‘After My Leg Was Amputated, Fitness Helped Me Focus On My Gains Instead Of Losses

Photo credit: Christine Yi
Photo credit: Christine Yi

From Women’s Health

In an effort to balance working hard with playing hard, I once took a red-eye flight back from Whistler to New York City after a big ski trip and went straight to my office where I spent a long day managing a hedge fund. By the time I hopped on the subway to head home, I was so exhausted that I lost my balance while I was exiting the train. I fell between cars, landed on the tracks, and my lower right leg was crushed beneath a wheel. I had to have a below-the-knee amputation as a result.

That was 17 years ago, and since then, I’ve undergone over 20 surgeries and seven blood transfusions—my most recent hospitalization was this past summer. At first, it was a struggle for me to walk just one city block—I didn’t have the muscular endurance or cardiovascular strength to support the prosthetic leg.

I was so tired and just felt defeated. But finally, one day, I remember thinking: Today’s the day. I’m going to try to walk farther and do it without a struggle. That’s when it finally clicked. I started walking on the treadmill, trying to imitate other people’s gait.

The first time, I was drenched with sweat and had tears streaming down my face from the pain after only 10 minutes. But I kept walking and added hills to strengthen my glutes, and eventually I could walk at 15 percent incline for an hour and a half. I was walking better and could feel myself getting stronger—and I loved it.

Photo credit: Christine Yi
Photo credit: Christine Yi

That brought on a new passion for fitness for me. Though I hadn’t worked out much before losing my leg, I used to be very athletic; in high school, I was a First Team All-League field hockey player. I’m a very competitive human being, and I hadn’t been able to flex that muscle since losing my leg. Doing so again made me so happy.

Over time, though, exercising became excruciating because the grafted skin around my limb broke down. So I finally decided to have the surgery to fix it in August. Afterward, I stayed in the hospital for 17 days and had to keep my leg suspended in the air all the time.

But throughout my recovery, I exercised every day with arm and abs workouts. The quarantine this year made me realize how important fitness is to my life; my workouts are my sanity. I was taking live Zoom classes—with instructors like Kara Liotta and Kate Hickl of KKsweat and Alison Cohen—in my hospital gown. It was the best way for me to pass the time because I was so excited to move and to move forward.

I fully think being able to stay fit and having a positive outlook go hand in hand. I’ve always been a positive person. But being stronger and being able to do these workouts, it boosts my optimism. I wake up with a giant smile every day. My theory in life is to be thankful for what I have and not think about what I don’t. That’s how I feel about my leg: I don’t focus on what I’ve lost. I’m just so grateful for what I have.

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