November 11, 2014 | |


One year exactly since surgery. So many firsts: general anesthetic, going under the knife, a cast, being broken (not just bent or bruised) enough to have get put back together.  The beginning of the healing process from the ATR I’d suffered on 11.3.13 playing flag football with my team, wearing the colors of the university I love so much. The day that changed so much—and put in motion so many changes that will be with me (hopefully) for my whole life. Seeing that NYC Marathon graphic on my blog … I almost can’t believe I crossed that finish line today—literally and metaphorically (more on that later).

This is a long post. I really appreciate it if you make it to the end, and I hope it resonates with you in some way. I humbly admit to how self-serving that is.  Just back from a 3.5 mile run, lifting weights, and doing yoga on a freakin’ gorgeous November afternoon, which would have felt so routine before . . . now it’s just pure joy to be able to do it. I hope I never lose that feeling, and I felt like sharing my thoughts and feelings with you on this day.

It’s hard to articulate my emotions today. It’s actually always been hard for me to do that. I was always supposed to be the happy, laid-back one who just let things slide off or go. Ha! I was voted “Most Likely to Become President” in high school (and actually was president at my law school). But that’s not real life, and it’s not me. This whole process—from ATR today—have made it so much easier to talk about things, to be who I am, and to be ok with that.  Blessing in disguise?  You better believe it. I think it’s easier sometimes to write feelings down than speak them aloud, because it allows you to really think about them, to roll the words around in your head before typing them, to hit “Backspace” when you think of a better way to say it, to see them and be able to manipulate them in context before clicking “Publish.”

The overwhelming thing I feel is gratitude (yes, the kind in the scene in the JJ Abrams re-imagining of Star Trek when Spock expresses gratitude to the Vulcan Science Academy for considering his humanity a “disability”, but also the genuine “wow, really, THANK YOU” kind).  Gratitude to my mom for coming to DC and looking after her boy for a week, and mom & step-dad for spending Turkey Day with me; to my dad, step-mom, & little sis for the visits and check-ins; to my surgery team for doing an amazing job; to the partner at the law firm I worked for 10 years ago for calling and referring me to the surgery team; to my physical therapist for getting me back in game shape; to my colleagues at work for hooking me up with an anti-grav chair, a box of hot sauces, weeks of telework, and so much support; to this community for its advice, help, and understanding; to the countless friends, family, and total strangers (especially on the P6 bus) who all stepped up in various ways; and to my amazing girlfriend (with whom, at the time, I’d only been on like 4 dates!) who not only stuck with me, but really helped me recover and thrive, doing little things and big, even to the point of helping me transition sports (hint: she’s the distance runner in our home).  But for all the gratitude, there’s still …

Pain and weakness, meekness and humility. When people ask if I still feel it or notice it, I tell them the truth: “every day, every step.”  I was prepared for that, and it doesn’t bother me; it’s just there, like the sun on my pale Anglo-Frisian-Celtic skin—something to be managed and vigilant about.  But it’s still there, and always will be.  It’s a constant reminder of the thin strands—literally and figuratively—that stand between being able-bodied or injured. You can substitute “rich or poor”, “free or jailed”, or so many other concepts to illustrate that fine line between what we want and what we don’t.  And today is Veterans Day. There are hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and normal folks like farmers protecting their homes and families around the world who sacrificed for their countries, their values, and their people who are going through what we’re going through (in terms of catastrophic injury and recovery), but most of us were just playing a sport when we did it. Those brave women and men were risking their lives for others.  So I feel an incredible amount of humility today, and will every 11.11. But there’s also …

Hope and wonder. So much of it.  About the human body’s ability to heal itself. About living in an era in a city that has the resources to put the body and the mind of a middle-class rec sports dude back together.  Imagine this injury 100 years ago, before general anesthetic, before digital imaging, before surgical and recovery techniques, before the ability to really come back from this.  Or imagine this injury today, in 2014, in parts West Africa, currently being ravaged by the scourge of Ebola, or Haiti, still recovering from that earthquake and tsunami years ago, or the poorest parts of my own country and continent, where the resources can’t get there without substantial cost and time, if they can get there at all, and even then, only to the very rich or well connected. The Dalai Lama once said that it doesn’t matter how many times we fall, but how many times we rise.  That line got recycled in Chris Nolan’s Batman: “why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” It gives me an expansive and expanded sense of …

Understanding and empathy. About what the disabled go through, even though I only tasted it for 8 weeks. About the importance of a legal system that recognizes that a nation of people who are given the opportunity to be productive can and will be. The dip in the sidewalk, the bus that kneels, the ability to telework, and so many other little things.  How many nations throughout history can say that they thought about the needs of their neediest, and decided to do something about it because it was not only right for those individual suffering, but also for the greater good because then those people can produce not only goods and services, but also the opportunity for diversity and understanding with themselves and others.

