A cure for ankle pain: Jane’s road to recovery

When Jane first injured her ankle, the pain was horrendous. However, showing incredible strength of will and character, she strapped it up and carried on as best she could until she got around to having surgery - more than two decades later! 
A cure for ankle pain Jane Van Driessche.jpg

When Jane Van Driessche first injured her ankle, the pain was horrendous. However, showing incredible strength of will and character, she strapped it up and carried on as best she could until she got around to having surgery – more than two decades later! 

It was about 23 years ago,” Jane recalls. “I was working with horses – leading two in – when they ran off. I ran with them rather than letting go, and fell over, injuring my left ankle. I didn't go to the hospital, I went home, bandaged it up and was back at work couple of days later – with a very bad ankle.

‘Very bad’ is something of an understatement. Despite Jane’s best efforts to strap her ankle and give it some stability, it would give way from time to time, leaving her on the floor in agony. “The pain was indescribable,” she says, wincing at the memory. Drawing on impressive reserves of stamina and fortitude, Jane carried on, assuming things would get better over time. 

Amazingly, that’s exactly what seemed to happen. Gradually, things became easier. “I just lived with it,” Jane says, matter-of-factly. “I got myself back together and carried on.” She was even able to return to one of her main passions – running. “Not on roads, and not as far, but I could run.

However, Jane was aware in the back of her mind that the function wasn’t as good as it had been. Rather than her ankle healing, she had learned to adapt and live around her condition. Eventually, some seven years later, she decided to seek help. 

I went to see a specialist who said it was really bad and, because of my age, he would only offer me fusion,” Jane remembers. After reading around ankle fusion, she decided it wasn’t the right option for her. “It meant three months off work,” she says, with the same steely stoicism that informed her decision back then. “My life was busy, I was doing stuff… I wasn't prepared to sit with my leg in the air for three months.

A devastating impact

The years that followed saw Jane coping with her condition. The pain started to resurface, but she managed it with painkillers, (“I took a lot” she laughs), plus gait analysis and orthotics, (“I spent a fortune”). Unable to use a clutch, she even switched to an automatic car.

Over time Jane’s ankle became stiffer and the pain grew. Repeat visits to a physiotherapist didn’t yield the results she craved. Running stopped, walking became difficult and for a person who had enjoyed such an active lifestyle, the impact was devastating. Jane realised she had to take action.

I joined an ankle replacement group on Facebook,” she recalls. “That prompted me to look into it again. I typed ‘best UK surgeons for ankle replacements’ into Google and Andrew Goldberg’s name came up.” 

After a week’s holiday left Jane unable to walk, she immediately booked an appointment. “I was getting to the point where I’d rather have had my foot cut off altogether,” Jane says, only half laughing. A few days later, Mr Goldberg was examining her ankle, “He said it looked really bad, but he also assured me he could help.”  

X-rays and scans followed, and the results confirmed the serious nature of Jane’s injury. A short while before the surgery was due to take place, Jane was moving house. While going through some paperwork she found, by chance, a folded-up page from a newspaper. It was an article from years earlier, a whole page about Mr Goldberg and his pioneering new ankle replacement research. It was a welcome coincidence that seemed, if nothing else, like a good omen.

Arriving at The Wellington Hospital in London last May, Jane felt incredibly nervous, unsure as to whether she could go through with the procedure. It was her first time in a hospital, and her mind was racing. Thankfully, Mr Goldberg arrived just in time to stop Jane’s thoughts of a quick escape, as he sat down to calmly talk her through the procedure again, and answer any outstanding worries she had.

An unbelievable recovery

Mr Goldberg came around to see me after the operation,” Jane says. “He said my ankle had been so bad, he thought he was going to have to fuse it at two or three points during the procedure. He said the procedure was difficult because all the tendons and ligaments to the ankle were damaged years earlier, making the whole ankle unstable.” 

I count myself exceedingly lucky that Mr Goldberg persevered,” she says, smiling. “He knew about my lifestyle, he knew I've got arthritis in other parts of my foot. He understood and wanted to give me as much mobility as he possibly could.

And how has the recovery been so far? “Unbelievable!” Jane’s reply is emphatic. The same determination that saw her power through with her bad ankle has set Jane in good stead when it comes to exercise. While running is now off the cards, she’s cycling, swimming and walking as much as possible. 

Once the cast came off, I just started walking,” she beams. “And I haven't stopped since!

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.