Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Being Prepared

Mile Marker 55:

I like to think of myself as spontaneous – able to fly off to Rome on a moment’s notice!   

But if you know me, you know I'd NEVER fly off to Rome on a moment’s notice.

First of all, I’d choose Paris, or maybe Chicago.  Secondly, have you ever purchased an airline ticket on a moment’s notice?  It’s way too expensive!

And third, I like to be prepared.


Moe arrives in his stroller.
Remember him from Mile 17?
Mile 55 blew in last weekend with Hurricane Irene.  

I was proud of how ready I was!   My dad dropped off two cases of bottled water.  I had arranged to "text" my mom every two hours.  My flashlights had new batteries.  And best of all, Mary and her wonder-cat Moe were coming over to spend the night!

Everything was going according to plan until we heard Mayor Nutter’s ominous message:  “Be prepared to be without power for 5 to 10 days, possibly up to two weeks.”

TWO WEEKS?

Mild panic set in.  But even panic can be fun when you're with good friends...(cats included, of course)...

First things first:  I plugged in my leg.  If we were losing electricity for the next two weeks, I was sure as heck going to top off my charge!

Then water:  Would our two cases be enough?  What about washing, cooking, flushing the toilet?  We began filling quart-size yogurt containers and didn’t stop till we got to the bathtub.

My fridge looked a little silly, but we were once again prepared!

As we settled upstairs, a second message rolled across our TV screen.  It was in big, bold letters punctuated by that grim monotone of the Emergency Broadcast System.  And it was NOT a test.

TORNADO WARNING:  SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER IN BASEMENT --

Like those infamous chickens-with-their-heads-cut-off, we started scrambling.  Well, not exactly ALL of us.

ONE of us was fumbling around on crutches.  And another of us -- having not quite mastered the art of reading a message -- was having a nap on the floor.  I’ll let you decide who was who. 

I started shoving on my prosthesis.  There was no way I'd make it to the basement on crutches!

Leg into liner.  Liner into socket.   Ugh!  Why won't it go on?   Oops, forgot the alcohol spray!   Liner, spray, socket.  Too loose -- forgot the socks!   Liner, socks, spray, socket.  Good.  Stand on it.  Jump on it.  Jam it in there!  Oops, don't step on Moe!  Ok, it's on!  Go!

By some miracle, we all made it safely down the two flights of steep, winding stairs to the basement.    

But what now?  We giggled nervously at our lack of readiness.  We balanced the camera on top of the hot-water heater and posed for a picture.  We watched Moe playing in the puddles.

To make a long story short, we survived just fine.





Ok, so I’m NOT all that spontaneous.

I'm a Virgo.  Got a headache?  I've got Advil.   Cut yourself?  I’ve got a Band-Aid.   Spinach in your teeth?  I’ve got floss.   I had preparedness down to a science.

I mean, before all this.  Before last November.

I lost my leg, but I've gained a whole lot of baggage.  And, these days, I devote a lot of my time to packing it.   For pain.  For worry.  For getting through an entire workday.

Along this journey, I’ve met many, many people whose stories prove that it’s impossible to be prepared.   They’re just like you and me – all ages and colors, all backgrounds and professions – and their lives were changed by one moment of unpredictability.  One moment they couldn't prepare for.

I ask myself over and over again if I could have better prepared for MY moment.  The rational side of me says no.  But still, I keep asking.

The morning after the hurricane, I spied Moe staring outside into the gusty wind.

I might have been projecting, but I could almost read his thoughts.  What’s next? 

6 comments:

  1. Well, we made it through the hurricane and tornado warning! It was a crazy night, but I'm really glad we spent it together! At least we can have a good laugh about it! Moe is really wondering what is next - hopefully, no more storms! Stay strong, stay cool, stay you!!!

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  2. Being a Virgo, we do have or at least we try really hard to have preparedness down to a science. I say, we plan and God laughs. I guess he is not a Virgo :)

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  3. True!! Maybe we Virgos SHOULD fly off to Rome -- or Paris -- on a moment's notice... He would probably be entertained!

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  4. Hi Rebecca!
    I've been following your blog since you gave me the link at Magee and I love it! I'm so glad you're continuing to improve. Good thing the power wasn't out for too long during the hurricane!
    I'm all settled in back at Georgetown and am so happy to be back :) I'm still on the swim team and just had my first practice!
    Michelle

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  5. I have been working at my profession for a long time now, supporting clients as they deal with the hurts and losses and grief that unimaginable traumatic events have left in their wake. I am always prepared. However, this week, I met a family whose plight and pain touched me so deeply, that my eyes filled and I had to choke back my tears to provide them with the professional support they needed. My response was unpredictable, and I was very unprepared for it, but I found that the tears helped me release those overwhelming feelings of sadness and grief experienced in the face of tragic and catastrophic loss. Only then, tears shed, with the help of a caring and supportive colleague, was I was able to move on, in my most predictable, professional capacity, to help my clients navigate the uncharted territory of trauma. Even in our strongest, most competent selves, we are often unprepared for what we must face. It's important to let the tears flow, grieve the losses, reach out for help, and then move ahead, again. Need a hand?

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