The bionithlon: the first thing you need if you decide to train for a bionithlon is a reason to train for a bionithlon. (Hee, hee. I said “train”!) For me that reason arrived in October of 2006, with the commencement of the prologue event—the High-Speed Human Shot Put.
For the High-Speed Human Shot Put (HSHSP) competition, you need a dark night, a slippery train platform, an Amtrak Acela High-Speed Locomotive, and good medical insurance. Basically, the protocol is as follows:
- See train coming.
- Lean out to look.
- Good night, Irene.
Preferred train speed: seventy-eight miles an hour.
Estimated distance from contact to landing: thirty-five feet.
Estimated recovery time: the rest of your life.
Common injuries: death, dismemberment, etc.
Common side effects: feeling stupid, bad hospital food, sponge baths, and two months of Chuck Norris (Walker Texas Ranger or Total Gym™, take your pick).
Waking up in the hospital two weeks after winning the gold in the HSHSP, the first thing I noticed was that my arm felt funny. I guess that’s because it wasn’t there any more. I could feel it, but it was gone. Dazed and confused, I looked away and noticed a conspicuous lack of toes wiggling beneath the hospital bed sheets. Maybe you’ve heard of the movie My Left Foot? Well, for me it was Dude, Where’s My Left Foot? And left leg. And left knee.
So there I was, half the man I used to be. To get scientific for a moment, that night I became a bilateral amputee with a right shoulder disarticulation (grab a roasted turkey by the leg, snap it out at the joint, and you’ll get the idea.) and a left AKA (which is insurance code for Above Knee Amputee). AKA. Hmmmm. At least it sounds kind of cool.
As I began to receive room visits from prostheticists (say that ten times fast) and occupational therapists, I started thinking of all the names or AKAs that would befit a double amputee. Here are a few to get you going:
- Eileen (as in “I Lean”)
- Captain Hook
- The Gimp
- The 7 Million Dollar Man
- The Bionic Bonehead
Wait, back up a second. The 7 Million Dollar Man? Hmmm … just like Colonel Steve Austin—but a million bucks better. Yeah, I remember now. Old Stevo was in a hypersonic crash-and-burn, and needed two new computerized bionic legs, a bionic right arm, and a bionic eye. Hell, if I could have half of that cool crap, this might not be all bad.
It was with that thought in mind that I left Eileen at the altar—and the 7 Million Dollar Man was in the house. And as soon as my new alias was in the house, I was conspicuously out of the house.
After eight short recuperative weeks at Yale-New Haven, I was out of the hospital. I spent exactly one day in possession of a wheelchair, then stuffed the complimentary commode in the garage to store baseballs. From that time forwards, it was all bionics—all the time.
My bionic inventory currently consists of …
- One computerized bionic knee
- One flex foot
- One swim ankle
- One XT-9 extreme sports knee
- One Boston Arm
- One hook
- Two leg sockets (one pirate and one racing flame themes)
My weekly training regimen consists of running, swimming, bionic Australian field goal kicking, step running, football (both American-style and soccer), and absorbing body blows from my three- and seven-year-old micro-ninjas, Aidan and Luke. But I jump ahead of myself.
Amputee-ism has its ups and downs. To demonstrate this point, when asked by a hospital psychiatrist how it “was going” early on in my experience, I commented, “I have two equally valid answers. (1) Going good, how ’bout you? and (2) I got no arm and no leg, how do you think it’s going?”
That day was the first day of the rest of my life. I can suck lemons or make lemonade.
The hardest part of being a double amputee is starting and stopping. Putting on the gear. Removing and caring for the gear. But isn’t that true for all humanity? Slow to stop. Lazy to finish. But I’ll tell you one thing; though slow to start, it’s hard to get me to stop. I’m more motivated and activated now than in that year before I completed the High Speed Human Shot Put. Perhaps that event propelled me—toward the fast track. I wouldn’t change that outcome for a second.
“The 7 Million Dollar Man” is published bi-monthly. If you have a question for Jay, please send it to him in care of the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. To make sure you never miss a “The 7 Million Dollar Man” column, just click on the author’s name at the top of the story, then select “Be notified when writer publishes” at the top of the page. We’ll send you an email as soon as a new column is published.
Photo courtesy of the author