It'll take time to walk the walk again
September 21, 2008

By Paul Fattig
Mail Tribune
I really miss walking.

Granted, my pedestrian locomotion never has been the envy of the walking world.

It was more of a lunging lurch while dragging my right leg. Graceful it was not. More than one little kid has run shrieking at the sight of my Frankensteinian shuffle.

But I was content with my distinct style of walking, one I acquired after snapping my neck in a car wreck upon completing a hitch in the Marine Corps in 1971. The crash left me paralyzed from the neck down, an instant quadriplegic.

My odd gait came from the fact that when I left the VA hospital nearly a year later I had little dexterity on my right side. I dragged my right leg. Yet I was stepping out into the world. My walking may have been a trifle goofy-looking, but I found it very moving, pun intended.

It also taught me my one true expertise: falling down.

For 37 years I have perfected the fine art of sprawling on my face without getting hurt. I've fallen on stairs, down rocky mountainsides and tripped over curbs, all without a scratch.

Sometimes, for no apparent reason, I've tripped on a perfectly smooth floor, bruising only my pride.

Indeed, if falling down with no injuries were an Olympic sport, I would be a gold medalist. But even gold medalists have bad days. Mine came on Aug. 31.


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