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 19, 2011

Q & A

Mile Marker 46:

We're speeding toward the first day of school.  I've been asking myself how the students might react to my new and very different-looking leg.

Recently, I met up with my young friend Asa.  Like any kid, I expected him to be full of questions, but he ended up giving me some much-needed answers.



Asa and I go way back.  Well, as far back as two people can go when you’re his age.  In kindergarten, he stayed with me for a few days while my friend Ruth -- his mom -- recovered from hand surgery.  I made Asa pancakes, and in return he unlocked the mystery of every spare key in my house.


Asa is an engineer in a nine-year-old’s body. 

On Wednesday outside his apartment building, he bounded over to me, a few inches taller and nearly a year older than the last time I'd seen him.

He scanned my new leg up and down.  Already, I could see the wheels turning. 

“So, how does this prosthesis work?” he started.  The new word rolled off his tongue, unfamiliar but tasty.

I showed him how the knee bends when you put weight on the toe.  I took a few steps so he could see it in action.

“If it’s a computer, do you charge it?” he said.  I pointed to the port where I plug it in at night.

“But what happened to your foot?” he said. 

Now, I knew he already knew what had happened.

But I started to explain slowly.

“I know!” he said.  “But what about your FOOT?”

And then I realized what he was seeing….My leg looks robotic.  But in my sandal, the prosthetic foot with its toenails painted red, looks real.  Sometimes, even to me it’s confusing!
  
“If your foot was OKAY, could they put it on there?”  He pointed to the foot of the prosthesis.  Hmm.  Good question.  

I told him they couldn’t. 

“Why not?”

That’s about when Ruth showed up.

So the two of us explained about blood and veins and arteries.  Muscles and bones.  The things a real foot would need.  Things that were not in my microprocessor leg. 

“Oh.”

Then Asa clearly explained everything else to Ruth.  How the knee bends.  How it has to be charged up at night.  

Quickly, he moved on to the subject of my pedometer.   How do you reset it?  How do you set your stride length?
                                                              
At lunch, the three of us talked about Ruth and Asa's recent adventures in Alaska.  Asa showed me how to fold napkins into fancy shapes, a skill he’d picked up from the waiters on the cruise ship. 

In the midst of it all, I peeked under the table where Asa was twisting one leg behind the other.  “I only have one leg,” he said, smiling at me.  I smiled back.  He was trying the idea on for size.

We passed Mile Marker 46 on the bricks and cobblestones of Society Hill.   As Ruth and I continued with news and gossip, Asa observed my every step.  I decided he’d make a great prosthetist.

 “It’s not bending!” He called from two steps behind me. 

But really, I already knew that.

Every time I take a step, I think about bending the knee.  I think about triggering the toe.  I think about tightening my adducters.  I think about kicking out far enough so I don’t trip on the uneven stones.  

I forget that other people – both kids and adults -- are NOT thinking about my leg all the time.

I should have known.   As much as Asa was interested in how my leg worked, he was also interested in programming the pedometer, folding his napkin into a candlestick shape, and telling me about Alaska.

He had questions at first – lots of them – which, of course, I loved answering.  And I’m sure he’ll have more the next time he sees me.   But until then, there are gadgets to program, websites to explore, rockets to build, napkins to fold. 

So too, for the kids at school, I think.  Kids’ brains move fast.  If you blink, you miss your teachable moment.

Thanks for the answers, Asa!

It’s good to know some things haven’t changed.

2 comments:

  1. Good morning....just caught up on the last several miles...you've been busy. Watched the climbing wall video...let's just say that I was glad there was a box of tissues nearby....I smiled and cried the whole time...you are awesome! Oh....and tell Asa he's awesome too! Hope to see you sometime soon...let's plan something wild for our mutual birthdays in September...
    Love you

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  2. While shopping with my son when he was about 4, he was asking a lot of questions - about everything! Its easy to get a little impatient when you are shopping with children. Especially when you are trying to find sizes, check prices, etc. Especially when you don't really enjoy shopping. A man walking by saw the frustration on my face and commented, "Their brains are like sponges." I agreed thinking, "He's right and I should help him fill it." Asa and other kids are full of questions. I learned to enjoy answering them. Its easy to see why you enjoy it too. I just wish I had all the answers ;-). Thanks for sharing.

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