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, May 19, 2016

Farm to Table

Mile Marker 4007:

If you're going to cook a mushroom, take my advice.  Don't name it.  No matter how cute it is.

It's opening day at the Old City Farmer's Market!

I run into Donna on my way.  She already stopped there, but she does an about-face to walk back with me.  She texts Mike to come along too.  What great walking buddies I have!

The market is small today -- only 6 stands -- but it's bustling.  The whole neighborhood is excited it's back in town.  If the Farmer's Market is here, summer can't be far behind.

Our first stop is a table full of mushrooms.  That's where I find this beauty...

(...along with Mike, the Photobomber!)

It's a mushroom as big as a cauliflower.  And it sits in my hand like a furry white hedgehog.  The farmer at the table calls it a Pom-Pom.

I'm in love.  How have I never seen these before?

"We're not here in the summer," the farmer says.  "The mushrooms don't like the heat."

Ah, I get it.  Mushroom weather and prosthetic weather are one and the same.  Today's cloudy and cool, ideal for both of us.  I knew we were kindred spirits!

I run my finger along the mushroom's ridged surface.  What looks like fur doesn't feel furry at all.  It feels like a mushroom -- but a mushroom that's been sculpted into Donald Trump's hairstyle.  (Only much, much cuter!)

I ask how to cook it.

"Pull it apart gently," the farmer says.  "Sauté it in oil."  He says it'll take on the flavor of whatever I add.

"I'm getting a pet mushroom!"  I tell Donna and Mike.

"Don't name it," Mike says.

We walk home with my treasure in a paper bag.  Unnamed.

I wasn't planning to cook a real dinner tonight.  It's already 6:15, and my socket is rubbing.  But now I've got this mushroom.  And I'm curious.

Plus, I'm energized by the Farmer's Market.  I head out to the balcony, where baby greens are ready to be picked!

I used to have a big garden at my house in South Philly, but after my accident, it became too much to handle.  I've downsized to a tiny balcony.  It has more potential than you'd think.

In just two flower boxes, this year's crops are growing strong:  rosemary, lavender, baby greens, sweet basil, and (hopefully) tomatoes!


Back in the kitchen, the greens go into a salad.  Frozen pesto goes into the microwave.  And that very cute mushroom goes into a cast iron sauté pan.

When I tug it gently, it pulls apart like the cottony tufts of a Dr. Seuss tree.

I stir in coconut oil, lemon verbena, and lemon thyme.  The mushroom gets toasty.  In minutes, it turns a color somewhere between pan-seared scallops and breakfast potatoes.

Now that's Farm to Table!

By now, you're probably wondering what the point of this cooking lesson is.

Usually I learn something new with each mile marker.  Come out with some greater understanding of the world, or myself, or life in general.

Mushroom Shwag!!
So what's the takeaway from Mile 4,007?   I'm not sure...

Try new things?
Appreciate the small?
Find beauty in nature?
Shop local?

Go ahead.  Help yourself.  Take whatever appeals to you.

That cute (and very delicious!) mushroom appealed to me.


Love mushrooms?  Mycopolitan Mushroom Company is a mushroom farm located in a Philadelphia basement!  Check out their website for more info!


Monday, May 16, 2016

Thoughts at 4000

Mile Marker 4000:

My contact lenses are dry.  The lights in the Healing Garden need new batteries.  I could really use an iced green tea...

These are my thoughts -- in no particular order -- on the day I hit Mile 4000.

It's a beautifully uneventful day.  The rain has stopped.  There's a gusty breeze.  The sky is bright blue and the air smells leafy green.

I LOVE NORMAL.

I woke up this morning thinking of a post I wrote way back in the beginning.  Mile Marker 28:  The Usual.   It's about how trauma has its own landscape, and how the ordinary world somehow keeps turning while we're away.

I've found my way back, but I still marvel at the "normal" stuff I used to do.  Now when I make dinner and wash the dishes, my foot aches.  My socket rubs after a workday.  Mail piles up on the table.  The floor gathers crumbs.  I've never been so exhausted.  Yet I can't deny it.  I'm super happy to be here.

This morning, I take my usual walk for coffee.  Drink it on the balcony.  Then I meet with a colleague.  Go to a doctor's appointment.  Tend to the Healing Garden at Jefferson.  On Walnut Street, I sweat out of my socket mid-stride and discover that Peet's Coffee has a spiffy bathroom.   Just a typical day in amputee-land.

