How do we move forward?

My road came to an unexpected halt on November 9, 2010.

That morning, I was bicycling to work when a garbage truck turned across a city bike lane. I was in that bike lane.

I was critically injured in the accident. A team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my left leg. I had a long road ahead of me, physically and emotionally, yet I was grateful to be alive.

An ending can be a beginning too. I started over.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Gradually I learned to walk again. So I began counting steps. Then miles.

Over time, that journey turned a corner. It became less about my own recovery and more about resilience -- the connection we all share.

Years later, I still take one step at a time. Yes, there are bumps in the road, but each step means rising to new challenges, adapting to change, and moving forward with hope.

Are you on your own journey?

WALK WITH ME.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Protected

12 years later, I am here...

The intersection of 5th Street and Washington Avenue in South Philly.  A traffic light hangs overhead and there are green stripes through the crosswalk, indicating a bike lane.
Happy Alive Day!

Each year on the anniversary of my accident, I find myself standing on the corner of 5th Street and Washington Avenue in South Philly. 

I watch the traffic go by, breathe in the autumn air, and stare wistfully (or perhaps lovingly) at a little patch of blacktop that's so familiar I consider it mine.

Today the blacktop is different.

(And I've never been more excited to write a blog post in my life!)

This intersection -- which has felt to me like the most vulnerable place in the world -- is now PROTECTED.

A view of Washington Avenue from the other side of 5th Street with the green stripes of the bike lane up the center.
With a brand new
PROTECTED BIKE LANE!

It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.  

The best "Alive Day" gift I could have asked for. 

(Seriously, my eyes tear up with joy!)

A biker in a gold helmet approaches, following the same route I rode on this exact day 12 years ago.  I snap a pic as she passes by. 

A back view of a lone biker with a gold helmet riding in the bike lane.
It feels like the whole street
should be paved with gold!

I look both ways and then step carefully onto the green lines myself.  The paint is still fresh; the colors, impossibly bright.  

My feet with a green stripe on the street underneath them.

My eyes follow the smooth curve of white strokes on the ground.

An empty bike lane with white stripes running parallel to the curb, white posts, and a parking lane to the left.

I admire the row of perfectly placed posts, dividing the roadway between traffic and bicycles.

Another photo of the same bike lane, with posts separating parking and traffic from the bike lane.

I knew this was in process.  It's been years in the making.  But I drove by just weeks ago -- and none of this was here! 

A posting on a telephone pole, that reads "New parking and loading layout," and has picture diagrams showing bikers, cars, and pedestrians.
(It's so new, it comes with instructions!)

I step back on the sidewalk to take it all in.  An ambulance passes.  Then a few trucks.  Then some kick-scooters.  Then another bike. 

Washington Ave. is busy as always, but it feels different somehow.  Changed.

I have to tell you... I almost didn't go back this year.  

I've changed too, and I felt a strong pull to do this day differently.  To turn a new page.  Get a fresh start.

I wondered if it was time.  But how would I know?

Is 12 years too soon to move on?
Or is it too late?

Turns out, 12 years is just right.

This isn't the end of the journey, really.  Just the end of a certain chapter.  There'll be many more milestones, I'm sure.

Maybe I'll write about them. 
Or maybe I'll move on to something new.   

Whatever happens next, this little patch of blacktop will always be with me.  It's a cherished, sacred part of who I am.

My shoes and the shadow of my legs on the sidewalk, with a small heart-shaped stone placed against a lampost.
Today, like always,
I leave a little something behind.

But today, leaving feels different.  Better.  Less unfinished.  More secure.  

Wherever I go, I'll know this place is taken care of. 

Its markings will be there to protect all who pass through.  Bikers on their way to work, like I was.  Kids on their way to school.  Skaters, scooters, strollers, and so many more.

A selfie of me, smiling huge, with the newly-protected intersection of 5th and Washington behind me.
What could be better than that?

Thank you Philly!

Be safe, everyone.  Buckle your helmet.  Pedal on.

And, as a wise PT once taught me, don't forget to enjoy the ride!

xo,
Rebecca

Vision Zero's goal is to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2030.  For more on Vision Zero Philly and protected bike lanes, click here.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Lost and Found

Leaves in red, gold, brown, and green spread over the bricks.

Hello from Mile Marker 11,050...

Where I've lost my grandmother's bracelet.

