Wednesday, April 28, 2010


A great BIG Thank You to everyone who has supported my campaign so far. I'd like to extend a special thanks to the staff at Seal Press who have been so generous as well as my friendly neighbors in the Columbia neighborhood!

So far we have raised enough for about three and a half legs. I am determined to raise enough money for 100 people to get a new leg.

When I received my first leg I was fortunate; I didn't have to live on crutches for years before getting a leg. Each time I get a new leg there's a similar feeling: relief and gratefulness that something so simple can drastically change my life. Some people who know me and the challenges I've had getting a good fitting leg the past three years ask why I don't just use crutches and forget the leg. Are you kidding?

My aging body has taught me one thing well. Each part of our body is there for a reason. Take one part away and the rest of the body has to compensate. And in that compensation we pay a price. If I were to use crutches for many years I would suffer the ramifications: arthritis, tendinitis, or bursitis would likely develop in my hands, wrists or shoulders. Besides, using crutches is damned inconvenient.

I think of people in developing countries who have to carry water or a baby or firewood without wearing a prosthetic leg. Many simply can't because of the physical difficulty which means they aren't contributing members of their families or their communities. The satisfaction that comes from being an active community member can't be found in a credit card. It's found in the leg that carries them through the streets of their village.

People are pretty much the same everywhere. When we see someone who's different, we can't help but look. Even I do it. When I get stared at on crutches, the looks are far different than the looks I get when I'm wearing a prosthetic leg. It's the difference between separation and connection; it's the difference between pity and admiration. When I wear my prosthetic leg in public, I'm a part of the two-legged world. When I use crutches, I'm apart from that world. I'm always going to be looked at as different - I AM different. That's OK with me. Just let me stay connected.

I want to make sure that 100 people feel like contributing members of their communities and feel connected to their world.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Henry David Thoreau, in his essay titled, Walking, explained that the word Saunter comes "from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "there goes a Sainte-Terre," a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander.

I like to think of myself as a saunterer, even though my image of someone who saunters is more of a meanderer than I. When I go for my daily walk, I have a goal to walk a mile and while it's not to the Holy Land, I find that I do travel to the holy land of my heart. I may be walking with my husband and talking about the kids or our respective days or I may be walking alone, listening to my "spirit" music on my Ipod. It doesn't really matter. Getting outside for a walk connects me to nature, the changing seasons, my husband, and myself. Walking keeps me in touch with my body that changes daily.

For years I looked outside myself for that which is Holy. If age has taught me anything, it's the understanding that the Holy exists as much within me as it does outside of me. I experience holiness in the quiet solitude of my morning coffee as much as I do sitting next to the ocean. And now, as I walk every day, I find my inner experience is every bit as holy as the blooming of the lilacs.

And, like the saunterers in the Middle Ages, I, too, am asking for money. But not for myself. Money so that others may have the experience of finding their own Holy moments as they walk through life.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Such a Deal

How can I NOT raise money for this organization when they can make a leg for $300?

Thirty two years ago, just after my accident, my first prosthetic leg cost about $15,000.00. Though insurance covered the bill, I couldn't help but compare the cost of my new leg to the cost of my new car just a few years later: $18,000.00. It wasn't a fancy car, but it certainly wasn't a clunker, either. I had that car for eight years and loved it.

Every four or five years I have a new prosthetic leg made. Changes in my body and worn out parts both dictate when it's time to be fitted for a new leg. With each new leg there are new products on the market to consider: feet, knees, and sockets. Until recently, I have usually picked middle of the road parts; I wanted reliability and function mixed with a little bit of the state-of-the-art technology, like a Honda.

With my most recent leg I decided to go for the gusto and get the Mercedes of all knees. I am now walking on (a chorus of angels, please) the "C-Leg". This knee is amazing. They say it feels like getting your leg back again. It doesn't, but it does allow me to walk down stairs like a two-legged person. It allows me to walk across uneven ground, like on grass or a dirt path, with full confidence that I won't fall. The knee does so much of the work for me, making sure it doesn't buckle from underneath me. I plug my leg in every night to re-charge the internal battery. The leg has a sensor which reads, about 50 times a second, where I'm putting my weight and adjusts the knee accordingly. And the leg rotates at the ankle, which may not sound like much, but to stand still and twist my body without torque on my back is a huge deal.

But there is a price for this technology. The leg I'm walking on now costs $50,000.00. Most insurance companies cover the C-Leg because of its ability to reduce falls (and any associated hospital bills as a result), and mine was no exception.

When I heard that the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation makes each of their legs for $300 I wondered how they do it. I wondered how shoddy these legs are. I wondered how comfortable they can possibly be for a mere $300. I saw one of these legs a few weeks ago when I was at the POF office in Seattle. The leg, typical of the many legs made for people in Vietnam or Sierra Leone was amazing. The knee is a spring, the foot is a basic rubber foot, but sturdy and tough, which is important in countries where people often go barefoot. The socket looked much like mine; they are made in the same way as mine and great care is taken to ensure that they fit properly. The leg was lightweight which keeps it comfortable and the rest of one's body aligned properly.

