Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Top 100

On Saturday, August 14, my surgeon Dr. Blake Ohlson asked that I join him in a talk to approximately 100 nurses at Roper St. Francis Bon Secours Hospital about elective amputation. I did not hesitate to agree. There was one little problem: outside of speaking to my office about IT issues - and often being preempted - I had not spoken to a large group before. I suppose what allowed me to agree so quickly was I felt knowledgeable about the subject matter, having had to make this decision myself.

I do not have a good speaking voice. Running tends to make me hoarse and have a higher timbre, so I hoped this would not be too much of a distraction to the audience. Having lived in the South all my life no one is going to mistake my vocalizations for the melodious James Earl Jones. Something like Americans and Brits being separated by a common language.


I met Dr. Ohlson prior to his presentation and had a nice chat with him. So often physicians are aloof and appear dispassionate, but as I have come to know my doctor better I am convinced he has a deep reverence for his patients and the quality of their lives. He genuinely cares for their well being. It is an intense empathy; to hear him talk about losing sleep over performing these operations indicates his own humanity is touched by his patient's lives.

I have had some excellent physicians during my 57 year walk-about on this planet, but few have made me understand that as fellow human beings they indeed feel my pain...and aspirations. Dr. Ohlson among these notable exceptions and an exceptional man. A.k.a. "The Rock Doc," he is also an accomplished musician, founder of the band the Steel Petals.


My talk was from my original childhood accident through my training for the Charleston Marathon today. The nurses were very gracious and I was thrilled with the privilege to be able to thank my surgeon and many caregivers personally. They deal with extreme opposites, of things mundane and mortality. What would we do without people willing to give so much of themselves for people who are often in pain and angry and without hope?

All I know is they took excellent care of me; respecting my mind, body, and soul. I thanked them then as I do now and I can never think them enough. All have helped bring me back to the life I loved.


Such a talk, at least for me, breeds some deep introspection. One thing I have read about from some of my fellow amputees is this: even if they could have their intact, anatomical limbs back, they would not accept them. Although I had some understanding of this thought and have been examining the reasoning on occasion, I can say shortly after this talk that I came to fully embrace it myself.

I don't like dealing in what-ifs and fantasies 'what if I win the lottery' scenarios. But I can't think of any other way to come close to explaining this idea at the moment.

If I could have an intact and fully functioning foot back, at the expense of the experiences I have been through and the people met through this journey, would I do it?

No. The loss would be too great.

The loss of friends like Ashley whose courage and kindness knows no human bounds; the amazing truth that when I could not love running more it has been multiple several times over; having the opportunity to talk to the St. Francis nurses and let them know they do make a difference, a life changing difference in people's lives for the good. Many times a week something else happens that makes me think what an extraordinary life I  have been given.

No. I would not change it.

I never thought of myself as an inconsiderate or unsympathetic person. Oh sure I have done my share of dumb things and made some stupid statements, but I have no intentions of hurting anyone. I had a mentally challenged friend with a cleft palate in the third grade who helped me hang the tetherballs before recess. When I slide down a creosote pole after clipping one of the tetherballs in place and got a long splinter in my leg, our recreation job was dissolved. The one thing that stays with me to this day is his name was Tim, but wanted to be called Richard. He wanted to be like me. I miss our friendship.

I wish I could have talked to the nurses more to the how my life richer for this one-footed journey. For now some of my posts here will have to suffice where I have time to collect my thoughts and try to find the words to express them. Nothing can be changed, there will be no going back, and there are no regrets. Nor would I want it.

"The amazing will be seen every day."


  1. Well done! It's wonderful how telling your story opens you up to new people and new experiences. Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Thanks Ironman Maria.

    There will still be good and bad days, but my eyes will be wide open. Takes a while to make that long journey to the brain sometimes. = :-)

    - Richard