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!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Full Speed Ahead

Mile Marker 60:

I like to keep moving.  As an amputee, that means putting the pedal to the metal every single day.

It drives me into the ground sometimes, but I can't figure out any other way.  My prosthetist Tim says above-knee amputees use almost 60 percent MORE energy to walk than people with two legs.  Imagine if your car used 60 percent more gas, or if you lost 40 percent of your engine!

I gotta FLOOR IT if I want to keep up!

So, as I passed Mile Marker 60, it was nice to find a little stretch of road where I could shift into cruise control.  

Not surprisingly, it happened at Prosthetic Innovations.  They're my pit crew, cheering section, and home team all rolled into one.  There, having a prosthesis makes you fit in rather than stand out.  I get a turbo boost each time I go, but Mile Marker 60 topped them all.

There aren’t too many places where you can get a new outlook on life AND a new leg!

My new leg – the Genium – is truly ground-breaking!  It enables movement that most people take for granted -- like stepping over a child's toy or climbing a flight of stairs -- movements that are usually impossible for above-knee amputees.

And another cool thing -- the Genium is shorter than my other prosthesis.  That leaves space for a rotator, a switch that allows me to bend my knee in multiple directions.  An important detail for someone who's spent the last 6 months removing her WHOLE LEG just to change her shoe!

But if those benefits weren't enough, things really picked up speed when Tim started programming the Genium...

“So,” he said, eyes glued to his laptop screen, “We want to set a mode for inline skating, right?”

And suddenly, I shifted into overdrive!

We started examining the angles of the knee -- How far should it bend for skating?  At what point should it lock?   Without the muscles of my lower leg, I'd need resistance to push against.

I stood at Tim's desk in my sneakers and my shiny new leg.  I bent at the knees, trying to remember skating positions.  "How's that angle?" Tim asked over and over again.

"....I'm not sure," I said finally.  And then, “Can we try it with my skates on?”

“You have them with you?” he asked.

(Well, of course!  You never know when you'll need them!)

Notice how I can bend my knee
 with the rotator!
And that's when I shifted into CRUISE CONTROL. 

I geared up in a hurry -- like scrambling to get ready for a Tuesday night skate.   Then I stood there on the carpet with my skates tied tightly and my wrist guards fastened.

“Ok,” Tim said from across the room. "Go!"

I just stood there.

“Any directions?”  I asked.  He always had at least SOME words of wisdom!

He sort of laughed.  “Um....Skate?”

 Chris, who plays rollerhockey, emerged from the workshop to spot me.  And I started...let’s just call it propelling myself back and forth across the room.

I walked, staggered, tripped, and tumbled as we worked out the kinks.  But slowly, instinct began to take over.  This road was familiar even though the vehicle wasn't.  And an hour or so later,  I DID resemble a beginning skater!  WHOO-HOO!



It felt different to be in cruise control.   Putting on my skates made me realize that my inner GPS is alive and well, and trying to steer me back to where I used to be. 

Sure, it takes more energy to get where I'm going, but I'm fueled by a substance far more potent than gasoline:  People.

Like my Prosthetic Innovations team, who gives me the tools to keep driving forward.

And my family, who stays one step ahead of me so they can pave the road just a little more smoothly.  

And friends like my rehab buddy Michelle, who just returned to college.  On Friday, while I laced up my skates, Michelle attended her first swim team practice since her injury last January.  She’s driving this road too, and she knows how bumpy it can be.  But Michelle, I hope you're cruisin'!  YOUR bravery pushes me ahead, too!

You could call this Recovery Road.  It's mostly uphill, and there are more potholes than I like to admit.  Traffic jams are the rule rather than the exception.  And unfortunately, "Easy-Pass" just doesn’t exist.

But some days – though they may be few and far between -- I stumble onto a little stretch where passion takes over and cruise control is possible.

In those moments, it's just full speed ahead! 


Want to see my first skating attempts?  Use this link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9Bz-0vFud8

(When the annoying ad pops up during the video, just click the "x" to close it!  Sorry 'bout that!)

17 comments:

  1. Watched the video and found myself smiling the whole way through. It is amazing to see how far you have come so quickly (don't forget that much of the past 10 months has been spent on recovery). One of the things I have always loved most about you is your abiltiy to laugh at yourself. Keep smiling and keep laughing. I love you.

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  2. like Marla, I am just grinning ear to ear. Love love love love seeing you in your element--back in your natural habitat--SKATES! (and I just love that true to your Virgo nature, you were prepared and had your skates with you!) Awesome, just awesome, Ricki. We all fall down, but you are so fast to get right back up. Love it.

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  3. great video, Rebecca! You smiled and laughed and made it fun to watch. But I can see that it took a lot of energy....best wishes with your new Genium! Love, Aunt Gail

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  4. Thanks guys! I am so so so excited and also so thankful I have such a big cheering section! It felt like home to be back on my skates. There'll be a BIG learning curve, but I plan to be laughing all the way!

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  5. Rebecca, that is absolutely amazing. I can't believe you're starting to skate already!

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  6. Rebecca every day you give us something amazing to smile and laugh with you on. You are doing some truly inspirational things.

    We look forward to seeing you out on the trails again soon.

    Davey and Carol

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  7. Never took your skates out of your car eh? Rock climbing, biking, skating- you're making some of us look like slouches!
    Go Rebecca Go!

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  8. Why was I not surprised that you had your skates with you?!

    You go, girl!

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  9. I was almost crying when I watched this video! I'm SO happy for you - it is very exciting that you are back on your skates again! Maybe we'll join you when you get back on the trails again!!

    You rock!!

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  10. Love the skating video! And congrats on the new leg (want to call it geranium). Who knows what you'll be doing next - can't wait to find out!

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  11. Rebecca - you are such an inspiration to us all! You are truly amazing! Keep it up. I know my brother will be very excited to skate with you again :)

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  12. Rebecca,
    The video of you skating is AWESOME! I can tell by your smile how much it means to you to be skating again - I haven't been able to wipe the grin off my face every time I get back in the pool, either.
    Keep up the good work and thanks for the shout out!
    Michelle

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  13. Having your skates in car, I'm not surprised. That is a Virgo being prepared..you never know when you might need them :) You Go Girl! I can't wait to skate with you again.

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  14. Damn, Rebecca, it's good to see you again, and especially to see you skating. Also love your writing. Please keep posting. (This is Rob Laymon by the way.)

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  15. Oh Rebecca,
    How you have faced your challenges with such grace, humor, and courage. You ARE grace, humor, and courage, and you are a wonderful teacher for us all.
    Thank you.

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  16. The lyrics to the song in the video are a true Landskater tradition: "You can run a red light". Keep skating and running red lights; well not literally.

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