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Bilateral Calcaneus fractures

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Rhett Burroughs · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 215

On Feb. 22 I sustained multiple fractures on my heels when I had a BASE jumping accident. Around 20 on one and 10 on on the other. The surgeon lost count. I expect to make a pretty good recovery he said and running will be possible. Right now I'm bed ridden for a few months. Climbing is possible but I don't think I will be jumping again. I was fortunate to only bust my heels, there was no fusion to other bones. Just a lot of hardware.

Has anyone had any experience with this. I was told ~6 months with good PT. Just want some other sage advice if anyone has any.

gblauer Blauer · · Wayne, PA · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 990

Wow...sounds terrible. Thank goodness you survived!

Bucky · · West Coast · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 5

Hi Rhett,

In 2010 I decked and suffered bilateral calcaneus fractures. Lots of hardware in both heels and was wheel chair bound for 3.5 months. Don't lose hope man. It sucks but you'll get through it. I suggest core workouts, lots of core workouts. The casts on the feet are just extra training weight. I didn't believe the doctors that trying to walk immediately after getting my casts off would be as much of struggle as it was. Hit the pt hard. It took about a year before I could bust out approaches without my feet swelling. Two years out I would still get occasional swelling if I really abused my feet but nothing I couldn't ignore usually. Almost four years out it just seems like a bad memory.

I would say the hardest part for me was fighting the depression that came from feeling isolated from my friends and climbing partners. If it's an option, try to do your core workouts at the climbing gym or where ever your friends usually train. Keep yourself involved. I had friends build a campus board that I could top rope directly out of my wheel chair. I would hang board with friends. I even had a champion friend push me through the sand in Joshua tree just so I could be included on the trip. Maintaining mental sanity is key.

Stay strong my friend and feel free to pm me if your ever feeling down and need to complain to someone.

Rhett Burroughs · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 215

Thanks Bucky Ill get with you soon

Kyle O · · Tucson, AZ · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 20

I broke both my heels and messed up my subtalar joints pretty bad (no fusion though) in May '09. Had my hardware out in Feburary of last year. I didn't return to climbing until August of last year (having last really climbed when I was 12-13) so I can't relate much of my recovery to climbing.

It took me about 2 years to be 100% recovered from it (that being the point when I stopped getting better, I'll never be the same as before the injury). Almost a year until I was able to really hike, about eighteen months before I could really backpack again. Walking over uneven or non-level terrain was virtually impossible for the first couple months afterwards. About a year for most of the swelling to go away and for most of the feeling to return.

Almost 5 years out now I wish I had spent more time rehabbing my soft tissue early on. I still have problems with plantar fasciitis, disproportionately small calves, tendonitiis in my left achilles tendon, and general tightness in my hamstrings and ITB's. Poor stretching habits and doing PT type stuff the minimal amount of time (ie till I'm "good enough"), have greatly contributed to this I'm sure, and is something I'm working through now.

I've found over the last few years that the less shoe I wear the happier my feet are. Anything with a heel cup or arch support makes my heels ache and my arthritis burn. Now I NEVER wear shoes unless I'm climbing or mountain biking (and wear Luna sandals for everything else including approaches/descents). This was a gradual transition over the last couple years brought on by necessity that culminated in me finding the barefoot/minimalist running movement. I found the most helpful thing about minimalist footwear is switching from a heel strike to forefoot strike. With a heel strike I wouldn't be able to run at all, and long days with a heavy pack always messed my feet up. This is just my own experience obviously, but may be something to consider once your fully healed, if shoes give you problems.

The mental struggle and depression that accompanies all this sucks, but just know that you will get through it and eventually return to your passions. Like Bucky said getting out of the house really helps, even if its just to hang out or go to the store or something.

When this first happened to me the doctor said I wouldn't be able to run again or do serious backpacking/hiking and I'm now more active then I was before. The only things that really bother me now are low angle slab stuff, hanging belays with shoes on, and running (only because of the tendinitis). Having my hardware removed helped out a ton too, but probably isn't worth it if it's not giving you problems.

