Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Hospital Chronicles Part VII: Winter Fun in New England

For this episode of the hospital chronicles, we will fast forward approximately seven years, past my stint in military (which did include a few x-rays, but nothing that I would qualify as an official Hospital Chronicle) and to my first professional job in the airline industry, which happened to be in Magazine Man and Shane's home state of New Hampshire. I know MM in particular is familiar with where this occurred since I've seen it mentioned in his blog...anyway, let's get on with the story.

The winter I lived in New England (I ended up only living there about 18 months,'s a nice area) the airline I worked for, Business Express (a regional airline for Delta and Northwest) had deals with some of the local ski areas where we would exchange passes on us for free passes to the ski area. I had been kind of a slug over the winter, although I had been snowshoeing a couple of times, due in part to a hiking accident the previous November where I fractured one of my fingers when I slipped (since I visited a clinic for that one, it did not require a hospital visit, and is thus not recorded as an official Chronicle.) By February, I was going stir crazy, so I decided to hit the trails and go skiing.

At any rate, although I had gotten semi-okay at skiing a couple of seasons previously when I had lived for a few months in Denver during ski season, I was out of practice by the time I went to the Waterville Valley ski area. Additionally, skiing in the Eastern US is quite a bit different from skiing out West...the conditions tend to be more icy. In spite of all this, I was taking it easy, and I had only one minor wipeout until my last run of the day.

There were several things that, looking back, seem amusing about this accident...the trail I wiped out on was named "No Grit" and I had just mentioned to someone on the ski patrol that, while I hadn't skied in a while, I had avoided wiping out so far that day. This was an easy trail that went side to side across the mountain, but it was a bit narrow, and due to the aforementioned ice, I caught an edge halfway down and flew off the trail straight downhill.

I had that "slow motion" accident feeling for a couple of seconds before my progress down the mountain was stopped by a large boulder, which my right hip struck at a fair rate of speed. I wasn't knocked out, so I started yelling for help, and a passing skier helped drag me back up on the trail (I had only gone a few feet as it turned out.) When I told him I worked for an airline, he jokingly asked if I could get him any free passes. Unfortunately, I never got his name to follow up with him later, since I could have gotten him some, probably. The ski patrol showed up soon after that, ascertained I had pain in my right hip, and evacuated me downhill on a backboard. Everyone on the ski lift was staring at me, which I suppose was inevitable but still made me feel like an idiot for crashing.

Since I had driven to the ski area by myself, they had to call for an ambulance (which they probably would have done anyway, for liability reasons.) I called a friend from work, Dave, and he drove up to check on me. At the time we thought I might be able to go home directly from the hospital, but that didn't turn out to be the case. A friend of his that came up with him drove my pickup back home. I really appreciated Dave's help in my hour of need, especially since it was a good 70 or 80 miles away from the area where we lived, although I was in too much pain to show my appreciation right away.

X-rays determined I had fractured my right hip. Pending a doctor's review, they recommended I spend a day or two in the hospital for observation and to learn how to use crutches properly. That first night they gave me a prescription for a small amount of morphine through my IV, and that did help me finally get to sleep!

I had a no-nonsense physical therapist take me through a couple sessions of crutch training over the next two days, and after an orthopedic surgeon determined my hip would heal on my own, I was given a Percodan prescription, discharged, and told not to drive for at least a month. I did stay out of my car until I went back to work about two weeks later, but no harm ever came of it that I could tell.

I also stayed at Dave's apartment for a couple nights after I was discharged (he had a two-bedroom place.) Staying there was kind of driving me up the wall after a day or two (not really due to anything Dave or his wife did, I was just used to living alone) so I returned to my place fairly quickly. My mother offered to fly out and stay at my apartment for a while if I needed any help, but I declined her offer, since I was actually pretty much okay by the time I got home...the only thing I had much trouble doing during my recovery was vacuuming.

When my local doctor saw me (the same guy I'd been to for my fractured finger in November) he said, "Boy, you're having a rough winter, aren't you?" I was inclined to agree. He did say that I was lucky since the fracture was on the side of the hip, not the top, and therefore should heal without much chance of arthritis in the future. While I tended to disagree with the "lucky" part of his assessment, my hip did heal completely, and after about a month of two crutches, and two weeks with one crutch, I was walking around again.

If anyone wonders, did I learn my lesson and give up skiing? The answer to that question is no, although I haven't ever skied again enough to buy my own pair of skis or even get back to the level of semi-proficiency I had that one winter in Denver. The last time I went skiing was the winter before last, near Reno, and while I didn't dazzle anyone with my awesome talent, I did avoid any serious crashes.

I celebrated surviving that day by Lake Tahoe afterwards with my friend and skiing partner for the day, Melanie (she's a MUCH better skier than I am, incidentally) over an Irish coffee in the base lodge. I may go skiing again this winter, but if I do, it will probably someplace in the Rockies with lots of non-icy, powdery snow.


Magazine Man said...

You are on a fast track indeed to replace me as the most accident-prone blogger in the 'sphere. Bad for you, but good for me. ;-)

That New England ice is some bad news.

Chuck said...

Hey, MM, you will always be the king of accidents in my mind. Although it sounds like your brother has given you some competition in the past...