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, August 6, 2022

Love Is Blind (and so is my digestive system)

Cheers from Mile Marker 10,530... 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.

The truth -- which we don't get into on the first date -- is that I'm an expert at abdominal CT scans because I've had so many bowel obstructions since the accident 11 years ago.

Take Mile 37 ...

or 632 ...

or 7,650.
(FYI: Smile = morphine.)

Lately it's been happening again -- and I will do ANYTHING to stay out of the hospital.

Mile Marker 10,559:  

Have you ever seen Love Is Blind?

It's this reality show where people "date" without seeing each other.  They chat, fall in love, and sometimes propose marriage.  All from behind a wall.  

Figuring out my digestive system is kind of like that. 

I have a few scars on the outside.

But inside, my abdomen has a web of adhesions that developed from massive surgeries after the accident.  The adhesions constrict and obstruct my small intestine.  It happens suddenly, and it's unbearably painful -- not to mention life-threatening.  

The last few months have been particularly difficult.

I can manage an amputation.  
I can't manage this.

It's hard to live this way -- always one step from the ER.  So my doctors are taking a closer look at what's going on behind that wall.

Date #2 is a *quest* for bloodwork.

See what I did there? :)

Mile Marker 10,612:

On to Date #3 -- at Jefferson Radiology.

Complete with "tilt table"

and fancy beverage cart!

Um, not quite.

A 4-hour GI study stretches into 8 hours.  

Pretty sure I hold the record for the slowest digestive system in Jefferson history. 

The radiology team sits patiently behind the glass.  There's even an attending physician. 

"Lie on your stomach," he says.  
"Now turn onto your left side."  
"Now do it again, all in one motion." 

My prosthetic leg clatters against the table, metal on metal. 

"This is the strangest modeling job I've ever had," I tell them.

At least we get a laugh.

After a few hours, I earn a beverage upgrade -- OJ!

By the end of the day, I've mastered the tilt table (and Snapchat).  

I've been here so long the radiologists offer to hire me.  Either that or charge me rent.

We're ALL relieved when this date finally ends.

Mile Marker 10,629:  

Who knew there were so many Jefferson hotspots??

Hello Jefferson Stratford!
Date #4 comes with perks...

Two quick ultrasounds.
Free parking. 
No drinks required!

And get this... against all odds, the technician has a family member who suffers from bowel obstructions too.

You never know who'll you'll meet on a date!

As I lie there on the (non-tilting) table, we commiserate about how terrible those obstructions can be.  I rattle off a list of what I've tried over the years -- from liquid diets, to visceral manipulation, to medical consults -- in case something might give them a glimmer of hope. 

If nothing else, it can help to know you're not alone. 

Mile Marker 10,733:

After 200 miles, it's about time for answers.

Greetings from the Navy Yard!

Date #5:  The results are in.

Good news:  I'm in excellent health, aside from all this.
Bad news:  My insides are a hot mess.*
(*non-clinical interpretation)

In other words, exactly what we suspected.  

My medical team is honest.  There are no easy answers.  The best we can do is try to make it more manageable.  We have some ideas, and we'll keep working on it.  Together.

I was hoping for a happier ending.  You know, like walking off into the sunset, hand in hand with my adhesions -- or something like that.  

Oh well.

Even in the best rom-coms, the point isn't really about the happy ending.  It's about finding love in what you have.

(Pretty wise for someone who's still single, right?)

Truth is, I'm grateful for this body of mine.

Even with its robot parts.
Even with its abdominal issues.
Even though I can't always count on it. 

I'm proud of it, too.
For digesting those nasty drinks.

For going to all those appointments!

For walking and working -- and living life to the fullest -- whenever I can.

And finally... are you ready for this?


Yep.  I do.  I love my body.  For better or worse.

Despite everything.  (Or maybe because of everything.)

I appreciate it every day, and I'm glad it's mine.

Can I be OK with not always being OK??  

Well, I'm working on that. 

Love may be blind, but I like to think science isn't.  

I haven't given up yet. 

Hopefully there's a solution somewhere in between.

Walk on,

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.

I get these texts from time to time.  I'm an employee of the hospital, but my job isn't clinical, so they don't usually involve me directly.

So at that moment, at 2 AM, here's what I thought:

It's not a family emergency.
I'm home safe in bed.  (And besides, I'm never out that late.)
4th and South is a whole 10 blocks away.

Just another shooting incident.   In our city.  In our country.  I'm always concerned on some level, but I guess not enough.

At 2 AM, with barely a toss or turn, I drift swiftly back to sleep.

Five hours later when the sun streams through my blinds, I wake up and read that text again.  

This time the idea hits closer to home. 

Who's taking care of all those victims in that ER? 
How bad does it have to be to "divert" to other hospitals?
I, too, was on a city sidewalk yesterday.  Could this have happened to me?

I feel the need to learn more, so I Google,  "4th and South."

The story pops up immediately.  Three killed.  At least 11 wounded.  They are calling it a mass shooting.  I pour over the images from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Wait -- that's the sidewalk in front of my Rita's Water Ice.

