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, October 25, 2015

Walk It Out 2015

Mile Marker 3300:

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
-- Christopher Reeve

The gym is full of heroes.

There's Ernie on the LT machine next to me.


Charmaine and Jeff on the treadmill behind me.






And Mark, ready to save the day when I sweat out of my prosthetic socket!


Magee therapists surround us, working patients' legs, stretching their bodies, and spotting them when they walk.  They're heroes as well, doing what they do best -- helping us find a way back to the life that was ours.


Magee Rehabilitation is one of the only hospitals in the area that offers Locomotor Training (LT), a specialized, labor-intensive therapy that helps people with brain and spinal cord injuries learn to walk again.  Just one LT session requires at least 4 therapists, a computer, a specially-designed treadmill, and an anchored harness system.

But LT is much more than equipment and staff.  It takes coordination.  Strength.  Discipline.  Endurance.  Trust.  The therapists use their own muscles to move and train the muscles of their patients.

It's like they've got superpowers!

WALK IT OUT supports the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and the NeuroRecovery Network, which supplies vital funding and resources for Magee's LT Program.   It's powered by the belief that we can WALK TO VICTORY over paralysis.

We all have a hero inside us!
What Superman taught us about heroes makes it all possible.

I have never seen a therapy so powerful or effective.

In the 3 years I've participated in Walk It Out, I've watched my friends go from hanging in their harness, virtually unweighted, to walking on the treadmill completely on their own!

GO JEFF!!!
Last year...

This year!!!

As for me, I spend the day treadmill-hopping.  For this 24-Hour Step-A-Thon, the treadmills must move at all times.  So I do my part to keep them going!

Miles rack up quickly.  There's so much to see.  Heroics wherever I look.

And fun too!

I rock out with PT Mary, like we're on stage high above the crowd.

PT Kristen shows up along with her entire bridal party -- on her wedding day!  Now that's dedication!



Mid-afternoon, Ian and I buddy up for a mile or two.





And friends Donna and Jenn stop by to celebrate the homestretch!


We all keep walking as the hours go by.  At 4:00, my Fitbit reads 8.80 miles, and I realize I'm making some progress of my own.

If I keep going, could I really walk 10 MILES in one day?!

The Walk It Out clock ticks down to its final hour.  I climb onto my 3rd treadmill, and PT Liz comes over to set the speed.

"You know we only have till 5:00, right?" she jokes.

(As if I could walk more!)

My right foot is aching.  My socket is soupy with sweat.

"Boost it up,"  I say.

Then I start walking again.

This event -- more than any other -- reminds me what a PRIVILEGE it is to put one foot in front of the other.  I keep walking until the very last second.

10 MILES!

Thank you Superman.  Thank you Magee.

And thanks to all our heroes who never stop believing in this long WALK TO VICTORY.



To support this life-changing program (and get your "5 Years Strong" t-shirt!), please click here


Thank you so much!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Got Helmet?

Mile Marker 3275:

Does it seem strange that I'm writing a post called "Got Helmet?" right after I let go of mine?

When a helmet gets damaged, it's best to give it up -- or as my friend Shelley taught me, turn it into a garden planter!   It's best to get a NEW ONE to protect your head.

This is my favorite photo of my old helmet.  It was taken on June 18, 2010 -- five months before my accident -- at the top of the Art Museum steps.  I was on my skates.


That helmet and I went through a lot together.  If you're a biker or a skater, I'm sure you understand.  You and your helmet have your own stories.

On Monday, November 9, I'll be celebrating my 5-year ALIVE DAY.

To commemorate this joyous and bittersweet milestone, I'm spreading awareness of the importance of wearing a bike helmet every time you ride.

Not a day goes by that I'm not grateful for that little blue and white helmet.   In an accident that injured so many parts of my body, I sustained NO HEAD INJURY at all.

I designed some t-shirts for the occasion.  I'd be honored if you'd help me spread the word...


There are long and short sleeve t-shirts, sweatshirts, and even youth sizes!  Click here to check out the shirt selection and read the story behind them.  Sales conclude Wednesday, October 28.

You can also use this link:
https://www.bonfirefunds.com/celebrating-5-years

All proceeds benefit Magee Rehabilitation's Locomotor Training Program, which helps people with brain and spinal cord injuries learn to walk again.  I have many friends from Magee who would not be walking today without this specialized therapy!

Get your shirt and then stay tuned...
The weekend before Thanksgiving, I'll be holding a BIKE HELMET BLITZ.  More info to come!

In the meantime, you'll be spreading the word about bike helmets every time you wear your t-shirt.  If we convince even one person to put on a helmet, we could make a big difference!

