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!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Each One, Teach One

Mile Marker 178:

Each One, Teach One started out as a project I designed when I was teaching middle school.  The kids read an article and then figured out the best way to teach the information to a classmate.  In a world where students are so often told what to learn, I was trying to help them figure out HOW to learn.

The 170's have been my Each One, Teach One miles.

Last week I walked the campus of Temple University.  One of my PTs, Liz, had invited me to do a guest lecture in the class she was teaching.  Fifty PT students gathered at the long tables of their classroom to hear ME! 

The night before the lecture I faced a dilemma.  I was planning to tell them about my journey as an amputee.  I’d written pages and pages of notes.  I’d composed my first (ever!) Power Point.  And I planned to bring along lots of little green bracelets. 

But what could I possibly TEACH them?

Recently, I started a yoga class called “Brand New Beginners.”  And while I’m not exactly a brand new beginner, my Genium most definitely is.   In fact, along with my new leg, everything in yoga class seems brand new – the sensation of my body against the ground, the stabilizing strength of my legs, the ability to balance with my eyes closed --nothing is the same as it used to be.  

With every pose, my brain says, I know how to do this.

And my body says, No, you don’t.

This week, my prosthetist Tim programmed my Genium with a "yoga mode."  It gives the knee resistance so I can lean my weight on it.  I also tried out a new foot with more traction so I could stand barefoot on my yoga mat.

Luckily my teacher Nicole welcomes a challenge.  We're working on Sun Salutations.  What a perfect name.  Standing there in my new bare feet, I imagined the sunlight pouring down on my body.  This is it, I thought.  I can finally SEE!

What I couldn’t see was that the new foot wouldn’t last long.  While it was handy for yoga, it was too stiff for daily walking.  Back to the prosthetic drawing board, so to speak.

Yesterday Tim reinstalled my original foot but rigged up a new rubber sole that attaches with Velcro.  I'll try it out “barefoot” at yoga class this week.

Yes, with a new leg there’s never a shortage of learning experiences. 

At PT, I’m even back on my BIKE.

Julie and Paul -- always full of ideas!
My brother Stephen refabricated my old college Schwinn.   A mountain bike from the late 80’s, it’s retro now.

If I could just keep my foot on the pedal, I'd be totally stylin'!  

But as usual, a little problem-solving does not intimidate my team.  PT Julie ace-wrapped my foot to the pedal so I could cycle around the gym basement.  Paul (a.k.a. "MacGyver") has rigged up any number of weights, disks, and pedals to hold my foot in place.   And the rest of the staff – along with patients – starts cheering the minute I put on my helmet!

Where's my helmet, you ask??
It wasn't a real ride...
just trying to keep my foot on the pedal!
(Awesome photo by PT Jeff!)
To top it off, friends Davey and Carol set me up with some good-as-new biking shoes and a strong recommendation for new pedals.

On Friday, we're gonna RIDE OUTSIDE!

As a teacher, I've learned that the largest part of my students’ lives goes on outside my classroom.  The best I can do is give them the tools they need to handle whatever that big world sends their way.

My therapists, prosthestists, and teachers realize it, too.  

Most of my journey goes on when I’m not in their care.  But even so, I wouldn't want to face my life without them – or all they’ve taught me.

Which brings me back to those Temple PT students.   After putting together my notes and slides, I knew what message I had to share:

My therapists never tell me I can't do something.  They don't even think in terms of can or can’t.  They think in terms of HOW.

The best gift you can give your patients,  I said,  is the strength to figure out their own puzzles.

Of course, it was something my team TAUGHT me.

Each one, teach one. 

Happens every day on my journey.


  1. Ricki,
    For some reason, I am having trouble posting to your blog through google... But will try this way. Your words in this post are a roadmap for others in thinking about and tackling challenges. I continue to be inspired by your outlook, focus and determination. I am hoping for a beautiful day on your Friday outdoor bike ride. Wishing you warm thoughts and a Happy Thanksgiving Holiday. (I am following your blog even if having trouble commenting!).
    Karen Wish

  2. Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your ride!

  3. I'm amazed how quickly and accurately you are able to analyze a situation and understand all the philosophical elements/implications. So much to learn from you!!! Love this sentence...

    "My therapists never tell me I can't do something. They don't even think in terms of can or can’t. They think in terms of HOW."