For the first week I indulged in magical thinking.
I would lie in my bed in the morning and if I was pain-free, wrapped warm and cozy in a narcotic haze, I’d think about skiing.
I’d picture myself jumping out of bed, stretching my arms skyward. Then I’d see myself buckling my boots and clicking into my skis. I’d feel the cold on my cheeks and the pressure of goggles against my face.
I’d run a mental loop where I did everything right, instead of one thing wrong. I’d try to rollback time. I’d even picture my ski clothes whole, not shredded by the scissors of a paramedic.
Eventually though, the pain in my shoulder would return and I’d have to get up.
I’d have to face the fact that instead of stretching my arms and buckling my boots, I’d be asking my husband to help me dress. In the blink of an accident, I gone from self-sufficient adult to mostly helpless toddler.
But I Only Fell Over
I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been skiing since I was three and this is my first season ending accident. I plan to make it my last.
Like most accidents I didn’t see it coming. And as with many accidents, I have no one to blame but myself.
We were on day four of a five-day Canadian ski holiday. I was with my family at Lake Louise and we were skiing First Tracks with a guide.
On this morning, I’ll be the first to admit I was pretty tired. I’ll also admit that I was pretty stoked. New snow had fallen over night and we were looking forward to better visibility and winter conditions in the resort’s inspiringly steep Back Bowls.
Since we were out early, only the front side of the mountain was open. West facing, there is plenty of terrain on this side, but it can get sun-effected and icy. There are also some stunningly beautiful views of the Canadian Rockies. And I was looking at these views rather than looking for ice. Checking my speed with a left turn, my edges slid out from under me and I landed squarely on my left shoulder.
I didn’t hit my head. I didn’t hit my hip. My shoulder took the force of the fall and as pain ripped through my arm, I knew I was done for.
Not wanting to ruin anyone’s ski day, I told my husband and sons to go enjoy themselves while I waited for patrol. I also told them to take the camera. I still wanted to see the view.
They looked at me as if I was crazy. I wasn’t. I was just thinking magically.
By the time patrol arrived I was pretty sure I had a dislocated shoulder. Not only did the pain makes sense, but my arm was very tight in my jacket.
The next 30 minutes took days. The ride down the mountain was ridiculously painful. Getting in and out of the patrol sled was nearly impossible. Taking off my jacket was an ordeal.
A Full Disco, Plus
With my arm undressed, the verdict came quickly. It’s a “full disco” one of the patrollers diagnosed, as another assured me that I’d soon feel better.
And the magical thinking continued.
As I saw it, my shoulder would be put into place. I’d rest it for a few days, or maybe two weeks. And then I’d end my season with some fantastic spring skiing.
The reality has been otherwise. For in addition to a “full disco” I had a broken arm. Still as I was leaving the hospital where I went for x-rays, I felt pretty good. For what I thought I heard was that I would be fully immobilized for three weeks and then free.
More magical thinking.
Back Home Again
Because I had both a dislocation and a broken arm, my immobilization has actually been closer to six weeks.
At three weeks I began doing some basic isometric exercises, but I still couldn’t move my shoulder. At four weeks, I could free my arm from the sling a few times a day. As we approach six weeks I’m still predominantly one-armed and one-handed.
Not surprisingly, most of the magical thinking ended weeks ago.
Instead I’ve been living a world in which I can’t drive, I can’t type, I’m unable to cook or tie my shoes. I’ve had to rely on family and friends, and thank goodness for them.
I’ve gone from enthusiastic winter athlete to mostly bored couch surfer. I’ve also become an excellent dog walker. I’ve played countless games of Words with Friends and gone on Netflix benders, compulsively watching full seasons of Freaks and Geeks and Downton Abbey.
At times, especially after I began sleeping well, this has been fun – an unexpected, if mandatory, holiday from responsibility.
But I‘d be lying if I said it wasn’t killing me to miss the surprisingly powder-filled end of the Colorado ski season.
Sharing my envy with a friend, she reminded me that there would be other powder days and other seasons — but that I’ll never get another arm.
So I’m trying to be a patient patient.
Magical thinking, indeed.
Although this is the first mention of our March trip to Alberta, it won’t be the last. Despite the injury, I have wonderful things to report about skiing at Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Mount Norquay. Look for enthusiastic posts — and photos of the stunning Canadian Rockies — come Fall!
More on Accidents, Recovery and Ski Safety:
- How a Ski Accident Changed Our Lives, January 21, 2013.
- One Tough Mother, July 11, 2012.
- Talk to Your Kids: Skiing Safety and Skiing Safely, January 12, 2015.
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