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!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Beautiful Day


Mile Marker 1000:

It's a beautiful day for a BIKE RIDE.

The morning sun lights up the corner of 5th and Washington, just like it did 2 years ago.  

But today instead of a chill in the air, there's the fresh scent of spring.

Colors dot the road as friends and family breeze in on their bikes.  They come from every corner of the city and beyond.  Michael from Manayunk, Rocco from the Northeast, Alayne from Fairmount.  

Then there's the South Philly contingency:  Davey, Carol, Jen, Karen, Mary, and Chris.


My brothers Mark and Joe, and sister-in-law Amy, have come to ride too.




Shelley's traveled the farthest.  She's flown all the way from Chicago just to bike with me!


But I'm not quite ready yet.  I pull a few shells from my pocket.  They're from the garden of my old house.   Mom stands next to me as we set them down gently between manhole covers in the street.  The spot where I went down.

Then we step up onto the curb and watch passing tires crush them into gravel.

As usual, this place has me on edge.  But I'm about to get on my bike, and that shakes me up even more.  

Jen comes to the rescue.  “Come on,” she tells me.  She’s got a cardboard stencil in one hand and a can of spray paint in the other. 

She leads me back out into the street.  Watching for traffic, she drops the stencil to the ground right next to the crushed shells.

It’s the shape of a left foot, size 6.  A cartoon cut-out of the one I left behind.
I leave my mark a second time --
South Philly style!

And then it’s time to go.  I loosen the screws at my ankle and rotate my foot like Tim taught me.

I buckle my helmet tight.

Mom reaches out for a nervous hug.  I say everything’ll be fine, but she's not convinced.  Two years ago on a morning like this, I told her, “It’s just my leg.”


As I'm about to board my bike, there's a reassuring voice behind me.  It's the same voice that reminded me to stay on it, shift your weight, rotate those hips -- a voice that's guided me forward since before Mile 1.

It's a beautiful day when your PT shows up on her motorcycle!

"I'm so nervous," I whisper into Deb's helmet.

She smiles knowingly.  “Don’t forget to enjoy it,” she says.


Michael takes the lead position, just as he has on hundreds of skate routes.  I trust him implicitly.  He'll slow down before lights, call out when intersections are "clear." 

The rest of the team gathers their bikes around.
We are READY TO ROLL.

I plant my Genium’s foot firmly in its pedal cage.  Here we go...

The light at 5th and Washington shines green, just like it did 2 years ago.

Gripping the handlebars, I scramble down the slope of the curb.  I steer wobbily into the bike lane.  

My right foot searches for its pedal.   And as I ride over the crushed shells, I find it.

Today is different already.  

I MAKE IT ACROSS.

A protective cocoon of friends forms around me.  

Shelley rides along on a pink beach cruiser, ringing her bell and snapping photos.

Davey and Carol take up the
rear on their tandem

Look Ma, no gait belt!


PT Deb spots me, as usual -- but in a very creative way!




We pedal 2 blocks down the bike lane on Washington Avenue and then turn up 7th Street.  

This is my old commute.   Instinctively, I steer around hills and valleys.   Some potholes are still here from 2 years ago!   Gradually I relax into the pedals, watching rowhouses and stores pass by.  It could be any school day.  I could be biking to work.

I keep my eye on Michael, 2 bikes ahead.  All the practice has paid off.  My right foot swings out as we slow down.  I come to a smooth, gradual stop.  My socket stays suctioned, my bike stays upright, and I stay off the ground.

It’s a beautiful day!






On Spruce Street, I find myself sandwiched between "little" brothers Mark and Joe.  (And I realize they're probably under strict orders from Mom!)
 
But it works.  I feel completely safe. 

I inhale the spring breeze and wave to the trail of bikers behind me.  I'm not the only one having FUN!

Uh-oh!  Stroller up!
Two miles go by too fast.

Before I know it, we're rounding a busy corner onto Walnut Street.  Dad's poised with his video camera.  And Mom is finally smiling!

Colleen and Kim -- more of my Magee team -- cheer us on at the edge of the park.  

Diana and Katie from the Bicycle Coalition give us a welcoming wave.



Along the cobblestones, I spy Deb from Jefferson with her 2 girls, Rebecca and Jac.  Deb used to be my nurse, but after all this time we're more like family!


No need for pedaling now.  My bike is propelled by pure HAPPINESS!

Speed equals freedom.   Each turn of the pedals takes me far, far away from that moment everything stopped on November 9, 2010.

Just for kicks, we do a VICTORY LAP!

The tires keep spinning.  The chain goes round and round.  My old life and new life wind together. 

