What’s a St. Jude Warrior?

IMG_1027 This has been a milestone weekend. I accomplished another physical goal as a lower leg amputee, eight months post surgery. The milestone was successfully completing the 28-mile route of the Tour de Cure bike ride. On to the next physical challenge!

For the past 2 months I have been preparing for the Tour-de-Cure, a bike ride event that benefits the American Diabetes Association. When signing up this spring, I had not yet given biking with the prosthetic leg a try. I wanted to make this a challenge while keeping the distance realistic, so decided on the 28-mile route. I realize that for someone who cycles regularly 28 miles is nothing, but for an amputee 8 months post-op it was a lofty goal.

I not only worked up to the goal of riding the 28 miles, I accomplished it. Pedaling into that finish line 8 short months after the amputation of my lower left leg was exhilarating. What could be better than using my ability to put myself through a physical challenge and raise funds for a worthy cause? I am not finished yet, as I have my next physically challenging fundraising event only six weeks away.

Interestingly, I actually signed up for my next challenge months before signing up for the Tour-de-Cure and it is going to be a massive physical challenge. My trainer might be a “two-legged freak” but in this case she is justified in calling me a “crazy loon”. In my cocky state of swollen-headiness after satisfying my first two challenges, TRX Certification and conquering the box jump, I was a bit overzealous and signed up for quite a feat. No worries; I move onward and upward to become a “warrior” – a warrior of St. Jude by completing the Warrior Dash. I will have some companions in this challenge. My 14-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son will be my partners in crime as we crawl, roll and jump through mud and become St. Jude Warriors.

For those of you who have no idea what the Warrior Dash is, I need to warn you that if mudyou participate you will get dirty. The Warrior Dash is a 5K run with a few interesting twists; to say the least, you have to conquer a little more than running 3.2 miles. Along the 3.2 miles you face 12 challenging obstacles and they will involve a lot of mud. We will be crawling underneath barb wire in mud, climbing wooden domes, ropes and nets, and free-falling back to the ground. We will be crawling through mud trenches and climbing over mud mounds and jumping over fire to get to the finish line. This is not an event for the faint of heart.

running bladeIt’s not the obstacles that concern me. My work in the gym has prepared me well for the obstacles and I am not afraid of a little mud. It’s the 3.2 miles I am concerned about. The New York event takes place at Windham Mountain ski area and therefore the race is on hilly terrain. This would be an excellent time to own a running blade, but I do not. I currently have an ill-fitting temporary prosthetic leg and it is not going to make the grade. It was not built for running of any kind; the socket is now too big so wobbles with just basic walking, and it has no ankle either, making for a very stiff foot. Walking on any incline can become difficult and painful very quickly. I am in the process of getting my definitive leg built, but I don’t think this will be the best place to break it in. The new leg will be a high-functioning leg, however if it is ready in time, it will be only a few days old. Mud would get caked into every possible nook and cranny of the prosthesis inside and out. I don’t think my insurance company will pay for a replacement leg due to trashing a pricey couple-day-old prosthetic in the mud. I also don’t know whether the new leg would function for this kind of challenge. It calls for a running blade, but a running blade is not affordable. So for this challenge, I will be leaving the leg at home and participating on one leg with the assistance of my crutches. While my prosthetic might not be made for this kind of abuse, IMG_0688my crutches are and they have never let me down. They are forearm crutches called Sidestix and they were designed and built for hiking, sports and outdoor abuse, so I have no worries about them letting me down. I will just need to send them through the car wash after the dash.

There is a method to my madness or crazy loon-ness! So while the Warrior Dash will be an extreme exertion of my upper body strength, I will make it happen. I have a few things up my sleeve. One, I have basically been using crutches for seven years and they are as comfortable and natural for me to use as most people’s natural legs. Two, at the time I signed up, I knew that without a running blade I would need to do this with crutches. Keeping that in mind I have purposely not let myself become dependent on only walking with the prosthesis. Three, I have been taking 20-minute power crutching breaks at work every afternoon since signing up for the dash in February. Still, this will be the first time I have traveled 3.2 non-stop miles on hilly terrain with one leg using crutches and I will need to put some intense distance training in.

For the next six weeks the focus of my daily workouts will be upper body and building up my tolerance and distance crutching quickly on rough terrain.

Participating in the Warrior Dash will be much more than me meeting a physical goal. Indeed, this is about the children who need St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. These children are fighting for their lives and deserve to get back to school and back out on the playground. They deserve a chance at life. Once again I will be using the determination and physical ability I have been blessed with to meet a demanding challenge to raise necessary funds to fight and treat pediatric cancer. I also hope that being a One-Legged St. Jude Warrior will show that with determination anything is possible. Never Give Up!

I will be fighting pain to the finish line, I will get muddy, but I will complete the dash, return home with my healthy teenage children, shower and my fight will be over. The children who these funds will help will continue to fight for their lives. Help me give these children a chance. Please help me meet my goal! Go to my personal page http://warrior.stjude.org/DPartridge and make a donation to help St. Jude give children fighting cancer a chance.

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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 Lifebeyond4limbs.com .com to read my story.
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