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, April 29, 2012

Glory

Mile Marker 423:

“Feels like I haven’t been here in years!” I said as my dad and I drove into the parking lot of Prosthetic Innovations.

Christine and Bonnie greeted us in the reception area.  Prosthetist Tim gave me a hug.

Then we got down to business.

Tim wrapped a tape measure around the circumference of my leg.  He examined my freshly un-sutured incision.  He plugged my Genium into the wall to awaken it from its three-week nap.

Then he got out a pull-bag.  Carefully, I lowered my leg into it.  Tim threaded the narrow end of the bag through the valve at the bottom of my socket.  He tugged gently.  Again and again.  And again.

Slowly, we eased my leg into the firm shell of the socket.  I winced and braced myself against the soreness and sensitivity.  With one last pull, Tim released the bag.

“Not quite,” he said peering inside the valve.  “But close.”

I reached down and poked my finger through the hole at the bottom of the socket.  I could feel the distal end of my leg and the tiny space below it.

Yep.  He was right, of course.  I wasn’t all the way in.

“Double up your shrinker this week,” he instructed.  “And massage.  Really get in there.”

“And lay off the bacon?” I joked.  (I'd rediscovered my dad's grilled cheese sandwiches.)

Tim told me we'd try the socket again next week.  My leg wasn't healed enough for walking yet anyway.  

Outside the eval room, I loped around on my crutches.

Always encouraging, therapist Jared egged me on toward Mile Marker 423.   Up the ramp.  Down the stairs.

Passing by the reception desk, I saw a basket of wristbands newly minted for Limb Loss Awareness Month.

No Guts.  No Glory. they said.

I put one on and felt a fresh dose of PROLIMB COURAGE.


No Guts.  No Glory.  

On the ride home, I let the words sink in.  They whisked me back to the ski slopes of junior high.

On those snowy weekend mornings, my friends and I -- layered in thermals, turtlenecks, and ski jackets – piled into a township school bus.  Old, creased lift tickets dangled from our zippers.  Brown bag lunches crinkled against the vinyl bus seats.  Mittens fell onto the dusty floor.

Our excitement lit up the dark sky as we headed to the Poconos.

At Big Boulder Mountain, I conquered my first black diamond.  I remember bouncing over moguls and steep drop-offs.  Skidding over patches of ice -- the hallmark of Pocono skiing.  And when I finally reached lift line at the bottom of the hill, that unbelievable mix of VICTORY and relief!

Late in the afternoon before we boarded the bus home, my friends Jodie, Missy, and I stopped into the lodge’s gift shop.  With 13-year-old pride, I pulled a soggy dollar bill from my pocket and bought a black diamond patch for my jacket.

NO GUTS, NO GLORY,  it pronounced boldly.


After my visit to Prosthetic Innovations, this week returned to its normal pattern.   I did some schoolwork and ate some lunch.  Checked e-mail.  Read a book. 

But by afternoon, I found myself restless.

I gathered up my crutches (and courage), and walked into my parents' garage.  I pressed the button to raise the electric door.

The driveway, covered in wind-swept pink petals, called to me.

No Guts.  No Glory.  I thought.

Drawing in a breath, I headed outside into the sunshine.

I’ll just go down to the corner, I told myself.  We’ll see how that goes.


And with the first step, I found myself back at last summer's Mile Marker 7 -- that very first trip to the mailbox.

My mind raced.  What if I fall while my parents are at work?  What if I land on my leg?  What if I injure the incision site?

These thoughts are usually enough to keep me inside.

But not on this day.

I was tired of thinking about what I couldn't do.

If guts meant arm strength and glory meant freedom, I experienced a sudden surge of both.

I hobbled up the driveway to the sidewalk.  Down the sidewalk to the corner.  And back.

Confidence boosted, I crutched in the opposite direction toward the house next-door.  And then to the next house.  And the next.

With each step forward, I examined the pavement for bumps and ruts.  I lifted my crutches high enough to clear the curb-side grass.

I noticed things the neighbors overlooked.
A thousand wishes!
A good sign?


Soon, I reached the end of the street where the donkeys waited in a field of dandelions.

Resting against the wooden fence, I watched them graze.


And then I began the long walk back.

At home on the computer, I mapped out the trip.  Four-tenths of a mile.  838 total steps -- with two legs, that is.


No Guts.  No Glory.

I took a long swig of water and considered the week ahead.

I swore to shrink and massage my leg.  To desensitize my nerves against the pain and pressure of getting back into my socket.  To cut out bacon.

To do everything possible to fit into that prosthesis next week.  To return to my WALKING  life.

No Guts.  No Glory.


Limb Loss Awareness Month


And many miles to go.

5 comments:

  1. You. Rock.
    Your :No Guts No Glory" story sparked me to look for a link for one of my favorite print ads ever: a Girls Inc. ad with a young girl pitching a baseball with the phrase "Tell me to throw every inch of my 4-foot frame into everything I do..."
    (Found it here at http://girlsinc.org/images/psa_print_fourfootframe.jpg )

    I have a copy of that ad framed, and over the years of looking at it daily, I've come to realize that while the intention of the ad was to encourage us to encourage girls, but for me, at this point of my life, the ad is talking right to me--telling me that *I* need to tell myself to confidently throw myself into everything I do....and you are doing just that, one step at a time.

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    1. I've had that ad tacked up over my desk for many years, too. (Courtesy of a very good friend who mailed it to me!)

      I loved the message -- still do -- and the part about the 4-foot frame, of course!

      While it's sometimes hard to sustain, courage rocks!

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  2. I don't know what to say other than you are truly incredible and the most courageous person I have come across in quite some time. I am inspired and wish I had half of your strength. Keep pushing forward and your accomplishments will be limitless.

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  3. Hi Rebecca, yesterday at the Broad Street Run after we saw a few of your colleagues Rebecca asked if you were participating. I said no, and reminded her of your recent surgery. Still, you deserve to hear how certain she was that you have the "guts" to get to a point where you'd take on a 10 mile run. I don't think she is quantifying the guts it takes for each small step forward, never mind how many steps forward (and backward) it might take to reach that point. But there are so many people who know you have what it takes!

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    1. Thank you so much! You don't know how much I needed to hear that! It has been a tough week... a new blog post will be up soon to capture it!

      Tell "your" Rebecca maybe next year. (If I'm not running, then I'll cheer HER on!)

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