At Mile Marker 1000, I can’t imagine one without the other.

Two years ago, my fate spiraled outward like spokes on a bicycle wheel.  I'd never been a hospital patient before.  Never been inside a rehab gym.

Never even MET an amputee.

Now, these are the teams I love and learn from.  They inspire me to go further.  They instill me with courage.


They hold out their hands when I move forward.  And catch me when I slip back.


With their energy, skill, and compassion, they keep me pushing and pedaling -- one step at a time.


This journey has truly been a group effort!


At the end of the ride, we celebrate!





I join new friends Diana and Katie at the Bicycle Coalition table.  We hand out safety information and remind drivers to WATCH FOR BIKES in their side mirrors.
 
It feels like new start.  One with fewer bike accidents like mine.

You never know when your path will come to a screeching halt.  Or when a new road will open up ahead.

There's still far to go.  But right here, right now -- with 1000 miles down -- I feel nothing but GRATITUDE.

I can write my own ending to the story.


About an hour after we arrive, Dr. J walks up.  He's exhausted and still in scrubs, just off a long shift at the hospital.  

But he didn't want to miss this day!

I expect him to ask me What's next? as he usually does.  But instead, he laughs and tells me he has a new challenge.

"Trapeze."

I think he's spent too many hours on call!


Still, it's one of those moments when anything seems possible.

My shoes are tied.  My Genium is charged.

And it's a beautiful day.


Enjoy the ride!  I did...
Click here to watch the video.


To my family and friends, and ALL my teams--

Thank you for BELIEVING this day would come.


Photos by Shelley, Dad, Mark, Michael, Rocco, Amy and Joe  -- because I can't pedal and shoot pictures at the same time!

12 comments:

  1. Great day for all of our family. We are with you always.

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  2. I joined your journey about a year and a half ago and have enjoyed every step of it! Today's post brought tears to my eyes for a tough, unstoppable spirit who couldn't, WOULDN'T be kept down. Thank you, Rebecca, for the many smiles and inspiration you've given me through this blog. Keep us updated on your new career, TRAPEZE ARTIST! ;) Here's to many more safe, enjoyable journeys!

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  3. It brought tears to me as well. As a left AKA I have an understanding of all you have accomplished and what it means to you. Thank you for sharing your journey with strangers. It has helped me to know that I am not alone. I wish you success on the next leg (pun intended) of your journey. Jan

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  4. Rebecca-
    Thank you for sharing your incredible journey and being such a positive influence on all the patients and staff members at Magee. You are truly one of the strongest and courageous people I have ever met. Your ability to turn your own loss into inspiration for others speaks to your amazing attitude. I will look forward to watching you achieve your next goal. Trapeze artist or book author, what will it be?
    -Julie Cote

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  5. Deb's pre-ride reminder to remember to enjoy the ride is going to stick with me....Even though Saturday's ride marked a huge accomplishment, it's still the journey that matters more than the destination. So glad I could join in on the journey with you and your rockstar Philly friends and family on Saturday. I most definitely enjoyed the ride and look forward to many more miles to come.
    Sure wish I could fly back out to skate (and fall) with you next weekend, but I'll be there in spirit!

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    1. Er, re-reading that last sentence I'm not sure that came across right....I mean that *I* would be the one falling if I were on skates....Falling is part of learning, of course, but I have a feeling you won't be doing any falling on Sunday!

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  6. While watching the video, I got to enjoy the "Beautiful Day" all over again! I watched the video from mile 160 again too! It reinforces your tremendous 1000 mile accomplishment!

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  7. Thanks so much for blogging your journey. You've been a real source of inspiration (an occasional worry) as I follow my own road from Dr. J's care to the rest of my life.

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  8. This post, like so many others, brought tears to my eyes. The last 1000 miles has been a journey for all of us who has travled it with you, but your optimism, energy, spirt and willingness to share so much of your recovery inspires all of us in ways far too many to mention. You are truly an amazing person. Congratulations on mile 1000. I can't wait to see what comes next! I might have to close my eyes if you choose the trapeze!

    Love you.

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  9. Hi everybody,

    I can't tell you how much all your support has meant to me! Whether you've been reading this blog, walking with me, or hanging tight to my gait belt, you've been a HUGE part of this journey -- and it has truly made a difference!

    What does the future hold? Walking, skating, biking, trapeze(?!)... New places, new adventures, new people... I know there'll be many more ups and downs -- thrills and spills! -- but we'll keep moving forward together. One step at a time :)

    Love and thanks!

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  10. Wow! This should be a movie and you should be in it, cause your the inspirational star that truly shines!

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  11. So inspiring! I'm speechless... (Binal)

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