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.

Ten 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?


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Night of Champions

Mile Marker 2830:  

Boy, it's been a while!  (Almost 250 miles to be specific...)  So what better way to kick off a new blog post than with a great party?

Welcome to Night of Champions!

I cross Mile Marker 2830 in a huge banquet room.  Blue and gold balloons punctuate the air with excitement.  Wheelchairs zoom between the tables.  My family and friends mingle with my Magee Rehab team.

Worlds collide... in a good way!

It took a long time to get here.

I can't tell you how dismal things seemed when I first found myself at Magee.

In December 2010, my body was raw with wounds.  My spirit was reeling from trauma.  Every night, I lay awake in bed reliving the accident.  And every day, I panicked with the fear of once again having to face the dangerous world outside.

I learned to steer my wheelchair through hospital hallways, do obstacle courses on crutches, and wrap my leg with an ace bandage.  But between therapy sessions, I suffered through anxious crying spells and terrible abdominal pain.  It felt like my sutures were the only things holding me together.

The day my parents finally took me home, I lowered my body out of my mom's Honda Pilot, landing my right foot carefully on the garage floor.  I crutched over to the door of the house.  There I stopped.

There was a step.
One step.
Eight inches high.
The first obstacle I'd encounter as an amputee.

It might as well have been a mountain.

On each side of me my parents froze, looking as scared as I was.  I'm sure they wanted to grip my skinny arms, lift me by the elbows, and hoist me inside to safety.

"Wait," I said.  "Just gimme a minute."

It was a defining moment.

In my mind, I heard the voice of my inpatient PT, Steph.  Plant your crutches on the ground.  Push up.  Put your right foot on the step. 

I mobilized my strength -- the little bit I had back then -- and propelled myself upward.

When I landed inside the house, we all let out a long sigh of relief.

I had already learned Magee's ultimate takeaway:
Life isn't a question of can or can't.  It's simply a matter of HOW.

Tonight, when PT Deb calls me to the podium to receive the 2015 Believe Award, she talks about the way we've moved forward over the years.  How together, we set the smallest goals, and then took the tiniest steps toward them.  How with each new task, she watched me inch away from FEAR and toward COURAGE.  How I re-learned everything:  to walk, to get up from the ground, to balance in a hallway full of kindergarteners.  Even to ride my bike and lace up my skates.  What she doesn't say -- but all of us know -- is that she and my other Magee therapists held tightly to my gait belt until I was steady on my own!

When Deb and Dr. Lax hug me and hand me the award, I'm surprised by its weight.  The density of its crystal.  Its sharp angles and symmetrical beauty.   It's HEAVY.

It feels like I'm holding the last 4 years in my arms.

It is a huge honor!

The award is for a patient who has given back to the Magee community.  And while I enjoy giving back to Magee in lots of ways -- as a volunteer in the gym, as an amputee peer mentor, as a member of the Patient Advisory Council -- my efforts can never compare to what Magee has given me.

They rebuilt my muscles and strengthened my mind.  They taught me to be proud of my body, and to LOVE IT, despite its differences, and its scars, and the stories it tells.  From that very first step in my parents' garage, they empowered me to face whatever obstacles lie in my path.

Go Team!

For every hour I spend, or meeting I attend, or patient I touch, I've been touched A THOUSAND TIMES more.

Magee gave me my life back.

They believed in me when I couldn't BELIEVE IN MYSELF.

For that, I can never say thank you enough.

So after 2,830 miles, I'll just say... BELIEVE.

We've come a long way.  We're all champions tonight!

A special shout-out (in order of appearance in my life...) to Dr. Lax, Tama, Steph, Jillian, Deb, Julie, Colleen, Ian, Chris, and rest of Team Magee for all you've done for me and for all you continue to do everyday for your patients and their families.  

We couldn't have come this far without you!