Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lights! Action! Kleenex!

On Tuesday several amputees and I met at the downtown office of Floyd Brace to be interviewed for a local television health segment on WCBD TV Channel 2, in Charleston. When I was growing up the station had to call letters of WUSN (Charleston use to be a major naval base) and was known for Happy Raine, a children's show hostess, and Susie Q from Channel 2, an elephant that kept their grounds flattened. I was on the Happy Raine Show with my brother David and sister Marcia, and I recall seeing Susie Q many times on the station grounds as well.

I also recall seeing this very Floyd Brace building when we lived in Melrose Subdivision in West Ashley, when we were driven downtown. They use to sell general disabled equipment like crutches and I remember all sorts of things being hung from their front window and asking my mom what they were. Now they are strictly O&P, and they have gutted this old building and are in the process of renovating it.

Once I arrived I met Ginney Basden, Director of the Patient Advocate Program, and Niki Johnson, wife of Maurice Johnson of Floyd Brace. Niki guided me to a patient exam room and I waited there with another amputee for our interviews. Niki was very kind and gracious and put us at ease.

Speaking of at ease, I was very nervous about this interview, not really knowing what to expect other than to show up in my shorts. I was last interviewed by chance and coincidence on Channel 2 a few years ago while I was training on the new Cooper River bridge. I'm not sure I've been on television other than the Happy Raine show when I was under 8 years old, maybe 5 or 6? My fear would be my stomach would turn on me and I'd throw up, which fortunately did not happen.

They first interviewed a little girl, 6 years old, named Miracle. I did not see her at all but look forward to her segment when it is televised. Next up was Richard Kennard (I'm not sure about his last name's spelling), who lost his left leg and arm in a tree chipper, yes, like those you see taking in branches but much, much larger, for entire tree trunks. Richard now plays on an able-bodied softball team and is nothing but positive. We talked a good bit about deciding on amputation and how able-bodied people are horrified at the prospect. He's a good guy, no-nonsense, and lives life on his terms. I watched his interview from the back of the room, which helped me understand what would be asked so I could be somewhat prepared with my story.

Next up was The Puke, uh, me. The setup was simple: one light, camera, and the young woman who did the most of the production, Ms. Burbage. Her voice will likely not appear in the final product, so we had to listen to her questions and then rephrase it in our answers.

I started by talking about the cause of my accident, the series of operations that I had, and finally about the fact that I ran my first race 6 months after my amputation. She asked about mentoring and who helped me, so I mentioned Dr. Ohlson, some details of the Ertl procedure, and talked about being honored to be able to talk to such athletes like Rick Ball and Scott Rigsby. Really, I am nothing special, so many have done so much more...and I don't remember the exact time it happened but the tears came up and I couldn't go on.


Larry got some water for me and tissue and I apologized to Ms. Burbage. She was very kind and said sometimes speaking to the camera causes such a reaction. I really hadn't talked at length about my journey to anyone, and I think the wave of emotion of what I had gone through and what I have been able to do in so short a time overwhelmed me. Not tears of sadness or loss, if anything, of climbing the mountain and realizing: I have done this.

After I settled down, although it might have been just before, I talked about some of the races we had done and the next ones coming up. We also talked about Floyd Brace, and I mentioned I had done my "due diligence," - which is a phrase I hear at work all the time - and had talked to other O&P firms but choose Floyd Brace. I talked about how they stayed open for me before the Turkey Day 5k, insisting I come in for an adjustment. I wish I had mentioned how I met with Larry, Jared McNeill, and Ricky Miller to talk about the operation and what would follow in prosthetics before I had my surgery.

We wrapped up and as I left Ms. Burbage said something like: "Gosh, I feel like I need to go home and run now!"

And that's exactly what I did.


I don't know when this will be aired and whether or not it will be available on WCBD's website, but when I have the information I will include it in a follow-up post. After my, uh, moment, my thoughts were a little more scattered and it took me some time to fully calm down.

I can say this: at least I didn't puke. I'll keep that for a future thrilling episode, preferably at the end of a race.

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