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!

Friday, March 24, 2017

C'est La Vie!

Your sorrow will become smaller, like a star in the daylight that you can't even see.  It's there, shining, but there is also a vast expanse of blue sky.

--Alice Hoffman, Survival Lessons

Mile Marker 4946:

"You've been busy."

That's what my surgeons said when they walked into my hospital room the day my mom hung the article on the wall.

It was a travel story I had submitted to the Philadelphia Inquirer two months before, documenting a home exchange I'd done in France.  The article was accepted in October and published in the Sunday newspaper on December 5.

In between those dates... well, everything changed.

When the article came out, I was proud of it.  It was my first published piece.  But it came with a sense of loss too.  That was me, BEFORE.  It seemed like a lifetime ago.  When my mom taped the newspaper clipping to my wall, I felt so different from that person and so far from that place.   I couldn't imagine ever going back.  It hurt.

Ma famille francaise
Draguignan 2009
I've talked about France before, but you might not know this:  at the time of the accident, in November 2010, I had another trip planned -- to return to Provence to visit the family I'd exchanged homes with.  I was to leave the day before Thanksgiving, and return the Sunday after.

So in those early days as I lay in critical care, my sister scrambled to locate the family on Facebook and somehow communicate -- with her nonexistent French skills -- that we needed to cancel the trip.  Meanwhile, my dad argued with the airline to credit the flight.  I wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, except maybe to the OR.

Throughout my recovery, France continued to be my "happy place."  I sat outside to drink coffee and dreamed of the little town of Draguignan.   I bought a French cookbook and made Cheating-on-Winter Pea Soup.  I pratiqué mon francais with my friend Cécile.  I talked about going back.  I even got my passport renewed.

But underlying all that joy was something else.  What if it's hard?  I thought.  What if it doesn't feel the same??  

Every time I considered taking the leap, the sorrow broke through.

It's taken me more than 6 years to accept that.   It will be hard.  It won't feel exactly the same.  As I round the corner toward Mile 5,000, I'm ok with those answers.  Finally, I can say...

That's life.  C'est la vie.

In that spirit, my luggage, now packed in the living room, consists of one suitcase, one backpack, and one crutch bag.  Inside are at least 5 different leg lotions, an extra prosthetic liner, an Allen wrench, a water leg, a shower seat (a.k.a. foldable step-stool), a long raincoat, a few digestive aids, and an infinite number of toiletries.  Oh yeah, some clothes too...

That's almost like
bringing my docs along!
I've tried to plan for every possible mishap.  Prosthetist Tim even gave me the name of an Ottobock dealer in France.  (Think "doctor" for my Genium!)  I can't take my own doctors with me, but luckily one them has a sister whose novel just made the New York Times bestseller list!


I've bought new shoes and practiced walking in them.  I've found yoga pants wide enough to access my socket.  I've sought out travel advice from amputee friends.  Leave the leg on?  Take it off?  And then the clincher: What if I can't get it back on again??

There are a lot of unknowns.  But then again, they're always going to be there.

Here at home...

...or wherever I go!

Might as well take off into that vast expanse of blue sky!

Bon voyage!

3 comments:

  1. Have an amazing adventure, looking forward to your photos! Bon Voyage Ricki!

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  2. Have the very best adventure! You can make anything happen!

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  3. I'm so happy for you that you're finally able to go back to France!

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