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, July 13, 2013

Defying Gravity

Mile Marker 1183:

One step after another, we climb up, up, and UP some more.

Inside the Academy of Music, Jen and I ascend a long winding staircase.  The steps are covered in bright, busy carpeting.  The steel banisters shift mysteriously from side to side.  Around each curve, the floor plateaus before the uphill slope begins again.   50 steps in all -- but who's counting?   It feels like 100.

“This is ridiculous,” a woman behind me grumbles. (For the record, she has 2 legs.)

As we climb higher, Jen and I pass signs -- 4th level, 3 floors to exit; 5th level, 4 floors to exit.  Finally, we arrive at the amphitheater section where our seats are located.  Five minutes till the show starts.  I head for the ladies’ room.  That's 7 more steps; 14 round trip.

By the time we get to Doorway C, both of our hearts are pounding.  My right knee is quivering.  I’m ready to sit down.   On the uppermost level, we feel lucky to have front row seats.  Until we see what comes next.

To get to those seats, we have to descend 10 more stairs – wide and steep – sans railing!
 
I hang onto Jen’s shoulder and hope her skinny-heeled sandals hold steady.  They do.

The lights dim.  The show, Wicked, begins.

Inside its socket, my left leg is not entertained.  I search for a more comfortable position to relieve the needle-like burning from too many hours in my prothesis.  I angle the rotator to bring the Genium up onto my lap.  It's not the most lady-like position, but it feels better.  

The guy across the aisle is even more restless than I am.  His face is lit by the blue screen of his cell phone.  He’s surfing the web.

I turn my eyes five stories down, to the excitement on the stage below.

When Wicked Witch Elphaba lets her talents shine, my leg and I listen up.  It's the catchiest song in the show:  Defying Gravity.  And she belts it out.

I'm through accepting limits,
Cause someone says they're so.
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I'll never know....

Don't worry.  I won't be jumping on a broomstick anytime soon.  (The Genium doesn't have a flying mode anyway.)

But the last few miles have been packed with activities that seemed impossible when I first started this journey.   And each time I cross one off my list, it feels like DEFYING GRAVITY.

The locked knee works great!
I discover how to rock climb with my water leg...

Of course, it helps to have an incredibly brave cousin

and a leg-sized backpack! 





Then, on July 4th, I join my skate buddies for the very first time -- by BIKE...


My Schwinn has fewer wheels than the rest of the pack, but we keep up just fine!




And finally... a long-awaited beach day in Ocean City...

Only one leg gets cold!



With support from friends -- and brave cousin Tray -- I walk confidently into the 59-degree Atlantic!

"Sandy" gets sandy
but not sunburned!





Each step carries me farther from the days that pulled me down.  At Mile 1183, there's so little gravity, I could be walking on the MOON.



At the recent Amputee Coalition Conference, I stumbled onto a book called You’re Not Alone.  It's made up of courageous survival stories, written by amputees.  Each day, I open the book and read one or two stories at random.  By now the paperback binding's creased and worn.  Several pages are dog-eared.  Every time I pick up the book, I assume I’m nearly finished.  But day after day, I discover another story I haven't read yet.

For amputees, the early lessons are all about defying gravity.  Operating a machine like part of your body.  Strengthening your muscles.  Staying off the floor.

Over time, defying gravity evolves into something different.  It means finding a way to FLY even when the world weighs you down -- a feat much harder than hopping on a broomstick!

But I'm sure you do it, too.

In the hall after the show, Jen and I locate a well-kept Academy secret:  THE ELEVATOR.  We can't help giggling with relief.

But before we press the down button, an usher rushes over and bursts our bubble. "It's out of order," he says.  

Of course.

He points us in the direction of another elevator on the opposite side of the theater.  It doesn't seem worth the trek.

We choose the stairs.

This time, gravity's on our side.

7 comments:

  1. Alright Rebecca! Just started reading your blog after we met you in Orlando--it's great! We live near Princeton Univ. which sponsors a lot of nice concerts and performances in Alexander Hall. It's a beautiful old building kind of like a castle, but to get up to the balcony you have to climb these ridiculous long spiral stairs in towers/turrets--no elevators. Then the balcony is steeply downward with minimal handrails and random pillars throughout. I've been scared about handling this with my C-leg, but after reading your trip to the Academy of Music I think I can do it (or at least give a try)!

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    1. Hey Arnold, Thanks so much for your comment! Sounds like a great venue....Charge up the C-Leg and go for it!!

      BTW, here's a tip I learned in PT: If the way down looks tricky, turn sideways and lead with your prosthetic side. Works on slopes and stairs. (Kinda like sidestepping down a hill on skis...) Good luck & enjoy the show :)

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  2. You continue to defy gravity everyday - and you don't just fly... you soar!! Your incredible spirit is infectious and uplifing to so many others, even in the face of gravity's downward pull. It's just one of the special qualities that make you so POP-U-LAR with all who meet you... and love you:)

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  3. Hey Rebecca, I LOVED this post! (Course, I'm a climber....that's how I got injured.)

    A BKN Amputation is something that could be on the horizon for me (still in the "wait and see" game...have another surgery at the end of August), but if that becomes the case, I'll definitely get a climbing leg!

    Keep on climbin' girl!

    I've never seen Wicked, but now I really want to!

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    1. Hi Chris,

      Good luck with your surgery in August. I know from Janet's blog what a strong person you are. I'll be sending plenty of healing thoughts your way!

      From one climber to another, hang in there!

      Rebecca

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  4. Ricki, Jimmy and I went to see The Book of Mormon this weekend and the theater was NUTS. Up lots of stairs to our seats, and then down a skinny, steep flight with no railing. I was nervous, with two legs. I can't imagine. Good for you for not letting that kind of stuff hold you back!!! Love you!

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