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!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Who You're With

Mile Marker 475:

I've heard the saying, It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.

But I think there's more to it than that.

Walking buddy Jared
does make blacktop exciting!
Mile 475 didn't carry me to any exotic locale.  It didn't teach me any fancy new skills.

Instead it reminded me that -- in the company of the right people -- even a stretch of blacktop can be exciting!

In other words...
It's not what you know or where you go; it’s who you’re WITH!

I have to backtrack here to tell you about Ed. 

In late December 2010, about 7 weeks after the accident, I landed in the rehab hospital.  The dining room there was like a scene from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.   At mealtimes, patients arrived in power wheelchairs and manual ones.  They propelled themselves on gurneys.  Some even wheeled down in their hospital beds.  And in the midst of all that traffic was Ed.

Ed was a volunteer who worked the breakfast and lunch shifts.  But really, he was so much more.  Ed remembered every patient's name, what they liked to drink, and where they liked to sit.  He introduced new folks.  He made light conversation.  He just loved to be there!

Now everyone knows there is nothing worse than walking -- or wheeling -- into a cafeteria as the NEW KID.  That first morning before breakfast, my stomach churned with middle school anxiety.  But there was something else, too.  Although I'm ashamed to admit it now, I was scared to meet other people who were handicapped.

Clumsily, I steered my wheelchair into the dining room, skimming door frames and table corners.  (I'd had my "driver's permit" for less than 2 hours.)

Ed greeted me like an old friend.  He found me a place to sit.  He introduced me to Beth, Robin, and Val.  We were all different ages, of different backgrounds, and hospitalized for completely different reasons.  If we'd found ourselves standing at a bus stop together, I'm sure we wouldn't have said a word.  But this time, not one of us was STANDING.

So spurred on by Ed's friendliness, we started talking.  And wouldn't you know, breakfast turned out to be the best 30 minutes of each day!   

Mile 475 had that same feeling.

I took a rambling walk through the city with my cousin Tracy.

We laughed in the face of uneven curbs.  We halted mid-sidewalk for goofy self-portraits.

We found pink! 

Tracy has a knack for gliding over bumps in the road.  And when we're together, she pulls me along with her.

A chat with Deb is like a vitamin;
it just boosts my whole day!

A hospital meeting brought us back to familiar ground, and staff who -- no surprise -- approached me like old friends! 

But at this mile marker, friends also popped out of the least expected places... like behind a hospital security desk.

 Meet Tyrone.  As I walked by, the glint of my Genium caught his eye.  We started talking about robot movies, and then about life.  He said I inspired him, but he doesn’t know how much his own story inspired me!
Every landmark along this mile became the perfect place to hang out with friends.  Even (ahem!) a certain stretch of blacktop at Prosthetic Innovations.

Proving the revised theory once again, It’s not where you go, but who you’re WITH.

There's my pal Pisey, who showed me the ropes from the very beginning.  He just makes it all look EASY!

And this motley crew...
John, in the red shirt, watched me take MY first steps.   A year later, I watched Bob take his.  (Check 'em out in Take Two.)

Ann, on the left, is just now finding her stride.  And we’ll all be walking along with her!

Yes, there are still lots of times when I feel alone.  

When there's too much pain to walk and too much fatigue for words.  When vulnerability keeps me inside, and my old life of travel, energy, and adventure seems far, far away.

Then there are miles like 475.  

Simple patches of pavement that prove I’m still part of a bigger community.

Going anywhere...

...or NOWHERE...
...as long as there's good company!

1 comment:

  1. I think about the wisdom and truth of this post every day, and my spirits are constantly bolstered by the connection and interaction with our Prosthetic Innovations "family"... and their families. In traveling this journey beside you, every person we have met along the way is an individual I would have loved to meet on any other journey... people whose sense of humor, caring natures and kind and generous spirits would have opened the door to inviting conversation on a cruise, at the beach or in an airport. They are the ones who would offer to help you with your heavy suitcase, let you in line in front of them, or stop to give you directions and, in doing so, take the time to tell you where to find the best cup of coffee, ice cream or pizza wherever you happen to be going. We have become part of a community who always provides just the right amount of encouragement for all the challenges still to be faced, and unlimited applause for every accomplishment, big and small. You are so right... it's not what you know or where you go that moves you forward. It's the support,companionship and spirit of who you're with, even when you're going nowhere. And there's no one I'd rather walk beside, on any journey, than you:)