Women Riders

Inspirational Women: Ursula Marie Wachowiak, Part 4

Written by  January 31, 2016

In writing these articles about these inspirational women, one common thread links them all and that is their perseverance to overcome the enormous obstacles thrown at them. They didn’t give up or wallow in self-pity while lying in their beds. Regardless of the why and what that faced them, they plowed through, determined to arrive at a new “normal” and, without exception, continue to ride. Ursula was and is no exception.

Two weeks after her crash and one week after the removal of her leg (just below the knee), Ursula was released from the hospital. Her father and stepmother flew home to Georgia to prepare for her arrival. Her mother stayed with her in Minnesota to get ready for the flight home, finishing up paperwork, helping Ursula pack and stay with her on the plane.

Lest one think that removing a limb is easy peasy, in reading Ursula’s story, it is anything but. Her pain was unbearable. The scars are numerous and deep. On Ursula’s blog are several videos showing how she overcomes the obstacles that before July 17th were just tasks. Cooking, showering and getting around the house had to be accomplished in entirely new ways. This video shows what it takes for Ursula to get ready for her day

Setbacks were numerous as she traversed the road to a full recovery. A second surgery awaited her but first a stubborn staph infection had to be dealt with. Her doctor gave her the awful news that if they don’t kill this infection, she would face a second amputation. It was this news that sent Ursula into a PTSD tailspin. Already on a regiment of medications for pain and now the antibiotics for the staph, she decided against taking anything to fight this depression, convinced she could fight it on her own. But even a visit to her son’s in Illinois couldn’t make Ursula feel much better. Watching her granddaughter dance around brought home the despair that she couldn’t join her. While she enjoyed her visit, the depression lingered.

When it was time to head back to Georgia, Ursula convinced her friend Tracy to drive her home. They had a nice two-day ride with some stops along the way. One stop was at the Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson. She went inside, but broke down crying and left to sit by the car after a few minutes. Tracy came out to console her but then walked off and started talking to a couple of men standing by their baggers. They called Ursula over and, tears streaming down his own face, one of the men, Robert, asked her how her balance was. Soon she was on the back of Robert’s bike as they took a few spins around the parking lot, the first baby step in getting back in the saddle.

After her return to Georgia, another visit to the doctor revealed that the infection had not cleared up and she would have to have surgery to remove it and find out how much damage, if any, it had done. Although the doctor wanted her admitted immediately to the hospital, Ursula declined. She had other plans. She had a planned lunch date with relatives that day and wanted to go to church to make a pancake dinner and give a “testimony of forgiveness”. She needed the energy and love the church had provided before. Two days later, she had the surgery. She was lucky; the infection had not done as much damage as feared and she was cleared to have femur surgery the following week. They took 15-20% of bone and marrow from her good leg to mix with cadaver bone and growth hormone to create a foundation of a new femur.

Despite the surgeries and the pain meds and the pain, Ursula was off again, this time to Pensacola with her folks for a family reunion. She called her friend Bill who lives there and asked if he would be willing to give her a ride on his bike. He took the “biker route”, going 75 miles with Ursula taking in the scenery and wondering if her “soul was still into the ride.” The short answer, “Yes.”

One recurring theme in Ursula’s blog is her inability to stay still. Once her doctor said she could travel, she was off, driving to Illinois or wherever, visiting everyone she could in whatever time she had.

A new year, a new foot and some new adventures awaited her. By the middle of January, she was off again. Her first stop was Savannah, where she met up with friends and camped in her car, as her tent was lost in the crash. From Savannah, she went to St. Simon Island and then Jekyll Island before heading to Webster, Fl for a birthday party. After the party she headed to POA in Orlando to be fitted for her new leg.

In Clearwater, Florida, Full Throttle Central Florida was putting on their Bike Weekend at the Quaker Steak and Lube and Ursula worked in support at the 50legs.org tent. She met Paul, Sr. of OCC, who signed her new leg and posed for pictures.

During this latest trip, Ursula arranged to meet a Facebook friend, George, who was also an amputee and rode a Honda VTX. He lived near her mother and her hometown, so she and George met and shared stories. George asked her if she wanted to ride the bike, but she was too nervous to try, so she just sat on it. Ursula’s own bike was a Harley Sportster; a VTX has about 220 lbs over a Sporty and she hesitated trying to hold it up, asking George to do so. She put her feet up and George explained how he shifted with his heel. The bike has a longer reach and much wider stance than a Sporty as well; Ursula called it a “monster.”

We all know you can’t keep a good (and determined) woman down. After bringing the bike to the end of George’s drive and with just a moment of hesitation then a boost of her confidence, Ursula was riding again. See the video here.

Next month: How Ursula is doing now