Thank you for 3000 miles... and so much more!

Ride safe and walk strong!
Rebecca

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Letting Go

Mile Marker 3229:

In its final moments, letting go is as easy as going to the post office.

Which is to say, it's not easy at all.

At Mile 3229, I say goodbye to my bike helmet.

It shouldn't be this hard.  It's just a helmet.  As a skater and cyclist, I've had several over the years.  Yet this one is different.  It's the one I was wearing on November 9, 2010.

When I tell people about what happened to me -- about the accident and my injuries -- I talk a lot about that helmet.  Why?  It's the one sweet spot in the story.  The happy part.  The star and protector all rolled into one.

"I was wearing my bike helmet."  I always say.  "I had no head injury."

It's a like a magic spell I learned the day I woke up in the hospital.

After the accident, my brother Mark kept my helmet.  I imagine he took it home with my bloodstained clothes, in a plastic drawstring bag labeled "Thomas Jefferson University Hospital."

He never said much about it, but I knew it was safely tucked away.

Then last January, my good friend Shelley passed away.

Shelley and I had a tradition of biking together every May for Chicago's Bike the Drive.  And when I celebrated Mile 1000 of this journey, she flew all the way to Philly just to ride with me.


Like most bike commuters, Shelley had been in some minor fender-benders.  She would recycle her old, injured helmets into garden planters.  They'd dangle from tree branches in her backyard, overflowing with soil and flowers.  Like many things she touched, Shelley turned those broken helmets into something beautiful.

This past spring, I find myself thinking of my own damaged helmet.  I hear that Shelley's community garden will be dedicating a special section to her, anchored on all sides by Shelley's bike helmet planters.

I decide I'd like my helmet to join them.

I tell Shelley's family the idea.  I promise to send my helmet as soon as I can.  Then I call Mark and he delivers it to me right way.

I carry the blue and white helmet into my apartment where, oddly enough, it's never been.  (The last time we rode together I lived in South Philly.)

I hold the helmet in my hands.  Examine it tenderly.

I expect it to look hurt, but its surface is clean.  Not many scuff marks.  No large cracks or bruises.  The only sign of distress is an indentation on the left rear corner.  For all we went through, it performed admirably.

I place it on my head.  Fasten the buckle under my chin.  We fit together just like we used to.

I look in the mirror.  Try to feel what it felt like to get on my bike that morning.  To ride away from my house.  To pedal north in the Moyamensing bike lane.  And to turn left on Washington Avenue.

Objects have history, and this helmet is a witness.  What does it remember of that day?

As I hesitate, spring blooms into summer.

The helmet moves from my dining room table, to a living room chair, to the coat hooks on my wall, and finally to the desk in my office.  It does not go to Chicago.

I find a thousand reasons to avoid sending it.  My right foot is fractured.  On crutches, I can't carry it to the post office.  And the box I have is too big.  So it remains on my to-do list for more than 3 months.

Really, I'm having trouble letting it go.

That helmet is a remnant of my life BEFORE.  It reminds me of early mornings and breezy bike lanes.  Of potholes and puddles.  It reminds me of a time when I could simply hop on my bike without plans or tools.  Without fear or worry.   It reminds me of long, full days and busy, fun nights.  It reminds me of FREEDOM.


I miss all of that.  And it's hard to let go.

For months, I hang on to the helmet.  I don't think about it every moment, but sometimes I pick it up and hold it.  Then I set it down again, gently, in its too-big box.

Summer fades into fall.  The time of year when moving forward feels like pedaling into a headwind.

But my foot is healed, and I have no excuse not to go to the post office.

So I channel my inner Shelley.

I fill the empty space in the box with future flowers:  yellow daffodils and orange narcissus and a rainbow of tulips to brighten Shelley's garden this spring.  With the bulbs inside, the box isn't too big anymore.  My helmet nestles in perfectly, like it's ready to join the garden.

I'd like to say I left for the post office right then and there.  But I didn't.  I was in a hurry that day, and I didn't want to be in a hurry.  I wanted to take my time.  I wanted the time to be right.

At Mile Marker 3229, it finally is.

That morning, I have my last visit with the orthopedic doctor.  He says my stress fracture is healed enough to resume "normal" activities.  He doesn't mean the "old normal."  He means the New Normal.  But it's still a step forward.

I decide it's a good note to say goodbye on.

So I drive to the South Philly post office.  As I pull into the parking lot, I whisper to the box in the backseat, "These are our old stomping grounds."

I open up the car door.  Step out.  Carry the box inside.

I take a second to hold it close to my heart.

Then I set it on the scale.

And let go.