When I get home, I'm at Mile 3999.69.  So close!

Leg freshly fastened, I decide to walk around the block.  No fanfare.  Nothing fancy.  I just feel fortunate to make the trip.

I head south toward Market Street, over the bricks and cobblestones, dodging construction zones and crumbling curbs.

Artwork pops up unexpectedly.



Along with Philly-style inspiration...
Yo Adrienne!

Trucks rumble past.  Cars make turns.  From somewhere distant, I hear rap music.  And beyond that, birds.

My feet keep moving and my mind does too.  I've got a shopping list a mile long for CVS.  Up the street, there's a baby gift I need to get.  And across from that, there's a store where I want to order new glasses frames.

It's Mile 4000.  But it's also just a Monday.

No errands today.  I stay focused on each step.  Walking is a privilege, and this lap deserves attention all its own.

These feet have walked 4000 miles!

It's hard to believe how fast it's gone.  My first thousand miles took nearly two years to complete.  This last thousand took only 10 months!

As I round the last corner toward home, I run into my neighbor Faye.  Faye is 81 years old.  She wants me to take her rock climbing.

Welcome to my world.

Here's to normal.
And here's to everything that lies outside of it.

In other words...
Here's to the next thousand!


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Hero

Mile Marker 3974:

Backtrack with me 700 miles or so....

One morning last fall, I packed my rollerblades, hockey stick, and pads into the car.  My whole body was jittery with excitement as I drove to the therapy gym.

I was going to skate with Brian Propp!

WHAT?!?!

If you don't know what a big deal that is, you haven't been a Flyers fan as long as I have.

I wanted to shout it to everyone I knew, but I couldn't.

As a hospital, Magee takes patient privacy very seriously.  So there was no camera.  No blog post.  Just two Magee therapists and two Magee patients -- Brian Propp and me -- lacing up our skates and passing the puck around in the basement parking garage (a.k.a. "the skating rink").

No, it wasn't the Spectrum ice.  It was much cooler!

I started going to Flyers games as an infant in my dad's arms.  Growing up, my brothers and I dressed as Flyers players for Halloween.  And for my Sweet Sixteen, I got a real Flyers jersey.

Brian Propp played left wing on the Flyers for 11 seasons.  I watched him from the time I was in elementary school until I went to college.  To a teenage Flyers fan like me, Brian and his teammates always seemed larger than life.

That day we skated in the Magee parking garage was not really the first time we met...

This was the first time!

In his career as a pro athlete, Brian Propp had visited patients at Magee many times.  But last summer, when he suffered a stroke, Brian became a patient himself.  He couldn't move the right side of his body.  He couldn't stand up.  And he couldn't speak more than 3 words.

(And our therapists were
creative to get us there!)
Our situations were much different, but as Magee patients, Brian and I had one thing in common.  We had to relearn to walk before we could ever try to skate!

I admit it.  When I heard Brian Propp was a patient at Magee, I was pretty star-struck.  (Ok, I still am!)   But here's the truth:

Illness and injury can strike anyone.  Even our greatest heroes.

It comes out of nowhere.  It knocks you down when you least expect it.  It levels the playing field, or the skating rink -- OR LIFE -- in ways you never, ever could have imagined.

Fast forward to Mile 3,974.  It's my second year attending Magee's Night of Champions.  At last year's event, I was honored to receive the Believe Award.  This year, I have a different honor.  I'm presenting that award to Brian Propp!


Like most Magee patients, Brian struggled to get his life back.  And in many ways, I understand how that feels.  But is it different when you're in the public eye?  When patients recognize you?  When they're star-struck?  When they're looking to you to continue to be their hero?

Some days, I watched Brian from my mat in the therapy gym.  He was determined, motivated, and persistent.  I'm sure he worked as hard in therapy as he ever played on the ice.  But he also took time to engage with other patients.  (One man with a Flyers tattoo told me proudly how he'd gotten a photo with Brian Propp!)  During Brian's own rehab, he reached out and gave back.

Magee's slogan is BELIEVE, and that's what we learn to do.  We learn it from our therapists, from our doctors and nurses, and from our families and friends.  They all help us find our way back.  But the most powerful support is what we, as patients, give to other.  That's the stuff of heroes.

Surrounded by Brian's therapy team, I pass him the award.  Hand to hand.  Patient to patient.  Flyers fan to Flyer.

I'm still in awe.  And now, more than ever, I BELIEVE.