If someone were to ask me which was easier, loosing a leg or going through a divorce, I’d go back and loose my leg 10 times over. But as we all know, life is all about the curve balls and different paths we find, and I am confident I’ll move on with my life and be happy. It’s too short not to be right?
So, aside from all of that jazz, I’ve had a few pretty exciting adventures these past months. Guatemala, Ecuador, TX, GA, SC and of course, the ever great Colorado to name a few.
I throw Colorado in there because not only is it one of my favorite places in the entire world with all it has to offer and all my friends out there, but it’s got 52 of these gorgeous mountains that rise over 14,000 feet. In college I climbed a few of them, maybe 6, but since I lost my leg I’ve wanted so badly to get to the summit of another one. I got my chance in late Sep with my bff Tiffany and my incredibly awesome cousin Katie. The mountain, of choice, Mt Bierstadt, which is known to be one of the easiest ones. We were told it was 7 miles roundtrip and 5 hours would be a good time. Putting in some extra ‘leg’ time, I predicted we’d be down and back in about 6. We didn’t start until around 10am but we were off, Katie, Tiff, Jake and I, hiking poles in hand. It started great as the terrain isn’t to steep but the further we got, the steeper it got and we slowed quite a bit. Since I’m unable to propel myself over my left leg on steep inclines I have to do double the work with the right leg and do the occasional side step. Up and up we went above treeline and to the boulder fields. The boulders were a challenge and Jake was awesome, he would come down and hang out by the boulder with a frantic look on his face, trying to help, but not real sure what to do, and then run off once I got on top of it. As always, he proved to be the best and most loyal dog ever that day. Hours later we hit the summit and felt like we were on top of the world. Above the clouds and nothing but miles of mountain tops against the blue sky. It was incredible and a huge sense of accomplishment not to mention that mountain air is good for the soul. It ended up taking almost 7.5 hours but was well worth it. Climbing a mountain with the good weather, spectacular scenery, good conversation, even better friends and the world’s best dog seems like a cakewalk once we were done. I plan on that being the first of many I climb in my future days, but it was a special moment as we stood on that mountaintop. After the loss of my leg, I did always tell people I would climb mountains, I now I can actually live up to it.
My next stop was Guatemala. A 10 day trip with an organization called the Range of Motion project (ROMP) whose mission is to fit the people of Guatemala with prosthetic limbs that cannot afford them. This is a group that was started by a guy who used to work at the company I currently work at, Scheck and Siress prosthetics. ROMP has been around for the past 7 or 8 years and every October there is a big trip down there where a week is spent making limb after limb. I signed up months ago for the trip and when the time came I was more than ready to get away from all that was happening here, gain a little perspective on life and help a few people out along the way. ROMP is a sub group of another organization called Hearts in Motion and there were about 50 total volunteers with 8 of us that would be working with ROMP. We all met at various airports with the ultimate destination of Guatemela City and then a short bus trip to the town of Zacapa where we would be for the next 8 days. Every morning after a wonderful breakfast of beans and eggs, the 8 of us ‘ROMPsters’ would hop into this little micro bus and head to the prosthetic clinic which was located next to the main hospital. Keep in mind that this is a fully functioning, full time prosthetic clinic with full time employees. They see patients year round but during the weeks of these particular trips, the patient volume triples. The first day we pulled up at the clinic it was a little overwhelming as patients and their families were out the door waiting to see us. Over the next few days, we took a cast, modified and fit a total of 25 prosthetic patients. It was beyond incredible and as I am still a resident myself, the experience is unmatched. We typically stayed in the lab until 6 pm, once as late as 8:30 to finish all the work we had. All the work and long hours pays off when you see these guys and girls get up and walk out the door. The mentality there is so different. Someone comes in on crutches to get cast for a new leg. Within days they are walking out crutches in hand, with no complaints. Are they the best components, no. The latest and greatest materials, no. But it doesn’t matter. What matters to them is that we are helping give them back a life they may have thought was lost. My favorite patient was a man named Sabatino (I probably spelled that wrong) but it means, young one. This man was 86 years old and lost his arm in a sugar cane accident when he was 7. He had gone 79 years without an arm but he heard of the program and came into check us out. He was old, and wrinkled and looked a bit like Gandhi. He patiently sat there all day waiting his turn and when it finally came, at 4pm that day he slowly got up and walked over in his cowboy boots and hat. We helped him get his arm on and showed him how to open the hook. The smile he had when he opened it for the first time was priceless and I had to walk away as the tears came. 79 years without a hand and here he was learning about what he could do. That’s just one of many incredible stories from that week. And the team we had that week was just as incredible. I met some awesome people that I’ve continued to be in touch with and there couldn’t have been a more fun, inspiring atmosphere. My plan is to take a Spanish class and go back every year if I am able to.
