me the most. I think it is because my foot is so swollen that it is is leaning towards a side and causing my ankle to be at an odd angle.
I have thankfully been cleared to go to work. With my scooter as my companion and with a handicap pass, I’m back in the real world. Thankfully, this was my left foot so I can drive now. Getting around with the scooter is tiring. I just feel beat up even though my foot feels okay for the most part. Putting it down and trying to do stuff is really not happening right now yet. It twinges and throbs when I do that. Ice is my friend. Lots and lots of ice. Even if I’m on the scooter and let’s say in the kitchen, the blood flow to my foot while it is down, is annoying. I can’t be up and about for much time so I tend to keep it iced and elevated while I feel my life slip away. Yes, that is dramatic, but I’m not one to be sitting down and not doing stuff.
Week 2 Post-op
Stitches out and all looks good per the doctor so I got the all clear to “walk” again with my boot. I say “walk”, because it really is an awkward waddle at this point. It don’t feel pain when I walk, but the boot weighs a ton. The CAM Walking boot makes you roll your foot essentially so it disperses your body weight as you walk. Yeah…not very comfortable. I feel like I forgot how to walk to be honest. I almost fell face first at the doctor’s office. It bothers my hips quite a bit. I don’t feel pain when walking really. Occasionally a throb or two, it just really uncomfortable and I’m REALLY slow.
I’m 5’2″ and the boot goes up to my knee. Not exactly easy to move. The high boot and extra caution is because of the bunionette and not the bunion. If it was just the bunion I would probably be in a surgical shoe. For comparison, here are the one week and two week photos side-by-side. Progress!
Standing two weeks post op! This felt great as did waddling around the house. I’m an able-bodied person again…kinda…
On that note, my right leg is looking normal and my poor left leg is already completely atrophied. Seriously? This looks crazy and it is only been 2 weeks. What is this leg going to look like at week 6 in the boot? A bone?
Week 3 Post-op
I had all my bandages taken off today, which is the three week date of my surgery. I’ve been walking more and more and using the scooter only when the boot is off at home or I’m in the office and need to get around quickly. My foot, for the most part, does not hurt. I get the occasional sting or throbbing pain, but honestly that is it. It is concentrated to the areas of the actual pins. Still looks pretty mangled, but the swelling has gone down so much. It is starting to look normal. The little strips will fall off as I wash my foot this week and the incisions are looking good. Very smooth. A little scabby but overall looking good. Disregard my “pedicure”. I put on Halloween Jamberry nail wraps and it didn’t work since I can’t move all that well and the other big toe peeled off. Very attractive, I know.
I am now allowed to soak my foot. Let me warn you that this is the most disgusting thing ever. My doctor warned me my skin would peel, which was normal, but I was not expecting this. My skin turned whitish while I was soaking it and then I realized I could actually just scrap off all the dead skin. It felt like chunks. I refused to take pictures because it was just nasty. That said, it felt so amazing to soak my foot and clean it. I can’t stand up in the shower but I can sit on a stool/chair in there and that is a win. I highly recommend using epsom salts, warm water and essential oils to soak in. Feels so refreshing and alleviates some of the swelling.
I’m still swelling up considerably throughout the day if my foot is down too much or if I spend most of it walking. I have a new compression sock the doctor gave me, which helps tremendously, but the first day I came home from work without bandages and only the boot my foot looked like this. I have a desk job and had it elevated the whole day. Compression socks are your friends. For context, the picture above is the same day as the one below. One was at 9am straight at the doctor, the one below is at home around 7pm.
I doesn’t hurt when it swells, it is just an uncomfortable pressure situation. What freaks me out the most is how red parts of my foot get. It isn’t the incision area at all. My incisions are looking great and I’m pretty certain I will have no real visible scars, but my foot as a whole changes colors when it is down too much. Crazy stuff to be honest, but normal per the doctor.
Even when the foot is not completely swollen you can see a difference in the color of my skin. It has to do with being in the boot, the complete atrophy of some of my muscles, and the healing process. I cannot wait to start working out this leg and foot again.
Week 4 Post-op
Still swollen in the evenings, still discolored, still scabby, still sore. I’m in the boot and using my compression sock regularly. Ice is still on my foot throughout the day and night. At this point, all I wan to do is walk like a normal person, and throw that boot as far as I can.
Week 5 Post-op
No new pictures. No real change either. Still in the boot but I’m walking way faster. My scabs have fallen off completely and I’m really happy with my incision scars at this point. I am always icing when I can and have it elevated. At work, I have my foot on a chair level to my hips when I’m sitting (or slightly above it). When I am home, I have it up higher…even when I’m sleeping. I also bought Scar Away last week and am amazed at the textural difference on my scars. You can’t really see it, but they feel smoother and less scar tissue-like….and they are less visible too!
Week 6 Post-op
Last Day of the boot! Walking without a boot is strange as can be. My body is all out of whack from walking with the boot. My hips are bothering and my left leg is so weak. I’m limping a lot and putting the foot down doesn’t hurt, but it feels weird. I have no way to describe it other than I feel like my foot is not really there. I’m using a cane for balance when I’m walking long distances. I’m still swelling. Only in sneakers for the next few weeks until I’m cleared for shoes. Great for outfit planning. I look like a fool.
I can’t move my toes at this point. My foot is still swollen, not as visually noticeable, but you can tell my muscles are atrophied and I’m swollen because my toes don’t move or touch the floor when my foot is down.
Week 7 Post -op
Today was a huge milestone in my recovery. I was at work and noticed that I was wiggling my toes in my shoe. My toes moved! Like really moved. This is the first time this happens. And my foot is looking more and more like the right one. My foot is a different color but the doctor tells me this is what I want. As long as my foot still looks different it means I am still healing and can expect more progress. That made me smile.
Week 9 Post-op
I was cleared to wear normal shoes and work out! No impact but I can go for long walks. I’m noticing my foot still swells a bit in certain shoes. I did start my usual 2.5 mile walk and no swelling at all, but I was wearing my good sneakers. I’m still icing my foot and raising it when I’m lounging out at home. It might be out of habit at this point but I think it helps.
I wore some flats this week and my scar changed colors. The doctor said it was just bruising/irritation so I’ve put away these shoes. Every day I regain a bit more movement in the foot and I limp less.