Losing part of her leg didn’t stop Paulina Archibeque from building up the strength to walk, run and carry her grandchildren.
“There are no words to describe certain things that have happened in my life,” Archibeque said in a phone interview. “That day when I got my (prosthetic) leg and could stand up and hold my grandsons and take steps with them and felt like I wasn’t going to fall was probably the happiest day of my life.”
That day when I got my (prosthetic) leg and could stand up and hold my grandsons and take steps with them and felt like I wasn’t going to fall was probably the happiest day of my life.
Paulina Archibeque, who lost part of her leg
The second happiest day of her life was when, a year after the amputation, Archibeque ran a full mile on her prosthetic leg.
In early 2016, Archibeque underwent a foot surgery that developed compartment syndrome, when too much pressure builds up inside muscles. That eventually resulted in the amputation of her leg just below the knee.
She received her prosthetic on March 8.
The move to using a prosthetic was a difficult one, she said, particularly after she spent long periods of time in bed.
Before the surgery, Archibeque spent hours on her feet as a registered nurse at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis. She also was a fitness instructor and took pride in knowing that if her car broke down, she could make it anywhere by running. A mother of four, she has two grandsons, ages 3 and 1.
“When you’re going from 100 percent to zero percent, everything just breaks down,” Archibeque said. “I knew I needed to get back into the gym.”
She initially used crutches. She went to physical therapy regularly, at first two to three times a week. Eventually, she returned to the gym, working her arms and left leg.
She began to walk – but not run – on the treadmill by the end of September. Eventually, she started to jog in 15-second increments, hanging on to the treadmill, then going back to a walk.
The first time, she tried it for three minutes.
“That was the hardest part, because my leg couldn’t take it and my hip kept dropping,” she said.
With practice, she built up her strength, finally running a mile alongside family and friends on Jan. 31.
Her next goal is to run 5 miles during the River Run in June.
“I do feel optimistic, because I think the mile thing was such a huge encouragement for my brain,” Archibeque said. “It’s not as much physical as my brain has to reroute itself to say ‘this is a normal move for you.’ ”