When the week is over, the whole group went to Antigua for two days of sightseeing and R&R. Antigua is this modern, almost American like town in Guatemala. Cobblestone streets, historic landmarks, awesome
food, markets with the most colorful purses and scarves I have ever seen, awesome coffee and of course good people. It was a great end to my week as a ROMPster and I can’t wait until next year.
We said goodbye on a Sunday and my next stop was Ecuador. You’d think there would be a quick flight
from Guatemela to Ecuador but it turns out I had to go back north through TX only to go back south again. I
was going to Ecuador for a week vacation with my friend Dani and her husband Dave. Dani is from Ecuador and I met her when she did her Orthotic residency as Scheck and Siress. Her husband Dave is the one that started ROMP all those years back and they got married and now live in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, working at their own O&P shop. To sum it all up in one word, Quito= awesome. First the town itself. It’s set in the middle of these mountains so anywhere you look you get the most gorgeous view. Second, the surroundings. Dani was so kind to take off of work the whole week and hang out with me to make sure I got the most out of my trip. It was beyond cool. We went 2 hours one way and were way up in the mountains driving on the most gorgeous roads ever, passing the indigenous people of Ecuador in their almost bare feet, walking towards their mud homes with who knows how many pounds of grass or plants or food on their hunched over backs. Talk about an eye opener. That particular trip we went to this big crater that you were able to walk down into. We hiked about 40 min down and then took a mule back up. I loved every minute of it. The next day we drove 2 hours a different direction to the rainforest where we went zip lining through the forest. 6 zip lines, a small hike from one to the next and fresh lemonade at the end. FOR ONLY $15! Can you believe that? Then the next day we drove and shopped in the markets, the next day a trip to Old Town and climb the ladders to the top of the cathedral and I could go on and on and on. Overall it was such an incredible trip and both Dani and her husband Dave are two of the most wonderful, good- hearted people I have ever met. Not only do I hope to make it back to Guatemela, but Ecudaor too.
Back in Chicago now and back to work. Well work and a move into Chicago to my very own apartment ever. Talk about a big change which I’m learning to
Thanksgiving has already come and gone. I got to go to my parents and see my sister and her newest daughter, Charis. In times like these, I realize how important family and friends are and I realize that I have one of the most wonderful families ever. My sister Amanda, her husband Gavin, their 4 kids and my parents. I truly am a lucky girl.
Most recently, I was in TX for my second ever ½ marathon. This one was a little different, as I didn’t train, well, at all. I had big plans to train and be prepared but with all that was going on I did a cumulative 2.5 miles in the two months leading up to the race. Maybe I shouldn’t even admit that but who needs to train for 13.1 miles anyways? It actually ended up going great. They allowed Jake to run with me and he and I completed all 13.1 miles. I am learning that slow and steady is the way to go. In my first ½ in July I started out fast, finished extremely slow, lost two toenails and couldn’t walk for two days after. This one I went in with the attitude just to finish. Slow and steady, no lost toenails and I could even walk the next day. Success! It was no PR but I was happy with my time and gave me a much-needed renewed love of running. Even at mile 12 I was thinking, wow, I really like this. So of course I’m looking for the next one and hoping for a full marathon sometime next year.
As we end out the year I have learned once again that life is always full of surprises. As when I lost my leg, I look back and am so thankful for all that I’ve had and continue to have. I wouldn’t be where I am today with all the people and my soon to be ex husband by my side through the hardest of times. I will forever be thankful for him and my family and friends that are always at my side. Soon a new year will be among us. New year, new beginning right? And the more time that passes, the more I am looking forward to what it will bring. I say goodbye for now as a soon to be single, still strong and confident woman. Life can be tough but it’s how you persevere through the hard times that define who you are. And I’m as determined as ever to get through this bump in the road and come out better on the other side.
So until next time, until next year, PEACE OUT!