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!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Let's Make A Deal

Mile Marker 3087:

What's behind Door Number 1?

Another leg malfunction!

At Mile 3087, Genium #2 (a.k.a. "The Loaner") stops working.  Maybe it gets a few drops of water in it.  Maybe it's a computer glitch.  Maybe it's just tired of playing second-string.

Gleaners!  Best reason
for a morning workout!
When it happens, my friend Ellyn and I have just finished a pool workout.  We're getting dressed in the locker room, gearing up for an all-important coffee stop on the way home.

As usual, I remove my water leg and reattach my Genium.  But when I stand up, I can't take a step.  The loaner leg LOCKS the knee in a bent position.

It's like Chicago all over again.  Last May, halfway across the country without a prosthetist or spare leg, I was stranded.

But here I have options.  I grab my Allen wrench.  Unscrew the malfunctioning Genium.  Replace it with my water leg, still dripping from the swimming pool.

My swim leg is great for the water, but harder to walk in.  It takes more energy, and the knee will buckle if I'm not careful.  I decide it's worth it to be able to walk out of the gym (and of course, stop for coffee).

That's Deal #1.

I send an S.O.S. to Prosthetist Tim:


When I get to Prosthetic Innovations, he is waiting with open arms.  Did I mention Tim's a really good sport?

I hand him the Loaner which is now vibrating with error signals.  "Take her to surgery," I say.

He opens the knee up.

"It's humid in there," he says.  Then he shows me several tiny beads of liquid on the inner workings.

"I didn't swim in it, I swear!"  I insist.  "It stayed in my locker the whole time!"

It's the truth.

Tim tries to reboot it, but no avail.  He puts it back on me, and I take a few steps.  It bends slowly now, like walking through thick mud.  The vibrations feel like I have a buzzing cell phone in my pocket.

Tim doesn't have any more Geniums to loan me.  And worse, he just received word that my own Genium -- which was due back any day -- won't be repaired for another 2-3 weeks.  Geez.

It's time for some wheeling and dealing.

"Do you have any OTHER legs I could use?"

We move to Door Number 2.  Plan B...

or more precisely, Plan C -- the C-Leg.

Tim goes into the lab and returns with a C-Leg in his hand.  "It was broken, but we had it rebuilt," he says.

February 2011... Time flies!
It's the type of knee I learned to walk on 4 years ago, but a newer version.  It's sleek and copper-colored, rather than silver and space-age like my old one.

"The C-Leg is an inch and a half longer than the Genium,"  Tim says.  "Are you willing to give up your rotator for a while?"

The rotator, in case you're wondering, is a little switch that lets me turn my leg to the side, so I can put on pants or change my shoes without taking the whole leg off.  I love it.  It makes life easier.  But it takes up an extra inch of valuable real estate!

I tell Tim yes, I'd give up the rotator to have a knee that actually works.

Tim aligns the C-Leg on my socket and hooks me up to the computer.  In 5 minutes, I'm walking more smoothly than I have in months.  Functional leg?  Check.  Deal #2 is complete.  It feels like I've won a grand prize!

Then Chase walks in.

You might say he comes through Door Number 3...

Chase is a firefighter and paramedic.  He's also an amputee -- right leg, left arm.  You may remember him from the great "Stairclimbing Showdown" arranged by PT Deb a few years ago.

Today Chase has stopped in to pick up a new liner and -- it turns out -- to claim his old C-Leg, which has just been rebuilt.

Prosthetist Chris goes into the lab to get Chase's leg.  He's gone for quite a while.  He turns the place upside down.  He cannot find Chase's C-Leg anywhere.

Let's Make a Deal  becomes Whose Leg Is It Anyway? 

Through the process of elimination, we discover the answer:  I'm wearing Chase's C-Leg!

"Mind if I borrow it?" I joke.

X3:  the next generation Genium
He really doesn't mind.  He's on an X3 right now, and it seems to be functioning okay, aside from a few strange sounds.  Prosthetist Chris says that's not bad enough to order a loaner -- yet.

Apparently, leg malfunctions are an epidemic this summer.

Before I leave, we make another trade.  Chase has used a few different running legs but never the Ottobock Fitness Knee.  Since my foot isn't healed enough to run, I offer to let Chase try my running leg while I wear his C-Leg.

It's Let's Make a Deal, amputee style!

So what's behind Door Number 3?  

Not exactly a new car, but a NEW LEG!  Well, a rebuilt, slightly used, hand-me-down leg...  But hey, it totally works!


And I got a pretty good deal on it.

1 comment:

  1. Hey get it? C (Sea) leg. Why there are all kinds of fun things we can come up with. keep rocking!

    ReplyDelete