Hammer Toe Time II: Surgery and Recovery


The pain from my knuckled up toes was getting worse until the pain and stiffness affected my walking. I assumed it was arthritis-nothing much that can be done. But believing in physical therapy, I saw my doctor and he kicked me upstairs to podiatry and x-ray, though sadly, physical therapy is not effective.

Come to find out there is a name for my pain and it is ‘hammer toe‘, (a deformity of the proximal interphalangeal joint of the second, third, or fourth toe causing it to be permanently bent, resembling a hammer. via Wikipedia).

‘Hammer toe’ is a joint dislocation that can only be corrected, in its ‘frozen’ state, by surgery of the affected toes, ligaments and muscles. The surgeon removes bone so the toes can lie flat again and pins are inserted to make them heal that way. The pins will be removed later.







Knowing I was scheduled to be cut on Thursday, I spent the days before mowing the lawn, cleaning the pool and washing my sheets and clothes. No food is allowed after midnight on Wednesday and only black coffee, tea or clear juice is allowed for 3 hours before the procedure, the time for which is only divulged to the patient the day before.

Kaiser Podiatry does their surgery in Folsom and they are as efficient, reassuring, busy and as nice as they can be. Still, it’s very like the army, hurry-up-and-wait. You will be waiting for hours even after you don the silly hospital gown, food service hair net and non-slip footies. Bring a book and eyeglasses with case but no jewellery or watch please. You must develop patience to be a good patient.

The nurse inserted the IV drip with little pain, nothing for a 42-pint blood donor like me but nice anyway. In modern surgery that tiny pin-prick is about the only pain involved-until the drugs wear off at home.

I basically dozed off and woke up a bit groggy but none the worse and my foot all bandaged. I vaguely remember them showing me the ends of the toes with what looked like bent over colored push pins inserted in my toes but I was too disinterested to care much-the drugs they pump in you are pretty powerful.


The ‘Boot’

‘The Boot’ is to be worn whenever I’m awake; I was advised to shuffle the left foot but I had to ignore that advise and instead limp like Igor when I walked, slow but little pain if done briefly; otherwise elevation, Rx pain pills of high dose and ice if needed.

Driving home was fine but as they say, “toe and foot surgery can be painful”, and 5 or 6 hours later I was a believer.

I should have asked for something other than Norco (similar to the old Vicoden) as a pain killer because it makes me sick and does little for pain. So I ended up taking only a few puke-making Norco’s before I switched to even less effective Acetaminophen and Motrin. These drugs make me queasy too but not to the point of vomiting. And I really needed pain pills.

2/13/16 Much, much pain. 2/14/16 Pain all night and right now too. Taking acetaminophen and Motrin but with little effect. Later: Still pain, maybe 4 on the scale. 2/15/16 off Norco, some nausea and pain but better. Finally had 2 BMs, joy!

By Tuesday the 16th the pain was less and I was clumping around carefully in the ‘boot’ and already tired of pajamas, constipation, house arrest, pain and nausea, and the general soreness of clumping around in the ‘boot’- and I need my hip and shoulder PT.

By Thursday I quit all the sickening pain pills but kept smoking cannabis, which is about the only thing that helps both pain and nausea- that and wincing while writhing and moaning.

Shocking how good hospital drugs and anaesthesia are and how useless and sickening are the pain pills we are given when the pain hits at home hours after the surgery.


Tired of Pajamas, Though I Alternate Red and Blue Pairs

The Kaiser follow-up nurse called and since there is no bleeding, lessening pain and no swelling etc., I have to conclude I’m healing. I go to another nurse on the 25th, hopefully to get the  pins removed, something I find deeply disturbing and try not to think about too much, like the very idea of clomping around with pins in my toes. Or maybe they won’t take them out which is more disturbing.

Right now my pain varies from about 1-2.5 which comes and goes. My digestion is good again and I have to keep slowing myself down from standing and walking (clomping) too much because the pain reminds me. Before I can really walk again my joints have to grow scars which will act as new, unbent joints for my now joint-less toes.

I’m lucky to have a retired Pharmacy Technician controlling my pain med doses and a excellent chef and baker to cook me semi-paleo food- a gourmet recovery.


OTOH my arthritic right hip joint is in pain from no physical therapy and constant sitting. My butt is sore as well, as is my back from the limping. I hope when I recover from all this, months down the road, I can again walk a mile without pain.







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One thought on “Hammer Toe Time II: Surgery and Recovery

  1. Pingback: Hammertoe Recovery: Back in Street Shoes | todgermanica.com

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