In early January 2007, the prosthetic that I had been wearing through rough kitchen work three years in a row was finally breaking down. The padding and "skin" had fallen off leaving the terminatoresque metal pole for a calf and the ankle joint had long since broken and was dangling, dangerously close to falling off. My brother was visiting me in Djibouti for New Year's, so I bought the two of us some cheap tickets to Dubai for a long weekend. I would also use the opportunity to meet a contact I had made throught the American hospital there, to fit for a new prosthetic.
We had a great weekend, skiing indoors, going to fun restaurants and 4x4ing out in the Arabian desert. And I found a guy to build me a new leg. Because of time and cash constraints, I walked out of the clinic with a 10 year old fashioned leg, heavy and oversized...but new. It was, I assumed, the best I could ask for. It was strange feeling, but ok the day I got it. As we landed back in Djibouti that evening, I picked up my carry on bags and an intense pain filled my stump. After limping back home, I got to my room and took it off. The bottom of the stump felt as if it had been sandpapered, leaving a red and bloody mess. But, as stubborn as I can be with pain, I put it back on the next morning for my 12 hour shift in the kitchen.
I suffered on this painful prosthetic for the nex 15 months, pretending it wasn't as bad as it really was, not being able to run or even walk for more than a few thousand yards at a time.
I moved to Philadelphia in October 2008, and started working as a chef at Sofitel with the same prosthetic. I didn't tour the city, didn't want to go out, and became seriously depressed...something I stubbornly never discussed with loved ones, dreading attention and sympathy. Finally, after a new insurance plan, I fit for a new, high tech one in April of 2009. It was absolutely amazing. It felt like I was running on air with carbon graphite parts, and a high-intensity refelexive ankle joint. After getting home with it, I threw on a pair of shorts, and ran down the parkway Rocky style to the art museum and back. It felt like I had an angel on my shoulder. My spirit was lifted. for the first time, I went to see the liberty bell and began to take walks with my finacee in the evenings. I also started walking to church on Sundays, which has changed my life immensely over the past year.
Sometimes we allow things to progress to a self-destructive level, affecting not only ourselves but our faiths, people around us, and denying ourselves true opportunities for advancement, spritiually or whatever. I believe suffering helps one grow, but one needs to realize there is a light at the end. We learn incredible things about ourselves from the light, but even more on the path to reach it.