Blogs are necessarily self-serving. I type the words, hit publish, and hope what I’ve said is relevant to someone out there, but it’s also a tonic in itself FOR me (and, I would postulate, all of us who belong to this blog). It’s an online diary of sorts, a cathartic practice that can only come from sharing challenges in an intimate way with a community that “Gets It”, but is open to the world. Would I mind if anything I’ve written on achillesblog ended up above the fold on the front page of the Washington Post? Not a bit.  But it’s still an interesting combination of and tension between those concepts: intimacy, challenges, recovery, community, global access.

It’s sounds freakin’ weird to say it, but it’s been a good year. A really good year. So many good things have happened this year, starting with what happened a year ago today: a successful surgery.

As I posted before, I ran the inaugural Across the Bay 10k over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on Sunday to mark the anniversary. I raised about $1000 for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; I couldn’t help but feel the connection between running over the Bay and thinking about my recovery and Bay’s own need to recover. It felt good to give back, but honestly, it felt the BEST to RUN. To RUN! And run I did: I set a new 10k Personal Record of 50:36, an 8:09 mile pace. Not fast by anyone’s standards, but still my best, and after ATR. That felt damn good (sorry for the language, moderators). And it’s not over; that amazing girlfriend I mentioned above?  Signed us up for the real thing.  Yep, we’re signed up for my first ever marathon (her third) in Orange County, CA next spring.

I’ve signed off each post on this blog with “=\\=“. It’s meant to symbolize a ruptured achilles. One year later, of course it’s all healed and bionic. The calf is smaller, the body weaker, but the will stronger than ever.

Whew.  It felt good to say all that.  If you made it this far (and I don’t blame you if you didn’t … this was one long post!), thank you for reading. If you’re one year or more out from ATR: you might be smirking a very understanding smirk. If you’re just post-ATR or post-op; NWB, PWB, FWB, or two-shoes; or hitting your stride in PT: yes, you still have a long journey ahead, but YOU CAN DO IT.  The Persian poet Rumi once wrote “you were born with wings; why prefer to crawl through life?”  In a way, the past year has helped remind me that we all have wings, but we need to WORK to unfurl them and fly, especially when one of them gets clipped a little.

I wish you all the best with your own recovery.  I’m going to sign off now, and enjoy a beer on my roof. The sky is blue, and the sun is shining.



=//= no more


8 Comments so far

  1. Carolyn1 on November 11, 2014 4:34 PM

    Thank you for that post, it gives me hope. I am full weight bearing, still in an aircast and hope to be in two shoes after next week’s appointment. I do feel that this injury has made me take stock of “life.” It has forced me to slow down, and I certainly appreciate the hardships some people face. Finding this site has been more valuable than words can express.

  2. janis on November 11, 2014 8:44 PM

    Great update! I am approaching my 1 year (11/20) and feeling a very similar wonderment and gratitude.

  3. normofthenorth on November 13, 2014 1:37 AM

    Great stuff!

  4. herewegoagain on November 13, 2014 9:45 PM

    Congrats- love the Rumi quote!

  5. nosport45 on November 15, 2014 3:22 AM

    Wow! Great post. I’m nearly at the 6 month mark and its always good to read from those further ahead. Can certainly relate to some of your post already. Thanks for sharing. Good luck with the run.

  6. Kim on November 17, 2014 4:55 PM

    Congratulations on reaching that one-year mark! Good luck to you in training for your first marathon. Please be sure to check back in and let us know how it goes! That first one is SUCH an accomplishment!

  7. oscillot on June 13, 2015 12:49 PM

    Thanks for the post - it’s Kennedy-esque!

  8. poel on April 16, 2019 3:36 AM

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture.
Anti-Spam Image

Powered by WP Hashcash