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!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Coming Home

Mile Marker 350:

You know that feeling when you arrive home after a long day?   

That mixture of bliss and relief when you can finally pop off your shoes, change into sweats, and settle in for a night on the couch?

Mile 350 was sort of like that.


It started off with a bang.  Or -- more accurately – A CRASH.

A bicycle crash to be exact.

I wasn’t on the bike.  Not anywhere near it, actually.  And -- no worries -- the rider was fine in the end. 

But it was a frightening moment for both of us.


The night before all this happened, the corner of 5th and Washington called to me.   It’s not a place I visit often, but for some reason, on my way home from work I went out of my way to drive by.  And once there, I wanted to get out of the car.  To stand on that sidewalk and stare into the road where this whole journey had started.   But the sun was low, and I was alone.  I don’t walk at night anymore.  So I drove by.

Still, the next morning I woke up with a picture of that street corner in my head.  Maybe it was because I had an appointment with my surgeon Dr. J at 10 a.m.  Maybe it just was the prospect of needing another surgery. 

Whatever the reason, I gathered up some seashells and got in the car early.

Halfway around the block, I realized I’d forgotten to bring a book to read.  Sometimes the wait is long at the doctors' office, and you know I like to be prepared. 

I circled back around.  And as I did so, I thought,  What if I’d done the same thing on November 9, 2010?  What if I’d turned back because I’d forgotten something?  

We’ve all done it.  We’re off to work when we realize our cell phone’s still at home on the kitchen table.  We turn around.
  
I unlocked the front door, climbed the steps to the bedroom, and grabbed my book off the night table.  Done.   Back in the car, I started off again. 

As I approached the first intersection, I saw a woman whiz across in the bike lane.

When I turned the corner, she was on the ground.

My heart sped.   I rolled down the passenger side window and slowed to a crawl.

“Are you all right?” I called.

She was holding her wrist and crying softly.  Helplessly. 

I remembered that feeling.

I pulled my car on a diagonal toward the curb.  As quickly as I could, I got out and rushed over.

Her name was Elizabeth.  She was on her way to work.  She was wearing a helmet.  And she'd been riding in the bike lane.  She had no idea what had knocked her over.  There were no cars around, no ruts in the pavement.  She simply went down.

“It happened so fast,” she said.

“I know,” I said.  “I’ve been there.”

Aside from a torn jacket and wicked lacerations on her hands, she seemed to be ok.  I gave her some Kleenex and a bottle of water to clean out the dirt.  I offered to give her a lift home, but she said she lived close.  Slowly, she stood up to walk her bike back to her house.

She looked down at her clothes, “I guess I better change before work.”

We shared a sympathetic smile and parted ways.

As I got back in my car, I thought, What are the chances?

I drove to 5th and Washington.  Setting three shells gently below the lamppost, I rested my eyes for a few moments on that place in the street -- not far from the curb, just south of the crosswalk.  That patch of blacktop that's become so familiar I consider it mine.

An hour later, I saw Dr. J.  As it turned out, there wasn’t a long wait at his office.  I didn’t even open my book.

He entered the exam room with his usual "What's up, Levenberg?"   And I let the familiarity wash over me.  The easy banter.  The confidence of knowing you’re in good hands.  It warmed me with comfort, like seeing an old friend.

Is it wrong to feel safer in your surgeon’s office than you ever do at home?


I’ve gotten used to being on guard.  

Don’t fall.  
Be careful going down the stairs.  
Bring your phone in the bathroom just in case.  
Watch out for darting kids in the school hallway.  
Be on the lookout for pain and irritation.

Vigilance has become my body’s natural state.

It used to be, my favorite thing about coming home from work was taking off my shoes.  Now, it’s taking off my LEG.  

The freedom is not the same.

I never thought I’d yearn for those 15-hour days.  Those days of work, and errands, and biking, and skating, when I pushed myself so hard and long I thought I'd collapse with exhaustion on my way home.

But it’s the CHOICE I crave.  The option to do what I want, when I want, for as long as I want.  The energy to not feel trapped or tired.  The competence to care about life -- beyond my own body.  

And, of course, the welcome RELEASE that comes afterward.

Mile 350 gave me just a taste of that feeling.  It was like coming home.

I’m not sure why.  I just know that when I left Dr. J’s office around lunchtime, I had the courage to run an errand and stop for coffee.  

My mind was in some new-old place that felt vaguely familiar. 

And while I couldn’t take off my shoes when I arrived home, I was HAPPY.

It was a good place to be.

2 comments:

  1. "Is it wrong to feel safer in your surgeon’s office than you ever do at home?"

    No, it's not wrong....just unusual!

    Uncle Steve

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm.... You are not the first person to tell me that :)

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