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!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Amputee Coalition Conference 2016

Mile Marker 4070:

After an 8 hour drive, my mom and I pull into a hotel driveway in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The doorman comes out to help us with our bags.  He opens the hatchback while I reach into the backseat.

"I have to get my other legs,"  I tell him.  Then I laugh.  "Bet you don't hear that too often!"

"Nope."  He smiles.  "Except this week!"


A THOUSAND AMPUTEES...

Think about it.  When you're used to standing out in a crowd, and then suddenly you're surrounded by people who look like you...  Well, it's NORMALIZING.  That's what happens at the Amputee Coalition Conference.

The hotel is filled with amputees.   We're in the lobby, the restaurant, the meeting rooms.  In the "outside" world, we seem uncommon, but here we blend right in -- more or less anyway!

We're different, yet we share that uniqueness.  The opening speaker sums it up like this:  We're living with a body that's different from the one we were issued. 

Conversations spark everywhere.  We know what it's like to be us.  We get it.  In a mere 3 days, I meet friends I know I'll be in touch with for a very long time!

A spontaneous dinner turns into a storytelling extravaganza.  Every devastating mishap -- every leg or arm malfunction -- becomes fodder for laughs.  Each story is funnier than the last.

And you should see the AmpuTeez!


There are clinics on walking, running, swimming, rock climbing, resistance bands, yoga, dance, cross fit, and hula hooping.  Maybe even more.

It's been a year since I've tried my running blade, but at the running clinic I give it a whirl.  Miraculously, the socket fits!  Picture a huge ballroom with more than 100 amputee runners.  We leap.  We land.  We high-five.  We somehow get from one side of the room to the other.  Confidence builds.  Gait belts come off.  There's safety -- and empowerment -- in numbers!

It spreads.  In the hotel lobby one evening, I discover a group of hula hoopers.  "Try it!" my friend Kelly says.  Before I can refuse, she thrusts a hoop in my direction.

Go Kelly!

I hesitate.  "I don't try new things in front of an audience,"  I say.  But Kelly insists.  So I step into the circle, position my feet as she shows me, and start hooping.  It works!  (Turns out, foot placement is key!)

One uncomfortable morning, I limp down to the cafĂ©.  The man in front of me uses two prosthetic arms to pay for his coffee.   He puts his money back in his wallet.  Carries his breakfast to the table.  He does it all matter-of-factly, like it's no big deal.  But it is a big deal.  All at once I realize... my "bad leg day" is really just another day.

I discover my avatar too!
I learn a lot at this conference.  I learn about osseointegration and new technology.  I participate in research studies on balance, eye movement, and step counters.  I even shop for a new foot to put on my wish list!

But the most memorable lessons are the ones I learn, by example, from other amputees.  Each one of us has a story.  Something happened.  Something went wrong.  That's how we ended up here.

That story -- and its losses -- will always be part of who we are.  But it doesn't have to define us.


It can't.  We've got too much living to do.




See for yourself!  Click here for a video.


Photos "stolen" from Kelly, Angela, Kristan, Carin, Sandra, Molly, Danika, Doug, Robin, Mabio, OPAF, AC, Ottobock, Ossur, and College Park.   Thanks everybody!!

Hope to see you all next year in Louisville!

4 comments:

  1. Geez, you made us wait long enough for this post! :-) Wonderful post as always.

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  2. "Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us"

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  3. Thanks! It was tough to put this conference into words! The whole experience was just so meaningful!

    Mark, where is that quote from? It's amazing :)

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