Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Bunionectomy

Photo Credit: A.Currell via Compfight cc
A bunion (hallux valgus) is a bulging bump on the side edge of the joint at the base of the big toe. Over time this bump can become enlarged and inflamed and may cause your first toe to begin pointing towards your smaller toes. Foot pain from a bunion can be so severe that it interferes with normal activities like walking. Most people who acquire bunions have a hereditary predisposition to developing them. Also, wearing high-heeled shoes with a narrow toe box does not help.

In my case, both my mom and dad have bunions as well as both of my sisters and at least one aunt. I did spend twenty years wearing high-heeled usually pointy shoes. My doctor described my bunion as moderate to severe and recommended surgery. There is nothing that can be done to reverse a bunion once it has formed other than surgically removing it and straightening the bones of the toe. This is done so the bunion does not return. The bunion on my right foot was much worse than the one on my left. It was always red and swollen at the end of the day no matter what shoes I wore or how much physical activity I engaged in. I haven’t worn high-heeled shoes in two years and have modified my exercise routine to not include anything that irritated my bunion like lunges.

I had a bunionectomy on my right foot on Tuesday. I chose this day because this is the slowest time of the year for me at work. After surgery I am not allowed to walk on my foot for at least 10 days and my doctor doesn't recommend driving. After practicing walking down lannon stone stairs to my unattached garage while on crutches I realized he was right. I would never be able to do this at least not by myself, so I’ve been home. Never in my adult life have I been house bound for ten straight days before.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from my surgery:
Why they recommend having someone go with you to your doctor’s appointments:
Despite having mentally prepared for this surgery and thinking I was not nervous the day of, after the first nurse left my pre-surgery room I realized I had not heard a word she had said. I had to ask my husband, “What are these?” “Socks” "What am I supposed to do first?" Clearly I was more nervous than I had thought. I realized how easy it would be in those important doctor appointments to miss vital information.

They will make you pee in a cup despite insisting you are not pregnant:
Seriously! I haven’t had anything to drink in ten hours and besides I’m 51.

Blogging plays a larger role in my life than I had thought:
I’ve never had surgery while under a general anesthetic before and was curious what my first words  in recovery would be. I must say I was a little surprised that they were, “How am I supposed to blog about this? I don’t remember a thing.” At the time I was genuinely annoyed. I had been looking forward to at least seeing the surgery unit and my doctor. I wanted to hear him say, “Yes good thing we are doing this, your bunion is pretty swollen today.” The last thing I remember was being wheeled out of my room. I then asked if I could keep the X-ray I’d been handed of my foot with it’s eight new pins. I was sure I could figure a way to post it onto my blog. The nurse took it from me saying, “We will keep it for you right here in your folder.” Once I got back to my room I realized that folder wasn’t coming home with me. Again I was annoyed, but decided to let it go.

The On Q pain pump is a wonderful thing:
I was given a local anesthetic via a small, high-tech balloon that automatically dispenses anesthetic slowly and continuously to my foot. A catheter was inserted into the back of my leg just above the knee and the balloon was placed into a small pouch I wore around my neck. My anesthesiologist pre-set the pump so the anesthetic would continue to dispense for three days. It was wonderful. I didn’t feel any pain after my surgery and didn’t need to take pain meds once I’d gone home. I was able to get around easily on my crutches and didn’t feel sick. I spent a blissful two days reading, sleeping and texting friends and family about how good I felt.

The On Q pain pump running out a day too early is a horrible thing:
I woke up Wednesday night to a terrible stinging pain in my foot. I began taking pain meds, which at first didn’t work then made me sick. When my anesthesiologist called to check up on me the next day he told me the pump must have dispensed too quickly. The block was supposed to last a day longer. The good news was the terrible stinging pain wasn’t coming back, so I wouldn’t need any more pain meds. My husband was easily able to remove the catheter and dispose of it in our trash.

Crutches are not as easy as they look:
I am so glad I practiced using crutches beforehand. Actually, in my pre-surgery appointment I was told if I didn’t know how to use the crutches I would be sent to crutch training before I could leave the out-patient facility. This would be charged to my insurance company at an enormous out-patient rate. I watched a couple of eHow videos on maneuvering stairs and thought I was good to go. After using crutches for five days, I have to say I can’t imagine using them if I wasn’t in decent physical condition. My balance and core strength have helped immensely, but I still managed to strain my shoulder and blister my hand. Tote bags are a necessity for transporting objects from one room to another.

