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!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Bike Helmet Blitz 2015

Sometimes carrying on, just carrying on, is the superhuman achievement.
--Albert Camus

Mile Marker 3400:

When I see people riding bikes without helmets, I want to shout, "Don't think about your HAIR, think about your FAMILY!"

Or... "If you get a head injury, you might not be YOU anymore."

Or... "When it's bike vs. car, the bike NEVER WINS."

Or... As a first grader taught me, "You can get a robot leg, but you can't get a robot brain!"  (Heck, I'd flash some leg, too, if I thought it would help!)

Of course this is Philly.  Offering advice to complete strangers -- even with the best intentions -- is not the smartest move.

And so I came up with an idea to spread the word:  A BIKE HELMET BLITZ.

We gather in Old City, armed with 500 lime green helmet coupons and 300 yards of twine.  We set off to walk a 5K.

Along the way, we tie those coupons to parked bikes and bike racks.

We hand them out to passers-by.

Our green coupons look great on them!

We make special stops at the city's bright blue "bike share" stations, which have popped up everywhere.  They're strictly BYOH -- Bring Your Own Helmet.

By lunchtime, every bike east of Broad Street has been blitzed with helmet coupons.

That's my story -- the Cliffs Notes version anyway!

After 5 years, I look a little different, but I'm STILL ME.   I attribute much of that to the fact that I was wearing a helmet.

I wish I could shout it to every biker that passes.  I wish I could install a helmet dispenser at every bike share station.  I wish I could make more of an impact.

But we carry on the best way we can.
And for now, this way is mine.

Thanks to the family and friends who joined me to paint the town green!  Thanks to all of you who are wearing your Got Helmet t-shirts!  And thanks to Community Bikes and Boards for giving us an awesome helmet discount!

When one more cyclist puts on a helmet...
Or survives an accident...
Or carries on...
We will have made a difference.
Maybe we already have.

Yes, there's a video!
Click here to see the BIKE HELMET BLITZ -- and a quick recap of the last 5 years!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

In 5 Years

Mile Marker 3390:

I'm at a stand still.

My thoughts are as tangled as a broken bicycle chain.

It's one thing to count miles, yet another to count YEARS.

I recently found this photo.   Big eyes, bigger hat.  It's my niece Riley Cate, posted to Facebook on November 7, 2010.

My very last post before the accident.

It hits me.

In 5 years, this kid has gone from birth to kindergarten.

When her teacher tells the class, "Everyone has 2 legs,"  Riley Cate replies knowingly, "Not everyone!"

It's amazing how much can happen in 5 years.

In 5 years, a little leg grows stronger.

If we're lucky, our health stabilizes.  Our steps go farther and faster.
A WALK becomes a RUN.

In 5 years, we're embraced by a community we never knew existed.

We learn to use new equipment.  And if we practice hard enough, we even get good at it!

In 5 years, we scale walls.

Walk beaches.

Plant flowers.


Five years brings danger.

But also RESCUE.

In 5 years, shells are crushed under car tires.

Footprints are left behind.

And street corners are honored with love.

In 5 years, friendships grow and change.

We say hello.

And also goodbye.

Five years can feel like a winning streak.

Or a slow uphill climb.

Either way, it's never enough.

Five years are fragile.  They dangle ahead of us on a string of hope, not promise.  Our ride can stop anytime, anywhere.

I know.

It's November.  My back aches.  I sink down farther into my socket.   I keep walking, and working, and doing what I'm supposed to do, but I really want to take off my leg and hibernate -- no, HIDE -- in bed.

Anxiety mounts.  My chest tightens.  I brace my body so hard I could stop a truck.

But it's impossible.

That part happened 5 years ago.

November 9 is my ALIVE DAY.   I like saying that.

Still, no matter what you call it, revisiting trauma is not easy.  This time of year brings celebration, but loss too.  I want to give each piece the attention it deserves.

Five years ago, I regained consciousness after a week of surgery and -- it's fair to say -- enough life-saving to last a lifetime.   I woke up DIFFERENT but very GRATEFUL to be alive.

Five years later, I still feel the same way.

It's one thing to count miles, yet another to count YEARS.  The years will pass whether we move forward or not.

I choose to start moving again.

What will the next 5 years bring?
There's only one way to find out...


(Come on out!  No bikes necessary!)
WALK a 5K with me to spread the word about wearing bike helmets!
Saturday 11/21 at 10 a.m.
Meet up at 2nd and Market Streets in Old City.
Hang out for lunch afterward at 2nd Story Brewing Co. (117 Chestnut St.)

Whether you walk in person or in spirit...
Wear your GOT HELMET t-shirt!   
If we convince even one person to put on a bike helmet, it will make a difference!

Hope to see you!  
And as always, thank you for joining me on this journey!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sister Act

Mile Marker 3330:

I'm standing on a street corner in Manhattan with the person who makes me laugh the most.

My sister Sam.

We're laughing now as Mom tries to frame the two of us, along with the craziness of Times Square, in the tiny screen of my iPhone.  Good job, Mom...

(We laughed when Mom gave us these t-shirts too!)

A few hours earlier, Mom, Sam and I boarded a train in Trenton, NJ.   We minded the gap.  Found seats together.  Rolled into Manhattan.

We're celebrating Sam's birthday with lunch and a Broadway show.  It's been YEARS since we've had a Girls Day Out like this.  And it feels great.  Mostly.

Although I tried not to let on, I was nervous about the trip.  Long days worry me.  Being far from home worries me.  Walking worries me.

Luckily Sam takes the edge off.  She makes me smile when I get too serious.

