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, November 28, 2011

ATG (All-Terrain Genium)

Mile Marker 190:

Ahhh!  Movement is freedom!

On a weekend when everyone seemed to be going places, I was thankful to be keeping pace – even if it meant pushing my own limits and those of my Genium.

Last March, when I first wrote the words "ride a bike" on my PT goal sheet, I figured I’d need physical therapy forever!

But on Friday morning -- tires pumped, bike shoes on, new pedal attached -- I was ready to go.  We were in the parking lot of the rehab gym, and my PTs were standing by for take-off.

Wait!  I wasn't going anywhere.

This new pedal was supposed to make it EASIER to lock in my foot.  Now I realized I wasn't strong enough to activate the clip with my prosthesis.

"A bump in the road,"  PT Julie said.  

I asked her if she'd borrowed that phrase from my doctors.  

After an hour of trying, we decided to re-install the old pedal -- with a harness, or "pedal cage," as I'd been calling it.  Paul cleverly mounted a weight to help me slip my shoe into the cage. (I don't call him MacGyver for nothing!)

That afternoon, I returned with my mom in tow.  She didn't want to miss this moment either.

Pedaling, balancing, turning.  It all felt awkward and clumsy.  That's what happens when your left side's different from your right.    

But I was RIDING!   And as strange as it felt, it looked pretty smooth!

What do you think?

You have to imagine my mom’s face – a slight smile, then a hand over her mouth, teary eyes filled with joy and fear.

And then imagine how her expression magnified when Julie asked me to ride AROUND THE BLOCK!

(I did it, with Julie running beside me!)

After that, I was pretty much ready to bike HOME.   But Mom vehemently vetoed that one. 

Anyhow, we still had 30 minutes of perfectly good PT time. 

I scrambled into my skate gear and did a few laps around the parking lot with Julie spotting me.  With all our work on balance, my strides have gotten more even.  I still look like a beginner, but maybe a promising one.

Julie even removed my gait belt at the end!  

Talk about SWEET FREEDOM!   There's nothing like a boost from your physical therapist to send you on your way!

Mile Marker 195:

Buoyed by our successes, my Genium and I decided to tackle the MALL on Saturday.

I am a shopper.  But the truth is I’d been avoiding malls since last winter.   Back then, on a sunny February day, my friends Jen and Polly took me to the local mall in a wheelchair.  Later, my brother Mark took me with my crutches.

Even with my prosthesis, those hard floors and long distances were just too much effort.

And with that, my passion for shopping was -- at least momentarily -- squelched.

But this weekend, my friend Marla was in town from Nashville.  We'd been shopping together since our “Mall Rat” teenage days.  If I was going to make this work, it would be with her!

We plotted in advance to mix standing, walking, and sitting.  We stopped for lunch, for coffee, for free samples of holiday treats. 

And we logged over a mile in those long store-filled corridors.  We walked to and from the car.  We tackled escalators, stairs, and ramps. We browsed and window shopped.   

A mild afternoon for the average holiday shopper became a marathon for me.

But again...that FREEDOM.  That privilege of doing what we used to do – even with modifications.  

It was more precious than the priciest purse in Michael Kors!

Finally, to top off the weekend, I embarked on a true test of physical skill and the Genium.   

Sunday morning, I HIKED the woods of the Wissahickon with my friend Bosco, my brother Mark, and his trusty dog Jack.

It was two miles of stepping over sticks, finding footing amidst the dried leaves, climbing rocks, and descending narrow trails.  I’d been there dozens of times over the years, but it never seemed quite so hazardous!

Just don't tell Mom...
said Mark
With every shaky step, my new skills launched to life.  

Down with the bad, up with the good, I heard my prosthetist Tim echo as I slipped downhill.   

Sidestep if you feel unstable, I heard PT Julie remind me.  

I navigated slopes and drop-offs with Mark and Bosco’s help (and a bit of Jack’s interference!). 

I mustered up my best heel-to-toe gait to cross the top of a huge water pipe!   The world's largest balance beam! 

(Thanks to Bosco for the expert spotting, and to PT Deb for all that practice on two-by-fours!)

As we emerged from the woods two hours later, I was sore, stumbling, and very sweaty.

But I was also sure I wanted to go back again!

Each step on that trail was a step toward FREEDOM!

Last night, I thought about movement that’s made of sweat and muscle -- and now titanium, too.

I thought about those little FREEDOMS I experience every day.

Last June, PT Julie came to my house and helped me puzzle out how to live there again.  How to lug groceries from the car to the front door, how to carry laundry to the basement, how to reach the kitchen cabinets.   How to get out in case of emergency.

My old environment was new.

Even back then, her confidence empowered me.  Kind of like removing a gait belt.

If there’s any thankfulness leftover from the weekend holiday, I’d like to put it out there.

For health.  For movement.  And for all those who continue to propel me forward.

No matter what the terrain.


  1. If there's any thankfulness left over from the weekend holiday, it's all mine! You make the most daunting and difficult challenges look like a ride around the block, like a skate across the school yard, like a walk in the park. But, I know the determination, the effort, the courage and perseverence, and the painfully hard work it takes to do what you do everyday... at work and at home, alone and with others, at rehab and at play, for your family and for your friends... and always with optimism, grace, gratitude and a smile for all of those around you. You are simply extraordinary, and I feel so fortunate to have you as my daughter. Without a doubt, the thankfulness of this holiday season is truly all mine!

  2. As you (and your friends and family) approached the beginning of November 2011 there were many uncertain thoughts of what the comings days and month would be like and what those days would bring. Now the month is coming to a close and you have made many NEW memories for the month of November; so many accomplishments and so much to be THANKFUL for. I think you might be ready to ride in the MS Ride next September. You may be a beginner on your skates but a promising one for sure. Life is many bumps in the road, some bumps are bigger than others but the best thing is we figure out how to overcome those bumps and keep going.

    Susan V

  3. Mom Lev - your comment is beautiful. And, Ricki, I loved our time at the mall. It was just like old times. We were never very focused and we always laughed at outrageous things. I was so happy to see you and Tim and the boys enjoyed their short time with you too. I hope we can do it again soon.

  4. I can easily imagine the joy in your mothers eyes, it closely reflects the joy in ours as well. To MomLev-what an amazing tribute to Rebecca-the apple has not fallen far from the tree. To Rebecca, you're going to have to climb the Matterhorn soon in order to impress us at this rate! Keep going! XO


  5. I wish you could see the smile on my face right now, because it expresses what I'm feeling even though I'm having trouble finding the words to fully express the utter joy I feel reading this post and watching the videos. Bicycle bliss. Look out Lake Shore Drive!

  6. So happy to see you on your bike! Sarah told me this was one of your goals and she will be excited to hear the news.

  7. Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving ~ Albert Einstein

    Keep moving toward your thousand mile goal. Your support team will be nearby if you need them.

    The world's largest balance beam was pretty cool too!