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, November 9, 2014

The New Normal

Mile Marker 2223:

Writing this post has been like trying to pull off a very sticky Band-aid.  It's hard to explain something I'm still grappling with myself.  But it's time.  I need to go to bed.

November 9th awaits.

In my last post, I told you my new socket ROCKS.   I need to clarify a bit.  By "rocks," I mean the socket is somewhat comfortable.  And by "somewhat comfortable,"  I mean BEARABLE.  WEARABLE.  Most of the time, anyway.

By "most of the time," I mean about 70%.

If you use a prosthesis, you'll know that's a pretty decent return.  My last socket was 50/50 at best.  But if you're a teacher, you'll recognize 70% for what it is:  a C-.

I belong to both factions.  In school a C- doesn't cut it.  Still, this socket is the most helpful one so far.

It's all part of this line I walk called the New Normal.

I know what you're thinking.  There's not much "new" about it.  After all, this weekend marks 4 YEARS since the accident.  Four years is a long time.  So how can it be that life hasn't returned to normal yet?

I ask myself that question all the time.

But on the eve of this milestone -- the 4th Anniversary -- I think I finally get it.

My "old normal" might always be one step away.

On this blog, I usually talk about the bigger moments.   And I wouldn't trade those for anything!  But the New Normal includes all the smaller steps in between.  Without them, I wouldn't get anywhere!

So here are 10 snapshots of my New Normal that maybe you don't know about:

1.       It takes a minimum of 3 hours to get ready in the morning.  Sometimes longer.  This includes getting my digestive system in order, getting my leg to fit right, and all the usual stuff -- teeth brushing, hair combing, picking out clothes...  It's a routine I cling to, as much as I want to stray from it.  Bottom line:  If you see me at 8 a.m., you can bet I've been up since 5.

New socks are exciting too!
2.       I still spend a lot of time Walking It Out.   You'd think after 4 years I'd have this leg thing down.  But no.  On average, I adjust my prosthetic socket about 5 times a day.  And that doesn't count the times I want to adjust it, but can't.  New pants throw me for a loop.  New shoes feel like new feet.  Every day is different.  


3.       I carry my weight in prosthetic supplies.  With all my equipment malfunctions, I fell into the unfortunate habit of dragging around a backpack as heavy as I am.  Recently, I've been trying to lighten the load.  So I downsized, keeping only a few necessities:  spray alcohol, AdaptSkin, hydro-cortisone cream, and an extra vacuum seal.  My Allen wrench is stashed in the car.  For now.  We'll see if it stays there...

4.      Fun happens in small quantities.  Rock climbing, biking, skating, and hiking are all impressive, but they don’t happen that often.  My body used to run for 17 hours straight; now it conks out after 12.  Most days, the usual activities  – going to work, exercising, volunteering, grocery shopping, doing laundry, and making dinner – are more than enough.  If I can manage 1 or 2 of those each day, I consider it a win.

5.   I drive a lot.   Yes, I cringe every time I support the Parking Authority, but the truth is, I can't always walk.   Most days, I'm not sure I'll be comfortable and functional enough to get from Point A to Point B.  Or back.  So I take my little Honda along for the ride.  Luckily, I still rock at parallel parking.  (And by "rock," I mean rock!)

6.       I have a last minute cancellation policy.  I've always been good at making plans, but lately I've become even better at breaking them.  Even after 4 years, some get rained out Every decision is a game-time decision.   I'm easily exhausted and overwhelmed.  I still can’t depend on my body.  At times, it's frustrating!


Shhh!  They're treats
for the Trauma Team  :)
7.       I bake a lot of cookies.  But they aren't angry.  Usually, they're GRATEFUL.  And so am I.

8.       I don't like to use the word pain.  But in last 4 years, I've discovered more types of discomfort than I ever knew existed.  I've felt it in my bones, organs, muscles, skin, and in the leg I no longer have.  It makes me wiggle in my chair.  It stops me from walking.  It fills my head with static.  Even on the best "leg days" there's always poking, pinching, and burning I've learned to ignore.   In fact, I've become so good at ignoring them, I often find red welts when I remove my prosthesis.


Hangin' with my buddy Jeff...
(He's workin' out.  Me, not so much!)
9.       Sometimes I go to the rehab gym just to TALK.  (For those of you who used to skate with me, I'm sure you aren't surprised!)  The wellness center at Magee is like a training room and a support group all in one.  Often I need an emotional workout as much as a physical one!

10.   To end the list on a light note, I wish someone would invent a drive-thru supermarket, Velcro-seamed pants, and a prosthetic rain cover that looks cuter than a Home Depot bag.  These would all make my life a lot easier!  And while we're at it, how about a Taser for my Genium?  It would make going out at night a lot safer too!


One more story before I go...

A few miles ago, I was sitting in my car at a red light when an unlikely creature crossed the road.

A butterfly.

Its reddish-orange wings lit up the cloudy afternoon.  But something about it didn't look right.  It hovered merely feet from the ground, passing dangerously close to the cars' headlights.  It sputtered and fluttered.  Dipped down when it should have flown up.  It was working its little body so hard, I could barely breathe watching it.

I wondered if it was injured.  If at any second, it would be knocked to the ground by a passing car.

As the light turned green, I lost track of it.  I think it reached a patch of grass by the sidewalk.  I hope it did.

If you've lost a loved one, or have had a life-changing illness or injury, or have cared for someone who has, you know a New Normal follows.  It's not right or wrong.  It just happens.  You fall into the rhythm of a new equilibrium even as you search for your old one.

I could add a thousand items to my New Normal list, and it still wouldn't capture all the changes that have come about in the last 4 years.  I'm still the same person I was before the accident, but I don't always feel that way.

Mostly I feel like that butterfly.  Flapping my wings so furiously just to move inch by inch.  To do each little thing I was meant to do.

There's a healthy balance around here somewhere.  I'm still looking.  Step by step -- within this New Normal -- I'm hoping to find it.

We'll see what the new year has in store.

Happy Anniversary.

2 comments:

  1. I am picturing you flapping your colorful wings! :). Don't you wish you could ask that butterfly what was wrong? Or what it felt like in that cocoon?

    I feel your pain! (Although I forget the digestive stuff...that adds a whole additional layer I'm sure.). I still dream I've got two intact legs, and vividly imagine that I can do all those things I used to be able to do w/ ease. I miss that! Yes...everything takes longer and it sucks to feel the need to peter out because of à bad leg day or high pain day. And I don't like the P word either! We just keep on I guess.

    Hang in there girlfriend! ((Hugs))

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  2. I wish you a happy "Alive Day" anniversary and more peace with this new normal. Your new normal is much further from the old one than mine, and I still hope too much for a way back. I think the best advice I got along my trauma recovery path applies here - there WILLbe bad days, so remember to look at the long term trend.

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