Monday, March 19, 2007

St. Patty's Day Tumble

I meant to write this on St. Patrick's Day, but my energy level is so low that I don't do anything when I would like to do it. In 1998, on St. Patrick's Day, I took up a labmate's invitation to go snowboarding that night. The local ski resort was having a special night rate for the holiday and it included a free beer. It was a startlingly cold day, but there hadn't been fresh snow in over a week. I was desperate to assert my independence from then-husband, and show that I could go places without him, including snowboarding on my own.

However, that day, there wasn't a whole lot of snow, but plenty of ice. I am an intermediate level boarder, but had never been on my board without my husband until that point. So, Mitch picked me up and we made the 20 minute drive to the hill. Now, it is important to understand that it is possible to ski on ice, which is what Mitch was doing that night, but it is really quite inadvisable to snowboard on ice. Snowboarding requires that you be able to lean into the mountain and edge your board into the snow to maintain some control. It's likely that an expert would have been able to do it, but I was NOT an expert.

After a few sketchy runs down an intermediate run, I was feeling quite confident. Mitch was on another run, doing moguls I think. So, I was alone. On about my 4th run down that same path, I went full force, with incredible speed. Amazing how fast one can go on a virtually frictionless surface like ice. The problem is that without an ability to use your edge to slow down, you simply can't slow down without significant experience. Of course, the adrenaline I had going kept me from even considering the laws of physics. About 2/3 of the way down the hill, on the steepest part, I threw my back end around to grab the hill and slow down a bit. Well, the edge definitely caught, in fact it wedged itself in and I went literally head over heels, cart wheels down the mountain. Mind you, it's night, it's dark, and there was no one else on that run. Apparently I knocked myself unconscious for probably 5 minutes, not exactly sure though.

Eventually, I pulled myself up and snowboarded very carefully down the rest of mountain to the lodge. At that point, I couldn't really stand up straight because I was in so much pain in my upper body. I ripped the bindings off, threw the board against the wall of the lodge, and headed up for what I believed was a well deserved St. Patty's Day beer. After finishing my free beer, I promptly got up and threw up the entire pint in the bathroom. From there, I waited at the bottom of Mitch's run, until he showed up for his own beer. Just one glance at me convinced him I was done and ready to go. Sadly, when I went to retrieve my board, it was gone. Someone had stolen my board because I had failed to lock it up. Fuck.

The next day, I hobbled into a meeting with my advisor, determined to show my recent results. I couldn't sit up straight or move my head from side to side, but damn it I had science to do. The most senior grad student in my lab called the health center and made an appointment for me, whether I liked it or not. That afternoon after a series of x-rays and a CT scan it was determined that I had myself a fractured vertebrae. Really it's not as bad as it sounds. For your anatomy buffs out there, I broke my C7 spinus process. It was a stable fracture, so all of my movement didn't threaten my spinal cord. Regardless, when a bone breaks, your muscles freeze up to protect the fracture. I couldn't move my head around on my neck and my head felt so heavy. To add to the fun, I had a severe ice burn and scrape down one side of my face and post-concussive syndrome.

I spent the next 2 months on the couch waiting for my muscles to free up my neck again. I should mention that the first week, then-husband went on a week long snowboarding trip in Vermont, leaving me alone to fend for myself but unable to get off the couch for more than a minute or two. Good one, huh? Yeah, my family and friends were pretty impressed with him too. I should also mention that I drove myself to the hospital for the CT scan and every single physical therapy appointment. I am so glad that I upgraded.

9 comments:

Aurelia said...

Ouch ouch ouch

That is so horribly awfully painful, just in the description. Is is still a problem? Do you still get spasms or back pain, or is it long gone?

And yes, I'm glad you upgraded too!

marlena rivers said...

wow. i read it fast at first thought this all happened just recently and was worrying about your little peanut. then i realized it was in the past. sounds painful! how are you feeling at present? it's funny the throwing up the beer sounded like a pregnant reaction, though i had a glass of wine on sat. night and it was the best damn glass of wine i've ever had! i had 2 hours of bliss of feeling halfway normal before tumbling back into no meds depression!
hope your mood is good these days...

Veronika said...

Thank goodness that was in the way past, huh? And yes, you definitley 'upgraded'!
:)

Bumble said...

Damn! He should have been serving you hot chocolate and chicken soup, not gallivanting to Vermont. The bugger. Hope your back has healed now. 9 weeks already hey!!!! Yahoo!

BerryBird said...

That sounds dreadful! I'm glad the folks in the lab were looking out for you. I was wondering if it was a concussion when you said you threw up the beer so quick. Broken vertebrae is not not a nice combination of wods. I keep getting little shivers just thinking about it.

Adrienne said...

Wow. Are you sure you don't want to share his name with us? I'd like to kick him in the balls for you should I ever have the misfortune to meet him. (Well, after I kicked him in the scrotum, it would be his misfortune.)

Dream Writer said...

I lived in New York most of my life (31 years) and I never learned how to skii or snowboard...

I was never a winter, snowy person :)

Sorry for the pain that you had gone through but looking back...you still must of had a great time :)

Cibele said...

The good news is that you have a much better husband now!

Dino aka Katy said...

Autch I know exactly how you feel.

I am a good skier I can get down any mountain on skies. I used to wind surf too. Anyhow while working in one of the ski valleys in Austria one of my coworkers convinced me that snowboarding is easy if you ski and surf and to give it a try. Well she talked me into tying and off we went TO THE GLETSCHER (GLACIER) Well I was blue, black, green and purple for about 4 weeks and have vowed never to trade my skis for a snowboard again.