Leg stuff aside, I feel pretty competent.  I've traveled.  I'm good at getting around new places.  The three of us share a pretty bad sense of direction, but mine is the best of the worst!

When we emerge from Penn Station, I lead us up 7th Avenue, through crowds watching the NYC Marathon on huge screens.

We cross over Broadway and locate the Glass House Tavern -- Mom's pick -- where we fill ourselves with warm quiche, Caesar salad, croissants, and homemade pastries.  Yum!

To top it off, we hit the 3-story M&M store.  There, to Mom's dismay, we snap a bunch of selfies.  If Sam's job is to help us goof off, Mom's job is to keep us in line!

And I guess my job is to get us where we're going.  I follow the addresses along 50th Street until we locate the theater.

Found it!

The show, Fun Home, is excellent.  But to get there, we hike down a long staircase from the lobby to the theater, and then another to the restrooms on yet a lower level.  Inside the theater, an usher motions us up a third set of stairs, then down a fourth flight toward the stage.  "Watch the trapdoors," he says.

Climbing stairs without railings?  Hard.
Avoiding trapdoors?  Easy!

We're this close!
When we finally sit down, we're one row behind the orchestra, and our view is great.  My leg, though, has a few complaints.  The seats are too deep and springy, and angled all the wrong way.  Plus we're trapped.  To escape during the show, we'd have to walk across the stage!

Normally, I'd feel cornered and maybe even panicked.  But with Sam next to me, I'm cool.  We open our bag of M&M's -- which turns out to be much too crinkly for the quiet theater.  This launches us into silent giggles just as the stage darkens.

After the show, I head down to the restroom for a major socket adjustment.  As I peel off layers -- pants, valve, socket, and liner -- the bustling bathroom goes still.  The post-show crowd has come and gone, and I'm left fumbling in the silence.  I rush to clean my liner, re-apply AdaptSkin, spray the seals with alcohol, and roll it all back on again.  I hear the cleaning crew come in and my mom, positioned at the door, tell them, "Someone's still in there."

I wish I could laugh it off, but I'm embarrassed.  And vulnerable.  And clumsy.

Mom and I eventually resurface in the lobby, where Sam is waiting.  As usual, she holds the punchline.  While I was doing my socket scramble, she got to watch every cast member come out in person.  Win-win!

We make the trip back down Broadway to 7th Avenue, pushing through the crowds toward Penn Station.  None of us wants the day to end.  It's too good to be together!

My socket's poking again, of course.  (Changing in a public bathroom is rarely a success.)  But I ignore it, and lead us to Track 12 where our train home awaits.

We mind the gap.  Find seats together.

Sam and I break out the M&M's and snap some more selfies.  Mom rolls her eyes a few times, but really, she loves every minute.  We do too!

We're all still laughing when we roll into Trenton.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Walk It Out 2015

Mile Marker 3300:

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
-- Christopher Reeve

The gym is full of heroes.

There's Ernie on the LT machine next to me.

Charmaine and Jeff on the treadmill behind me.

And Mark, ready to save the day when I sweat out of my prosthetic socket!

Magee therapists surround us, working patients' legs, stretching their bodies, and spotting them when they walk.  They're heroes as well, doing what they do best -- helping us find a way back to the life that was ours.

Magee Rehabilitation is one of the only hospitals in the area that offers Locomotor Training (LT), a specialized, labor-intensive therapy that helps people with brain and spinal cord injuries learn to walk again.  Just one LT session requires at least 4 therapists, a computer, a specially-designed treadmill, and an anchored harness system.

But LT is much more than equipment and staff.  It takes coordination.  Strength.  Discipline.  Endurance.  Trust.  The therapists use their own muscles to move and train the muscles of their patients.

It's like they've got superpowers!

WALK IT OUT supports the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and the NeuroRecovery Network, which supplies vital funding and resources for Magee's LT Program.   It's powered by the belief that we can WALK TO VICTORY over paralysis.

We all have a hero inside us!
What Superman taught us about heroes makes it all possible.

I have never seen a therapy so powerful or effective.

In the 3 years I've participated in Walk It Out, I've watched my friends go from hanging in their harness, virtually unweighted, to walking on the treadmill completely on their own!

Last year...

This year!!!

As for me, I spend the day treadmill-hopping.  For this 24-Hour Step-A-Thon, the treadmills must move at all times.  So I do my part to keep them going!

Miles rack up quickly.  There's so much to see.  Heroics wherever I look.

And fun too!

I rock out with PT Mary, like we're on stage high above the crowd.

PT Kristen shows up along with her entire bridal party -- on her wedding day!  Now that's dedication!

Mid-afternoon, Ian and I buddy up for a mile or two.

And friends Donna and Jenn stop by to celebrate the homestretch!

We all keep walking as the hours go by.  At 4:00, my Fitbit reads 8.80 miles, and I realize I'm making some progress of my own.

If I keep going, could I really walk 10 MILES in one day?!

The Walk It Out clock ticks down to its final hour.  I climb onto my 3rd treadmill, and PT Liz comes over to set the speed.

"You know we only have till 5:00, right?" she jokes.

(As if I could walk more!)

My right foot is aching.  My socket is soupy with sweat.

"Boost it up,"  I say.

Then I start walking again.

This event -- more than any other -- reminds me what a PRIVILEGE it is to put one foot in front of the other.  I keep walking until the very last second.


Thank you Superman.  Thank you Magee.

And thanks to all our heroes who never stop believing in this long WALK TO VICTORY.

To support this life-changing program (and get your "5 Years Strong" t-shirt!), please click here

Thank you so much!