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On Wednesday, after an extensive round of x-rays, I was cleared to start putting weight on my left leg. The plan is to have me stand with 25% of my weight on my leg for a week. The following week, I should be able to stand equally on both feet (50% weight-bearing). Two weeks from now, I can put 75% of my weight on my left leg. Towards the end of September, I can walk with 100% of my weight on my left leg.

I’ve fantasized about walking since waking up from surgery in late May. I’ve done the visualization, jumping out of bed, tossing on my clothes, and climbing onto my NordicTrack for a heart-energizing workout before grabbing a cup of coffee and wandering over to the office to start working. It would be effortless and easy just like before the accident.

Balanced on my exercise ball*, instead of seated in my wheelchair, I can barely breathe as I type these few sentences. Both feet are firmly planted on the floor, knees locked, heart pounding, stomach queasy.

I don’t have a choice. If I’m going to move from non-weight bearing to walking, I need to push through the fear. I must trust the plates, screws, pins, and rod, holding my fractured leg together, will provide the buttress as I rise from sitting to standing.

In 2007 when I fractured my pelvis, I was braver, perhaps because the damage wasn’t as grave. Yes, my pelvis was broken in four places, but the bones were cracked, rather than dislocated.  

Erector Set Chick

Zooming in on this week’s x-rays, I can see the top half of my tibia was completely separated. And I know the large puncture wound on the front of my shin was the result of the bone poking through the skin. I want to trust the plate and ten pins along with the three long screws holding it together, but it’s difficult, seeing the extent of the break.

Below this plate “assembly” are two more plates with their own collection of 13 pins and screws. Altogether, my badly mangled tibia is held together with 3 plates, and 25 pins and screws. My fibula, which was snapped in half, wasn’t fixed, and is somewhat knitted together. Supposedly, it’s not weight bearing.

At the top of my femur are three huge screws and running the length of the femur is a rod, secured with a couple of pins. I’m confident with the repair of my femur.

Until Wednesday, I pretended to “see” the x-rays. This week, I snapped pictures with my smart phone to better understand what comprises the erector set, which is the superstructure now holding my leg together. Maybe denial was healthier. I could amuse myself with the fantasy that starting to walk was going to be a breeze. 

Bionic man

On Friday, the same day I was balancing my butt on a ball for the first time, Rich drove down to Everett to pick up his initial prosthetic. Even though a few weeks earlier, he’d had a second fitting, and had successfully walked for 20 minutes with the help of parallel bars, he was nervous about his appointment.

Like me, the fantasy of standing up and starting to immediately walk was more comforting than the reality.

His appointment was late in the morning. Around 1 p.m., he called, saying he was heading home, and had no issues with his prosthesis, and was starting to learn its idiosyncrasies with the help of his prosthetist and parallel bars.

When he got home, he proudly stood up his prosthesis in the hallway so I could see it from where I was sitting (on the ball). I wanted to scream in horror. My husband’s beautiful, slender left leg was now a contraption, a silicon sleeve, microprocessor knee, and metal rod with his shoe on the end.

I tried to hide my disappointment.

My mind kept slipping back to our wedding picture. Rich in a black tuxedo, tall, dark and handsome. His muscular legs in a pair of black slacks with a satin stripe down the side had climbed Mt. Hood, waterskied, snowboarded, snorkeled, overseen and set up commercial fireworks shows, worked on dragsters, climbed ladders to repair roofs and paint, laid flooring and remodeled rooms, moved furniture, and so much more.

I told Stacey I wasn’t in love with Rich’s left leg. It was his intellect, humor, determination, and engineering prowess that I love. But the reality of having to watch him struggle to once again walk, and hopefully return to some resemblance of his previous life is breaking my heart.

*I’ve been using an exercise ball for an office chair at work and home for decades.