I'm enjoying these introductory picture teasers. Runners?
Last night I attended my first amputee support group and this morning, because of that meeting, Brooke and I have put a team together for a 5k race on September 22nd.
I don't even have a leg yet! Here's how it happened.
Rebecca Dean, from Dr. Attinger's Center for Wound Healing, is the group's organizer. She just returned from the Amputee Coalition of America's National Conference in Florida with fresh enthusiasm and ideas to expand the group beyond a monthly meeting in a hospital.
Before the meeting she asked if I would speak to the group about my story, why I decided to get an amputation, the blog and ultimately how Brooke and I have tried our best to make snowboarding into a tree a positive and humorous experience.
It was an easy sell. Of course I was in!
I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with everyone individually after speaking to the group — amputees, nurses from Dr. Attinger's office, new and old amputees, and even Dr. Steinberg and some of his med students (who were either required to attend, seeking extra credit, or were hunting for the free food). Dr. Steinberg is an Associate Professor of Plastic Surgery at Georgetown and Co-Director of the Center for Wound Healing.
I was blown away by how diverse the group was and realized every single person in that room had dealt with an insane amount of adversity. I'm talking about the "you had better be sitting down for this" type of adversity.
I tried to speak with as many people as I could one-on-one. But there was one couple that Rebecca introduced us to, Joe and Jenny, that I've continued to think about since last night. Like me, it was their first time to attend the support group. I can't remember how long we spoke to one another. I was enthralled with their story. Joe's had thirteen surgeries to salvage his left heel. It was destroyed in a work accident two years ago. He's in pain. All day. Every day. Do you remember me telling you how happy I was to be taking 600 mg of Gabapentin (Neurontin)? He takes 2100 mg a day, along with morphine. Joe can't walk. He rocks out in a wheelchair.
The good news? He's a Redskins fan.
Joe doesn't have an amputation yet. He's only considering it. And you could tell an amputation was a more frightening prospect for Joe to consider than continued years of surgeries, hospital stays, and life in a wheelchair.
It's that classic Hard Decision many of us have had to face.
Joe, Jenny, Brooke and I hung out well after everyone else had left and kept sharing our experiences with one another. We exchanged information so we could stay in touch. As a couple, it's tough to go through recoveries like this. It's even harder to do it alone!
Harry "Super H" Freedman
I also had a chance to meet Harry Freedman, also known as Super H. He's an above-knee amputee and sees Elliot at Orthotic Prosthetic Center as well. In fact, Harry mentioned he'd heard about me during one of his visits at OPC.
In 2004, at the age of 54, an 18-ton front loader backed over Harry's leg. Up until the accident, Harry was extremely active — biking, running, and swimming. According to this Washington Post article, in response to his accident, his awesome friends and family "raised $40,000 to defray the cost of prosthetic cycling and running legs by organizing a five-kilometer race, dubbed the Super H in honor of Freedman's Superman-like recovery."
The race is called the Super H 5k Run Walk & Wheel. Proceeds from donations to teams go to the Washington chapter of BlazeSports, an organization that runs free sports leagues for adults and children with disabilities.
What an awesome event! So to officially kick-off my life as an amputee, this morning Brooke and I signed up for the race. If you'd like to join our team, you can sign up to race with us here. Or if you can't walk, wheel, or run the race, but you'd like to contribute to the cause, please feel free to make a small contribution!
I know I don't have a leg yet. But there's a dude that crutches the entire Super H 5k every year! And Harry said the course is not easy.
I hope I get to meet this guy!
I have no idea how well I'll be able to walk by September, but I was inspired by the support group and all of the stories I heard — including Joe's and Super H's unique stories. So I had to take the plunge!
Not to be disrespectful to the Super H 5k shirt, but the Snowboarder vs. Tree team is totally going to have our own awesome and custom racewear.