I don't know why I'm surprised.  

It's November.  The season of lost and found.

When I got dressed this morning, the bracelet's catch was loose, but I pressed it closed and headed out the door.

One lap around the block, and I noticed it was gone.

I retrace my steps, stopping back at Old City Coffee to ask the staff to keep an eye out.

"It's a small gold ID bracelet inscribed with my grandmother's name," I tell them.  They know my regular coffee order -- "small with almond milk" -- but now they take down my phone number too.  

It's a new level of intimacy, this shared loss.  

We've all lost things we love.  We all understand.

I circle around the block again, this time in reverse, trying to unwind time, as if the fragile bracelet would leap off the leaf-strewn sidewalk and back onto my wrist.  

It's hard to walk in this direction.  The slant of the sidewalk is wrong for my gait.  I hike my prosthetic over the incline, trying not to trip, scanning my eyes back and forth thorough the confetti of red and gold leaves.  I tell myself it's OK.  It's only a bracelet.  An object that belonged to my grandmother.  It's not her.

A brick sidewalk with a smattering of fall leaves and a brick wall.
Still, I keep searching.

Just a glimmer.  A tiny spark.  That's all I need to find.

It is just a bracelet.  I know that.  But I'm sensitive to losing things.  It has always unsettled me, but even more so since the accident.  

And especially at this time of year.

Two mornings from now -- on November 9 -- as the sun rises over Washington Avenue, it will be exactly 12 years since I was hit by a truck at this intersection.

The intersection of 5th St. and Washington Avenue, showing blacktop in the street, two manhole covers, and the sun streaming down from above.

I still remember what I lost in that early morning sunlight -- my leg, my health, my life BEFORE -- and the many losses that unfolded in the days and years that followed.

But as time passes, I find that I'm more and more focused on what I've found AFTER.

A selfie of me with found family and friends.
And all that's found me, too :)

Family.  Friends. Community.  A whole team of helpers and healers.  (You know who you are!)  And this life we've built together.

Celebrating my "Alive Day" reminds me to pause, look back, and give thanks for the distance we've covered.

To embrace where I am now,
Even in the struggle.
To find gratitude and hope,
Even in the smallest steps.

At Mile 11,051 -- give or take a few of those steps -- I arrive home, eyes still cast downward, feeling this newest loss like a small hole in my heart.  

I've swept over every inch of sidewalk.  The bracelet is nowhere, seemingly vanished into the autumn air.

Then, I reach down to adjust the waistband of my pants.  

And something shiny falls into my fingers.  The unlatched bracelet.  Lost and found!

My gold bracelet on the table surrounded by a green Thousand Miles wristband
Sometimes, miraculously, things find their way back.

Every year is a privilege.  I hope I never lose that perspective.

My feet (one real, one prosthetic) on the sidewalk below a chalk-drawn heart.
Happy Year 12.
Thank you for walking with me!
Rebecca

(P.S.  Most of these photos were taken after the bracelet was found.  Some feelings are too intense to capture on film. xo)

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Are You on Volume Two?

 Greetings from Mile Marker 10,960...

I'm in CVS Pharmacy, masked, holding up two vaccine cards, with a bandaid on my left arm.
...where HOPE never gets old!

It's the season of cooler nights, fallen leaves, and vaccine boosters.

Flu shot?  Check.
Covid shot?  Check.

Not sure why, but I'm feeling especially hopeful this time around.  

It starts when the CVS pharmacist hands me a brand new Covid card.  There's no more space on my first one. 

Onward to VOLUME TWO!

For some reason, this triggers a good feeling.

A sense of legitimacy, 
and expertise, 
and entering the home stretch.

I accept the new card proudly, like a medal of honor.

This isn't my first rodeo.

Once upon a time -- before hospitals used electronic records like EPIC -- medical charts and test results were stored in giant hardcover binders.  (Yes, really!)

And some patients, like me, had so much information in theirs, they filled up more than one binder.

I'm in a hospital bed, wearing a hospital gown, holding up a drink in a Styrofoam cup.

During my time as a patient, I earned not one, but TWO super-sized, mega-stuffed medical binders! 

Those two binders traveled with me wherever I went.  

To ultrasounds,
and x-rays,
and CT scans,
and surgeries...

Each time I left my hospital room, those two heavy binders were loaded onto the gurney with me.  Volume One and Volume Two. 

