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 1, 2015

Rebuild Her

Mile Marker 3030:

Ever feel the need to rebuild yourself?

Maybe it's that I've ventured out early on a Saturday morning.  Or that I've finally picked up flowers for my balcony.  (Or, more likely, that I've just downed a very strong coffee from Whole Foods!)

Whatever the reason, at Mile 3030, I have an undeniable urge to PUT MYSELF BACK TOGETHER.

If you've been following this blog, you know things have fallen apart.  My cousin recently passed away.  And all other concerns pale in comparison.

Yet somehow, they drone on.  After 6 weeks on crutches, my foot pain morphs into sciatic pain, back pain, and neck pain.  Then the brakes of my car start to squeak.  My air conditioner, toilet, and garbage disposal go haywire.  It seems like I lose a piece of myself every day.

Thankfully, there's a bionic buzz in my ear.

We can rebuild her.

The idea rescues me.  It reminds me of the first words I heard upon waking up in Jefferson Hospital's ICU.  You're going to be bionic.

Never underestimate the power of optimism.  It's saved me before.

Some fixes are easy.   I call my good buddy Jim to schedule a repair for my car.  Then I call the A/C guy and the plumber, and after two visits each, my apartment is healthy again.

Rebuilding my body proves tougher, but I'm up for the challenge.  I am tired of pain.

I locate a healing center that does acupuncture.  I email Vanessa, the trainer at my building's gym, to find out how to use those fancy machines.  I set up a PT eval.  I start eating more protein and drinking green tea.

But the newest idea develops from a pep talk with Chris.  He suggests building strength in the water.  Reluctantly, I join a pool with a short-term membership.  Then I pack up my bathing suit, towel, leg kit, Allen wrench, and "water leg" (formerly known as "climbing leg").

In a gallon-size Ziploc, I seal a list of exercises labeled Rebecca's Pool Recovery Program.

If this choice seems obvious, I need to tell you a secret -- the pool is not my thing.  I won't drown, but I have never liked swimming.  I'm terrible at it.  So to make myself go, I say, This is not swimming, it's exercising!   And in case that doesn't work, I bribe myself.  After 5 workouts, I will buy a cool t-shirt from behind the front desk.  When motivation fails, shopping usually succeeds :)

It does.  I start swimming.

The first session goes smoothly.  The second session, not so much.

Mid-stroke, my socket valve springs a leak.  Water seeps in.  The suction breaks.  The liner peels back.  My little leg is suddenly and shockingly free.

I am flooded with sensation.  My residual limb has never been "undressed" in the pool.  I'm hit with a wave of self-consciousness.  Although other swimmers don't seem to notice, I feel the weight of their eyes.  Knee-deep in PANIC, I lift my heavy prosthesis out of the pool and shimmy on one foot to a chair.

I want to limp into the locker room, but I know myself.  After an incident like this, I might never come back.

So I even out my breathing.  Slow my heart.  Lean the prosthesis against the arm of the chair.  Inch my way back toward the pool.  Legless.

The fear is like an undertow;  the exposure, like skinny dipping.

I go against the current.

We can rebuild her.

The water pokes at my little leg like strange, foreign fingers.  When I try to kick, the imbalance nearly flips me over.

I last only a few minutes, but it's enough to count as a building block.  I'll be back.

The next day my socket fails again -- this time, at the gym.  At least I'm within my comfort zone.

No worries, it's' a loaner!
I'm pedaling the NuStep, a recumbent bike that resembles a Flintstones car, when my Genium tumbles to the ground with a THUD.

Startled gym-goers turn my way.

"Just a leg!"  I say.  "Nothing to see here!"

We all get a laugh.

I am rebuilding.

Maybe it's the endorphin rush of trying new kinds of exercise.  Or the joy that comes from planting flowers on my balcony....

Or, more likely --  that the orthopedic doctor has FINALLY told me I can leave my crutches behind!


Whatever the reason, I am putting myself back together.  Not at bionic speed.  But it's better than falling apart.

Plus, with two more swim workouts, I'll earn a t-shirt!   (Hey whatever works, right?!)

We can rebuild her.


  1. your flowers are beautiful. I am sorry that your socket detached when you were swimming. it's already a sad time. when too many things go wrong in my life, I get a little paranoid, and wonder if I am being punished for something. but then my friends and family show up and I know I am blessed. just wanted to let you know I am riding this roller coaster with you.

  2. Keep on truckin', Rebecca! Or, perhaps for this week, keep on treading water!!