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 20, 2013

Meeting in the Middle

My Genium and I
hit the road
(with "Sandy" in the trunk)
Mile Marker 1190:

Google Maps says the drive should take 3 hours, 30 minutes, but I-287 has other plans.

As I creep inch-by-inch toward the Tappan Zee Bridge, confidence shifts into minor panic.

I'm on a highway in the middle of nowhere, ALONE.

I think of the amputees I met at the conference last month.  How they've all pushed past limits to find their independence.  When I left there, I promised I'd do the same:  I'd make decisions with my mind, not my leg.

70 miles to go...
So I squint into the snaking traffic.  Roll forward, one tire tread at a time.  Immerse myself in Radiolab.

East Hartford, Connecticut is not exactly #1 on Trip Advisor's "summer getaway" list.  But it's the midpoint between Vermont and Pennsylvania.  Perfect for a quick reunion with a few people I love best!

It starts with a text to my sister Sam.

Want to have lunch in Hartford on Sunday?

As I press send, I know it's a half-cocked plan.  In Vermont, her kids have colds.  In Philly, my leg is iffy.  Neither one of us is in the position to drive 8 hours.  But halfway?  That's tempting!  It's been months since we've seen each other.

Traffic crawls through Danbury.  When I arrive at the hotel 6 hours later, it's long past lunch time.

I’m not sure who’s more relieved -- me or Sam.  After driving 200 miles herself, she's been entertaining 2 toddlers in a hotel room!  Books and toys litter every corner.  The desk holds a stack of sticky gummy bears.

Look who's grown
up since Act II :)
My niece Riley flits around like a sprite with water wings.  My nephew Brennan sits cross-legged on the floor watching her come and go like a bouncing tennis ball.

Riley stops short when I take out my water leg. Her saucer-like eyes grow wider.  And wider.

“My swimming leg is blue,” I tell her.  But Riley knows this is more than a lesson on colors.  She swoops in for a closer look.

It’s a bit awkward – struggling into a prosthesis and bathing suit with a three-year-old's face just inches away!

I was so surprised,
 I sat straight up despite
the sutures in my belly!
Riley's only known me as an amputee, but this is the first time she's really NOTICED.  She doesn’t remember when she was 6 months old, and she road-tripped 500 miles to see me in my hospital room.
 



And she doesn’t remember Mile 15, when we were both learning to walk.


But now she looks carefully.

“I have one big leg and one little leg,” I tell her.   This, she will remember.

I can see her mind at work -- I have a swim leg.  She has floaties.




We head down to the POOL.

Which turns out to be much more exciting than a robot leg!




At dinnertime, I help Sam set up a picnic for the kids on the floor.  I squat to pick up crumbs from the carpet.  I lift the kids.  I even slide Brennan's crib across the room.  With these 3 beside me, I feel like my old self.  It seems there's nothing I can't do.
Pizza...
...B.Y.O. Cheez-Its :)








But when I take off my prosthesis for the night, I catch Riley watching again.  She stands behind me, one leg tucked underneath her body like a flamingo.

She holds one of my crutches as if taking my hand.  Together, we make our way across the room, hop by hop.


It's a quick visit.  The next morning, we pack up to head our separate ways.  As I tuck my still-wet bathing suit into a bag, Riley pops over to my bed.

"Where's your BABY LEG?" she asks emphatically.

Fully dressed, I look down at my Genium.  Here we go again....

But I'll take the questions.  Here, in this random East Hartford hotel, I don't feel different or singled out.  I just feel like an aunt.  And sister.

And that's definitely worth the trip.

Pizza:  $30
Gas:  $60
Hotel:  $100
Meeting in the middle:  PRICELESS





4 comments:

  1. I loved this post! The simplicity of this story speaks volumes about the distance you have come. And although you traveled only as far as Hartford, I know that this journey was more than a thousand miles in the making. As I read your words, I cried happy tears... and my heart is still smiling:)

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  2. So sweet, although I'm such a sucker for anything to do with those gorgeous babies ! I have an excellent idea for your next road trip (hint!)

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  3. The eyes have it! Riley and Brennan have the cutest saucer eyes! Its great to see that you are close to your family - even the geographically distant ones. You are building great memories for your niece and nephew. Genium is definitely not geographically-challenged. Maybe Genium wanted a road trip too. Speaking of geographical wonders. Susan and I were in Danbury,CT on Saturday. We missed a simultaneous crossing of the Tappan Zee bridge by a few hours.

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  4. Your Mom's comment above captures perfectly my reaction to this post. My thoughts exactly!
    (and huzzah for Radiolab!)

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