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, June 14, 2015

Stops and Starts

Today's rambling blog post is brought to you by some much needed downtime...

Mile Marker 2900:

At the Inglis ACE Awards
As I start the mad dash toward Mile 3000, life is moving pretty fast.

My students are prepping for finals.  I'm writing a keynote speech for the Inglis Ace Awards.  Then I'm heading off to Chicago for a Memorial Day celebration in honor of my friend Shelley.  In the meantime, each day is a race to get things done.

That's when I hit a pothole.  Literally.  A big one.

I'm driving to Target to pick up some printer paper and travel supplies when my Honda Civic nosedives into a pothole several feet below sea level.

I could have predicted it.

Maybe it's because I've been driving it for nearly 17 years, but my Honda has an uncanny way of knowing when life is moving too fast.   And more often than not, she forces me to take a time-out.  This usually involves a FLAT TIRE.

I steer into the post office parking lot to check the damage.  The passenger side hubcap is dented, but the tire isn't quite flat... yet.   I make a U-turn and head straight to Pep Boys where my friend and mechanic Jim comes to the rescue.

The day resumes at a slightly adjusted speed.

Of course, that's only the beginning.

Mile Marker 2903:

A few days later, my brother Andy and I are strolling around Chicago's Millennium Park when another system grinds to a screeching halt.

We sneak in some Chicago Hot Dogs
before all the trouble begins! 

My Genium gets stickier with each step.  Eventually it bends only 15 degrees before the knee locks out.  To walk, I hike up my left hip and launch onto my right tiptoe.

But Chicago is a city of stairs.  On the first set, I force my Genium into a 90 degree angle.  It gets stuck like that.  Thank goodness for railings!  I hang on with one hand and use the other hand to reach down and pull the knee straight again.  I keep it straight the rest of the day.

Hours later, when we reach Giordano's Pizza, I collapse into a chair.  My Genium juts out in front of me like a wooden peg leg.

Genie's sick.  And so am I.

The next day my throat is scratchy, my voice is completely gone, and I can't stop coughing.

One of many past
Memorial Day Weekends
I knew this trip would be hard.   For years, I've celebrated Memorial Day weekend with my good friend Shelley.  But this year is different.  Shelley passed away in January.  And I'm here with her family and friends for what we're calling a "Shellebration," celebrating Shelley's life at one of her favorite events, Bike the Drive.

My physical issues, for all their trouble, can't compare to the emotional ones we're all experiencing this weekend.

Arriving by cab, rather than bike
With an immovable leg, there's no way I can do the bike ride.  So I hail a cab to Grant Park for the after-party.  It's only 2 blocks from the hotel, but my knee is so unpredictable I'm afraid to walk it alone.  When I try to get out of the taxi, my knee is locked in a 90 degree angle again.  "Hold on," I tell the driver.  Then I grip the edge of the car with one hand and grab my Genium with the other.  I yank it into extension.


And it's only 8 a.m.

I limp through the grassy field to meet up with the rest of the crowd, a sea of purple Follow Your Bliss t-shirts.

My Chicago "family"
Shelley's mom is there, along with her brother Jack, sister-in-law Hoa, and nephew Casey.

Our close friend Linda has traveled in all the way from Omaha, Nebraska.

Team Shelley Power!
Shelley's friends -- and mine now too -- have helped organized this special event.

Despite my struggles with walking and talking, it's really good to be together today.

When we've eaten our fill of picnic pancakes, we form a circle and grasp each other's hands.  After a few moments of silence, we send an array of purple balloons soaring into the sky.

I look up at the buildings, watch the balloons float away, and tell Shelley how much I miss her.

Then I hobble back to the hotel with Linda by my side.

I make it through the rest of the weekend without leg or voice.  We celebrate Shelley's birthday at Harry Caray's.

Self-serve room service!
That night, Andy and Nina join me for tea and cough drops in the hotel room.

And the next day, I hang out with my good friend Wendy at her daughter Emma's fast-paced volleyball tournament.

Go Emma!

All in all, a bittersweet weekend.  Sometimes you just can't keep moving like everything's ok.  Even if all my systems were in working order, it just wouldn't have been possible.

Mile Marker 2913:

When I return to Philly, Prosthetist Tim ships my Genium off for repairs.

And I'm sporting a new summer fashion trend.  Soon everyone will be racing to their nearest prosthetist for a red "Loaner" sticker like mine!

The new knee launches a string of record-setting mileage days.  The miles are racking up fast: 8.48, 7.42, 6.96....  My Fitbit seems utterly baffled.  It probably thinks it's been hijacked by an impostor.

Actually it's just the miracle of a working knee!

Mile Marker 2950:

The speed doesn't last long.

If you're an amputee, or suffer from another one-sided injury, you understand all too well the risks of OVERUSE.

After a busy week or two of walking, there's a new pain in town.  My RIGHT FOOT starts to hurt.  At first it's just a subtle, nagging discomfort when I crutch into the bathroom in the morning.  Where my toes meet my foot, there's an undeniable pressure.  Throughout the day it becomes more pronounced.  Each time I curl onto the ball of my foot, it startles me.

I ice it and pop a few Advils.  I know I have to rest, but there's just too much to do.

I even start limping on my prosthetic side!

If you've been reading this blog, you know I like forward motion.  Some days it feels like an uphill climb, but I try to push through anyway.  Stronger, better, faster.  After all, I'm the Bionic Woman, right?

Let's just say I have trouble finding a balance between movement and rest.

What my Honda and my Genium -- and maybe even my body -- seem to be telling me is that I need to take a BREAK.  Sometimes we just need to give ourselves time to HEAL.

Because no matter how much we plan, or practice, or perfect our fast-paced lifestyle, there will always be potholes.  Some bigger and more damaging than others.

I don't know where this newest problem will take me, but I'm hoping a little downtime might be the answer.
If nothing else, at least I'll get caught up on blog posts.

Stay tuned for Mile 3000.   I'll get there eventually!

1 comment:

  1. It's ok to take a break every now and then. Any ideas for 3000?