Listen to your doctor:
Lastly, I want to say listen to your doctor and not the naysayers. I can’t tell you how many co-workers/gym acquaintances told me how awful this surgery and the recovery process was going to be. Today, I read on-line that there are 100 different types of bunion surgeries available, most likely resulting in 100 different type of recoveries. So far my recovery hasn’t been so bad, other than Wednesday. The week I was home with bronchitis was much worse.

Since I am so well rested I actually feel better than I normally do and am looking forward to spending the coming week working from home. Who knows it could end up being one of my most productive weeks of the year.


  1. I'm so glad you wrote about this. I have bunions. They aren't bad, but I know they will get worse based on genetics and that I will probably be walking on these feet for another 30+ years. I always have this surgery in the back of my mind and I appreciate you writing about this in detail.

  2. So glad you are doing well.

    Any surgery can be tough and crutches are the worst! Hope this 10 days of not-so-good will mean that in the future you will be able to enjoy things - like walking - again.

    Wish we could have seen your after picture!

  3. Catherine,
    You would be surprised how many people have bunions. Everyone who hears about my surgery knows someone else who's had it. I would recommend wearing flat, wide shoes, but the first time my bunion really started bothering me was after I went for a run in a pair of cheap running shoes. My sister's bunions also started bothering her while wearing tennis shoes - she had been walking a lot while on vacation. She has also had the surgery on both feet. She says it was one of the best things she has ever done.

  4. I hope you are recovering nicely :)

    My grandmother has bunions and she wears flats now.

    AJ | TheAJMinute

  5. I really do hope you're recovering quickly! I'm glad you had doctors who were able to help out!

    Also, it's HILARIOUS that the first thing you said was something about blogging. I think that would be me too. ;-)

  6. Anonymous4:30 AM

    Glad that you are recovering nicely! Everyone has an opinion about everything, do what's best for you. I've never heard of the balloon anesthesia dispenser thing. Very interesting! I don't think any of my surgeries resulted in the top of pain where that would be necessary though.

  7. Thank you so much for this post! I am 35 and have had bunions for at least 10 years. They have only recently started really bothering me. The site itself is actually numb, but I do have stinging pains up the sides of my feet. My biggest concern is that I have three kids, ages 9, 6, and 3. I don't think I can afford 10 days of out commission. And that would only be one foot! I'd love to stay updated on your recovery! All the best to yoU!!

  8. It's good to know the surgery wasn't as bad as I have heard other people say! Maybe one day I will have the courage and the time to do it!

  9. About ten years ago I had a bunionectomy on my right foot with a local anesthesia. It was a painful recovery too. They wanted me to start walking with weight on my foot right away. Not fun. I'll be ready for my left foot in a years. ..

    "All work and no play makes mommy disgruntled chick."

  10. AJ,
    Yes, flats are a must for those of us with bunions. If I had continued to wear high heels I wouldn't have been able to walk.

  11. Susannah,
    Thanks for the well wishes. I have a little less pain each day. Funny how we've become so obsessed with blogging.

  12. Carla,
    I think the balloon dispenser is a fairly new development. Hoping neither one of us needs to use it again ever.

  13. Thanks Rabia,
    You've motivated me to continue to post updates on my recovery. To be honest you will probably be out of commission for more than ten days. I am now in a walking boot and plan to try driving for the first time tomorrow. It may be best to wait a few more years 'til your kids are old enough to wait on you.

  14. Ruth,
    One of the first doctors I visited recommended I have the surgery while I was young before I have other health issues. My mom who is 76 has terrible bunions, but her doctor won't operate because of other health risks. She has to live with constant foot pain.

  15. Elle,
    Interesting they wanted you to walk on your foot right away. After my 10-day check up they have me walking, but I am still in a boot. Originally I thought if all goes well I would have the left done in March. I am now reconsidering. I want to get back to a normal life for awhile.

  16. Maria5:45 PM

    Good to read you're doing well post-surgery. I have a small bunion from combat boots, of all things. It makes purchasing shoes a bit difficult, since the left bunionless foot is fine while the right foot with the bunion is cramped.