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!

Friday, August 26, 2011

It's a Bird, It's a Plane...

...It's an earthquake?!?

Mile Marker 51:

This can’t be happening, I thought.  I did NOT suffer through the last 9 months to crumble right here, right now, in this school building!  It was my first day back at work and my first earthquake.  It was like the punch line to a very BAD joke.

And now, on the eve of a hurricane -- our worst in 100 years -- it’s a good time to consider those we need most in dire situations:  SUPERHEROES.

On Tuesday, earthquake day, our school’s jack-of-all-trades Roberto was there to make a quick decision.  He ushered us out of the building onto the street, where we found the rest of professional Philadelphia standing around in the sunshine.  Ok, so it wasn’t a true emergency after all.  Most people were just channeling Facebook on their cell phones to find out what happened.  But Roberto did what was needed.  For that moment, he was our superhero.

I’ve found lots of superheroes along my journey so far.  Or, more accurately, they’ve found me. 

Superheroes are there when you need them.
Circumstances don’t have to be grave to require a superhero.  My school team pitched in to make my back-to-school transition as comfortable as possible.  Chase, who covered my workload since last November, left a Starbucks card on my desk.  Elvira helped me dig out from under my mountain of paperwork.  Shawn carried a heavy bag of workbooks down two flights of stairs to my car.  And then she hiked back up again because I left my phone upstairs!!  Remember the Super Friends?  I’ve got my own.

Superheroes make you feel safe.
When I was rushed into the Trauma Room after my accident, busy figures hovered around me.  One in particular stood up at my head, by my right ear.  He told me I was going to be okay.  He told me, very gently, that I needed surgery. 

I tried to contradict him.  Tried every excuse in the book.  “It’s JUST my leg….I have my contacts in….I can’t go to surgery, I already ate breakfast.” (Everyone knows you can’t eat breakfast on the day of your surgery, right?!)

But he was unrattled.  “That’s fine,” he said soothingly.  “We’ll take care of it….Don’t worry about it.”   He took control, and quite suddenly, I could let go.  This doctor became one of my best-loved surgeons, Dr. M, but in that moment, he was Superman. 

Superheroes are forces for good. 
My friend Michael has TWO C-Legs like mine.  He lost his legs while trying to help another person.  But, the thing is, he hasn’t lost his smile.  At PT, he greets me with a huge hug.  He models for me how to walk on a ramp -- makes it look casual and easy, in fact.   He gives me advice about how to desensitize my leg to reduce pain.   

If Michael hadn’t had such a kind heart, hadn’t been such a Good Samaritan, he wouldn’t be in this uncomfortable boat.  And yet, through it all, he has remained a force for good.  He is truly The Bionic Man.

Superheroes set things right.
About seven weeks into my hospital stay, I was lined up for another surgery – I think my 12th.   As was typical pre-op procedure, an anesthesiologist approached my gurney to introduce himself.  “I remember you from when you came in,” he said. “I was on your surgery that day, too.  I didn’t think you were going to make it.” 

He REALLY said that!

He left, and I immediately began to cry.  Full, gasping tears that I couldn’t stop.  The nurse came from across the room to see what was wrong.  I told her I didn’t want that doctor in this surgery with me.  She suggested that maybe he could trade with another anesthesiologist.

At that point, he strolled back in.  Seeing me in tears, he mouthed to the nurse, “Did I do this??”  She gave a subtle nod, but he already knew.  He came over to my bed again.

I cleared my throat and mustered up every last ounce of courage. “I don’t feel comfortable with you doing my surgery,” I said. “I’d like you to find someone else.” 

He did.

Sometimes you have to be your OWN superhero.

-----------------------------------------------------
It took me almost 11 hours of sleep to recover from my exciting first day at work (a.k.a. earthquake day).

When I woke up the next morning, I opened the backdoor to the smell of natural gas.  An hour later, a gas technician was at my house checking the front sidewalk, backyard, and basement. 

 “I’m sure it’s nothing,” I apologized.  “But still, it makes me feel better that you’re checking it.”

His answer:  “It’s no problem.  That’s what I do.  I’m really a superhero by day.  It’s only at night that I go back to being human.”

Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes.  From a doctor who offers calming words, to a good friend who runs an extra flight of stairs when you just can’t do it yourself.

Superheroes are rare, but they’re also everywhere.

It’s the start of a new school year.  You never know when you’ll have the chance to be a superhero.  

We all hold the power.

5 comments:

  1. Rebecca! Remember when you held back that BUS during one of the Freedom Skates? Remember? Well, on that day you became a SuperHero to me (and hundreds of other skaters). And you continue to be a SuperHero to us. just sayin.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are a superhero, wonder woman look out! We are happy to help each other, you are very loved. All favors big and small are welcome. I am looking forward to a peaceful year with my roommates.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Earthquakes, tournadoes....we can handle them all!! You are loved by soooo many people, and we help because we love you!! Here's to an exciting and productive year with lots of laughs....I got a new joke book:)

    ReplyDelete
  4. HI Rebecca,
    I work with your mom and she linked me with your blog. I am so touched by your journey and your words here. You are a superhero girl! I know we haven't met, but I keep you and your family in my prayers. Your mother is a very special person and you seem to take after her. I look forward to reading more about your journey. YOU CAN DO IT!
    Kim

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ricki- Aunt Candy is watching over you and YOU KNOW that she's guiding you to publish your journal. You are loved by so many and your determination brings out the best in others. You transform them into superheros by just being you.

    ReplyDelete