A Long Day's Journey Through Columbia

12-mile Walk Is Exhausting Butsatisfying, Says Amputee

April 27, 1992|By Deidre McCabe | Deidre McCabe,Staff writer

The accomplishment was great; the acclaim, meager.

After walking 12 miles on one leg, using a crutch and new artificial leg, 20-year-old Raymond Maxie, of The Provinces, ended his arduous journey Saturday without fanfare.

The onlookers and most of the volunteers had gone home. The food was packed away, the folding chairs stacked neatly against one wall.

After walking for nearly five hours in the annual March of Dimes Walk for Healthier Babies, Maxie arrived at an empty plaza. The last of the other 400 walkers had finished more than an hour earlier.

But the lack of a hero's welcome didn't matter much to Maxie, a wiry young man with cropped blond hair and bright blue eyes.

As he sat under an outdoor pavilion, shivering as dark skies turned to rain, Maxie said he felt terrific, mostly because many people said he couldn't do it.

"A lot of people said, 'Are you up to it? You really think you can make 12 miles?' " said Maxie, who had received his artificialleg just 10 days before the walk. "I wanted to prove anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it."

Maxie, who lost his right leg last May in a tractor accident, said the 12-mile walk through Columbia was much harder than he had expected.

At least 30 times during the walk, he had to stop to remove his artificial limb for adjustments. Toward the end, the leg slipped so often that it had to be adjusted every few steps, he said.

Stopping slowed his time, said Maxie, who had kept up a pace of 3 miles an hour for almost half the walk-a-thon.

But despite his dead-last finish, the West County man was satisfied with his performance.

"I'm exhausted. And I'm really, really sore. But I'm proud and happy I completed it."

Just 11 monthsago, the lifelong county resident didn't know if he'd ever walk again.

Maxie, who worked for a local subcontractor of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., was cutting grass atop a 4,000-pound tractor. It was May 23, but the temperature soared to 110 degrees that day.

He hadbeen out in the sun for more than six hours. He remembers feeling faint. The next thing he remembers is waking up to find the tractor running over him.

His right leg was mutilated and had to be amputatedwell above the knee. His left leg, which was severely fractured, nowhas a metal rod supporting the bone from the knee to the hip.

Thetractor ran over his upper body as well, a fact confirmed by tire marks on his face and shoulders. But Maxie sustained no permanent injuries to the rest of his body. Doctors speculated the ground was soft enough that he was spared serious internal and head injuries.

He spent the next 10 days at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center at University Hospital in Baltimore. Although doctors expected Maxie to spend thenext three months in a rehabilitative hospital, he was back home in four weeks.

Despite the initial shock of loosing his leg, Maxie decided to adopt a "can-do" attitude immediately. Friends say they haven't seen Maxie depressed.

"Every now and then he'll get mad because he can't do something, but I've never seen him depressed," said Maxie's friend, David Plumer, who moved in with the family to help out after the accident.

"My biggest worry was not to change myself," said Plumer. "I didn't want to treat him like he was handicapped. If heneeds help, we give it. But you can't do everything for him. If he starts whining, it's all the more reason not to do things for him."

Maxie said the 12-mile walk wouldn't have been possible without his new artificial leg, a state-of-the-art prosthesis with a hydraulic pump. The leg, manufactured by Nascott Rehabilitation Services in Silver Spring, makes walking, particularly up and down hills, much easier.

Maxie had tried a more traditional prosthesis, but found it awkward and uncomfortable. He was fitted for the Nascott leg just four weeks ago and received it April 16.

He admits attempting a 12-mile walk so soon after getting the leg was probably pushing it, but said that's all the more reason to do it.

"Being handicapped is an attitude. In my mind, I don't feel handicapped," he said. "When people say,'Are you ready to try this? Are you ready to do that?' I say, 'I'll show you I'm ready.' "

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