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 4, 2014

The Gimpy Chicks

Mile Marker 1670:

We're not famous yet, but we draw attention wherever we go.

The setting: Orlando, Florida.  At Jimmy John's sandwich shop, heads turn as we enter.  We're three attractive women with long hair from blonde to brunette.  In workout clothes and brightly colored sneakers, we're laughing and chattering.  So why do people stare?

Today, between us, we've got three legs, two pairs of crutches, and one prosthesis!

The clerk takes our orders, her eyes glancing from our bodies to the cash register.  We smile warmly in return.  Make our way toward the pick-up counter.  When our sandwiches are ready, I take the bag.  Then I open the door for Ali and Chris.

By default, I'm the helper today -- the only one with 2 working legs!

When a chance meeting brings us together in Florida, Ali, Chris, and I become instantly inseparable.  Ali is a "left AK" (left leg, above-the-knee) like me.  Having lost her leg at 16, she is the most experienced amputee among us.  Chris is a "right BK" (right leg, below-the-knee).  She's the newbie; her amputation was just last January.  With my three years as an amputee, I fall somewhere in the middle.

During our week together, we dine on Jimmy John's, Starbucks, and Thai food.   We meet each other's families.  We walk with various leg arrangements.

At first, we exchange tips about socket fit.  Ali has just had revision surgery.  Chris has a neuroma she's trying to relieve.  I am just plain tired of being uncomfortable.  Later our conversation moves to hobbies and fitness, work and relationships, shoes and clothes.  Ali is a nurse; Chris is a rock climber.  Both are moms.  I take lessons from each of them.

I admire how they put their kids first despite ongoing leg issues.  Chris, who has traveled to Florida from chilly Wisconsin, makes sure her kids get time at the pool.  Ali, who's from Tennessee, tells me that during a tornado, she once had to crawl down the stairs carrying both of her toddler daughters!

One afternoon as we're standing around, Ali's one-year-old daughter Bella pulls herself up on my Genium.  Then her tiny face stares up at me with shock.  I am not her mother!

We all crack up.

"Bella thinks I'm the only one with a leg like that!"  Ali says, coming over to fetch her baby.

Toward mid-week, Chris, Ali, and I come up with an idea for a reality show.  It will be Push Girls meets The Bionic Woman.  Chris' husband Scott suggests the title Gimp Girls, but we prefer Gimpy Chicks!

There might be a few guest stars :)
We're sure it'll be a hit because of its wide appeal:  amputees, cancer survivors, trauma patients, nurses, rock climbers, teachers, physical therapists, tech buffs, parents, and women in general.  By raising awareness through the media, we might even drive new legislation and insurance coverage for amputees!

We agree on a smart subtitle:
Imperfection is the new perfection.

Now all we need is an agent!

At the end of our stay, I say goodbye to my fellow Gimpy Chicks.  We promise to stay in touch.  I leave Florida feeling empowered by my new identity.  I am no longer simply Rebecca, a lone amputee from Philly....

I am a Gimpy Chick!

In the Orlando airport, the TSA agent flags my backpack.  I'm not surprised.  Inside, I'm carrying Allen wrenches, silicone sleeves and patches, moleskin, alcohol spray, tape, and ointment in various quantities.

"Whose bag is this?" he says, holding it up.  I raise my hand.  Confidently.

He takes me over to the counter and pulls out my metal vacuum pump.  With its red plastic handles, round numbered dial, and clear tubing, I guess it does look kind of dangerous.  "What's this for?" he asks.

"It's a pump to get the air out of my leg," I answer, gesturing proudly toward my prosthesis.

"Never heard that one before!" he says.  He places it back in the bag and hands me my belongings.

Good thing.  By the time we reach the gate area, my socket is acting up again.  I'm so uncomfortable that I dismantle my entire leg.  I use an Allen wrench to unscrew the Genium from the base of my socket.  Then I remove the socket from my leg and peel off the silicone liner.  Prosthetic parts litter the floor around my feet.

My mom looks on nervously.  Before this trip, I never would have attempted such a feat.  I reattach my Genium to a different socket and put the whole thing back on my leg.  Lickety split.  My mom breathes a sigh of relief.

I head off in the direction of Starbucks, texting Chris and Ali as I go.  They will understand.

Gimpy Chick Power!  If only the cameras were rolling!

2 comments:

  1. Rebecca, I meant to comment earlier! I just LOVE this post. :) (I forwarded it on to POA....I was chatting w/ Stephanie earlier and made reference to it, so I needed to share!)

    Hugs! Miss you guys....

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    Replies
    1. Miss you too! But I've been channeling my Gimpy Chick Power everyday!

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