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!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Need for Speed

Mile Marker 2975:

Being an amputee is like living in the world of  "Hurry Up and Wait."  

So when a piece of equipment becomes available, you move!

My right foot is still aching when Prosthetist Tim calls.   He says he has two things for me:  a brand new socket and a running blade (yes, like in the Olympics!).  I've been waiting WEEKS for the socket and YEARS for the running blade, so I race down to Prosthetic Innovations, limpy foot and all.

Tim mounts the new socket on my loaner Genium.  I step into it, twisting the Boa knob to cinch the top edge tighter.  A socket that adjusts throughout the day??   If this works, it could be revolutionary!



But the really cool part happens next.  Tim attaches my old socket to an Ottobock Fitness Knee....

I'm going to RUN TODAY!!

We practice the bouncing motion inside the parallel bars.  My little leg works triple-time, yanking up the knee so the blade kicks out in front.  I lift it fast and furiously.  With my right foot, I launch upward and land on my toe so the blade clears the ground.  Over and over, I repeat the pattern.  It takes so much oxygen, I could use an extra lung!

I totally forget about my injured foot.  Instead, I'm flying -- higher and faster than any motion in the last 4 1/2 years!

At Mile 2975, I have a Bionic Woman moment...


It feels incredible!

I decide to name my new blade Attie -- a salute to two runners I admire.

The first is Atalanta, a headstrong princess from Greek mythology, who challenges her suitors to a famous foot-race.  She trains, and trains, and trains until she runs like the wind!

Matt Long's first mile run

The second is NYC firefighter and Ironman Matt Long, whose own strength, courage, and determination to run continue to inspire me with every mile.

If my new running leg can carry with it the speed and spirit of those two, I'll be in great standing!

I'm pumped!
With the help of Tim, Jon, and Chris, I run with Attie three more times.  On the hottest days of the summer, I'm out there slapping the pavement with brand new carbon fiber.

It seems too good to be true.


Mile Marker 2983:

And it is.

Unfortunately, in the world of  "Hurry Up and Wait,"  there's a "wait" part too.

Attie's working fine.  But after two days of running, the HUMAN side of me is more sore than ever.

Sitting on the edge of my bed that night, I cradle my right foot in a fit of fear and frustration.

What if something is seriously wrong??  What would I do if something happened to my foot??  It's the only one I have!

I start apologizing to my right leg -- for ignoring it, for pushing through the pain, for sacrificing its comfort because I wanted so much to feel SPEED again.

My foot just sits there, swollen and sad.

I think of that old Michelin slogan:  Because so much is riding on your tires.  What do you do when all your mobility rides on a single, fragile part of your body?

And that part is hurting.  Bad.


Mile Marker 2985:  

It's a level 4 stress fracture.

Orthopedist Dr. S. prescribes rest, ice, and physical therapy to build hip, knee, and ankle strength.  His assistant Tara searches for a surgical shoe small enough for my foot.  I begin using crutches and my prosthesis.  I modify any plans I have for the next 4 weeks.

He says it'll be at least 6 weeks till I run again.

Attie waits patiently in the corner of my bedroom.

But I am not patient.  There is a part of me that's AFRAID to sit still.  If I don't keep using my running leg, will the socket even fit in 6 weeks?  Will I still remember how to work the knee?   Will I lose the skills and speed and strength I've gained?

Sitting still reminds me of the time I spent recouperating after the accident.  After every surgery.  All those uncertain, tentative days of recovery.

I had thought I could finally make plans again.  I had started counting on my body and its technology.  For a few miles, I had felt like I was full speed ahead.

In the car, I tell this to my dad.  Intentionally or not, he borrows a phrase from one of my past blog posts.  He says, "The New Normal is subject to change without notice."

Yeah.  Well.

I had a good run for a while there.

I'm not that good at the waiting part.

So to get through the next few weeks, I'm going to call on the wisdom of my friend Shelley, who had a clever way of reminding me how much distance I covered.

When I wrote my Mile 200 blog post, she commented that it equaled a round-trip to New York City.  At Mile 298, she said I was just 6 miles from reaching Boston.  And at Mile 764, she told me I'd just arrived at her doorstep in Chicago!

If she were reading this post, I can just imagine the comment she'd write today...

2,985 miles!?!  You've nearly crossed the whole United States!  Of course you need a REST!!

So for the next few miles, I'll take her advice.  I'll slow down and pretend I've made it to California, dipping my right foot in the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean.

(Really, I'll be at home... icing it on the couch!)

Waiting for the next time someone tells me to hurry up.

4 comments:

  1. Rest, elevate with cold compresses. Take a day or two off.

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  3. I really can't get enough of your streangth girl I'm a right ak amp and wish to run one day I just have to wait and save to get a new knee just for day to day then I'll save for run

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  4. I really can't get enough of your streangth girl I'm a righ ab amp and wish to run one day I just have to wait and save to get a new knee just for day to day then I'll save for running leg :)

    ReplyDelete