“Bilateral heel cord lengthening” sounds horrendous. For a few days it felt like it. But it was probably the best thing I did.
Before being diagnosed with Becker muscular dystrophy I was walking on my toes. It wasn’t like I could have been mistaken for a ballerina, but rather I walked more on the balls of my feet than my heel. The only way I could get one heel to touch the ground is if I bent my other knee and forced it down. Walking like this didn’t hurt and surprisingly I was NEVER teased for walking this way.
It was actually this walking style that led us to an orthopedic specialist when I was about 13 years old. He is the one that sent us to a neurologist who ultimately determined that I had muscular dystrophy. Back we went to the orthopedic surgeon who highly recommended the bilateral heel cord lengthening surgery which we did almost two years later.
The type of bilateral heel cord lengthening surgery I had was fairly simple. They would release the heel cord by cutting it in a “Z”-ish formation and then sew it back together at different connection points. I would wear casts up to my knees on both legs for six weeks.
I personally was neither anxious or scared of having this procedure done. It was happening over summer so I wouldn’t miss any school and by the time I got back to school it would be as though nothing happened.
The surgery went very well such that they made me stand up on my feet the very next day! This was the worst moment, and I stress MOMENT of the entire process. At the time it was the worst pain I had felt (until I recently had kidney stones). But it didn’t last very long and ultimately made me feel very confident that my newly sewn-together heel cords weren’t going to fail.
I was in the hospital for a few days until I faked having a bowel movement so I could go home. After all that they wanted me to stay because I hadn’t pooped yet? At any rate, my family and friends visited, brought me scratch off lottery tickets and a slew of other gifts. It was great.
At home I rested for several days and started walking around the house with a walker. Within a week I didn’t need the walker anymore. Shortly thereafter I was outside playing basketball, hitting a tennis ball against the wall, and even went golfing with my dad. It was like doing things with heavy boots attached to my legs. It didn’t even hurt anymore.
When I finally got the casts off six weeks later, I used crutches for a short time and went through several weeks of physical therapy to re-learn how to walk again. Frankly I didn’t understand why I had to re-learn how to walk again since I was actually walking just fine. But the exercise did me good.
I went back to school in the fall and on the first day showed off my shiny new heel cords, scars and all. It was definitely easier to walk and made me feel more “normal.” It didn’t necessarily make climbing steps any easier but overall the effect was very positive.
So if you have a good surgeon I highly recommend having the bilateral heel cord lengthening surgery because it worked well. I have now gone 20 years with very little reversion to the way it was.