11 March 2008: Ending on a High Note!

Category: General
Posted by: mike
I've been an AKA for a year now and to be perfectly honest I don't recommend it. That said, thing aren't all that bad, I even have a little fun with it sometimes. I am thinking I might change my trail name to "Also Known As" for the 2009 hike but I really like "Oxymoron" too. What to do?

Wednesday (5th) 8:00am - Pat armed with C-leg software, joined Emily and me at PT for a leg tune-up. As I began to pick up speed and gait length, the C-leg would swing forward to knee lock way before my heel would touch ground (knee lock should happen slightly after heel strike). They walked up and down the halls with me to get a handle on the problem. The cord that connects Pat's computer to the C-leg is only about 8ft long and the C-leg micro-processor has six variables that interact dynamically. The best way to accomplish a true dynamic tune-up is on a tread mill. We started at a brisk but comfortable 2 mph. At 2.7 mph things started to get a little dicey. Pat adjusted some parameters and Emily bumped up the speed. 2.8, 2.9, adjust, bump, 3.0, 3.1, adjust, bump, 3.2, take a break, drink some water, crank it up, 3.3, adjust, bump, 3.4, and at 3.5 mph things got a little dicey again. This time the leg was spot on, I was becoming exhausted, so we shut it down. That exercise took about 25 minutes. We took one more walk down the hall and back just to verify the sets were still as good off the tread mill and the session was about over. Normally (if there is such a thing in my world) at the end of a session, I would remove the leg and Emily would examine my stump for signs of skin breakdown. This routine is necessary because I have not developed surface sensitivity on the graft skin yet. We were out of time and my leg felt really good, so we skipped the exam this time.

Went to work, got home about 6:00, popped the leg off and found a pretty good size blister just below the pelvic bone structure that forms the hip socket. I'm not too excited, expected this to happen eventually. This was nothing even close to the blisters Maine Dish had at Neal's Gap.

Friday (7th, blizzard day) - Went to work Friday and opted to give the stump the day off. The weather was really bad and the parking lot was super slick. I got about two steps from the car and the crutches slid out and down I went. Again, once I realized I couldn't save it, the "controlled descent mode" kicked in and ended with a soft sloppy sprawl in the slush. Sharon (our receptionist)saw it happen and called Travis (plant manager). Travis came out immediately to lend a hand. The only thing injured was my pride - which has been so beat-up it's about as numb as my stump. Grabbed the trusty lap top and lesson in humility and headed home.

Due to the bad weather, Pat (Hanger) called me in early to recast my stump to make the new liner which is step one in the new socket process. He said my blister was just that and did not qualify as a more serious skin breakdown condition. He informed me that he was leaving Hanger at end of next week. Today just was not a good news day. We civilians are losing another good practitioner to the VA. Can't bitch, the vets really need all the good people they can get. Good luck Pat, you and your wealth of experience will be missed. I am sure Paul (he was in the test socket pictures) will pick-up the ball.

Weather was serious (level 3 alert) crap all weekend, laid low and had a two day pajama party with Bonnie. Just exactly what the blisters (plural it turned out) needed.

The Monday after the time change (10th) - March 12th of 2007, AKA day, was also a Monday that followed the time change. My one year anniversary PT session at a very early 8:00am went extremely well. We walked with an interesting little twist. Emily got her hands on a metronome. The objective was to have the heel of each foot touch down on every other tic. Tic, tic, tic, down the hall, down the steps, tic, tic, out side, down ramps, up ramps, tic, tic, back to the PT gym, over the foam pad between the parallel bars (look mom no hands), tic, tic, onto the tread mill at 2.5 mph, tic, tic... Even did the "gait analyzer mate" in time with the tics. We didn't want to press our luck with blisters too much. Did the stump exam and finished up early.

which is the C-leg?

C-leg in swing phase

C-leg in stance phase

Emily setting up the tread mill

Emily setting up the gait analyzer

I was declared a graduate and ready start working more on my own. My therapy sessions are back to once a week immediately and maybe even every other week in April. Future sessions will deal with issues that arise with the new socket and the edges of the C-leg performance envelope that I'm sure to bump into frequently.

Tuesday 11th - Was invited to participate in a PR/educational film to introduce Drake Center's outpatient services. As Emily introduced me to individual members of the film crew and PR staff the reaction was almost the same with everyone. Is this "Appalachian Trail Mike"? The lady that conducted the filmed interview asked "why are you in therapy?". Emily chimed right in, "AKA, missing leg", then a slightly embarrassed, "Oh, I didn't know", and the off camera pre-interview commenced. I also removed the zip-off pant leg to make the C-leg visible and showed off on the tread mill at 3 mph for a few minutes. At the end of filming, Emily (beaming with pride) said she thought that was a truly fitting way to wrap-up your first year as an AKA.

All things considered not a bad "first year". My Heart Felt Thanks to all—family, friends, co-workers, medical teams, physical fitness trainers, insurance coordinators, bloggers, etc. Wish I could thank every person by name that has made an impact on my recovery this past year, but there are just so many of you.

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Matt Clark wrote:

Hey buddy it's your favorite co-worker here! So it's that time of year.... so much time has gone by.... so many new memories and faces.... so all that's left to say is Happy Birthday!!!.... Shit wrong day!.... I mean.... Way to lose an extra 30lbs instantly!!!.... Shit, you lost your leg that's cheating.... what really I meaning to say is happy anniversary and a DAMN fine job on accomplishing what many said you couldn't.... NO RESTRICTIONS WITHIN THE FIRST YEAR!!!!! You did it buddy and we're all proud of you!!!

