Standing On My Own One Foot

The nurses here at Strong Memorial Hospital have a schedule that is just as difficult to follow as mine used to be as a Control Room Operator.  They spend a few days with us and before you know it, have several more off because of their long shift hours.  We’ve gotten to know and appreciate our genuinely nice and supportive nurses and techs that have done so much for us.  Tuesday morning we said goodbye to Cindy and my cousin Peter who were about to take some much deserved time off after watching over us for the past few nights.  Thank you both so much for all of your care!

When Physical Therapy rolled around, this time I was ready to go.  I tried to take the session on without a shot of Dilaudin, but quickly realized that it would again be required in order to make any progress.  Today I was working toward my own goal, which gave me much more motivation…I wanted to stand up for the first time.  Fortunately my goal was aligned with the therapists which put us both on the same page.  After a few deep breaths, overcoming a little pain, and a lot of strange new feelings, I was standing on one leg as an amputee!!!  As I stood there, I had a very strange sensation with my phantom leg as if it was still there with me but tied in a knot like a pretzel.  Overwhelmed, I had to lay back down and that would be it for today.  As I thought about the pretzel sensation, it started to make some sense; after all, the skin from the back of my leg was folded around and stitched to the front of my pelvis.  I mentioned this to Dr. O’Keefe who confirmed that it takes the brain time to readjust and that if I touch the skin folded up over my stump, it may still feel like touching the back of my leg.

Right after my break through in physical therapy, the occupational therapist came by with some britches in hand.  My first task: put on my own britches which I accomplished with little difficulty considering it’s now only half the work.  I just need to inure out what to do with the empty pant leg?  For now I just tuck it into my the waistline as I’ve seen others do.  Next, she challenged me to sit on the edge of the bed for a whopping 5 minutes.  I insisted that if I was going to sit there for that long, someone was going to have to tell a story.  When she asked if I had any stories, I argued that “I give and I give,” and now it was her turn to share.  Laughing, she took a pass, so Shannon quickly initiated a discussion of the meaning of my tattoos to curb the awkward moment.

With therapy behind me, it was time to get cleaned up for what I had really been looking forward to — empanadas.  Carolina and family offered to visit again and bring some of their famous empanadas from the Empanada Stop at the Rochester Public Market.  Mom, Dad, Ryan, Evan, and Owen all joined us to meet Carolina’s family and enjoy some empanadas.  Unfortunately, Carolina’s family was tied up and weren’t able to make it, but we did get to spend more time with Carolina while eating some incredible empanadas.  My favorite was their traditional beef and onion, but I enjoyed trying the entire variety pack as well as the great pork and beans and an awesome homemade birthday cake.  Such a great meal, thank you Carolina and to your family for the incredible support!


About bhoefen

Going on a road trip.
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23 Responses to Standing On My Own One Foot

  1. Jessica says:


  2. Lisa says:

    OH Brett,
    You made my heart sing today!!!! Thank you.

  3. Aaron says:

    You’re looking great Bret (mostly by the last pictures after getting cleaned up)! You are amazing EVERYDAY! Can’t wait to catch up with you again.

    Talking to you each day is something I really look forward to! You lift me up Brother!

  4. Tara Fox says:

    You continue to amaze me everyday. Keep on inspiring us! 🙂

  5. Makiko says:

    Bret, you are an advanced person. I could only hope that the kids inherited some of their Uncles’ superhuman coping and adjustment skills, as well as his sheer strength! Shannon is amazing too. Together, the both of you continue to inspire me!

  6. Mandy Lindsey Cayouette says:

    As always, you have our utmost amazement and admiration for your daily determination… please tell me that all of this is going into a published book!!

    • Yvonne M Sellers says:

      On the whole book idea.. You can transfer all of your blog over to and sell it from that website, setting your own price. it would be a wonderful way to spread the story of your courageous journey!!! A book is a must! I would be one of the first in line to buy it.
      Congrats on your progress. One minute at a time is all that can be done, looking forward to the next. Setting goals is a wonderful way to challenge yourself.
      I continue to keep you & Shannon in my prayers.
      Yvonne M Sellers

    • Mandy Lindsey Cayouette says:

      …and along with the book, I’ll once again recommend the video montage at 🙂

  7. Peggy says:

    Congrats Bret,
    You look wonderful and are making great progress! You are a remarkable person and such an inspiration! Keep up the good work and you will be on the road in no time!!!! hApPy bIrThDaY Shannon!!!

  8. Teri Cotter says:

    You and Shannon have the unending strength. If only all of us had even just an ounce of it!!!! Congrats to you on your accomplishments this quickly. Book idea is a must!!!! Think of all the copies that you would sell to all these followers alone!!!!

