I like to keep moving. As an amputee, that means putting the pedal to the metal every single day.
It drives me into the ground sometimes. My prosthetist Tim says above-knee amputees use at least 60 percent more energy to walk than people with two legs. Imagine if your car used 60 percent more gas, or if you lost 40 percent of your engine!
We gotta FLOOR IT if we want to keep up!
That’s why September 2, 2011 was such a memorable day. I got my first turbo boost – the Genium.
It’s a bionic knee that’s truly ground-breaking. It enables movement that most people take for granted — like stepping over a child’s toy or climbing a flight of stairs — feats usually impossible for above-knee amputees.
For me, the Genium had yet another benefit. It was shorter than my first prosthesis. That left space for a rotator, a tiny switch that would enable me to bend my knee in multiple directions. For the last 6 months I’d been removing my WHOLE LEG just to tie my shoe!
Prosthetist Tim aligned the Genium on my socket and started programming. That’s when things really picked up speed…
“So,” he said, eyes glued to the laptop screen, “we want a mode for skating, right?”
Inline skating was my passion! I shifted into overdrive!
We started examining the angles of the knee. How far should it bend for skating? At what point should it lock? Without muscles in the lower leg, I’d need resistance to push against with each stride.
I stood at Tim’s desk in my sneakers, shorts, and shiny new Genium. I bent my knees again and again, trying to remember those skating positions that used to come so naturally.
“How’s that angle?” Tim asked over and over again.
“…I’m not sure,” I said finally. “Can we try it with my skates on?”
He raised his eyebrows. “You have them with you?”
(Well, of course! They’d been in the trunk of my car for almost a year. I was hoping I’d need them!)
That’s when I shifted into CRUISE CONTROL.
I geared up in a hurry – like I was scrambling to get ready to skate with my friends. (Notice how the rotator let me bend my knee!)
Then I stood there on the carpet of Tim’s office, with my skates tied tightly and my wrist guards fastened.
“Ok,” Tim said from across the room. “Go!”
I just stood there gripping the wall.
“Any directions?” I asked. Tim was usually full of words of wisdom. Big step with your right, small step with your left, swing your arms, breathe…
This time, he disguised a nervous laugh. “Um….Skate?”
I was his first inline skater.
Somehow I started PROPELLING myself back and forth across the room. I wasn’t skating. I wasn’t walking. But at least I was moving!
Gait belt tight, I stepped, staggered, tripped, and tumbled as we worked out the kinks. Slowly, instinct began to take over. This road was familiar even if the vehicle wasn’t. And an hour or so later, I did resemble a beginning skater! WHOO-HOO!
For half a year, I’d been learning to walk with a prosthesis. Each step felt foreign. But skating was different. With wheels on my feet, I realized my inner GPS was alive and well — and trying to steer me home.
You could call this Recovery Road. It’s mostly uphill, and there are more potholes than I’d like to admit. Traffic jams are the rule rather than the exception. And unfortunately Easy-Pass just doesn’t exist.
Still, there are some days – though they may be few and far between – when passion takes over and cruise control is possible.
In those moments, it’s just FULL SPEED AHEAD!
Want to see my first day back on skates? Watch me!
Rebecca has been writing her own blog, A Thousand Miles since 2011.
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