Determination-Skiing As An Amputee

skiing use what worksA little over four months ago I entered the operating room to have my lower left leg amputated. I left the operation minus a left leg, but with the determination to get my life back. I wanted to relieve myself from debilitating and relentless pain. If I could relieve the pain I promised myself that I would never let anything hold me back. I would get my active life back – whether it was one-legged with crutches, or with a prosthetic leg, I would use whichever tool that worked.

So far the one leg and crutches have worked the best. I can grab my crutches and roll pain free. In fact, while walking with the crutches I don’t give my left leg a thought, which in itself is huge, as the leg was a consent preoccupation for six years. At the end of the day I can flop into bed, melt into comfort and sleep like a log, and once again I don’t give the leg a thought all night long. This is liberating and I feel wonderful. My goal was met, I will forever be grateful, and now I won’t let anything stand in my way. I will get the prosthetic leg worked out, but right now all I am doing is fighting with it and it holds me back. So I grab my crutches and move, or in this story grab my outriggers (forearm crutches equipped with small skis at the bottoms) and soar.

A year ago I posted a two-part story about how skiing shaped my life. Skiing was a huge part of my life and how I spent quality time with my family. At the time I wrote the story, I had pretty much given up on the thought of skiing. I was happy to have found ways to get out for a run or two, but that was not my idea of skiing. I was basically forcing myself out on the hill, fighting pain for a few runs and really just counting the minutes until I got back to the safety of the lodge. So, after a run or two I would release my wife and kids from the beginner’s trail and take my pain-withered body back home.

Last May when I seriously discussed amputating my leg with the surgeon I said, “The leg is holding me back, it is just in my way and I don’t care if I have to use crutches or a prosthetic to walk for the rest of my life. I will be so much better off without the leg.” The example I gave was skiing, and I showed him the video of me skiing, holding my pain-ridden leg out of the way.

Now, four months post-amputation I wouldn’t trade my crutches for the painful leg for anything. I am more active than ever and I will never let the loss of my leg stop me from accomplishing anything I want.

So, after a having a difficult week and struggling with the prosthetic leg, Friday afternoon I load into the car with my wife and kids and head out to spend the weekend skiing – the once-treasured ski weekends that I have dreaded for the past seven years. However, this weekend was different. At the beginning of the ski season I was determined to ski and wasn’t giving up. I had the skill, and now freed of the dead leg, I would once again ski with my family, and I mean really ski.

The previous weekends I had been out working on skill, slowly building up leg tolerance and conquering the fear of flying down the hill on one leg. I was determined this would be the weekend I would push the limits, defeat my fears and ski more than a few runs on the beginner’s trail.

First run Sunday morning I load the chair lift with my wife and son and head for the top of the mountain. My destination was a newly-cut trail that was reported to be narrow and to have a hairy steep drop at one point. Did I feel confident that I could do it? No, but that was exactly the reason I had to ski it. The fact was I had the skill, so it was the fear of skiing the trail with one leg that I was scared of. I knew I had to do it for the very reason I thought I couldn’t: FEAR due to my lack of confidence from missing a leg. I unloaded the lift at the summit and just started skiing. When I got to the top of the steep drop, I stopped, took a peek over the edge, made sure no one was in danger of having me take them out, took a deep breath and went for it. I made it down without a hitch. All I could think about was that four months ago I laid in the operating room and had my left leg cut off, and now I was flying down this hill free from the bondage of the painful left leg. How awesome is that?!

A lot of determination, fighting my fears, a little boot work and I really truly now feel like I have my life back. I am skiing trails I never thought I would ski again. I spent the whole morning having fun, enjoying time with my wife and son. It took six years and amputating my leg, but with determination and not giving up, I have finally felt the incredible feeling of freedom flying down the hill on skies has – the very thing that made me fall in love with skiing when I was a kid. The best part is skiing with my wife and enjoying her company for a coffee break in the mid mountain lodge, which is something I never thought would happen again.

A weekend which I went into upset and stressed about the poor progress I was making with the prosthesis ended with me on top of the world. The same determination will eventually have me running a 5K with the prosthesis. For now I have the time to acclimate on my own to using the prosthesis because I am not waiting on the leg to restart my life. I can spend the rest of my winter weekends trying to hobble around fighting with the prosthesis, or spend them out enjoying life on the slopes with my wife and kids. I choose skiing. For the past six years I had no choice but to fight with a painful leg, and now I have a choice.

At my two-month follow-up with my surgeon he said, “I removed the leg, so are you skiing?” At my next appointment I can report, “I sure am.”

It doesn’t matter what you use – legs, prosthesis, crutches, wheelchair – use whatever works, just get out and do it. Never give up!

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About Darryl Partridge

I am a husband, father of three and amputee. I was active all my life, a Certified Ski Instructor, DYI enthusiast and Elementary Special Education Teacher. My life came crashing down when I was 42 years old after suffering a life changing ankle injury. I endured six ankle surgeries that forever changed the anatomy of my lower left leg, ten leg casts, recovery time on crutches that added up in the years and debilitating pain. In the end wound up with a deformed lower leg, chronic pain and unable to walk without crutches. Oh yeah, I also lost my teaching job after the third surgery. Being left a 47 year old unemployed disabled father. I took two years to rebuilt my life using crutches full time, achieving a new career in public health and preparing to amputate my leg. I amputated my lower left leg 9/24/14, 15 months post amputation became a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Follow me on my life without limits journey as an amputee. I now hope my stories will help others find some support and comfort in living with their disabilities. Explore my website .com to read my story.
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