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!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

My Team

Mile Marker 5177:

When the rain hits, it's good to be among your own.

At the Ossur Running and Mobility Clinic presented by Challenged Athletes Foundation, it's been drizzling all morning.  Now the skies open.  Heavy clouds release a steady stream of raindrops.

Incredibly the runners stand their ground, sprinting drills across the field.  Volunteers follow, holding fast to their gait belts.  No one seems to notice the weather.

But me?  I'm on the sidelines, and I need to run for cover.  I glance around.  On this field of amputees, there aren't many microprocessor knees like mine.  Most people have swapped their computerized legs for running blades.

I hustle into a nearby tent, digging through my backpack in search of long pants.  I'm so intent on keeping my leg dry, I don't even notice the woman standing next to me.

"I should have worn pants," she mutters.

The sentence is so familiar -- I say it so often -- at first I think it came from my own mouth.  When I turn, I notice the woman has a C-Leg, a microprocessor knee like mine.  She's huddled under the tent too.  We start talking.

She asks me about my Genium.  Her C-Leg is made by the same company, Ottobock.  If the conversation seems a bit awkward, it's because we're standing under a tent sponsored by Ossur, a different prosthetic company!

No worries.  The Ossur rep is there too.  And she chimes in without missing a beat.  "Have you tried our new Rheo Knee XC?" she says, explaining its perks.

The story goes on.  I could tell you the pros and cons of each knee, but that's not the point.

Here's the point:

In my everyday, daily, routine life,  I'm usually the ONLY ONE with a prosthetic leg.  Here, it's nice to have company.

I've gotten used to standing out as the only amputee -- at work, on an airplane, in line at the coffee shop....  It's often unique and fun.  In the last week alone, I've fielded questions from a curious 6th grader, a TSA agent, and even a snack vendor at the Phillies game.  A bionic leg is a great conversation piece.

But some days, especially when the hard stuff hits, it can be isolating.  Even the most normal activities take effort.  When I'm sweating out of my liner, or nursing a new socket rub, or feeling the jiggle of a loose rotator (Yes, that happened this week too!), there's always a lingering thought:  No one here understands.

I didn't realize how much it weighed me down until the last few miles.  Which were noticeably lighter.

At Mile 5171, I met 4 new amputees in Magee's rehab gym.

At Mile 5172, I picked up my friend Zach (a fellow amputee) from the train station and drove him to Prosthetic Innovations where, of course, we found more amputees -- with camaraderie to spare!

That's Zach on running blades!

At Mile 5173, I was volunteering at Jefferson Hospital when a family in the lobby flagged me down.

"Can we ask you a question?" they said.  "Where did you get your leg?"  (Oh yeah.  I was wearing shorts.)

It turns out, their close friend just lost his leg from a motorcycle accident.  Wow.  As you might guess, they had questions.  A brief encounter turned into a half-hour conversation.

You might think all that running around would be draining, but it wasn't exhausting at all.  It was energizing.  Fortifying.  It refueled me.

Being the ONLY ONE is a heavy burden.  Being part of a COMMUNITY takes the pressure off.

At Mile 5177, I stand on the sidelines at the running clinic, dodging raindrops and cheering on our PI Team.

Zach leaps onto his two running blades.

Shannon and Vinny tear it up in the advanced mobility group.


I even "run" into a PT buddy!

Hi Chris!

Meanwhile, 50 other amputees with various configurations of blades, feet, legs, and arms defy the laws of motion.  It's a day of personal bests.  The strength and persistence is contagious, even from the sidelines!

We're led by Bob Gailey, the expert on amputee mobility

So why stay on the sidelines?  What about that awesome running blade I have?

Well, it's at home today.

Running and mobility clinics have been helpful, fun, and super motivating for me.  (Click here for a play-by-play.)   I'd recommend them to any amputee who wants to improve speed and balance.  But running takes a toll on my body -- both sides -- my residual limb and my real leg.   Lately, for every action, it seems there's an equal and opposite reaction.

It's a good leg day, and I don't want to risk it by running.

That may sound bizarre to you two-legged people out there.  But in this community, on this soggy field, in this misty rain that's hazardous to our hardware, we understand.

This is my team.

Thanks to Ossur, CAF, and PI for such an energizing event!   For more info about the Running and Mobility Clinics, click here.

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