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, May 5, 2013

Say What???


Mile Marker 1050:

In a certain public restroom in a Center City office building, I'm about to enter The Twilight Zone.   

Come with me.  You don't want to miss this.

At first glance, the place is unassuming.   Ancient tiles line the walls.  Rusty radiators fill the corners.  The stalls are worn-looking, white-washed one too many times.

I nod hello to the only spark of color -- a redheaded cleaning woman.

She’s petite with short hair and glasses.  For a second, she reminds me of my mom.  An extremely short second.

“What happened??!” she exclaims. “Ya broke your leg??!”  Her voice is like a very nasal duck.

As you've probably guessed, I'm wearing shorts.

“Um, something like that,” I mumble, closing the stall door behind me.  Not that it matters.

She continues quacking.  “I saw this story on the internet about a dog that had only 2 legs.  They were gonna euthanize it, but then someone wanted to adopt it.  And ya know what?  They taught it to walk on JUST 2 LEGS!  Isn’t that great?!?”

“Yeah,” I say, tugging up my shorts as quick as I can.

I come out to the sink to wash my hands.  The woman's quiet now, dusting along the radiator covers.

“Well, have a nice day,” I say, turning to leave.

“See ya later, HOP-A-LONG!” she quacks.

(Really, she called me that!  You think I could make this stuff up??)


Last week, I came upon this quote in a magazine:

Our bodies are apt to be our autobiographies.
--Frank Gelett Burgess

I thought first of tattoos -- like that guy from the movie Memento, who inked his body with memories, pieces of his life he couldn’t keep in his head.  

I’ve never been one for tattoos or body piercings.  I’ve never stood out with crazy hair colors or over-the-top styles.  

But spring has sprung.  Suddenly my Genium’s getting more airtime.
  
 It puts my story out there -- for anyone to see.


Earlier that day as I’m buying groceries in the supermarket, I reach up to grab a roll of paper towels.  There’s a gasp behind me.

“Wowwww!” 

It’s a little boy, about 6.  His eyes are huge.  Aimed directly at my Genium.

Mortified, his grandmother tries to steer him -- and her cart -- around me.

But I smile at them.  “You see my robot leg?” I say.  I’ve had this conversation so many times, it’s literally kid’s stuff!

He nods earnestly. “I saw one of those on TV!” he says proudly.

I know where this conversation's going.  We're about to discuss the latest Transformers episode.  But Grandma has other ideas.

As she drags him past the detergent, the little boy cranes his neck.  “Coooool!” he yells to me over his shoulder.

When I pass them again in the dairy aisle, we share a secret smile.

It’s just one of those days.  Everywhere I go, people have something to say.  Nothing horrible or scary.  It's just strange how all the comments pile up in the span of a few hours.  How the dialogues tattoo themselves on my mind.

Later in the evening, I turn into the parking lot of my building.

But I haven’t pulled close enough to the gate scanner.  So I open the door and stick the left side of my body out of the car to reach.  The gate buzzes open.

I notice two guys, neighbors, watching me from the sidewalk.  They’re friendly.  I’ve talked to them before -- I realize now, probably in jeans.

“What do you have, a leg brace or something?” one calls out.  He comes over for a closer look.

“It’s a prosthesis,” I say.  

He peers in through the open car door, where I’m getting my Genium situated again.  “My buddy has the same one,” he says.

This is highly unlikely, but I don’t say so.

He’s clearly impressed.  “You could be in the Olympics with that!” he tells me.  No sarcasm at all.

“I’m not so sure,” I answer.  “I don’t think my right leg could be in the Olympics.”

At that, he and his buddy both laugh.

The gate closes again, so my neighbor pulls a key fob out of his own wallet.  “Here you go,” he says, waving it in front of the scanner.

“Thanks.” 

I finally drive in, rolling my eyes.  Checking the rear view mirror for a FULL MOON.


Don’t get me wrong.  I love spring, and I'm excited for summer. 

I can’t wait to test out my shiny new water leg!  I can't wait for the toes of my right foot to touch the sand again!


But I do have a body that reads like an open book.

One leg wears a prosthesis; the other has scars from surgery and a skin graft.  My middle section tells a story all its own.  (Remember Australia, A Bump in the Road, and Stitch(es) in Time?)

“Scars are tattoos of the brave,” a wise nurse once told me.  If it's true, I've got more than 15 marks of valor.

Good thing.  'Cause SHORTS SEASON is upon us...  
and there’s nowhere to hide!

You've gotta hear it to believe it...
Josh Sundquist, one of my favorite "famous" amputees, tells his own strange story:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnFHwuJ2YQs&feature=em-subs_digest

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the giggle at your expense, HOP-A-LONG!

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  2. Watched Josh's video. No, its not like a bad haircut. What struck me most in this blog is, "I can't wait to for the toes of my right foot to touch the sand again." I know much you enjoy the beach. It will be soon!

    ReplyDelete