Here come a series of posts regarding bunion surgery. I had the Scarf, Akin and Weil’s procedures to the bunion and the second toe. It’s not a pretty subject but the few blogs I found on it helped me enormously; that is, in deciding whether to go through with the operation and then to help me afterwards.
Here’s my very personal view, then, to add to what’s already out there. Which ain’t much. It’s not meant to be encyclopaedic. There’s Google searches and medical sites for that.
I had a bunion operation a week ago today. And, to be strictly correct, a toe operation at the same time. No, I am not 83. I type this in bed with a laptop balanced to the left of four stacked pillows. On the right, my bandaged right foot is resting on said stack, higher than my heart. I’ll spare you a picture of this. To get to this point, and to see such an odd view, it’s been a strange Bunion Pilgrimage.
I’d had the bunion for quite some years but it was now knifing, jabbing and stabbing away at me at night, especially after those days when I’d had to walk more than five metres. Shopping trips were agony; walking the dog unbearable. Soft shoes from the ‘comfy’ ranges were becoming my only viable option. Longing to leave events way before they were over, simply because my own feet were attacking me, was common.
I’d mostly kept schtum about the growing, nagging lump on my foot, knowing if I mentioned it, the word bunion tended to provoke either a horrified (eeuuww!), revolted (la la, la la! TMI!), amused or derisory response. The name, bunion, for something that looks like a little onion, seriously needs a rethink. It’s clearly had poor press and image-management over the years, hence the impressions we have of it. There might be more sympathy or concern, and less ridiculous reactions, if it were called metatarsosis or something, it being a problem with the metatarsal bones of the foot. And it sounds such an innocuous, innocent, almost trivial thing.
Yet it was becoming an agonising intrusion into my life. At my next doctor’s check-up and, regardless of my previous hesitation, I decided to mention my painful bunion. At this point, I had very little knowledge of bunion treatment, assuming (as it seems I tend to do, despite knowing never to assume anything) that it would mean an ointment, or a swift trip to a chiropodist, a quick scrape with some mysterious implement and a stitch or two at most. I mean, if this had been my OH’s or child’s bunion, I would have been doing all the research going as soon as the thing appeared. But when it comes to me and my health, fear of the unknown keeps me in blissful denial.
She looked at my feet, said ‘Ooh, yes, quite a large one! And a small one on the left!’, turned to her computer and, with no further ado, said: ‘Now, where do you want it done?’, read off a list of local hospitals, told me the nearest hospital would mean a wait of many months and recommended Care UK for their short waiting list, successful results and efficiency.
Before I could step (sorry) on the research gas and thoroughly Google bunions, I had a couple of busy weeks and then an appointment with an Orthopaedic Surgeon – clearly, Health & Safety now means that a chiropodist isn’t enough, I thought, blithely – at Care UK (based at King George’s Hospital, Goodmayes, Essex). One thing I had heard was that these buniony buggers were all different creatures and could have different treatments. Sometimes other toes/parts of the feet were involved.
I met my first live Bunion Pilgrim (surgery victim) as soon as I’d parked at Care UK, and spotted a woman being pushed by her husband towards the entrance in a wheelchair. From her pained expression and bandaged foot in a giant velcro shoe, I astutely reckoned she’d had some kind of foot surgery. We got chatting in the waiting room and I asked which kind, expecting the answer: ‘complete foot transplant’.
‘Bunion,’ she said, smiling bravely through the tears. This was the point where the penny began to drop that there was probably a great deal more to this innocent-sounding bunion business than I’d assumed. It turned out she’d had a simple bunion done, no other toes, ‘just the one neat scar’ and that they’d borrowed a wheelchair for the early weeks. Ah. Really? Resisting the urge to hot-foot it out of there (sorry, again), I decided, with her raving recommendation of both excellent surgeon and treatment, to stick around and at least give this butcher, oops, no, surgeon a fair chance.
Mr. Fabulous (as I nicknamed him – my OH is sick of hearing about how handsome this Hungarian surgeon is) turned out to be most reassuring, certain that surgery would bring the pain relief I’d been silently screaming for and he suggested he fix the right foot before the lesser-bunioned, and so far painless, left. Once he’d explained what that involved, i.e. three separate procedures, bones broken and altered, screwed and stapled, I admit my utter relief when he said: ‘Of course, these procedures will all be under General Anaesthesia…’ Just as well. I was awake for a 17-stitch facial skin cancer operation under local anaesthetic last year but at least I couldn’t see that. The thought of an accidental peep revealing a foot operation in all its dubious glory didn’t bear thinking about.
Prior to this and the doctor’s appointment, I had honestly not thought to look it up as I’d naively thought it would simply involve shaving the lump off the foot in chiropody-type stylie! All I could think at this time is that it was going to be worth any procedure to be pain-free at last. And my doctor had warned me – virtually waving a finger – that, now it was painful, it would only get worse. So, pained woman in wheelchair, heavier surgery than imagined, or not, I was ready for long-term relief, better walks and shopping, maybe even more sleep.
Mr. Fabulous knew exactly what needed doing, ensured my OH would be able to drive me home from the procedure and help at home afterwards, asked if I had any questions – he was clearly unaware that I was too disarmed by his looks, charm, accent and efficiency to think of any, on top of which I was still absorbing all the shock information – and sent me off to have an x-ray. After further checks with nurses, I was back at the car with the appointment date of 13 August, two weeks from that day.
Again, there were a couple of busy weeks but, three days before the op, I thought to Google bunions. I found a few useful sites and blogs (see Stage Two post where I’ve listed them at the end), some gruesome Youtube videos that I quickly halted while reaching for a bucket, some forums with questions and possible answers from other Bunion Pilgrims. And royally freaked myself out. I was only too glad then that I was having a General Anaesthetic.
From my research, I also came to realise that there could be a longer recovery period than we’d thought. Reports varied between six weeks and a year. The woman in the Pet Shop had been a Bunion Pilgrim and survived, though she told me, helpfully: ‘there’s billions of nerves in the foot, you know.’ We spent the weekend before the op doing housework like I was never going to be able to operate a washing-machine or Hoover again – and as though my OH would also be incapable. Now, I almost wish we’d done more, such as freeze some meals or decorate a bit, like you do before a baby arrives.
By the day of the operation, I was in two minds. Should I cancel out of fear and wimpyness or go ahead while feeling like a woman condemned? I used my labour-breathing on the way to the hospital and decided to fix my mind on the long-term, pain-free view. Stage One of the Bunion Pilgrimage was over.
Stage 2 follows soon…
The famous bunions belonged to: Victoria Beckham and Tilda Swinton