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, December 16, 2011

Get Smart

Mile Marker 230:

The Top 10 Clever Contraptions I'd add to my Genium:

10. Shoe phone (of course!)
9.  Spy camera
8.  Remote starter for my car
7.  Netflix movie stream
6.  Flashlight (and emergency darts) for dark sidewalks
5.  Citronella spray for ankle-biting mosquitoes
4.  Mini-ATM machine (or at least a stash of quarters for parking meters)
3.  Programmable "Massage Mode"  -- Ahhhh!
2.  A pedometer…. (logical right??)

And the NUMBER ONE Clever Contraption I'd add to my Genium…

A one-touch “OnStar” link to my prosthetist!

So I’m feeling a little creative.  

It happens when I hang around the team at Prosthetic Innovations.

My mom calls them the Three Wise Men – Prosthetists Mike, Tim, and Chris.  And justifiably so. 

To every problem, there is a solution.  They work together, and there's no stopping them.

I’ve spent two full days at PI this week.  I'll probably be there tomorrow, too.  A new socket requires time, patience, and many, many IDEAS.   Luckily, they're all in large supply here.

We're working on the "test socket."  Expanding and shrinking it to fit my leg.

The tools are high tech and low tech.  
Walking the tin foil carpet!

Laser beams and Sharpie markers.  Heat and hard plastic.   “Pull bags” and spray alcohol.   Even tin foil.

Partway through the afternoon, they load up a squirt bottle with liquid plaster and then release it into my test-socket like bakers shooting cream into a donut.  Hey, whatever works.

PI might as well stand for Private Investigators. 

Coincidentally, I pass Mile Marker 230 around 2:30 p.m.  I’m pacing circles around the open office, trying to figure out – with Tim – how to ease the pain from the newest “hotspot” in my prosthesis.

Tim presses here and there, simulating a socket around my leg.  He taps along the edge of my femur.   We’ve narrowed it down to one distal spot where the bone pokes against the skin.

Back in the workshop, he expands the socket to give the bone more space to move.  No dice. 

He adds padding to “catch” my leg higher up – to reduce the pressure on the bony area.  Nope.

With each change, I walk more circles on the carpeting.  I go up and down the ramp.  I try the stairs.

“Better?” he says.

I shake my head no.

“I want to try one more thing,” Tim says.  Incredibly, he’s still cheerful and optimistic even though it’s nearing 4:00.

We’ve been at this since noon.

He takes out his Allen wrench (which I call a “skate-tool”) and gets down on the floor.   With a twist, he tweaks a bolt at the top of my knee.  I feel like the Tin Man getting topped off with oil.

“Ok, now walk.”

Suddenly, it feels better.  Pressure’s temporarily off.  There’s no burning pain.  I go up the ramp and down, trying to trigger it.

Ahhh, relief is mine!

“So, what did you do?”  

I always ask this.  I fear the Allen wrench might have a placebo effect.

But Tim would NOT fake me out!  

He explains that by adjusting the alignment 5 degrees, my bone rests toward the front of the socket instead of the back.  

The laws of physics, biology, and kinesthesiology all apply here.  These guys whip them out and toss them around like a Nerf football.   

In the air, there’s feedback – and challenges -- from all sides.   

From the clients, too.  We’re all instant friends.  For a few hours, it’s perfectly normal to have a prosthetic leg, or arm, or both. 

Posters, newspapers, and magazine clippings decorate the walls, showing all of us, and how far we’ve come.  

At PI, there’s more than innovation, there’s acceptance.

No one here believes their limb is going to get better.  In fact, a man I met yesterday spent years seeing doctors and specialists, trying to save his crushed ankle.  Finally, he made the excruciating decision to amputate.

Here, KNOWLEDGE and TECHNOLOGY are saving us.  So we believe in them.  And we believe in our team.

We believe in any "Maxwell Smart" contraption that'll get us moving again.  

I leave around 4:30 with a newly aligned socket, 2 cookie recipes, and a ridiculous urge to attend an amputee ski clinic.

When I arrive home, I'm renewed.  My pain has eased, for the evening at least.

As I'm dragging the trash and recycling out, I devise a way to make the job easier.  I’ll use wheels and a pulley system to move it “coal-car style" from the backyard to the street!  Why didn't I think of this before?

Mile 230 did not tire me out.  It was a day of trial and error.  Of searching for solutions.  Of invention, and success in small steps.  

When you GET SMART, anything seems possible.


  1. Glad your day ended on a postitive note. Maybe those cookie recipes can just be for cookies and not the angry kind.

  2. Sounds like a great mile. I never knew there was so much involved in getting a prosthesis to fit!

  3. Its CONTROL over KAOS. When you "Get Smart" you also get more positive. I think that Tim can play Agent 86.

  4. When the distraction (the pain) goes away, GET SMART kicks into action. The brain can think much clearer. I like your thought about skiing :)

  5. Who said anything about skiing? Listen, if you ever plan to be on the top of the mountain looking down on the ski trail....I will be there at the bottom waiting for you! BUT, make sure your mom is out of the country!

    Uncle Steve

  6. While you have been working harder, reaching higher, walking further and "get(ting) smart"er, I have been stuck contemplating "Small Wonders." It's so true that good things - those treasures that are so precious and beneficial that we can't imagine life without them - come in the smallest packages. Think: diamonds, microchips, penicillin, Hershey Kisses, and Riley Cate. They sparkle, reflect creativity and innovation, evolve and improve with persistent effort and the passage of time, sweeten and enrich our lives, and embody tenacity, authenticity and mastery. You, Rebecca, are the epitome of small wonders... a treasure of extraordinarily valuable qualities all wrapped up in a beautiful petite package! You dazzle, amaze, impress, uplift and inspire me, and I can't imagine life without you. Your presence always makes a difference in my day, everyday... that's how small wonders work:)