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!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mystery of the Sticky Knee

Mile Marker 1994:

Ever get a rock in your shoe?

A little pebble from the sidewalk, or sand from the beach, or wood chips when you're hiking?  You know the feeling.  The annoying poke each time you put your heel down?  How the tiniest stone feels like a boulder in there?   How, after just seconds of suffering, you stop to dump out your shoe and see what's inside?

Well, Mile 1994 sets a new standard for that.

The mystery begins in the morning on the treadmill at the rehab gym.

My Genium feels sluggish.  Lazy.  Like it's stuck to the ground with a wad of gum.

PT Deb passes by with one of her patients.  I wave as usual.  "Out for a stroll?" I call.  The patient smiles and waves back with her cane-free hand.

I keep walking.  Awkwardly.   It's just a slow start.  Walk it out,  I tell myself.  And I do.

But when Deb goes by on her second lap, I know something's up.  Each time my Genium bends, I have to flick my entire hip forward.  I roll my eyes at Deb.

"What's wrong?" she asks.

"We're having a sticky knee day," I tell her, motioning toward my left half.

But the human body is amazingly adjustable.  I shift my weight differently.  I take smaller steps.  Finally, I find a rhythm.  Despite the hassle, my Genium and I squeeze out 1.5 miles in 30 minutes.  Not bad for sticky knee day.

The rest of the day goes down uneventfully.  When I get home, I walk precariously through the parking garage to the elevator of my building.  Safely in my apartment, I examine each joint of my Genium, foot, and socket.  I check all the screws.  I run my finger over the line of black Sharpie that marks the angle of the knee.  I even strip off the whole system right down to the liner.

What's wrong with my alignment?  How did it get so messed up?  Should I call Prosthetist Tim?  What if he has to send my Genium back to Ottobock again?  What if we have to re-program a loaner?

I catastrophize.  Then I re-don everything and move on.

That night, friends Meg and Chad stop by for dinner.  We walk 3 blocks over the cobblestones and bricks of Old City to eat at Revolution House.  My gait is completely off.  Each step is unsteady.  It feels like I'm walking on tiptoe.  My knee releases too quickly, as if I'm in high heels.  From moment to moment, I check on my Genium like a sick child.  What's wrong girl??

After dinner, we head over to Franklin Fountain for the best ice cream in the city.   Although walking is tough, I push onward.  (Shades of Mile 380 -- Will Walk for Ice Cream!)

Yum!  It's worth the trouble!

When I plug my Genium into its charger that night, I promise it (and myself) that tomorrow be a better day.

It's a truth you learn early on as an amputee:  there are "good leg days" and "bad leg days" -- often without explanation.   And the brighter side of that truth:  sometimes things just fix themselves.

The next morning, I change into sandals.  When I tug the left sneaker off my Genium, I discover it.  The cause of all the fuss.  Not a rock.  But a SOCK.  A crumpled up white gym sock with a Nike swoosh on the ankle, rolled in a ball and tucked into the heel of my gym shoe.  Small and soft, but bulky enough to drive my Genium crazy!

In a flash, I remember 2 days ago at the gym, when I took off my socks and stuffed them inside my sneakers.  Guess I didn't pull both of them out!

Mystery of the Sticky Knee solved!

I text Deb to tell her.
"Good work Sherlock!" she texts back.

In almost 2,000 miles, you could say I've gotten better at detecting what's underfoot.  If I step on a stick, I can tell by the way my foot wobbles.  If the sidewalk is jagged, I can feel the push-back in my socket.  Yet many sensations are still out of reach.

Those are the mysteries that keep me on my toes!


  1. Hi Rebecca! I love following your blog! I can totally relate to the sock issue - I often find an extra sock crumpled up in my left shoe and because I don't have any feeling in my left foot, it messes me up until I finally figure it out! So glad to see you doing well :)

  2. Ha! Here I thought you were going to share that you were missing a screw or something. (Course, some of us have more than a few screws loose!) Lol. Ah....it's always something isn't it?

    1. Haha! Missing screw? Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt! There's no end to the mystery... as I'm sure you both know :) Great to hear from you, Chris and Michelle! Thanks for the comments!