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, August 4, 2013

What's the Story?

Mile Marker 1200:

With a backdrop of guitar and tambourines, I tell a Cliffs Notes version of my story.

We're at the Gathering of the Vibes, a 3-stage music festival packed with new millennium hippies -- and their kids.

In the rainbow colored kiddie tent, my niece Riley plays beside me, a rug-rat in tye-dye.  She's been exploring the retro toys -- musical instruments, pinwheels, even a Sit and Spin.  But now she makes a beeline to something way more fascinating:  an infant in a bouncy seat.

Riley inches closer, grubby hands reaching for the baby girl's tiny fingers.  "Don't touch," I say gently.  "Show her the toys."

The baby's mom and I start talking.  She tells me they're from Massachusetts, but her husband went to school in the Philly area.  Undergrad at Villanova.  Med school at Jefferson.  That's how my story comes up.

"I'm a big fan of Jefferson," I tell her.  "They saved my life."

It's the shortest version I can think of.  Good thing.  In a matter of seconds, Riley darts off.  There's a puppet show starting outside.

I chase after her.


In the weeks following the accident, I told my story to anyone who’d listen:  the nurses in pre-op, the transport staff who pushed my gurney, the PTs and OTs who got me out of bed.  Again and again, I told how that garbage truck turned into me while I was riding in the bike lane.  Over and over, I gave a play-by-play of exactly what happened on the morning of November 9, 2010.

And while that story hasn't changed, those events have become smaller with each passing mile.  Distance brings perspective.


Festival's over and I'm back in the city again.  I step into a crowded office building elevator.  The doors start to close.

“Hold the elevator!” calls a man from the lobby. 

Quickly, I press the door-open button.  He sticks his arm between the doors just before they come together.  Save!

He steps in, breathless but victorious.  One of his co-workers elbows him playfully.  "If we'd known it was you, we wouldn't have held the door!" he says.  He gives me a wink.  They’re both laughing.

I decide to joke back.  “You know,” I tell them, “when I see someone use their arm like that, I always want to say, ‘Be careful.  That’s how this happened!’”   I point to my Genium.

It's a line I've been waiting to use.  They crack up.


Over time, I've become a seasoned storyteller.  I can summarize what happened in 3 sentences or less.  I have different versions for toddlers and teenagers.  I've grown used to people's questions and reactions.  I even have a ready supply of jokes.

But only recently have I realized how much the story's changed over time – not so much in the facts, but in the TELLING.

Take the Amputee Coalition Conference last month.  There we were, nearly a thousand amputees gathered together.  Clearly, we all had stories to tell.  And we did.  We talked about families and jobs, hobbies and goals, prostheses and prosthetists.

But surprisingly, the beginning of our stories rarely came up.  Instead we focused on NOW –  the stories we create as we move forward.

At Mile Marker 1200, I notice it again.  The first chapter simply sets the stage.  It does not predict the ending.

(Carefully!)
If it did, would I be lifting my 20-pound nephew?








Or traveling to see my brother Andy and his School of Rock All-Stars?



There's something very
funny about this :)


Or even painting this unique pedicure?





Shortly after that elevator ride, I'm feeding dollar bills into a city parking kiosk.  My story emerges again.  Unexpectedly this time.

"You should see this young woman standing in front of me," says a female voice from behind.

I spin around.  She's talking on her cell phone.  About me?

"Her t-shirt says No Guts, No Glory,” the woman says into her phone.

I look down at my shirt.  Yep.

"And she’s sporting this awesome prosthesis!”

(I don't need to look down for that one.)

The parking machine keeps spitting out my money, so I search for a credit card.  The woman bids goodbye to whoever’s on the other end of the line.

Finally, she comes around to face me.  “That was my husband,” she says.  “Our good friend just had a heart attack, and he’s in bad shape.  But when I saw you, I had to tell him -- No Guts, No Glory!  like your t-shirt says.  Just looking at you gives me strength!”

With no words from me, my story has somehow told itself.  It's the shortest version yet.

And I'm honored to share it.

3 comments:

  1. What a way to start my day--tears of happiness!!!! I hope you plan to turn this into a book--the world needs to hear your wise words! xo

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  3. Used your 255 entry for lecture today!

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