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!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Let It Rain


Mile Marker 733:

When a TRASH DAY collides with a RAINY DAY, it’s tough to get out of bed.

But I come downstairs early.
I gather up the last minute recycling -- an empty ice cream carton, Gatorade bottle, and Raisin Bran box – and drag the blue bin out to the curb.  One glance down the street paints a dim picture of the day:  gray skies, drizzled sidewalks, and brown garbage bags as far as the eye can see.

Will I miss this?  I wonder.

Only 4 more Trash Days till I enter the world of garbage chutes and parking garages... apartment gods willing.

As I head out to view yet another apartment, the rain becomes a downpour.  High winds sweep streams of water across the road.  I stash my car in a loading zone, pull my hood up, and race into the building.  (I use the term "race" loosely here.  My jagged steps are about as graceful as a runner whose socks are on fire!)

The monsoon lets up as I drive home.  But my mood doesn't.  The apartment was the worst I've seen so far.  I need to get out and WALK!

Slick sidewalks and slippery leaves are a bad mix for me and my Genium.  And if that weren't enough, it's now mid-morning, and the trash trucks are out in full force.  Slipping on wet pavement is one thing; slipping near the looming tires of a garbage truck, quite another.  Even their roar makes me shudder.

Still, I refuse to be stuck inside.  I’ve been trying to stretch my endurance, and with daytime getting shorter, it's hard to get the miles in.

Plus, just the day before, I promised my friend Jeff I’d bring donuts to his office.  That's 20 blocks round trip.  Almost 2 miles!

I decide the rain (and trash trucks) will not keep me home.

As I start off, I watch for clumps of leaves.  I time my steps carefully to avoid the pools of water under each curb.

When the trademark blue of Federal Donuts appears, I’m amazed at how quickly I arrived.

Inside, I inhale the aroma of batter-fried chicken, strong coffee, and exotic donuts.  At the counter there’s a young couple hovering over paper plates, licking chicken grease off their fingers.  I order a dozen donuts made up of “fresh hot” and “specialty” flavors: vanilla lavender, creamsicle, green tea, fig on fig, and spicy PB & J.

The donut box – flat and awkward – throws me off.  I try carrying it a few different ways before settling it on one forearm, keeping the other arm free in case I stumble.  The next block is like a self-guided physical therapy session!

I continue onward.  The sky is murky, but the rain has glazed everything else.  Sidewalk gardens pop.

Pumpkins glow.

Trees hang heavy with water droplets.

Leaves look like fallen rainbows.

When I finally arrive at Jeff’s office, he’s in the back with a patient.

“Donut delivery!” I call.  I'm happy to be there, finally!

And Dr. Jeff is happy to sign for the package!


On the return trip, the rain disappears completely.  Not so for the trash trucks.  I count three more.

What's the message?
Read the t-shirt!
(Remember surgery #15?)
But then a different truck catches my eye.  One with a more promising message...

Glad I didn't throw this day away!




Back home, I plop down on the living room couch.  Exhausted.

My shoes are wet, and my instinct is to take them off.  But I stop myself.  I never walk without shoes -- my prosthesis hits the ground differently.  My real leg adjusts, of course.  But the angle change throws off the Genium's readings.  Each step turns into a swing, like trying to kick a field goal.

Also, my prosthetic ankle doesn't point and flex.  To account for it, I have to walk on tiptoe on my right side.

And then there's traction.  Think about how your foot grips the ground, bends at the toes so you can push off for each step.  A hard plastic foot just slides

While I'm sitting there debating this big decision, I remember a story my friend Wendy's kids -- Emma and Nathan -- told me years before.  They'd been playing at their neighbor’s house when suddenly the sky opened up and a torrential rainstorm poured down.

“We had to get home," Emma said, "but we were gonna get soaked.  So Mom told us to TAKE OFF our shoes!  And we all ran through the puddles in our bare feet!”

“Yeah!” Nathan said.  “We got so wet!”

Just telling it to me made them laugh all over again.  And listening to them, I could feel the pure fun of it!


I decide to spend the rest of this rainy day in COMFY SOCKS.  

So I tread carefully across the hardwood floor.  I keep to the toes of my right foot, flipping out my prosthetic knee with each step.  I even dare try the stairs, holding tight to both railings.

In almost two years, it's the first time I've spent an afternoon with my shoes off!

I may never dance barefoot through puddles – at least not with the current technology.

But I can walk SHOELESS in the rain... as long as I stay inside.


By the way, check out Emma and Nathan in the left-hand sidebar.  They've gone beyond puddles....  
They just ran 20 miles!

6 comments:

  1. You're building momentum. What an inspiration.

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  2. Awwww, our rain story! I remember that day -- we saw ducks swimming in the puddles made by the backed up storm drains. Good luck on the apartment search! I know it's daunting but you'll find a good one -- I can feel it! Miss you!

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    1. I can picture Emma and Nathan (probably ages 8 and 5 back then) as they recounted that story to me! It still hits home :)

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  3. While reading your blog, we discover your daily challenges and with each victory you put smiles on our faces. But what I noticed today is that your walks are much more than trips to the donut shop. You take time to experience all the walk has to offer. "Leaves look like fallen rainbows." When was the last time any of us stopped to notice things like that? So, your blog is therapy for us too. And, BTW, you are quite the photographer. Great shot of Jeff.

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    1. Thanks Rocco! There's gotta be some benefit to looking at the ground all the time! It's good to have friends that encourage me to get out there... even if it's for donuts.

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