POF doesn't make the legs, they send volunteer prosthetists to teach people who live in these countries how to make them. Folks in these countries even manufacture the parts, keeping the costs low. But more importantly, it keeps the prosthetic industry in these countries sustainable.

I know that the leg I walk on is vastly different than the legs made for folks in developing countries. I know I come from such privilege. Everything about my world is so different than that of someone in rural Vietnam. But we do share the need to be upright and walking on a comfortable, functional leg.

I know a good deal when I see one. These legs are not only a good deal for the folks who wear them, but they are a good deal for the countries who make them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Connection through Pain

I have been surprised at how much pain I have walking my daily mile. Before starting this new goal I took about ten days off from my daily walk. When I started walking again after my short hiatus, the pain returned. Sometimes the pain is the vice-grip pain I had at the beginning of January; sometimes the pain is because my skin is being rubbed raw in unmentionable places. I've been quite discouraged.

And then I think of the people I'm walking for. I think of their pain. I think of their inability to walk and the complications and pain that causes. I remember the homemade prosthetic legs I saw at the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation office, legs made in Vietnam and Sierra Leone. One was made out of pieces of bamboo held together by strips of fabric. Another was made out of metal. When I held those prosthetics I teared up with sadness and compassion. I can't believe people actually walk on something so ill-fitting. Those legs prove how desperate people are to walk. The least I can do, I think, is walk my mile, regardless of my pain.

But there's something that doesn't sit right with me about comparing myself to others and contrasting their pain with mine. What does that really accomplish but create a hierarchy of pain? Too many times I have heard people say to me, "I can't complain about my pain to you, not after what you've been through." Why not? Just because I had pain, and still do, doesn't mean others can't experience pain - and even whine about it. I think of pain as a multi-faceted crystal. Though the inside of the crystal doesn't change, how we view the pain changes, depending on which facet we're looking through. My pain doesn't negate anyone else's pain, nor does it in any way lessen their pain. Do does the pain of an amputee in Vietnam reduce my pain on my daily walk? No, it doesn't.

What does happen, though, when I think of the amputees I'm walking for, is that I am encouraged and strengthened when I think of them. I know that somewhere, deep within their soul, they find a way to endure and continue on through their pain because, most likely, they simply have to. When I think of their ability to walk through their pain I feel like I'm tapping into the vibrational strength their courage sends out into the universe. I don't feel a separation from them, which comparing and contrasting causes. Rather, I feel a connection with them, a bond. We share the experience of amputee pain. Our daily lives may be entirely different from each other, but we share the bond of our pain.

So when I walk, when I feel pain, when I think of the amputees I'm walking for, I'm calling on their strength, I'm connecting with their courage. And in that connection, my step becomes a little lighter.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

100 Miles, 100 Days, 100 Legs!

I want to announce my new goal: I am walking one hundred miles. I’ll take a hundred days to do it, but I’m walking one mile a day for one hundred days. I’m doing this to raise $30,000.00, enough money for the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation to provide one hundred prosthetic legs for people in developing countries.

A mile a day might not sound like much, but for those of you who have followed my journey since January, you know that I couldn’t even walk around the block at the beginning of the year. My goal three months ago was to be able to walk a mile by the end of seven weeks. Well, I surpassed that goal and am feeling the freedom and expansiveness that only comes from a life of mobility. Now walking a mile is my daily goal.

After completing my first goal, I wanted to continue walking but, more importantly, I wanted to get outside myself and support other amputees to feel some of the same freedom and joy that I feel. I saw an article about the Prosthetic Outreach Foundation and their work in Haiti after their devastating earthquake. The POF works in developing countries to teach local people how to manufacture parts for prosthetic legs and how to make the legs themselves. They teach self-reliance. The stories of the individuals who have benefited from their help are heart-wrenching. And while I cannot pretend to relate to a man whose leg was cut off by a machete in a war-torn country, I can relate to his joy at having a leg that provides him the mobility and freedom to open up his world again.

The ability to walk is a basic human need, especially for folks in developing countries where walking is directly related to one's ability to earn a living or go to school. Stories abound at the POF about people who are able to rejoin their communities because of their ability to walk again.

I want to help 100 people experience the joy that I feel. I want to help 100 people open up their world again. And I’d love it if you could help me. No amount is too small. Each leg costs only $300 so every little bit adds up quickly.

I'll be blogging periodically about my goal. I'd love for you to follow my next journey.

There’s a Donate button at the top of my blog that will take you directly to my fund-raising page for the Prosthetic Outreach Foundation. Thank you so much for stepping up and supporting one hundred people to regain their mobility.