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!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Walk It Out

Mile Marker 1015:

"Walk it out."

Tim says the same thing each time he adjusts my socket.

He hands the leg back to me -- 10 pounds of carbon fiber, plastic, and machinery.  Fresh from the lab, the socket is still warm and smells of baby powder.

I stand on my right leg and wrap the pull-bag around my left.

Tim watches as I tug myself in.

"It's still rubbing," I tell him each time.

"Walk it out," he always answers.

So I start between the parallel bars, and then head out to the carpet, ramp, and stairs.  With each step, I give the changes time to sink in.  Sometimes it takes an hour; sometimes all day.

At Mile Marker 1015, I'm not getting a socket adjustment but I am walking it out.   It's the day before the skating party, and I'm on the treadmill at Magee.  What better way to burn off nervous excitement -- and raise money for a good cause?

I'm partnered with Jerry, who walks on the Locomotor Training machine.

Three PTs control his body -- one stands behind to support his hips, two squat at his sides to work his legs.  A fourth sits at a computer screen, monitoring the speed of the treadmill and the tension of his harness.

In the background, the stereo blasts Run D.M.C.'s Walk this Way.  Our t-shirts say BELIEVE.  And we do.  Jerry begins to RUN!

It is hour #7 of a 24-hour step-a-thon called Walk It Out.  The rule is that one treadmill has to remain moving at all times.  So when there's a shift change on Jerry's machine, mine can't stop.
I'm not done yet...

The money raised goes to Magee's Locomotor Training Program, funded by the Christopher Reeve Foundation.

Here's a clip:

Thirty minutes and 1 1/2 miles later, my left leg is sweaty and my invisible toes are numb.  I've reached my walking limit.

Luckily my sister Sam, who's in from Vermont, steps on the treadmill to relieve me.  Marla, who's visiting from St. Louis, stands by in case we need another walker.  My team has come from far and wide!

"I've never been on a treadmill before," Sam says, surprising everyone in earshot.

"How do you like it?"  I ask.

"I like the woods better," she answers.   Haha.  Typical Vermonter...

Of course, she walks it out anyway!

Mile Marker 1025:

A few nights later, a thunderstorm blows through.  Outside my apartment window, I watch a power box explode.  Orange sparks fly into the wind and rain.

With a zap, the lights go out.

Stay calm, I tell myself.  Walk it out.

I haven't yet taken my Genium off for the night, so I feel my way into the bedroom to find a flashlight.

Then I slip into the dark hallway and knock on my neighbor's door.  She answers in flannel pajama bottoms, smiling, flashlight in hand.  I tell her about the power box explosion, and she gives me the emergency building management number.

"I hope it comes back on soon," she says, shrugging at the inconvenience.  Then she closes her door.

I'm in the dark hallway again.

Back in my apartment, I call the emergency number.

Power outages -- and emergencies of any kind -- sound my body's alarms.  Anxious and restless, I pace the dark apartment trying to get things in order.  Just in case I need to leave suddenly.  On crutches.

When I take my leg off, I'm vulnerable.  And slow.  And clumsy.   Especially in the dark.

In bed, I toss and turn all night.  When morning finally comes, the sunlight through the blinds floods me with relief.  There's still no electricity, but there's LIGHT.  The danger recedes.

I take a dim, lukewarm shower.  I put back on my Genium.  (It, too, has had a rough night without re-charging!)

The stove, microwave, and toaster won't work.  But in daytime, this all seems minor.  I can be brave again.

I decide to walk it out.  Grab my flashlight and descend the darkened stairway.

Escape victorious into the light of day.
Things are looking up...
I pass a hopeful sign
on the way home!

Soon, I head to the rehab gym.  The atmosphere there is even more festive and cheerful than usual.

It's wellness trainer Ian's birthday!

I mooch some electricity for my laptop while I start mat exercises.

My friend Nora passes by, practicing her side-step.  It's part of her PT session.

Giddy from the sleepless night, I just can't resist.  I grab my own resistance band and join her.   Walk it out turns into DANCE IT OUT!

Will walk for donuts!
When our pal Dajon returns from his PT session, there's a bounce in his step, too.  We crack up as he makes a beeline for the birthday food!

After 1000 miles, you'd think I'd stop counting.  But how??

To stop now would be like trying to stop breathing.

Step-by-step, walking's become my mode for solving problems.  It dares me to take chances.  It keeps my mind occupied at the most tentative, lonely moments.

All those times Tim says "Walk it out," I think what he means is this:  Give it time.  Reserve judgement.  Don't overreact.  You can handle this.

It's usually just what I need to hear.

Mile Marker 1030:

They're also straight from
my grandmother's closet!
I'm about to test drive a new pair of shoes.

They're silly and happy, just right for spring.  I love them!

But my Genium doesn't agree.  They've got the wrong heel-to-toe angle.

So I begin experimenting, stuffing pads of different thicknesses into the toe and heel.

One change at a time.  One step at a time.

No problem too big or too small....



  1. As usual, I love the post. And, I love that your are keeping us posted past mile 1000. I look forward to the updates, the videos and the progress. Keep it up! Not to many people would find shoes like that in their grandmother's closet - but DotDot was a one of a kind - and you are too. I so enjoyed our time together and am touched by the way you are navigating your new life....one step at a time.

  2. Those were your grandmother's shoes? What a hip chick she was!!! Love them!

  3. I didn't know you knew how to dance so well :) Maybe our next adventure should be dancing.

  4. Rebecca, just popping over from Janet's blog! I noodled around here on your site and am so impressed by your "keeping it real!" One of my biggest pet-peeves is that we look at folks' journeys of recovery as some kind of finished product (as if we don't continue to have challenges. EVERY DAY!)

    My injuries are different, but also being a "trauma patient" and facing losses, I went back to the hospital I was at and asked the question about beginning a peer-support program. It is in its beginning stages, but I'm putting together resources of hope to share with other patients. Can I add your blog?

    Your rehab team seems awesome, btw!

    1. You can absolutely add my blog, Chris!!

      I agree... Recovery is something we face every single day! The struggles are real, and although I never would have CHOSEN them, they make me appreciate the good days even more :)

      Peer support is such an important element of recovery. I've been so inspired by amputees who are "ahead" of me in this process, and I'm happy that I'm finally at a point when I can offer support to newer amputees, too!

      Thank you for writing and for doing the important work you're doing!