Compartment Syndrome - Rahim and Me

I thought I'd take an little time today to tell my own experience for those of you who don't understand just how serious Compartment Syndrome can be.

I'm sure most of you have had muscle cramps at one point in your lives, especially those who play hard and lead a very physical life outside the job. Think of Compartment Syndrome as the mother of all muscle cramps. The pain is excruciating, so much in my case I was begging the hospital staff to please amputate my leg. Yeah, it's that bad! But I digress. Let me back up and tell the story from the beginning.

I used to be an avid outdoorsman. Hiking, hunting, rafting, you name it, I did it. In the autumn of 1996 I had been deer and elk hunting in the Wyoming Range of northwest Wyoming. During the course of walking along numerous steep hills, I had rolled an ankle a few times while trying to maintain footing. We've all done it, no big deal, right? It didn't hurt a lot at the time, but it's a little tender, and it'll go away. That's what I thought.

I came out of the mountains on Sunday and return to my job as an underground mine mechanic on Monday. The next day at work, walking across the shop, I rolled an ankle yet again. I thought, "I'm turning into a freakin' klutz!" Sure, the floor isn't perfectly level, but I can't even walk on flat ground without rolling my ankle?
Later at home as I watch TV, my ankle aches in excruciating pain. The swelling also increased. At first I didn't think much about it but the pain kept building and finally, after ice, heat and a handful of ibuprofen, at 9:00 I told my wife "I need to go to the hospital." Now I don't do doctors, so for me to say "let's go to the hospital" means serious business. My wife was an RN and she said it may be Compartment Syndrome. I thought, "How could that be when I hadn't had any major trauma to my leg?"

You see where I'm going? The trauma to my ankle had been building for the past week and that last ankle roll was, for lack of a better term, the straw that broke the camel's back. By 11:00 PM I was screaming at the ER staff to cut my leg off. They administered a dose of valium to calm me down, but it had no effect on the pain. An orthopedic surgeon finally showed up, and at 1:00 AM I was wheeled into the O.R. for surgery to receive a fasciaotmy. That means he slit my leg from just below the knee to just above the ankle. All our muscles are enclosed in sacks, called fascia, and cutting that open allowed my muscle to swell without cutting off the blood to my leg and leading to an amputation. It was dressed, wrapped up and wouldn't be closed until the swelling had gone down. On Thursday, I underwent another surgery to close my leg back up.

Weeks passed before I was able to actually walk normally and Rahim will be facing the same rehab as I did. It's going to take time and we won't see him on the field for a while. This is an injury I certainly wouldn't wish upon anyone. My heart goes out to him. I know what he's going through.

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