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, August 25, 2012

A Thousand Smiles

Mile Marker 632:

The hospital wakes up early.

First comes a low, rising hum from the hallway.  On my pillow, I listen to the hushed voices.  The rolling carts.  The beeps from call buttons as the place comes alive.

Residents and med students go door to door, gently stirring patients awake.  “Good morning, Ms. ____.  How are you feeling today?”  

We yawn and stretch.  We're not really sleeping anyway.


Six days pass in a blur of abdominal spasms, IV drips, and nausea.

As usual, progress is slow.  More interesting is the backdrop.  The journey.  How each small moment mounts up like a teeny, tiny mile marker.

The overarching goal:  TO EAT WITHOUT PAIN.

I'm admitted through the ER late Sunday night.  The first few days, I barely get out of bed.  I doze on and off in a sleep of hunger and morphine.  I keep the sickness bags close; the NG tube, closer.  I stare at the pink clouds out my window.

My sibs and cousins send me beautiful flowers and balloons.

On Day 4, I plod along the hallway on crutches.  Each step yanks the tube from my nose and jabs the IV port into my arm.

On Day 5, they remove the NG tube.  (Thank goodness!)  Now, I can bend to put on my prosthesis.  Its socket feels foreign, like a wooden shoe rubbing all the wrong places.

I start walking anyway.

Day 6 reason to smile: "Clears!"

I do laps around the halls with anyone who'll walk with me -- Dad, Mom, Mark, Aunt Patti & Uncle Steve.  Nurse Deb, when she takes a break from work.  Jen and Shawn when they visit.

On each go-round, the nurses greet me with witty, supportive comments.  They joke about decorating the NG tube with ribbons and beads.  "Looking good!" they call -- no matter how I really look.

But they're sympathetic, too.  I’m here YET AGAIN.  A frequent flyer.

On these short journeys, I notice things in snapshots – pill drawers, ringing phones, blinking lights, flashing monitors.  Bed alarms and bulletin boards.  Tubes and tanks.

Nurses buzz in all directions.  Doctors stroll through rounds.  Patients roll to the operating room on gurneys.  Rooms are cleaned.  Meds are distributed.  IVs are hung.  Around every turn is another story.

A drug-induced smile
in the ER
And in the midst of it all, I get the support I need.

Nurse Christine appears like a guardian angel in the ER.   Nadia shows unending patience as she suctions my stubborn NG tube all night long!

The team on 7 Center welcomes me back like an old friend.

Drs. J, M, and W drop in magically, just when I need them.

Each shift feels as secure and safe as my own family.


This post might well be called What I Did Over My Summer Vacation.  (And it truly is my mom's vacation -- coincidentally, she'd taken this week off from work.)

It is not FUN, but there are some funny moments...
I can't leave the unit,
so my "messenger"
meets him in person!

On the morning of Day 4, Prosthetist Tim shows up at my door.  Surprise!   Down the hall, his wife Chris has just given birth to their fourth child!  I get to see Timothy Leo's very first baby picture!

Then on Friday night, a gang of clowns tumbles down the hallway.  No kidding!

They're Clowns for Medicine -- future doctors, I think.  Giggling, they tell jokes and write out prescriptions:  Take one SMILE before breakfast, two HUGS after lunch, one KISS at bedtime.  

I even get my own clown name:  Bozo the Bionic (or Bozonic, for short!).


In the hallways, I meet face after face from my Jefferson past.  Doctors and nurses who recognize me and my family.  In a split second, they conjure up details from the past 2 years.  Critical Care to Post-op.  Moments that are still foggy in my own memory.

This staff has pulled me through a lot.

"They have to do their jobs,"  I say during one of our walks.  "But they don't have to CARE."

They don't have to hold my hand when that dreaded NG tube is inserted.  They don't have to cover me with heated blankets.  And they don't have to ask me about the book I'm reading.

But they do it anyway.

And they do it for others, too.  I see it on my travels.  Everywhere I turn.

This hospital has a heartbeat all its own.

One lap is only 2/10 of a mile.  But if you walk slowly, you find a thousand smiles along the way.

6 comments:

  1. Clears to soft foods, soft to solids, hoping EVERYTHING keeps moving in the right direction. Whether in hospital hallways, on sidewalks, or trails, we'll keep walking with you!

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  2. Ricki:
    You are such an inspiration!!! You have an AMAZING attitude and you are such a beautiful person!! No one should ever under estimate the size of my friend (and neighbor)since second grade as your determination is greater than anything! Keep posting your updates! Sending hugs!
    xoxo,
    Ellen

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  3. You sure do go through so much day to day on this journey. We will most likely never know half of it but what we can see is your optimism and smile no matter what the day brings. Not sure how a person can have so much strength and perserverance; especially in such a tiny package! I'll keep checking back for updates and thinking of you.

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  4. God bless you Lev! Your attitude is infectious!

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  5. I've read this post over and over. I want to say something witty or inspiring, but nothing can match your last two sentences. They bring me to tears every time. Your attitude and spirit (and gift for words) is just incredible. Gregg

    ReplyDelete