    Hope the weekend is just as positive for you as the last couple of days. Happy Birthday to Shannon!!!!

  9. Muhammad says:

    Awesome! Glad to see you standing, Bret; you look great!!!


  10. Jacqueline Mitchell says:

    Hey Bret,

    I have been a silent blog follower since November. I grew up in Wayland and graduated in 96. One thing the same about me is my love for songwriting and music. Like so many others I have fallen in love with your words and beautiful journey. Without your permission but with purest intentions I have complied your words into a song. Along with the best local musicians I know, we recorded the song and even had a fellow Mac lover create a video 🙂 We hope your words with song give you extra strength and encouragement to heal faster! We will continue to follow your ride and write an entire album if it will give you just a moment of the persistent inspiration you have given us.
    You can find the video on YouTube named Ride In A Good Direction

    Much love from VA and TN,

    Jacqueline Mitchell- vocals, acoustic guitar
    Eric Larsen- ukulele
    Jeff Maiden- percussion ensemble
    Kelly Raile & Erika Phillips- video

    • Sally Leeson says:

      There are not enough superlatives to describe the gift of your time and talents in this song and video – wow! I’ve listened to it about six times already this morning. Great job, Jacqueline!

    • JoEllen Fahy Schubmehl says:

      So wonderful to hear your voice again, Jackie!

  11. Sherri Kennedy says:

    Bret –
    Wow! What an accomplishment…What a great day. You have filled my heart with joy and brought sunshine into an awful gloomy day here in MD.

    The next to the last picture with this posting is priceless….wonderfully priceless. I don’t see the pain in your eyes any more.

    Keep setting your goals! You’ll be off on another journey soon.

  12. Carolina DeHond says:

    Hey Bret and family!

    After reading other posts…. we agree, you really do NEED to turn your story into a book!! Your journey will inspire many people’s lives!!

    Congratulations on standing on one leg!! We are so intrigued by your explanation of the the whole pretzel phantom pains.. our bodies are a mystery!! Hope those pretzel like feelings go away.

    It was such a pleasure meeting your brother and 2 nephews (so cute :). So happy you all enjoyed my parents Empanada’s and other food items! They were happy it was enjoyed by wonderful people! They do wish to meet you someday in the near future!

    I feel the pain as you describe your PT & OT sessions 😦 I wish they would cut you some slack!! Nice cover, Shannon!! You saved Bret from suffering those long 5 minutes while sitting up with out a story, which was requested and not delivered by his Occupational therapist 😦

    You guys are such an inspiration!! STAY STRONG!!!
    Love, Carolina and Craig

  13. Kate Avery says:

    I am so your blog-I agree, you should think about publishing this journey. This could be so beneficial for others.

  14. Fred Borrelli says:

    Oh Bret you fill my heart with joy today! That picture of you eating empanadas with Shannon looks like the old you !! Both you and Shannon have that sparkle in your eyes !!!!
    I must say I believe you have quite an awesome relationship with food!!!!

    THat was a phenominal song that Jacqueline wrote about your journey. What a tribute to an extraordinary young man…..that is YOU and your exceptional wife!!!
    Stay strong, I believe in you.

  15. Marianne Borrelli says:

    oops that was me your auntie cuz….. not Fred in the last reply. He would have been much more humorous

  16. Cousin Geoffrey says:

    Looking Good, Bret! Little by little and you’ll be back on the road in no time at all!

    I’ve been wanting to stop by all week, but Danielle and I have both been sick and we don’t want to expose you guys to this nasti-ness. Hope to see you soon when the crud is gone. Danielle promised to bring a ‘big ol’ pot’ of Chile con carne and I will bring the 40’s…actually we better make them 16’s.

    Here’s to a continued speedy recovery! The weather is breaking and there is lots of fun to be had!

  17. Mary Beer says:

    The picture of you standing brought me to my knees. Try and remember on those days that the pain is the worst and you are feeling weak….you have a ton of people holding you up literally and figuratively. You and Shannon are amazing!!! What an honor to have a song written about you…what a great tune that will give others the courage to keep “riding, running, walking, crawling in the right direction.” Hope our family can gather while you are home. So glad Pete is getting to know his cousin…we don’t get to connect often enough.
    Hope hearing the song made today one of your best days yet!!!

  18. Rhiannon says:

    Everyday you are in my prayers and your journey is an inspiration to me and those around me. Thank you for sharing your experience, strength, and hope with the world and remember your journey is touching more lives than you know 🙂
    Thank you

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