That's the entrance to my Emergency Room.

I think of the victims arriving in the trauma bay.  I think of the families and friends gathered outside. And I think of my trauma team, inside, taking care of all of them.

And then I think of something my trauma surgeon, Dr. J., once said during a presentation:

For every trauma patient that arrives in the ER, two family members arrive soon after.

That's TWO loved ones for every single victim.  And that's just on average.  

Traumatic events ripple outward.  Eventually they reach all of us.

I'm not a trauma surgeon.  Or a first responder.  And while I sign all the petitions and fully support gun safety legislation, I'm not an activist in any formal way.

But I know trauma. 

I know the exact gurney where those victims landed.

And I know the fear they must have felt -- and the vulnerability that will be part of their lives forever.  I know the powerlessness of their families waiting outside.  And I know the energy, dedication, and compassion of their health care team inside.

My heart goes out to each one of them.  But I know it's not enough.

At Mile 10,544 -- as I take a walk on this beautiful "morning after" -- I think of other walks.  Recent ones.

Walks that took me across that sidewalk where those bullets flew.

Walks to Rita's.

Walks to South Street.

This morning, as I stop for coffee, and hear church music, and greet neighbors on the sidewalk, I think how life goes on despite what's still happening at this moment, for many, at the hospital.

Despite the tragedy that is not yet cleaned up, just 10 blocks away.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  So, I think, we shouldn't take comfort in distance.

10 blocks is not that far.

I'm not sure what my responsibility is -- what action I might take that could make a difference.  

I usually tread more carefully, think things through before putting my thoughts out there for all to see.  But I wanted to write about this.  To do something, anything.  Now.  No matter how small. 

I know there's a lot more to say, but I'm going to press "send" anyway.

On this beautiful morning, maybe that's a place to start.

Walk on,

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.

THIS is my wallet.

(Cute, right?)

And THIS is Wawa.

(Thanks WPST, for the photo.)

Two Saturdays ago, I ran into this Wawa -- with that wallet -- to buy my dad a pint of cherry vanilla ice cream. 

Ok, truth.  I didn't quite run.  

Also, they were out of cherry vanilla.  

So I chose a pint of Cherry Garcia which -- you might agree -- is a pretty good alternative.  Maybe even a step above.  

I paid at the register.  Scooped my change off that little coin chute.  Made my way out of the store.  (I've become an efficient shopper during the pandemic!)

Possibly too efficient.

I hopped back into the car where my mom was waiting.  Handed her the container.  Headed toward home.

Dad was a happy camper.

While he ate his ice cream, my mom and I spent a lovely afternoon planting flowers in the backyard.  By the time I got home that night, it was late.  And that's when I realized... Gulp.

Where's my wallet??

It was pretty easy to retrace my steps -- I mean, after searching the entire car with a flashlight and emptying every bag I own!  At quarter to midnight, I even had my parents searching their house.  Nothing.

It could only be one place.  

As we say in Philly... "The Wa."

Lucky for me, this particular Wawa has a very informative Facebook page.  (Go ahead, "like" them!)

And even luckier for me, when I dialed their number, a friendly, helpful employee answered the phone.

And -- if I could push my luck even further -- THEY FOUND MY WALLET.

Yes, after almost 9 hours MIA, my wallet was locked safely in the Wawa manager's office!

Lucky me.

At sunrise, my mom drove there to get the wallet.  She called to tell me it was completely intact -- right down to a few dollar bills and the dry cleaning ticket in the front pocket.  Woo-hoo!!  I planned to pick it up from her later.

That's where the luck wavers a bit.  

I got sick and couldn't drive out there to get it.  

It was chronic abdominal stuff -- leftover from my accident -- but that's a story for another blog post.  I'm on the mend now.  

(See, lucky??)

And my wonderful parents -- resourceful as they are -- packed the wallet into a box, sealed it up like Fort Knox, and took it to the post office.  

A day later, it arrived home safe and sound.

Don't you just love happy endings?

Hold on.  It's not quite the end.

This is not the first time I've lost my wallet.  Or even the second time.  It's actually the THIRD. 

#1 was at Macy's.
#2 was on 3rd Street.
And #3...  Well, you know.

Each time, my wallet has miraculously found its way back me, contents undisturbed.  All because of the kindness of strangers.

There's a lesson here.  I know there is.

I should keep better track of my stuff.  (My dad wholeheartedly agrees.)

I should keep my wallet in a purse.  (My mom seconds that.)

But wait, maybe there's another lesson. Yes, yes.  There's definitely another.

It's this.  This story.  THIS is how the world is. 

As complex and convoluted as the world can be, good stuff happens too -- once in a while.  Sometimes luck is on our side.  And best of all, there are plenty of GOOD PEOPLE out there.

I keep this little comic strip on my fridge as a reminder.  But lately I've forgotten to look at it.  So I'm just gonna leave it here.

In case you need a reminder too. 

And that's the way it is.
Walk on,

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...