Letters From Pamela

The Next Leg of My Long Ride — Rehab

Pamela Rittenhouse

June 5, 2012

This is the second in my series of letters to those who were there with me 18 years ago when I nearly lost my life during a fall on my bicycle. On May 14, 1994, I was signed up to ride with the other members of our bicycling team made up of great friends who also worked together at WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Florida. It was supposed to be a ride that went from Jacksonville Beach to St. Augustine and back again. You might say that I took a different route. Like my first letter, this is a note of gratitude to those who gave me support and to myself to remember where I have been and how amazing it is that I am still here. With each weekly letter, I share one of the stories aired on WJXT-TV that chronicled my recovery. We called the series Coming Back. In this second report in the series, there would be real irony, although we didn’t know it then. After you watch, I’ll explain.

Rehab With John

In addition to the head injury that closed my right eye, I had another head injury that affected my left foot. The lay term for my injury was a “drop foot.” An injury to my head when I fell from my bicycle left me with a foot that simply fell forward and would not support me. When I left the hospital, I wore a brace on my foot and lower part of my left leg and walked with a cane. My doctors sent me to rehab to see how much I could recover. Fortunately, they sent me to John. Although you can see me working on machines in the video, that was actually a very small portion of our time together. For most of his therapy sessions, John used his body as a machine, and I had to follow his instructions about my resistance. I remember one exercise had me in a standing position and then literally dragging him with me as I struggled to walk. It was extremely hard work. Thanks to John, I was able to walk again. I still have to be a tad careful because my left foot works a tiny bit differently than my right but very slightly. Most people would never notice.

Life Is Ironic

As I mentioned in the video, John was also a long-distance bicyclist. That helped me become even closer to him as we worked together. What is so ironic in looking back now is that, years after he helped me walk again, John was also injured in a bicycle accident. Because my head injuries affect my memory, I cannot remember his injuries, but I know he was seriously hurt. I have thought about him so much and how interesting it must be to help others rehab and then wind up needing to trust someone else to do the same for you. I hope John found someone equal to himself to help him find his own way back.

What I Hope For

I know that I shared with John how much his help meant to me. I understand John was doing his job. He was supposed to use his expert training to help me walk again. But anybody hurt as badly as I was has another kind of injury — one that affected my spirit. Getting so seriously injured made me question my future, what it was safe to do and how I should live. In addition to facing my injuries, I had to face fear. I needed more than just physical rehab. I needed rehab for my spirit so that I would not stay home and hide. Yes, John helped me walk again, but he also helped me recover on the inside. Eighteen years after my accident, I hope he knows that.

Looking Ahead

With this letter, I attached the second of those ‘Coming Back’ reports. That means there are ten more to go. At the risk of being repetitive, I will say again what I wrote at the end of my previous letter. I hope and pray that someone who faces an enormous challenge like mine will find comfort, hope and strength from my story. If you are one of those people who have always had such a plain and normal life and suddenly find yourself in a uniquely challenging place, know this. There is nothing stopping you from finding your way back.

I did. And that means that you can, too.