I’ve always been a risk taker…an envelope pusher. I’ve always driven myself and said things like, “discover your limits and then destroy them!” Truth be told, I’ve always felt a bit invincible. Recently, however, I got a big ol’ reality check and, to paraphrase the great Randy Hickey, “I’m vincible! I’m vincible!”

I’d been training pretty intensely for a big race. Weekly, I had been running smaller races of varying length and training daily at the gym. Now, though this might sound fine to some fitness buffs, my problem arose as during all this training, I was also trying a new prosthetic suspension system… after being in the same one for over 25 years.

Overall, the experience was positive as it helped me decide on the suspension system for my new leg. However, the journey was not without a speed bump or two… “hot spots”, scuffed areas on my leg, and even a little skin breakdown. Long story short; I changed too many variables at once and pushed myself too hard. Then, the real trouble began.

Last year, I had a blast running the Terrain Race: Phoenix. As a result, I decided to include it as part of this year’s training regimen. I was excited! I love obstacle courses! When the day of the race time arrived, I didn’t let a little thing like a small, open wound on my residual limb stop me. I was invincible, after all. Turns out there is a LOT of mud and dirty water in this race. Combined with an open wound, I was asking for trouble, but somehow thought I was protected by will-power.

I ran the race in record time; a new record for me anyway (you can see the highlights from this year’s run here). I collected my finisher medal, stopped for my celebratory cheeseburger and ice cream at Freddy’s and then went home. A few days later I noticed that my residual limb seemed a little swollen and the fit of my prosthesis seemed a little “off.” I ignored it for a couple of days until I found myself reaching for the crutches, unable to bear weight on my prosthesis. I quickly realized it was time for “Mr. Invincible” to head to the doctor. I was told it looked like the beginning stages of an infection and was given a mega-dose of oral antibiotics. There was just one small problem… it turns out that I was unknowingly deathly allergic to the prescribed antibiotics. After I started having an adverse reaction to the antibiotics, I decided it was time to go to the emergency room. I was immediately admitted to the Intensive Care Unit where I’d spend the better part of a week unable to even sit up in bed unassisted. Days later, as I was being discharged from the hospital, my doctor stepped close to me and in a hushed voice he told me how happy he was to see me walking out of the hospital because when I first showed up at the ER, I was “two steps from heading to the morgue instead of the ICU.”

I suppose my point here is, that while I still plan to push an envelope or two, I’ve learned a very valuable lesson. What it boils down to is this… going into an environment that is full of germs and bacteria with an open wound on my residual limb is not smart. Live your life to the fullest but learn from my mistake. Listen to your body and be smart about limb care and you’ll be around to enjoy a lot more of life. I’ve always heard that you don’t waste second chances. Well, this is number three for me so let’s go see what’s out there. Let’s do this!

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