Thirty-five years ago I survived a tragic accident that sent my life in a new direction. I was 19 and took my first motorcycle ride with my boyfriend. We were broadsided by a car and catapulted over 30 feet into a ditch. My boyfriend was killed instantly; my head slammed into the windshield of the car which likely slowed my flight to the ditch and spared my life. I sustained many injuries, and my leg was essentially severed.
Back then prosthetics weren’t what they are today so rather than amputate my leg was salvaged. In that instant I went from dancing for 15 years, captain of my high school golf team, and running every day to disabled, disfigured, and struggling. I had numerous complications and surgeries, and a long recovery to get back to just painful walking. It was clear my future with my leg was going to be one of increasing pain, immobility, and disability. I’d had over 30 limb salvage surgeries before my amputation last year.
I have an amazing Prosthetist who built me a great new leg and taught me how to walk again. It was a lot harder than I expected. It takes a lot of concentration to walk properly after using crutches and a walker for many years. A Prosthetic can only do so much, the rest is up to us and the choices we make each day toward our recovery and physical goals. My Prosthetist also introduced me to many inspirational amputees and organizations: Dare2tri, Chicago Blade Runners, Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing. He built me a running blade that allowed me to run last year for the first time in over 34 years, which feels like a miracle.
I’m fortunate to be part of the LIM team in the Midwest, and was fit with a TT in May. It’s been incredibly exciting to be part of the development and evolution of the TT; not only in the materials used but in how we at LIM work together and respond to challenges and problems we’ve had in its development.
I have a carbon fiber foot, and the first thing that struck me when I tried my TT is a sensation similar to the dynamic energy response. It’s flexy when I walk!
I experience significant volume change throughout the day, and my TT accommodates it easily with a twist of my BOA. It’s become instinctual, so my prosthetic now feels even more a part of me; it has an intimate fit. The adjustability has also been helpful with perspiration, where rather than having to stop to dry out the perspiration from my liner so that my liner and leg don’t slip I just tighten it. I’m able to walk much farther before stopping.
I’ve experienced a challenge recently in my residual limb and it’s proven a real testament to the importance of the adjustability of the TT. I learned 4 weeks ago I fractured the ertl bridge in my residuum where my distal tibia connects my bone bridge. I am very active, and Dr. Ertl suspects microfractures developed over past months which culminated in a fracture.
With my Infinite TT I completed my first 5k last Sunday, despite having a broken leg! Though I walked rather than ran it was especially meaningful as my sister Caryn walked with me. Caryn is a touchstone as she reminds me how much we need each other to move forward through challenges. Caryn was there for me when I returned to college using crutches after my accident many years ago. She made sure so many practical aspects of life were taken care of. I’d hoped to run but walked due to injury, but it’s still a reminder that I’m doing so much better today with my prosthetic leg than I would be doing with the leg I had amputated a year ago. I don’t know where I’d be now without the support and encouragement of my friends and family.
Years ago I remember my Mom asking me if I wished the accident had never happened? I remember telling my Mom that I’d rather be who I am today than who I’d have been had it not happened. As Viktor Frankl wrote, “What is to give light must endure burning”. I have had many bright lights in my life since my accident. With the leg we saved I was able to walk, and have 4 wonderful pregnancies that resulted in 4 beautiful healthy children. I now have 4 wonderful grandchildren too :). They motivate me each day to be and do the best I can. I’ve been given an opportunity to appreciate life, health, and relationships in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. I am the luckiest unlucky person I know.