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, April 17, 2017

The Limb Loss Lowdown - Week 2


Here are a few more fun facts about limb loss and being an amputee...


As a petite woman living in the city, I had always counted on running to be my best self-defense.  When I became an amputee, that all changed.  On a physical level, I could no longer respond as quickly to threats -- and I definitely can't run away from an aggressor!

If you're an amputee, or use a wheelchair, or have another mobility issue, you probably feel vulnerable at times -- especially out alone or at night.  The good news:  you can increase your independence and safety!

I've just taken my second self-defense class, specially designed for people with disabilities.  (Thanks Good Shepard Penn Partners for the opportunity!)

Our bodies may be different, but we can make mental and physical decisions to maximize on our strengths.  Find a class near you, or talk to a traditional self-defense instructor about offering one!

It never hurts to SHOW YOUR METTLE!

Turns out, I've got a titanium kick!

4/12/17:  Alterations...

On my recent trip to France, one of my biggest worries was how to wear my leg during the long, overnight flight.  As an "AK" (above-knee) amputee, my socket goes up to my hip, so it's nearly impossible to adjust it in public!  Even yoga pants are difficult to pull up high enough!

In case you're wondering, I surrendered any sense of fashion and ended up wearing gym shorts on the plane.  Which leads to this Limb Loss Lowdown...

Be innovative.  That's what Kerry Baez did!

She started BKQ Amputee Boutique, which designs clothing especially for amputees -- well, for "BKs" anyway!

For AKs like me, the zipper would need to be on the outer seam and stretch all the way up to the hip.  I'm still searching for solutions, but Kerry's ideas are encouraging!

On the next journey, maybe I'll leave my gym shorts at home!

4/13/17:  The cookie crusher!

A few years ago, a man unexpectedly approached me on the street.

"Were you born that way?" he asked.

It was an odd question, given the context.  We were standing across from a hospital entrance.  I was wearing shorts, so he could see my prosthesis.  But he was clearly not an amputee.  (There's more to it.  Read the full story here.)

It turned out he was a brand new dad whose infant son had been born with Amniotic Band Syndrome.  An amniotic band had wrapped around the baby's arm in utero, and as a result, his arm hadn't developed.

Later, I asked Prosthetist Tim, "How do you treat babies like this?  Do you fit them with a prosthetic arm?"

His answer:  "They sit, we fit!"  (Tim always has a way with words!)

When babies begin sitting -- which is also around the time they start picking up objects -- they can be fitted with their first prosthetic arm. 

Appropriately enough, it's called a cookie crusher!

4/14/17:  Casting call...

Getting "casted" for a prosthetic socket is the amputee equivalent of a fresh start!

So what does it feel like to be casted?   

I slide on a pair of stretchy fabric casting shorts.  Half shorts, half overalls, they look incredibly silly, like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.  Prosthetist Tim hooks them over my shoulder with a suspender-like bungee cord.  He then double-wraps my leg in layers of saran wrap.   (Are you laughing yet?  I usually am!)

Finally, he begins dipping rolls of plaster into a bucket of water.  Pressing firmly, he wraps them carefully around my leg.  This is the serious part.  The cast needs to capture the shape of my leg, precisely, from the distal end up all the way up to my hip and ischium.  Each leg is unique, and this cast becomes my leg's "fingerprint."

When it's done, Tim uses safety scissors to cut me out of the whole contraption.  (Insert nervous laughter here...)

Check out the finished product!

Of course, this is just the first step in designing a new prosthetic socket.  More to come!

4/16/17:  Hoppy Easter!

Amputees hop a lot.  More than the Easter Bunny, and more than we should.

When I take my leg off, I use crutches to get around the house.  Other amputees may use a walker or wheelchair.

But sometimes, for short distances, I get lazy.  That's where hopping comes in.  I hop from my bed to reach the light switch on the wall.  I hop from the fridge to put a snack on the kitchen counter.  It's usually no more than a few steps.

Still, there's one rule about hopping I learned the hard way:  NEVER HOP ON A WET FLOOR!

I'll spare you the details.  Suffice to say, watch out for slippery bathroom surfaces!

And always remember -- Hopping stresses your "sound side," so it's better not to hop at all!

Stay tuned for more Limb Loss Lowdowns in WEEK 3...

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