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!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Underdog

Mile Marker 1260:

It’s an Underdog morning.

Between 5 and 9 a.m, I take my socket on and off at least 5 times.  It pokes against my butt bone, rubs blisters on my inner thigh.

Trouble I don't need today -- on the first day of school.

I go through the motions of getting ready.  Brush my teeth at the bathroom sink.   Eat breakfast.  Pack lunch.

But my prosthesis won't cooperate.  The top edge of the socket digs into my skin.  The silicone liner squeezes.  In a last ditch attempt, I add a thin prosthetic “sock,” hoping to push things up from the inside.

“Walk it out,” I growl impatiently, pacing across the bedroom.  The socket bites back.

This is my third school year since the accident, yet mornings like this land me right back in 2011.

I grab my backpack anyway.

On the 10-minute commute through Chinatown, I squirm against the car seat.  I walk through the school lobby in pain.  And by the time I reach our team's office, I'm ridiculously close to tears.

My first year back was riddled with absence and discomfort.  Last year, I missed the entire fall because of surgery.

I wanted this school year to be different.

A line of second graders files by in the stairwell.  Each head of hair is neatly combed; each uniform, one size bigger than last year.  They're quiet and orderly, pumped up with first-day jitters.   I stand on the landing as they pass by.  Their eyes meet mine.   And then in recognition, they glance toward the robot leg. 

They should be used to it by now,  I think.

I should be used to it by now.

I last an hour at school.  Finally, with apologies all around, I head home to take off my leg – temporarily defeated.


If you've been following my journey, you know prosthetic fit is a process.  Recent mileage proves it.  At one visit, Tim attaches a pylon to outset my knee.  He pads the socket.  He shortens the ankle.   He works systematically.  One change at a time.

Inscribed on the wall of Prosthetic Innovations...

At home, I mirror Tim's method like a scientist.  I switch to a new liner.  I coat the raw spots on my leg with Neosporin.  I position the socket at slightly different angles.  I even try new underwear.

Dis-as-sem-ble!!!
And when I can’t stand it any longer, I do some mechanical work of my own.



...as long as I've got
a walking partner!

Eventually, the only option left is crutches.  On a recent Saturday night, my friend Mary and I order a pizza.  Then she coaxes me out of the apartment -- my first public appearance sans leg in over a year.   Even in hard times, one thing remains true:  I’ll still walk for ice cream....


Sadly, I leave the first-day-of-school hustle behind.  At an emergency appointment, Tim takes my socket into the lab.  Determined to stop those blisters, he trims down ¼ inch of carbon fiber from the interior edge of the socket.  When he returns, it seems to fit better.

By late afternoon, I head to the rehab gym to give the newest changes a test drive.  On the treadmill, I walk a 22-minute mile.  There's no incline and it's slower than usual, but I call it a win.  This morning I could barely walk from bedroom to kitchen!

Next I move to the rowing machine where I meet Duke, pedaling the bike next to me.  The shiny red stone on his ring catches my eye.  When I look closer, I notice the Phillies insignia.

He generously lets me model it!
Turns out, Duke worked for the fightin’ Phils most of his life.  When they became World Champions in 2008, he won right along with them. 

It’s a World Series ring!!!

With Mark, Rocco, & Susan
We talk about the tough summer the Phillies have endured.   I tell him I went to the August 6th game – one sparkling night in a streak of losses.
 
Duke’s wife Cindy tells me she used to be a nurse at Jefferson.  (It's a sign, right?)  It gets me thinking about how a strong team pushes you up from the inside.  How even in the midst of a losing season, there are moments that shine bright.

What a day.  My school team wishes me luck and says they’ll see me tomorrow.  Tim takes my socket back for yet another tune-up.  And finally -- at least for now -- I walk without pain.  

An Underdog start with a World Series finish?  

Maybe it's a trend for the new school year!


Thanks to Robert for wearing his Underdog jersey on the day I was feeling... well, like Underdog!

3 comments:

  1. We all have those days! They may present themselves differently but, I agree, it's always nice to finish ahead.

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  2. I have to tell you that there are many mornings when I think about your mantra "anything can happen....." and it keeps me going. Sometimes that anything is the World Series (well, unless you are from Chicago, and I won't hold my breath than my "anything" will ever involve a Cubs' World Series ring!) But truly, that mantra really works. (Oh, I guess there MAY be a backdoor way for me to see a (former) Cubs' player with a World Series ring now that my favorite player from childhood is now the Phillies manager!
    :-)

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  3. I am glad to know that no matter what you will still walk for ice cream :) and yes, I will walk with you leg or crutches.

    ReplyDelete