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 25, 2014

Time and Again

Mile Marker 1747:

Time and again, I return to Jefferson.

Over 3 1/2 years, the tile floors have been replaced with light wood.  The walls have been repainted butter yellow and robin's egg blue.

Scenic prints of beaches, gardens -- and yes, even bicycles! -- line the walls.

I'm a regular now, not as a patient, but as a trained volunteer.  I trek the hallways each week loaded down with plants and garden supplies.  I'm even friends with Barry, the security guard in the lobby!

He just celebrated his 18th year
with a donor heart!!

I see the hospital from a new perspective.  The rooms and doorways that once loomed so large are now just... rooms and doors.   I glimpse behind-the-scenes shift changes.  I get the cafeteria discount.  I empathize with patients and family members through new eyes.  Been there, done that,  I think, time and time again.

At Mile 1747, Deb and I move through the hallways together.  She's not my nurse today.  We're two friends on a mission.   In 4 hours, we log 3 miles photographing staff who touch the lives of trauma patients.  We're making a video to be shown at the Excellence in Trauma Awards in early June.

This is the third year my family and I are invited.

"Aren't they tired of us yet?" I ask Deb.  (I worry about outstaying our welcome!)

Deb laughs and rolls her eyes.   She knows how excited I get from the invite.  The idea of coming back as a "survivor" reminds me how much I've moved on.

On this day, Deb and I travel from floor to floor, camera ready.  We stop at Patient Services, Pastoral Care, Critical Care, the Neuro ICU, Orthopedics, and Rehab.  In each location, the good-natured staff gathers together for quick photos.  In their scrubs and white coats, many look familiar.  Some remember me or know my story.

But there are also surprises.  When we step off the elevator onto the 9th floor, I meet someone new.

"Do you have a blog?"  I hear from behind.

Great to meet you Dianne!!
I turn around and meet Dianne.  She tells me she works in Orthotics at Jefferson.  We've never met in person (till now!) but she's been reading this blog for almost 2 years!  We grab a quick photo before she heads to the casting room.

How refreshing to be recognized as a writer rather than a patient!   Yep, times sure have changed...

Mile Marker 1748:  

But despite the months and miles, Jefferson's healing power never ceases to amaze me.

Sure, I've moved on.   But in a sense, time STANDS STILL here.

Patients fill the beds.  Gurneys line the halls.  Nurses dart in and out of rooms, as prompt and attentive and busy as ever.  Under this roof, it could be November or May.  2010 or 2014.

Deb and I arrive at 7 Center, my old unit and Deb's current one.  We rally the nurses for a photo.  I see lots of familiar faces.  Then I glance down the hall.  My old room, 7206, has undergone a full makeover:  new door, new floors... and of course, new patient!

A man shuffles by dragging an IV pole.  His back is hunched.   An NG tube dangles from his nose.  On his feet are yellow "fall risk" socks.

"How're you doing?" one of the nurses asks him.

"Ok," he says quietly.

I whisper into Deb's ear a secret I learned first-hand,  "Ok is as good as it gets with an NG tube!"

When we turn the corner onto 7 Northwest, we run into Brendon.

All he has to do is smile, and the memories come tumbling back.  He was my nurse one early morning after a sleepless, painful post-surgery night.  As the sun rose outside my window, Brendon's presence flooded me with relief.  (His charming brogue didn't hurt either!)  He rescued me from my sweaty bed sheets, cleaned up my messy IV port, and assured me things would get better.  They did.

Today he's got lots of other patients waiting for him.   So we exchange a long overdue hug, and he dives right back into work!

Mile Marker 1749:

It's late afternoon by the time Deb and I make our way to the Emergency Department.

Our energy's flagging.  The trauma bay will be our last stop.

It's bright and high-tech.  The stuff of dreams...  In the center of each area sits a gurney wrapped in white sheets.  Two alien-looking lights hover overhead.  Machines and monitors perch at the ready.   The walls are lined with metal cabinets, each one carefully labeled.

A lifesaving lab.

This room, more than anywhere else, sends me hurtling back through time.

Nurse Aileen steps out from behind the desk.  With her friendly smile and dark ponytail, she's maybe 2 inches taller than I am.  But in a second, we realize we have something else in common.  Aileen was here the morning I was brought in by ambulance!

She shows me the actual bay I was in -- 32T -- and tells me what she remembers.  My horribly mangled leg.  Dr. M's determination to control my pain.  How my mom came in to see me, and how worried I was about her.

Then Aileen calls Margaret, who remembers me too.   At 7 a.m. on November 9, Aileen had just begun her shift.   Margaret was finishing her last month as a trauma nurse before becoming a nurse practitioner.  What are the chances I would end up in both their capable hands?

There are no words to express how FORTUNATE I am!

The two of them took care of me on this very bed, in this very room.  In the last 3 1/2 years, they've cared for thousands of patients.  Yet they still remember.

On this blog, I often talk about how things change.  (Just type the word "change" into the search box, and you'll see what I mean.)   As humans, we like to move forward at a steady pace.  It instills us with comfort and hope.  Don't we all want to leave the troublesome stuff behind?

But science says that time doesn't work that way.  Like so many other things, time is relative.  It's based on our own speed moving through space.   I'm no expert in quantum physics, but as I near Mile 1750, I kinda get it.

When I push out through the revolving doors of the lobby, I can feel my own speed.  Although my leg aches from this long day, I keep walking.  I leave the hospital behind.

On the sidewalk outside, there are a thousand reminders....

Blue Jefferson signs.  Wheelchairs.  Flags proclaiming the hospital's new slogan, Health Is All We Do.

Maybe so, I think.  But here's the thing, Jefferson.  You do it AGAIN and AGAIN.

While time moves forward, you remain like a rock between Chestnut and Walnut Streets.  You stock your floors with the best staff anyone could ask for.   When an ambulance can't reach you, you send out a helicopter.  You light your hallways day and night.  Hour to hour, your trauma team waits.  So when we need you, you're there.

Some things are better left unchanged.

Today, 3 miles passed for me.  And before that, 3 1/2 years.  But YOUR work goes on and on.

Thank you Jefferson.  Time and time again.