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, March 16, 2013

Hope

Mile Marker 975:

Hiking boots, check.
Gators, check.
Canine companion, check.

Support team, check!
ALL SYSTEMS GO for my first Vermont snow trek!

We set off from the house along a slippery slope.  My sister Sam and friend Chrissy walk in front.  My brother-in-law Gregg trails behind.

One knee bends.  One foot sinks deeply through 12 inches of wet, melty snow.  With a jerk of my left hip, the other foot follows.  It feels more like a soccer kick than a step.  In a matter of seconds, I land on my knees in the icy muck.

We've barely started out, so Gregg dashes back to the house.  He has an idea.

Ski poles.

We start out again, smoother this time. Step, drag, kick.  Step, drag, kick.  Each move anchored by two magical poles in the ground.



A small brown shepherd -- Hope -- bounds along in front.  With just 3 legs, she is more agile than any of us.

She loves hiking, but she's skittish too.  The ski poles make her flinch.  The same way trucks do for me.


"Hope is missin' one leg!" my niece Riley will tell you.

She'll point out that I am, too.  "You have one real leg and one pretend leg," she says knowingly.

Her eyes grow wider.  "A ROBOT leg!"

She's put these clues together herself.  At 3 years old, Riley is quite a smart cookie.  Her whole life, she's only known me as an amputee.


She can't remember Mile 15, when we were both learning to walk -- together.




A "missin' leg" doesn't seem to stand in Hope's way.  She hikes with the big dogs and even jumps the baby gate at feeding time.  But like other amputees I've met along this journey, she has a story of suffering and resilience.

Struck by a car and left on the side of the road, she gave birth to puppies.  All of them died.  Alone, she hung on for days.  When she was finally rescued, her back leg had to be amputated.

Today she startles easily, but bares no anger.  Through it all, she's somehow maintained the capacity to love.

And RUN.

Behind her, I take step after tentative step.  My Genium and I have never been out in the snow together.   We're protected by a thick sock, stable hiking boot, and knee-high Gator wrap.

Hope is bare-pawed.  She lopes easily in wide circles around us.  A natural in the snow.

Rays of sun come through the treetops, softening the ice beneath our feet.  Today it's balmy by Vermont standards.  Our jackets are light.  You can smell the blue sky.

Ski poles in hand, I pave a rhythm over twigs and under branches, through twists and turns.  My arms pump as hard as my legs.  It feels like cross-country skiing.

When we reach a plateau, Chrissy, Sam, and Gregg stop short in their tracks.  I'm 3 or 4 steps behind them, but when I get there I see why.   A silvery slope of ice, slush, and mud leads down to the trail below.

Sam gets her camera ready.  Whether I stay on my feet or not, I know we'll probably end up laughing!
video
The poles act as crutches.  I lean my weight to the right, and the Genium slides along.  Awkward but not as bad as I expected!

We continue toward the wetlands, a marshy lake in spring.  Today, it's a frozen expanse, dotted with footprints of dogs and birds.  Maybe even moose.

A new hill awaits, higher and steeper than the last.  I've climbed it many times with 2 legs, but it's going to be a challenge with one.

Hope races up as if to say, We've come this far.  Don't stop now!

Upward, the ski poles hook me in.  With the toe of my boot, I push against the snow.  Its depth keeps me moving.
We celebrate at the top!


Going down is another story.  Unpredictable -- a precarious mess of trial and error.   But whatever works!
video


Many nights, I dream about running.  Sledding.  Skating.  In sleep, I move spontaneously.  Easily.  Naturally.  Perfectly balanced.

As we make our way back to the house, Hope darts ahead.   She leaves behind a trail of triple paw prints.

Motion without boundaries.

She reminds me of my dreams.


A prosthesis does have
its advantages!
Inside the warm kitchen, Hope shakes water droplets from her fur.

I unzip my icy Gators, one by one.


It's been a sweaty and exhausting trip.  But one filled with possibilities.

I imagine trekking around Philly next winter, ski poles in hand.

The stuff dreams are made of.


Hope springs eternal, even in the snowiest mountains of Vermont.

Thanks to my human support team -- Sam, Gregg, and Chrissy -- for chancing this one with me.  And hoping for the best :)

6 comments:

  1. Sorry I missed it, but HOPE to be there for the skating party!

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  2. I thoroughly enjoy all your posts, and this is my most favorite. Beautiful and HOPEful!

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  3. I just love this post. (Well, I must concur with Susan's comment above that I love ALL your posts, but this one in particular is going to stick with me.)

    Could that dog have a more perfect name? (Frankly, it seems like perhaps it's your middle name too!)
    Your writing as usual is just beautiful, and I feel like I was hiking there with you! Thank you to Sam for her videotaping and her giggles. :-)

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  4. Great photos and video. The video is not AFV material - good thing, I guess. A bonus of the slushy snow was that it was not 10 degrees. One sentence stood out more that the others: "A new hill awaits, higher and steeper than the last." Yep. And you'll find a way.

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  5. You look beautiful in the pictures Ricki. Look from the beginning of the blog to now. You aparkle now. So happy for you and all that you've accomplished....can't say I'm surprised. I knew you would do it.

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  6. What a beautiful post! I just discovered your blog today, and I wanted to commend you on your amazing journey. :-)

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