P.S. Wow you lucked out, Emily is one cute trainer!
-- 12 March 2008 14:03:31

Don Williams wrote:

I am amazed at the recovery. I do not think a lesser man could have progressed as far as fast. Keep up the good work.
By the way, your nemesis has been out of commision for a few days due to steering cylinder breakage. Had an even bigger one in. At least it came with it's own driver.
-- 12 March 2008 15:00:24

Bessie wrote:

Congrats Mike on a long hard year. I know you like to make us think it wasn't difficult but we know it was. You have made amazing progress and Tom and I are really proud of you. We feel blessed to have you as a friend. You will be a great Grandpa!! Tell Ruthie we send our love and congratulations.
-- 12 March 2008 15:18:15

Rick Stanford wrote:

My hat is off to you. I have never seen such a speedy recovery from such a devastating injury. The rehab had to have been tuff, but obviously, so are you. Your daughters are amazing, you should be proud. Even in adversity, they kept their sense of humor. While you were in the Elvis Presley Trauma Center, one of them quipt, "You know, there is something seriouly wrong naming a hospital after a rock and roll singer - it could only happen in the south" She was right. You don't hear of the likes of Janis Joplin Maternity Ward of Toledo.
-- 12 March 2008 15:51:28

erin wrote:

Love you, Dad..

Don: Sorry to hear that Dad's nemesis is having such a tough time-- I can only assume it's feeling a little remorse for its behavior last year.

Rick: I remember that, and I still think it's bizarre. ink
-- 12 March 2008 20:44:33

bonniehoward wrote:

I've been thinking about you a lot this week, Mike; what a helluva journey you have taken this past year. I may be dense, but what is the "AKA"(also known as?) thing all about? I don't get how it relates to your accident. You're an inspiration (I know you must be tired of hearing that, but it's true) and you are going to kick serious butt (bionically of course) as a grandpa. I hope Ruthie is at the stage of pregnancy where she's feeling like a million bucks. BTW, when I heard the Elvis Presley comment I knew it had to be Erin. Happy Anniversary !!!!
Bonnie H
-- 13 March 2008 18:34:01

mike wrote:

Yeah! Another question. Thanks Bonnie, I really love questions. For me, it's an easy entry, just answer it. "Above the Knee Amputee" and "Also Known As" - a little play on actonyms. Your not the first to ask that. In the world I reside in, the acronym is used so exclusively it didn't even occur to me that some folks may not know what it means. What did you think of my latest splat on the slush? A step up from that bitty little flop you witnessed. We have come a long way. Thanks again for everything, give my love to all.
-- 13 March 2008 22:14:20

Jen Kennedy wrote:

While driving home from work yesterday, I saw a bumber sticker "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do" -- I thought of you instantly. A year ago, Erin, Ruth, Bonnie, Chris and I (Rodney too!)were all sitting in a hospital named after a rock-and-roll singer -- who would've thunk a year later we would see you conquer the waves of Cape Hatteras and the slopes of Brandywine!
What's next? Water skiing on Lake Hess??

Uncle Mike, you are my hero! I love you!

-- 13 March 2008 22:25:27

Jen Kennedy wrote:


I think you should take the second picture (C-leg in stance phase) enlarge it and mail it to the Memphis trauma center. On the back, sign it - "The tow-motor guy"

I like it because you're holding your head up high and have the look of "nothing can stop me now!"
-- 13 March 2008 22:32:31

erin wrote:

I second that thought, Jen!!
-- 13 March 2008 22:34:12

ruthie wrote:

Me too!!! Great idea! Metro has been able to see your progress with their own eyes, but the last time anyone from Memphis saw you, you were still spending more time than not in the "morphine room"
-- 14 March 2008 08:48:34

ruthie wrote:

I did have one question for you. When you hike the AT (and yes, I say "when" with confidence), will you use the C-leg, a less fancy non-electronic leg, or a combination of both?
-- 14 March 2008 08:51:25

Adam Sears wrote:

Wanted to first tell you THANK YOU for making my job so rewarding and allowing myself and Overload to be a huge part of your rebuilding process. Not only do you come in with a smiling face (after a 1.5 hour drive) and news of progress every week but you always push yourself to the limit each and every session. It has been a honor to be your trainer and i am excited to continue onward to see what your strength capabilities really are as I know you are not even close to peaking... I look forward to the future expeditions and stories that come from your experiences. Take care and i will see you Monday at 11 for your ass kicking!!!
-- 14 March 2008 16:32:58

bonniehoward wrote:

Mike, Doh!
My heart went out to you reading about your slushy splat. I also like Jenny's idea about sending a treadmill photo to the good folks at the Memphis Trauma Center. All too often in situations like this the medical staff never know the "end of the story." I'm sure they'd be tickled to see how happy your end has been (joke there somewhere....).
-- 14 March 2008 17:37:11

mike wrote:

Ok, Ok, I'll do it. Erin - do still have the address? Jen is 8 x 11 what you had in mind?

Ruthie, Good question. Yes, the plan is to use the C-leg. The C-leg was recommended for energy efficiency, relative light weight, and multi terrain capability. An 18 year old AKA just completed the AT last summer on a C-leg. I have question about battery life and how to negotiate the really steep stuff. I appreciate the vote of confidence but the AT is not viable yet. There are a ton of show stoppers (some of which I have no control) that I haven't even started to deal with yet. I'm not backing off just want to keep expectation realistic.
-- 14 March 2008 21:24:32

mike wrote:

Thanks Adam, what I really need right now, is another lesson in humility. Does Overload have a fat head squasher.
-- 14 March 2008 21:41:01
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