Get Inspired by Rebecca Levenberg: “There’s Nothing I Can’t Do”

rebecca-1

Rebecca Levenberg | Photo by Adam Jones

Old City resident Rebecca Levenberg lost her leg in a bike accident. But since learning to rollerblade, rock climb and, yes, bicycle in a prosthesis, she hasn’t looked back. This is Rebecca’s story, in her own words.

I’d been a bike commuter for about five years when, in November 2010, a garbage truck hit me. I was riding my bike to work, in the bike lane.

I always knew there were risks. But you hear about cyclists getting hit by a door or breaking their wrist—not losing their legs.

The truck crushed my left leg completely. I sustained severe internal injuries, broken ribs and a fractured pelvis. I was wearing a helmet, and I didn’t have head injuries. The doctors at Jefferson had to amputate my leg to save my life. In total, I’ve had 15 surgeries since the accident.

I remember the accident vividly. I had a lot of mental and emotional trauma afterward; I would picture it over and over. A psychologist at Magee Rehab worked with me to help me overcome my fears so I could live my life again.

I started prosthetic training as an above-the-knee amputee, and took my first steps in February 2011. But I needed a goal I could measure. So I decided to walk a thousand miles, which I finally accomplished in March 2013. Now I’m at nearly 2,000.

My prosthetists have been fearless. I think one of the most important factors in my recovery has been that no one ever told me there’s something I can’t do. “Can’t” wasn’t in anyone’s vocabulary.

I had more than a year of outpatient care. My PTs taught me how to walk, of course, but they went beyond that: They taught me to ride my bike again, to rollerblade again, and they came and cheered me on when I decided to start rock climbing. I now have an in-line skating setting for my leg, and a swim leg, which is waterproof. I climbed trails on the Shawangunk Mountains in New York with other adaptive climbers. I like rock climbing because I can meet the same challenges as someone with two legs.

For each anniversary of my accident, I try to do something special. It makes me feel lucky for every healthy day that I have. For the first, I walked a mile around Jefferson Hospital’s campus.

On the second, we took 500 kids from the school where I taught, plus chaperones, on a walk to the Art Museum. At the start of the school year, I spoke to students about wearing a helmet. One of the first-graders said afterward, “It’s important because you can get a robot leg, but you can’t get a robot brain.”

On the third anniversary, I hiked Ricketts Glen State Park.

It was a steep climb, and I wanted to give up. My friend said, “Imagine where you were three years ago.” “Okay,” I said, “I’ll keep going.”

This article first appeared in the 2014 Be Well Philly print magazine.

Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly—here’s how:

Around The Web


Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.