Russell Moore (---.hsd1.wa.comcast.net) 1:23pm Feb 18 2010
wanted to share my experience with this product with others...
A few weeks ago I dropped my motorcycle and broke my ankle in two places. As many of you know, a broken bone can be some of the worst pain you experience in your life. The ER docs put me in a splint, sent me home with painkillers, and a reference to a really good orthopedic surgeon here in the Seattle area. I would need surgery with screws & plates to put the bones back together, a cast, etc.
Between that time & when I could get in for my consultation, I had some time to surf the web to see if I could find some general information on how long it takes to heal, what casts are like to live with, and anything else I could do to cope with what I had done to myself. I came across vacocast.com, and there were a few videos of a people doing things you can't so while in a regular cast, such as swimming. I read the associated documents they had, and it looked really promising - much better than getting a plaster cast for 6 weeks. I printed out the product detail page and brought it with me to my initial consultation. The doctor had never heard of it, but initially said if I wanted to buy that as a replacement for the aircast-type boot that one would wear after the traditional cast is taken off, it may cost me out of pocket, but he didn't see a reason why not. I told him that it was actually a replacement for a cast, and I remember him saying, "no, your going to need a cast." But he did take my printout and was going to look at it.
Had surgery a week after once the swelling went down, and was put in another plaster splint. I went ahead and contacted the guys at vacocast on my own, telling them what my situation was, and ended up ordering one on my own in faith that my doctor would at least look at it.
Two weeks after surgery, I went back in to have the splint removed, staples taken out, and supposedly a plaster cast put on. I brought my vacocast with me & let the doctor take a look at it in person. no one in the office had ever seen one. The orthotist (the guy who actually puts the cast on) talked to the doctor and they agreed that I could wear the vacocast instead of a traditional plaster cast, but the same rules still applied - incision areas not to get wet for 2 weeks, no weight bearing for now. They were so enthused, they ended up calling the same sales guy I talked to, and it sounds like they may start carrying them here and offering them to patients who qualify.
I'm not being paid or anything for this endorsement, just wanted to share, and I hope I don't sound like a commercial, but this thing is awesome. It is lighter weight than my splint was, and provides a lot of comfortable support. I can take it off to wash up, which was a real bonus for me - the thought of not washing my foot for several weeks really freaked me out :)
Basically it looks like an open ski boot. The outside is like a trellis frame that has a top and a bottom, with velcro straps that pull it together. The inside boot has a terry cloth removable/washable liner that wraps a vinyl boot with chambers in it. The chambers have tiny bean-bag like pellets in it, and on the top near the shin is a valve for a hand pump. You know how when you buy vacuum-sealed coffee, the bad is super rigid and conforms to the shape of he beans inside? same kind of thing. You put the inside boot on, then put the outside on, strap it down, and use the hand pump to remove the air from the chambers in the inside boot. It becomes rigid, but not hard, and it conforms to the shape of your foot and the outside boot. Also it has a removable cushioned sole plate.
On the heel there is a locking plate that you can adjust to have your foot locked at 0, 15, or 30 degrees. Mine is just at 0. Once I can start bearing weight on it, the locking plate is exchanged with one that allows 15% flex both up & down. The idea is that you can start working your muscles earlier, and recover sooner. I can't wait :)
The thing is made in Germany, and really popular there. Very high quality, solidly made, and well designed. The US distributors are in the NE, and it is just starting to catch on here in the US I guess, mostly on the east coast so far according to the sales guy.
It is so comfortable, and I highly highly recommend it. If you have broken your ankle, you should definitely have a look and talk to your doctor. Mine seemed pretty doubtful about it at first, but ended up letting me go that route. Supposedly insurance should cover it, but even if I had to pay for it out of pocket I would at this point for the better quality of life. I've only had it on for a few days now, but the difference is huge in comfort, ability to sleep, level of pain, etc.