I’m Eileen Miller, born in Saint Marys, Pennsylvania to a wonderful mother Gloria and father Robert Sr. I was raised with Family at the forefront of my mind since I lost my mother at a very young age of 13. I have three sisters: Marilyn, Sandy, Judy and four brothers Robert Jr, Andy, Chris, and James. We range in ages from 40-54, and I am the second youngest. From being a truck driver I managed to juggle travelling cross country to 47 out of 48 states with spending quality family time; honoring my families past-time.
I joined the CA National Guard at the age of 35 on September 12, 2007 and was stationed in Sacramento, CA then deployed with a unit from Madera, CA. I went to basic training at Fort Jackson, SC in October 2007 and at Fort Bliss, Texas. I joined the military as an 88m a Motor Transport Operator. I signed up to be deployed in August 2008 to Iraq. We started training to leave in July 2008 and left for Kuwait in August. There we trained more and then headed over to Iraq in October 2008. While in Iraq I was a driver of a MRAP and we did convoy escort. We were stationed at COB Speicher right outside of Tikrit Iraq. I learned a lot of wonderful things over there. I learned how to rely on other people for my safety and to have their backs at the same time. I met so many people in the unit I was deployed with. I still have those friendships today. We are still watching over each other.
It was the evening of October 28th 2009, an I was on my to Fort Bragg from Sacramento I hit a snow storm and I was involved in a 19-vehicle pile up outside of Wyoming. A truck jack-knifed on a bridge whilst I was in my truck, and people were in need of assistance. As a former EMT, I felt the urge to get out to help. I went to a tractor trailer behind my pickup to try and notify the other trucks that there was an accident in front of them. When all of a sudden a truck came rushing towards me I tried to jump in the semis front seat but didn’t make it. I was hit by the front wheel of the truck where my left leg was amputated on scene. I passed out for a while after that. I was put in my pickup while people waited for emergency services to get to the accident scene. A wonderful gentlemen by the name of John Binford found me and directed the paramedics to help me. He stayed with me while we waited for other ambulances came to help the injured. I was transported to Cheyenne Regional Hospital where some amazing people helped take care of me. My accident was one of 279 accidents that day from the freak snowstorm that shut down 5 states. To this day he is my guardian angel. We exchange Christmas presents and stay in contact regularly. Without his help, I don’t know if I’d be here to this day. He spent 13 days in hospital with me by my bedside. I also stay in contact with the nurses that helped save my life that day through Facebook and I go out to visit everyone every few years. My daughter Alyssa and brother Andy had the pleasure of meeting everyone about 2 years ago.
I was moved to the Cheyenne WY VA for another 7 days to finish my recovery and wait to have my stitches removed before I was able to fly home and be with my family. I was sent to my first prosthetic appointment at the beginning of December when I was moved back to the Pennsylvania VA to be nearer my family. From there, the rehab was fast, I was up and mobile in 3 days on a walker after my accident. This was incredible progress for me as I was terrified I’d never be able to walk again. I was put straight into a hard plastic socket the I wore for about 6 months, but the sores my socket generated on my residual limb forced me to give up walking for three years. The reality struck that my mobility may never be the same again, prompting my journey through severe depression that lasted for over 3 years and still to this day I battle each and every day but trying to get better.
Depression is a horrible place, but one amputees and Veterans experience regularly. Fortunately for me, my family guided me out of depression and once my granddaughter Zoe was born in March 2015 I realized something had to be done. I went to see my prosthetist, Mark Hinton at Allegheny Orthotics and Prosthetics where he made my second socket in December 2014. I’d gained a lot of weight due to my lack of movement and the medication I was taking for the phantom pains and health issues associated with being an amputee which was affecting my confidence.
My nephew Justin pointed out that I needed to start talking to people to get back in the swing of things. We went out for drinks (of course non alcoholic for me) where I met an amazing man named Mark. He only lived 15 miles away from me and only worked less than 2 miles from where I lived. He drove past my house 5 days a week. It was like fate that I met him when I did. Now my partner of over 2 years Mark Zuraski has never been bothered by my leg and when I approached him at the bar he was so friendly. Nervous about the thoughts of what he would say regarding my prosthesis, Upon explaining I had a prosthetic, he showed the attitude I’d been longing for, and said “yea so” over the last 2 years we have done so many things together and me being an amputee has never gotten in the way of that.
In January 2016 I went in to talk about new sockets. I had asked for the Martin Bionics socket, but my Clinician recommended I tried the Infinite Socket, as there was no support in the other one. It took a bit for me to be approved for the Infinite socket as it had to be coded through Medicare for the Veterans hospital to use it for their patients. When we first tried to fit it after the casting it was to tall and the plastic cup just didn’t fit my sleeve even though we casted it with it on. So we had to try something else and that’s when he suggested I come back when he had one of the LIM clinicians out to help with the fit. At first I didn’t like the Infinite Socket, it kept rotating while walking and completing simple movements. It just didn’t work for me. However much I adjusted it, it kept causing me issues. I was on the verge of giving up on the socket, but realized my other option of stuffing my leg into a barrell was just not ideal.
After LIM’s clinician came out to help with my fit, the difference is incredible. I love the fact that the socket moves with my leg rather than fighting against it. It is so much more comfortable than an ordinary plastic socket. It is also so much easier to put on then the plastic socket. You know, I’m very proud to be alive after everything I’ve been through and done,but since i’ve gotten this leg I’ve moved more than I have down in the previous six years combined. I love having my freedom back.
In the future, I want to run and dance The funny thing is that I have always hated running but I really want to do it now but I love to dance. I believe it’s due to the fact that with any other leg, I didn’t have the mobility. What this leg has allowed me to do now though for the meantime, is the ability to go out there with my 19 month old granddaughter Zoe Jean and 21 year old daughter Alyssa Paige, and be myself. I’m free!
The time I spent in the military prior to my accident has shaped my life so much. I am here to live my life to the fullest. I waste no time. My daughter and I have done so much traveling since I came home. We have gone on cruises to Alaska, the western Caribbean, and Mexico. We have taken a 10 day-15 city tour around Europe as her graduation present 2 years ago. Now we are waiting to go to the last state that I haven’t been to yet. A beautiful trip to Hawaii is on my bucket list. Hopefully In the near future when my granddaughter is a bit older and the funds are available. I want to show her the world.