He thanked her and slid it on his right hand, smiling at the familiarity of the tarnished metal touching his middle finger. He bit his lower lip and then used his arms to push himself up, balancing his 220 pounds on his left leg. His right leg dangled in his gym pants; it had been amputated just below the knee.
“Good job, Victor,” physical therapist Kevin Colvin said. “Now do 20 lifts to strengthen that hip and thigh.”
Four months ago, a Metro train struck Robinson, 42, after he had an epileptic seizure and fell onto the track bed at the Friendship Heights station. He says he remembers nothing of the accident and knows only what his family, friends and doctors have told him.
The last thing he recalls from that day is calling his mother at their Petworth home to tell her that he was going to get his watch repaired after leaving his work as an advocate for the disabled at an area nonprofit organization. He told her he’d be home later.
The next call his mother got was from Suburban Hospital in Bethesda. She was told her son had been in an accident. Robinson’s right foot was severed by the train, and later his lower leg would have to be amputated.
Robinson is one of 13 passengers struck this year by Metro trains, according to the transit authority. Many of those hit by trains are killed or die days later, and Metro often reports that the person was on the tracks intentionally. Robinson, however, was just waiting on the platform.
Seizures have struck Robinson without warning his entire life. A few weekends ago, one interrupted his favorite pastime: watching a Redskins game. “There was only four minutes left,” he said.
Since the accident, Robinson has undergone four surgeries to relieve fluid buildup in his left leg and to repair a broken right wrist. He’s been outfitted for a titanium and carbon-fiber prosthesis and spends two hours each day doing physical therapy to strengthen his muscles. He has worked on transferring his body from his bed to a wheelchair, wheeling himself around, attaching his prosthetic leg and using a walker.
It’s all progress after he spent two weeks in a medically induced coma. His twin sister and parents took turns at his bedside, and as he came to, they asked him to respond to simple commands.
At the start of his physical therapy, Robinson had a bit of an attitude. He didn’t want to do exercises, a reaction typical sometimes of patients who have lost limbs or been in a tragic accident, according to the medical staff treating him.
But as he started to see progress, Robinson became more upbeat, outgoing and like the Victor his family and friends had known.
“They say I’m doing fine,” Robinson said. “They say I’m making progress and improving. It feels good to move, to stand, to balance by myself and try to walk.”