February 23, 2013: Don't Break a Leg

That is Matt to the left and Kelsey to the right.
My "ride" down the mountain

Well I didn't break a leg (thank goodness), but I did completely tear my ACL. Yes, completely...meaning Level 3. A total detach. I spent some time in the Vail ER and in their attached physical therapy center. And it was quite the journey getting there. But thanks to my new friends, Matt and Kelsey, I made it safely.

Seeing the beautiful Vail Ski Area and the Rockies from my back, head first down the mountain, on a sled, pulled by skiers was quite the experience. I now know what skiing rubber neckers look like from the vantage point of the casualty. Very interesting. I sure wish I had a camera on my helmet for the journey down.

Let's start where it began, in the back bowls of Vail; specifically Blue Sky Basin. Note on the location (per Garrett); we couldn't have been any further out for a ground rescue. We spent the entire morning skiing across Vail to arrive at that destination. Garrett, Mike and I were enjoying a day full of fresh powder and testing my ski skills to new levels. I was actually doing quite well with great tips from my pro-like comrades.

My tragic Heavy Metal run was in the lower middle...only one black diamond.
Per the website, this run is for Intermediates looking for a challenge.
Can't blame the terrain.

On our last run before lunch, Garrett and I looked down on the difficult mogul run full of small obstacles. In Garrett's defense, he pointed me to an easier run one over. "I think I can do it" was my response. "No doubt you can do it. Are you sure?" Of course I was sure, so off I went.

Garrett stayed at the top to make sure he was there if I got into trouble, which I obviously did. I'm not sure what exactly happened,but halfway down the "Heavy Metal" run, I bit it. My left ski got planted and I twisted my leg in the dramatic fall. I felt a snap. Garrett came to my rescue and removed my tangled ski. Relief came and the pain was gone. "I'm okay," was my response to Garrett. I felt fine.

After a little maneuvering, I tried to put my skis back on. "Are you sure you don't want to walk it the rest of the way down?" Garrett questioned. My response was "I'm fine". Unfortunately my knee didn't agree. I had no stability in my left knee. Garrett then grabbed my skis and me, the poles. "Follow in my footsteps," was Garrett's instruction. That I did and after assessment of the situation with Mike at the bottom, we all agreed that I wouldn't be getting back on skis that day.

Now the interesting part. I was expecting a lift back to Vail Village on a snowmobile. Not so lucky. Instead my ride was a pull sled. The picture above gives you a full visual of my ride. So imagine Matt pulling the sled and Kelsey following behind on skiis guiding me like a papoose with two ropes. All I kept thinking was 1) I now know that I never want to be put in a body bag alive and 2) Ben Lane would love this ride.

The most interesting part of the sled ride wasn't the pull, but the lift. Yep, lift. We needed to take a chair lift to get out of the back bowls. They literally lifted the sled (with me in it) onto a table that was attached to the top of the chair. With Matt and Kelsey on either side, I laid on my back watching the chairlift mechanisms do their thing while hearing their radios report of the many other injuries on the mountain.

I took a deep breath and said a prayer as the chairlift stopped mid-trip with me rocking on my back staring at the Heavens. As we sat/laid in the stillness, Matt told me of a man who just broke a leg. It was so bad that people could hear the break when it happened. They had to administer a line for pain meds prior to his chair transport. This stop was for him. My own anxiety quickly went away as I said a prayer for this poor man.

After completing the hour long journey down the mountain, the rescue duo, along with the medical shuttle team, simply lifted the sled and pushed me in the back of a van. Onto a gurney at the next stop and voila, I arrived at the ER. I tried to tell the ER nurse that I felt fine, no ER was necessary. Just a little wobbly. She factually stated what was apparent to everyone else but me. "Ma'am, it is very likely you completely tore your ACL." Obviously an injury not uncommon to this ER.

So 2 hours, 3 nurses, 3 x-rays, 1 doctor and 1 physical therapist later, Garrett and I were on our way home. With a brace in place, some walking practice, and warnings on the days ahead; we drove away from Vail less one ACL. It was history. My body now only has one. What was also obvious to me was that two are necessary.

In light of my mantra of "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade"; I'll highlight the positives. First off, I have no pain. Really. They say it will come soon from the impact of the injury and then after surgery. Right now I still feel fine. I just need the brace on for stability and some occasional ice.

I also see this as a key opportunity to take in healthcare and the workings of the system from a patient's perspective. This will be very helpful with my new business venture. It's always good to experience life from the eyes of your consumer.

Lastly, Garrett is a really good nurse and healthcare advocate for me. He has scored many brownie points this weekend. This gives me some some relief in knowing what old age will look like when everything in my body goes to heck. I really do think he will feed me oatmeal from a spoon when the time comes. And I do want to take a stab at Heavy Metal again. Next year...

Awaiting my ER results


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