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, September 12, 2015

My Kind of Morning

Mile Marker 3140:

When I wake up, my Genium is charging next to the bed.

MY GENIUM!!!

After 3 long months in the shop, Genie's back!

This should be My Kind of Morning.  With capital letters.  Sunshine.  Legs that work.  All my favorite things.

But if you follow this blog, you know that in the world of prosthetics, things are rarely that simple.  This morning is no exception.

At Mile Marker 3140, along with Genie's return, Prosthetist Tim has crafted me a new inner socket.  I really needed it.  My old one was too loose.  It's disconcerting -- not to mention unsafe -- when you walk out of your leg in the middle of the sidewalk!

The thing is, new sockets are tough to get used to.  It's like breaking in a pair of skin-tight hiking boots.  Made of carbon fiber.

It'll get better soon.  I just need to walk it out.  Wait it out.  Breathe.

The first hours of the morning are the worst.  You know when you get a blood test, and the nurse leaves the tourniquet on your arm too long?  That mixture of numbness and pain?  That's how my leg feels on a new socket morning.

It's like getting out of bed and placing your body directly into a wood-shop vice.

But tighter is better, prosthetically speaking.  Our bodies, mostly fluid, eventually adjust to the new pressure and get used to it.   Think biology vs. physics:  the leg changes while the socket remains the same.  Ask any amputee.  We hope someday technology will catch up.

For now, there's an adjustment period.  I guess it's "my kind of morning."  Minus the capital letters.

It's a getting-used-to-a-new-socket kind of morning.  The kind that requires teeth grinding, short shallow breaths, and lots and lots of patience.  In almost 5 years as an amputee, it's the kind of morning I've muddled through over and over again.

Of course life doesn't stop because you've got new equipment.  On this particular morning, I decide to swim.  This summer I've learned it's a great way to start the day.

Sandy's gotten some
mileage this summer!
So at 5:30 a.m., I pretend things are normal.  I struggle into my socket, put on my bathing suit, and pull on some denim shorts.  I head out, carrying my swim bag in one hand and my swim leg "Sandy" in the other.

I drive 5 blocks before the pressure on my leg becomes unbearable.  Then I pull into a no-parking zone.  Get out.  Stand up.  Press the socket valve to release some air.  Readjust.  Get back in the car.  Head toward the pool.

There, my kind of morning continues...

I discover a new law of prosthetics:
If a socket is TIGHT on land, it will be SUFFOCATING underwater.

I stand still in the chest-deep pool.  Suck air into my lungs.  Hold it.  Let it out.  Try to stay calm.  But the squeezing force on my little leg is so intense that if I move a muscle, I fear I'll be sick.

Why so tight?   Maybe my leg swells from the saltwater.  Maybe the pool increases pressure between the inner and outer layers of the socket.  Maybe the vacuum seal gets stickier.  I don't know.

What I do know is that something's gotta give -- the socket or the pool.

This is a problem because the pool has become my early morning HAPPY PLACE.  A safe, peaceful haven where I can exercise without impacting my broken foot or straining the muscles that took a beating this summer.

It makes me angry.  I got out of bed early.  And I like it here.  My happy place has turned into a PLACE OF PAIN.

I want to take the whole socket off, but if my leg swells more, will I be able to get it back on again?  And if not, how will I get back into the locker room?   Up the stairs?  Out to my car?

My mind does handstands trying to figure it out.

Finally I can't wait any longer.  I step onto the pool deck, pop the socket valve, and pull myself out of the leg.

Ahhhh, RELIEF.

I can breathe again.  The absence of pain is the sweetest feeling in the world!

I look at the clock and decide to give myself just 10 minutes.  I wear the silicone liner to help control volume change in my leg.  Inch my way back toward the pool.

Without Sandy, I'm totally lopsided.  But I don't even care.  It feels SO GOOD to be free!

Ten minutes later, I do get the socket back on.  And for reasons I can't explain, it's not quite as tight as it was before.  On the way home, I stop for coffee.  And the rest of the morning improves from there.

I know in a few weeks this new socket will fit like an old pair of hiking boots.  If not exactly comfortable, at least wearable.  It might even be an improvement.

Driving home through South Philly, I feel the transformation.  Things are shaping up into My Kind of Day.

The capital letter kind.

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