They creaked against the metal bedrails.  Tugged tightly at the sheets.  Rode shotgun at my left hip.  

Good thing I was small.  

And missing a leg. :)

I haven't thought about those binders in more than a decade.

But when the pharmacist hands me my 2nd vaccine card, I get a wave of deja-vu...

VOLUME TWO.  

It's nothing bad.  Sort of the opposite, really.

It feels familiar.  Symbolic.  Hopeful, even.

Like I've put in my time.

Like maybe these tentative, directionless, up-in-the-air years might finally be coming to a close. 

Like maybe, just maybe, a New Normal might come next.


A few miles later -- a.k.a. the next morning -- I force myself out of bed, despite feeling a bit achy from the vaccine.

It's minutes before sunrise.  The moon is high over Arch Street as Donna leads me on a new route.  It's still dark, so I didn't want to walk alone.

I'm determined to meet my long-time PT, Julie, for an early morning coffee.  Julie helped me recover from those volumes of care.  And today, by chance, she happens to be at Jefferson for an EPIC training.  (Kind of ironic, huh?)

As Donna and I cross Independence Mall, we catch this stunning view.

A view of the Liberty Bell, glowing gold through a glass building, with burgundy and yellow mums and leaves in the foreground.
Volume Two looks promising so far!

Have you found a New Normal?
Are you on Volume Two... too?

Wishing everyone a HEALTHY and HOPEFUL season ahead!

I'm pretty sure we've earned it.

Walk on,
Rebecca

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Love Is Blind (and so is my digestive system)

Cheers from Mile Marker 10,530...

...at the Outpatient Imaging Center.

It's not the best selfie, but when you toast with a supersize of contrast solution, you get what you get. 

The guy next to me (which by COVID standards means down the hall) is drinking two tall bottles of what looks like Muscle Milk.  

"It's a bit chalky," he says.

"Mine's kind of minty," I shoot back.  It tastes like water mixed with toothpaste.  You might even call it a Crest Cocktail.  

Between sips, we yank our masks up and down.

The man tells me he has a test at Nuclear Medicine tomorrow.

I tell him that one time, they had to put this drink down my NG tube.  (TMI?)

It's like an awkward first date at the worst restaurant ever...

Sunday, June 5, 2022

10 Blocks Away

Hello from Mile Marker 10,544...

It's a beautiful morning in Philly.

The neighborhood is quiet.  A young couple snaps wedding photos in the sunlight.  When I walk by Old Christ Church, a choir sings on the breeze. 

My new foot feels especially springy.  

People smile.  Say good morning.  Breathe the fresh air.

The humidity has somehow vanished overnight.

Also overnight, my phone tinged with this text message:

2 AM:  There was a shooting incident in the vicinity of 4th and South Streets.  The Center City ED has received multiple victims.  There is significant police presence around the emergency department.  The ED is on divert...

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Where's My Wallet?

Hello from Mile Marker 10,437...

...where I lost my wallet.  Again!

I've been working on a bunch of blog posts, but like everything else these days, they're so messy and jumbled, they may never survive cyberspace. 

So instead, I'll tell this story.  

It's called The Way The World Is.

Wait, you say.  I already know how the world is, and I definitely DON'T want to hear about it!

I totally get it.  

But you might want to hear this version...

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

What takes you back?

Bon appetit from Mile Marker 10,347!

Many miles ago, I wrote a little post called Back to Bacon

Back then, I was celebrating the Big 3-0.    

Mile 30 on this journey.

It felt like I had come a long way.  And also, not far at all.

I wobbled on the treadmill.  My prosthetic fit was iffy.  I was never sure where the next step would take me.  It was just too much to talk about.

So I talked about bacon instead.

Bacon took me back!

Fast forward many miles.

Mile 10,347 isn't about bacon...

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Rise and Meet the Day

WOO-HOO from Mile Marker 10,000!

3 sets of feet, one with a prosthetic leg, gathered around a patch of sidewalk where it's written "Congrats 10,000!  Finish."

Guess who just walked 10,000 miles on a prosthetic leg??

Me standing with arms extended in front of a sidewalk with the words, "Mile 10,000 - You rock!"
This kid!

I'm gonna keep this postcard short, but I didn't want it to get lost in the mail.

Long story short, I almost missed 10,000...