Sorry if this is a little long winded and all over the place. Breaking my heels was a life changing event and something that I continue to deal with and learn from. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions or just need someone to talk to. Wishing you a speedy recovery and sending you some good vibes.

One final thing; Aleve, Cannabis and Icy Hot are your friends :)

Edited to add:

My fractures were pretty bad (more like shattered than fractured, spent almost 6 hours in surgery and I'm missing a piece of my subtalar joint in one foot) so my time frames for recovery may be on the long side. If you can, find a physical therapist who specializes in feet/ankle injuries and works with athletes. The working with athletes part being key as there's a huge difference between a patient who pushes themselves and one who does not.

Also enjoy the handicap parking and electric shopping carts while you can!

Rhett Burroughs · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 215

Thanks. I was fortunate that there was no soft tissue damage and there are no bones missing. Heel shatters and breaks are life changers for sure. I have been told that I will be release around 2 months after surgery to do what ever it is I "think I can do." But my pain and visuals I'm getting say no. I mentioned climbing and he said make sure you get a stiff boot. I got real quiet. Maybe its time to get better at aid and work towards some ice climbing. I have a great doctor friend who is going to set me up with a athlete oriented / climbing rehab and I'm going to hit it hard I hope. Pretty sure the BASE is done and probably skydiving. I hurt my heel(s) again the word amputation came up. Its not worth this again, this is just awful for me and my family.

Ryan Kempf · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 230

Rhett, Wade is my roommate and one of my best friends and climbing partner. He has told me a lot about your accident, I feel for you. I would like to stress although you got fkd up your'e lucky man. A friend of mine jumped off the 2nd story of a house into a pool, clipped his heels on the lip of the pool and sustained Similar injuries as you. One of his heels looks like the Xray I saw on FB, the other.... Nothing they could do, he is a below the knee amputee now. He has since become addicted to Heroin after getting off the meds from the docs and trying to deal with the depression. I don't know where he is now.

Stay strong dude, surround yourself with friends. You WILL make it through this, it's a process like all things in life, and will take some time. In 2004 I shattered my tibia & fibula. They installed 10 screws and a plate to hold it together, and I was in a chair for 6 months and a soft cast for another 3. 10 yrs later I have only minimal issues with that ankle, I even completed a half Iron Man last year. Your injury sounds more severe, but I can empathize with you.

The climbing community is small, the BASE community is even smaller. I doubt you'll have a hard time finding "champion" friends as Bucky talks about. I had a few that really saved me (from depression and addiction). As an avid skydiver looking to get into BASE, I have to say that everything that has happened in the climbing and jumping communities in the last month or so has made me really look inside myself to try to understand what drives me to push my personal limits, and what I am trying to get out of my chosen sports/activities/lifestyle.

Rhett I'll be in touch my friend.

Rhett Burroughs · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 215

Ryan, Wade is such a great guy. We have climbed a few times together including a priceless trip to the Tetons. Just a great dude. I had plans to move out that way later on this year even if I couldn't find a job after my Europe BASE trip but things have changed.

Sorry to hear about your friend. I have people that say ohh you will be fine in a few weeks. I go no, actually not its going to be a year or more. I'm glad you have recovered from your injury. That is great to hear you have done all those things and climbing hard.

I have had so many visitors its great. Social interaction is a key thing in recovery and is keeping my spirits up. I have some stand up friends from all different walks of life and it is a great thing. They sure keep my spirits up and help me push myself. I'm not going to let this get me down. I will find a way. I am hard headed.

You are correct on the climbing community and BASE community. I wouldn't trade it for the world. If I was to do it all over again from getting a real job to allow me to do the things I have done. I wouldn't have changed a thing. Well maybe trade a trip to Yosemite but I'll get there. You push yourself with your activities because it makes you feel alive. Its the feeling of the unknown, the calm heart rate, the beauty of the situation. Its why we do what we do because it makes us feel good, usually after the fact but none the less. If you get into BASE, find a good mentor, and make good decisions. I wasn't even going to jump that day or bring my rig. I was going climbing the next day. I was setting up a 70ft rope swing and just decided not to. I packed my rig and jumped in perfect conditions but something just didn't feel right. I got complacent with my mind and started to expunge the danger of the situation. I felt invincible, everything was going great for me.. climbing descent off the couch and the jumping was progressing ten fold. I had a magazine shoot, just got sponsored, and a Hollywood stuntman coming to hang and me teach him some rigging things. Then this one off stunt. Be safe, and don't do BASE its like cocaine. We will talk soon!

