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!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Be Like Mike

Mile Marker 3800:

Back in February, on Superbowl Sunday, my mom and I attended a show at the Walnut Street Theater.

Who would see a show on Superbowl Sunday, right?

Wrong.  The theater was packed!

Ok, it was a small theater.  Maybe 6 rows front to back, arranged in a horseshoe shape around a floor-level stage.

On that stage sat a wooden shack.  And attached to that shack was a front porch.  And off that front porch ran a set of rickety stairs.

On those stairs was Michael.

He lumbered down them.  Paced back and forth across the stage.  Plopped himself down to sit on the edge of the porch.

I watched his every move.

Ten minutes into the play, I realized I was holding my breath.

Michael was a brand new amputee.

If you're from Philly, you may have heard of actor Michael Toner.  Last summer he was seriously injured in a hit-and-run while walking home from a rehearsal.  Coincidentally (and fortunately!) he was delivered into the hands of the very same trauma team that saved my life.

Click HERE for a great article!
When his show, Moon for the Misbegotten, opened just months later, Michael returned to the stage to play the part for which he'd been cast before his injury -- Irish farmer Phil Hogan.

He was perfect for it.

But I know a few things about being a new amputee.  (And if you've been following this blog, you probably know them too!)

To put it simply:

1.  Walking with a prosthesis takes balance, planning, practice, strength, courage, and a thousand other things.

2. When you're walking, it's nearly impossible to do anything else!

On his brand new leg, Michael not only walked.  He walked on stage!  He ACTED.  He dodged props.  He climbed rickety steps.  He hugged and slapped other characters.  He poured whiskey!

And he somehow made it all look completely natural!

After the show, my mom and I hovered in the lobby.  Introduced by email a few months before, I couldn't wait to meet Michael in person!

But before I could even congratulate him, he complimented my walking.  "Look at her!" he said to his friends.  "You can't even tell!"

"Are you kidding?"  I answered.  "You walk ON A STAGE!  I'm 5 years ahead of you, and I still avoid walking in front of an audience!"

He smiled with his whole being.  That's Michael's way.

With Michael and his friend,
another "Jefferson patient-alum," Martha!

Michael told me how his PTs helped him face those obstacles on the stage.  How they decided to lock his prosethetic knee for stability.  He wouldn't be able to bend his leg, but he'd be safer.  And luckily, the limp made it more authentic.  In the 1920's, prosthetics were basically wooden legs anyway!

As they say, the show must go on! 

It's taken me a while to write this blog post.  Somewhere in mid-February, my own show slowed to a crawl.  Let's just say I'm still getting used to how much all-consuming ENERGY it takes to be an amputee.

wanted to get this post up finally.   Because on my most exhausting days, Michael is the one who comes to mind.

Despite his arduous journey, Michael never lost sight of the theater and his own writing projects.  From our emails, I learned how taxing it was, performing for 3 hours nearly every night, sometimes in 2 shows per day.  All of this while struggling with the same issues as anyone who learns to walk on a prosthesis, or attempts to regain their new normal after a life-changing spill.

But I could also sense his excitement and enthusiasm.

Michael EMBRACES life.  He leans into it with all the MIGHT of a hearty Irish farmer.  With every step, he clings PASSIONATELY to the work he loves.

When the road gets rough, inspiration comes in handy.  And I'll share my newest one with you.

BE LIKE MIKE.

(Ok, maybe living in Chicago Bulls territory back in the '90's had its influence too!)

Give it a try...

What do you love? 
What kind of happiness renews your strength? 
What one thing -- however small -- makes getting out of bed worthwhile?

Whatever it is, don't let go of it.
Through hardship, rediscover your JOY.

Superbowl Sunday was 6 weeks ago.  And I should tell you that between then and now, Michael and the cast completed a month-long road tour.  (Yes, he travels too!)

I'm looking forward to details now that Michael's back in town.  But in the end, I'm pretty sure it'll all come down to that determined smile of his...

The show must go on -- the road!


(Thanks to Philly.com and the Walnut Street Theater for the show photos!)