Help Becky keep walking; an amputee’s ride.
Do you remember when Oprah Winfrey tagged the famous line “Aha Moment?” A moment when time stands briefly still, and you know your perspective has changed profoundly. A moment of clarity that opens your eyes to new possibilities. Something you will never forget.
Becky Thrift has a big story; A before and after story; A love found and love lost story. Yet, it was her “Aha Moment” when her eyes lit up, and she said, “I felt free.”
Let’s begin Becky’s story there; in a small classroom at Mission Gait (a non-profit that strives to empower the physical rehabilitation community, through education and research.) Will Riddick, Mission Gait’s educational instructor, had asked her to come and speak as an Ambassador about life as an amputee with a group of Virginia Commonwealth University students who were pursuing their Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree. (Mission Gait’s Ambassador Program is an invaluable resource for P.T. students to learn the impact of gait training and quality care from the patient’s perspective.)
Under normal circumstances, this request would be mildly nerve-racking for Becky, but Becky had been in a motorcycle accident recently and lost not only her leg but also, her short-term memory. “I had a lot of everybody else’s words” from other people telling her what happened that day. Her story was being told for her because she couldn’t remember anything about the accident.
In the classroom, on that extraordinary day, Becky sat for an hour talking to these young adults who were focused on her and asking clinical and emotional questions. “This was a very comfortable atmosphere to talk to the students. They were eager to learn and made me feel good.” This opportunity was when she felt as though she was being seen and heard for the first time. It was then that she had it - the aha moment. “I realized; this was the first time that “I” got to tell “my” story.”
Afterword, Becky walked out of the classroom and went straight to David Lawrence (owner of The Gait Center where Becky receives therapy,) and said, “I feel lighter.”. . . . Lighter? After everything, she has been through over the last four years; lighter is not a word you would have expected to hear. Not only did Becky lose her leg in the motorcycle accident, but she also suffered significant injuries to her hip, pelvis, arm, lost a finger and the mobility of her wrist.
But, that’s not all that was lost. You see, Becky was on a motorcycle ride with her boyfriend Mark, on September 16, 2015. The two had grown up together and recently found each other after 39 years apart. They fell in love. On that day they were on a ride-in-tandem, heading out to dinner, the night before Bikefest. Riding together was their favorite thing to do.
The motorcycle accident happened a mile and a half from Becky and Marks starting point at a friend’s house. As we hear on the news all too often, the truck driver who was coming head-on, said that he didn’t see them. He had looked down to read a text. Mark died on the scene after he made sure the responders found Becky, 30 feet away in a field.
Becky was critically injured and airlifted to VCU. She spent more than two months having multiple surgeries and another two months in a rehabilitation center. She finally came home in a wheelchair where she continued her recovery with home health.
Homebound and grieving all her losses, anger, and depression moved in. What was she to do? She was stuck. “I was down and out.” It was the daily persistence of a dear friend who wouldn’t stop calling, wouldn’t stop suggesting things that she could try, like making veteran bracelets – anything. He just kept trying to get her out of the house, rebuild her life, and trying to get her to do something! “It was when the doctor told me that I was never going to walk again that I decided to rebuild myself and show him.”
Becky found The Gait Center in Richmond and immediately felt comfortable. “When I came in the front door, I knew I was with people who understood.” 25% of the patients were amputees. “No question was too stupid to ask. I got to see other amputees being successful, so I knew I could too.”
“I was determined. I wanted to work hard.”
Tracy Rauk became Becky's therapist. Tracy had seven years’ experience working with the amputee population.
In one on one, hour-long sessions, Tracy and Becky became a team. They got to work building not only the body but also the mind and a future. Setting goals is a great tool used when working in physical therapy.
After learning to walk, Becky had a big goal. She wanted to ride again. After two months of hard work, Becky achieved this goal, and she rode her bike again.
The Season Cycle, Richmond, VA built her a unique Trike Motorcycle. While on a ride, Becky heard of a young man who had lost his arm in a motorcycle accident and stuck in anger. “I know exactly how that anger feels.” She will be going to visit him soon to listen to his story. She has also met another amputee at the welding shop that is going to help modify her trike motorcycle. Inspired by her, he wants to get back on his bike and is looking to Becky for inspiration and encouragement. Becky is going to act as a bridge to a community of amputees and resources for both men.
Remember that pesky friend who wouldn’t stop? Well, he is a veteran, and Becky was adopted into the veteran community, even though she has not served.
The American Legion has become a grand champion of Becky’s and will be sponsoring a Charity Ride in partnership with Richmond Harley Davidson, who is sponsoring the event. If you would like to learn more, you can find the information on our Mission Gait Facebook page.
All proceeds will go towards the costs affiliated with her medical appointments and prosthesis maintenance. Costs are as individual as the individual wearing them. In Becky’s case, the person who hit her and Mark had no insurance. Becky’s age is a factor - because she is under 62, she does not qualify for secondary insurance. Medicare pays 80 percent, 20 percent is the patient’s responsibility.
For a person to keep walking with a prosthetic leg, there are always expenses for upkeep. The socket itself (what the limb/leg fits into) must be custom made – and adapted/changed/replaced as the patient’s residual limb changes over time. Becky is on her 4th socket. $10,000 each time. Then factor in the costs for the work done on the prosthetic, the doctors’ appointments, and the physical therapy appointments.
“My prosthetic has given me back riding my motorcycle, which is the only thing I can do by myself, is ride.
Wind therapy is a friend to me.”