Ryan Kempf · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 230

Yeah man, Wade’s a pretty stand up kid. We get along great, and he’s an awesome roommate seeing how much he’s outa town lol. Did you end up with any ligament/tendon damage? If so did it require surgery? Any nerve damage? From what I’ve seen in the past if you only had the fractures you’ll be back on your feet in 6-12 months. Your absolutely right about the social interaction, don’t get lost/trapped inside your own head; your thoughts are not necessarily reality, other perspectives will help to ground you. Stay stubborn, this is one of those situations where it can be to your advantage, just take it slow. Use pain as your gauge. You like me probably have a high pain tolerance, but that doesn’t mean you don’t recognize it, just dial it back some. That Yosemite trip is NOT out of the question for you man. Like moving it may have to take a back seat for a bit, but shit man we all need long term goals.

Thanks for addressing the “why” behind the “what” we do. I tend to agree with you and would like to add a different perspective. What about recognizing the effect of dopamine on our nervous system? Your chosen sport is a way to stimulate the nervous system, training your brain to release dopamine (among other things). Ever felt wound up or stressed @ work, exercised at lunch and felt calmer when you got back to work? Not coincidence.

Ryan Kempf · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 230

This is worth repeating. Damn good quote dude, gonna use this one in the future, thanx.

Rhett Burroughs wrote:You push yourself with your activities because it makes you feel alive. Its the feeling of the unknown, the calm heart rate, the beauty of the situation.
Stephen Felker · · Boulder, CO · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 485

I'm really sorry to hear about your injury Rhett! Hopefully, the healing process progresses quickly. I recommend that you commit to some sort of interim replacement activity to stay fit and allay depression. Swimming and hang boarding (mixed with upper body and core) would be at the top of my list. On the bright side, think about what a little leg atrophy can do for your sport climbing!

Rhett Burroughs · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 215

Thanks s f!

If anyone is curious and wants to see the carnage video here it is. It is at the end. I have plenty of time to not do anything so I figured I would make a movie.

BirminghamBen · · Birmingham, AL · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 1,635

I'm glad you'll be okay, but let me comment....

Face down, in the dirt, in your underwear...
Y'all filmed it. .
Minus ten style points for including that in yer montage.

How many GoPros were on site?

And then there's this....


Looks painful.
Get well soon, Rhett.

Paul Barnes · · Gainesville, Georgia · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 25

I think if I had a steady supply of meds, company like that, and nothing but time on my hands...I'd be making a drastically different batch of videos. Just sayin.

BirminghamBen · · Birmingham, AL · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 1,635

And kinky furniture.

Rhett Burroughs · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 215

I'mma gonna give you two blokes a knuckle sammich!

Paul Barnes · · Gainesville, Georgia · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 25

Not any time soon. I'm faster than that chair.

On a serious note. Do whatever Recknor says...he gets paid well to tell busted up MF'ers like you what to do.

rock-fencer · · Columbia, SC · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 265

jesus rhett that looked horrid...glad you didnt get even more jacked up. Here's one to pushing the envelope!! I liked the montage unlike Ben

Chad Sontag · · Vacaville, CA · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 160

Sorry to hear about this Rhett! Hoping for the best man. There has been some good advice here for you...keep as mentally and physically engaged as you can during the recovery. Things will improve and just remember this is only temporary no matter how long it may seem at the time.

Rhett Burroughs · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 215

Thanks rock! Yeah Ben doesn't like anything... can't teach a old dog new tricks

Chad, yup and you have been doing good. This to shall pass, but its going to suck ass

BirminghamBen · · Birmingham, AL · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 1,635

Constructive criticism.....
I just didn't like that part of it...
That or the boxers.

You should have photoshopped some flames coming out of the top of your boots....
Or a mushroom cloud....
Or maybe this for a themesong.....…

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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