Adaptive Athlete Lindi Marcusen on Creating Her Own Reality
Adaptive athlete Lindi Marcusen has always led an active lifestyle. She was a gymnast from elementary school through high school and a bodybuilder in college. And after the car crash that took her right leg and nearly took her life, Marcusen wanted to return to being active.
Coping with limb loss
However, Marcusen hasn't always been motivated to move and do sports. In 2017, her life changed when she got into a car accident just two weeks after her wedding. Her right leg was cut clean at the scene. On top of the injuries she sustained, Marcusen also had a traumatic brain injury.
Her doctors struggled to control her bleeding and keep her alive. They already told Marcusen's family that she wouldn't make it, but she survived.
After about six weeks in the hospital, Marcusen transferred to a rehabilitation center in Spokane, Washington, where she spent two weeks on recreational therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. During her stay, one of the therapists encouraged her to think about joining the Paralympics. But at that time, Marcusen wasn't in the right mindset to consider her next steps. She grieved for a year and a half.
The road to recovery
During that time, Marcusen focused on learning to walk again, recuperating, and figuring out her life and relationships. Coping with limb loss was so challenging that she and her husband almost divorced.
After having survived that rough patch, Marcusen now says that her challenges turned out to be a blessing. Her relationship with her husband grew deeper and stronger because they have chosen each other more than once through the years.
Being an athlete, Marcusen thought that learning to walk again would be a bit easier. However, she realized that she had to start from scratch as her muscles atrophied. Marcusen needed to build her strength and work closely with various prosthetists to find a solution for her challenging residual limb.
Marcusen has a knee disarticulation—a muscle-balanced amputation level. It leaves the femur and patella untouched, offering various advantages. This surgical technique is considered non-traumatic as no muscle tissue or bone is dissected.
Knee disarticulation is often considered before an above-knee amputation if a below-knee amputation is impossible. It is usually done on patients with trauma, diabetes, and peripheral vascular disease.
Although having a knee disarticulation worked well for Marcusen during the rehabilitation stage, it still isn't the perfect solution. Her prosthetists found it challenging to work around the skin graft for the prosthetic socket design. Furthermore, due to her amputation's traumatic nature, Marcusen's femoral condyles on her knee joint stick out on the distal side.
Despite these challenges, she pushed herself to improve. Marcusen went back to her old gymnastics studio to work on her body. She was willing to do everything to get her life back.
Daily life made more comfortable with a computer-controlled knee
Another turning point in Marcusen's amputee journey was getting a microprocessor knee. She uses an ALLUX 4-Bar Hydraulic Microprocessor Knee with a vacuum suspension prosthetic socket.
Since receiving the knee, Marcusen reports having more manageable days. With the knee, she doesn't need to expend as much energy as she used to. The microprocessor knee helps her get the most out of her workouts, especially when weightlifting. Marcusen found that she could squat comfortably, and she doesn't need to worry about free-falling while exercising.
Getting back to an active lifestyle
Once Marcusen felt comfortable and strong, she decided it was time to get back into sports. About a year and a half after the accident, she started training with ParaSport Spokane, an organization that trains all types of athletes with physical disabilities.
With her sports comeback, Marcusen got a sprinter carbon foot and an Ottobock 3S80 sports knee on the same week she was scheduled to leave for a competition in Chicago. Although she did well in her first competition, Marcusen strived to do better. She beat her record by 24 seconds in her next race.
When Marcusen first started easing her way into sports, she decided to join the 2024 Paralympics in Paris. But because of her recent successes, she recalibrated her goal to join the 2021 Paralympics in Tokyo instead.As she continues to work towards her goals, Marcusen plans to stay healthy, train, and push through her present limits. She is indeed an inspiration for many of us.