The snow sucked on Monday, but that was no surprise. I’d already decided to practice the boarding skills I’d acquired during adult ski school on Friday. Really, bad conditions were my primary reason for picking up boarding; there’s only so much excitement to be gained from skiing the groomers after you’ve passed that level. Staying home, I decided, wasn’t an option. I needed the exercise, and I’d already paid for the pass, which was kind of like investing in a seasonal gym membership. Dammit, I was going to enjoy whatever Loveland Valley, the raw beginner area, had to offer.
I was doing pretty well at first. The only time I ate shit getting off the lift was when some idiot decided to put his ski back on right in the drop zone, and I didn’t have the dexterity to avoid him. Otherwise, I showed great improvement, in my humble estimation.
On my planned penultimate run, I determined that I would buckle down and try a toe-side turn. There was no reason not to, I thought; I was on the bunny slope and would be going slowly enough that I couldn’t possibly hurt myself. Besides, I’d done one on Friday, under my instructor’s guidance, and I hadn’t even fallen. Granted, he’d come down to catch me when I started to tip over, but still. I readied myself at the flatter section near the bottom and made my turn.
I thought I was going to fall forward. Instead, I somehow wound up careening backwards. My tailbone and right wrist exploded. I gathered myself and waited for the initial wave of pain to subside so I could get on with it. The pain in my ass did. The one in my wrist did not.
I sat there for a few minutes, head in my good hand. Nausea now joined pain.
There was no snap, I told myself sternly. You’re overreacting. It’s just sprained.
Still the pain wouldn’t leave. I scanned the run for a ski patroller.
Okay, this is truly ridiculous, my logical side barked. You’ve got two good feet. Sack up and walk down this slope.
I forced my left hand to unbuckle my bindings. To combat the dizziness overtaking me as I carried my board to the base, I examined the buildings for the first aid clinic.
No luck. The lady in the rental shop smiled brightly. “How are you today?” she asked.
I stammered out something involving the words “wrist” and “clinic.” The other tech must not have had confidence in my ability to avoid passing out on his floor, because he personally escorted me over there.
The patroller on duty removed my jacket and looked at my wrist. He shook his head. “Looks deformed,” he said.
I looked for the first time, confident that if the sight did make me toss my cookies, I’d at least be near a toilet. Nothing was poking through the skin, but there was a bit of swelling and a strange bump.
I held my cookies and got Ethan on the phone to let him know he’d get to drive back to Denver, and not to just any location, but to an emergency room. Then I called my dad, the MD.
He sounded so cheerful when he answered the phone, an unusual trait for someone stuck in snowy, dark northwestern Wyoming for a week. I hated opening up the conversation with, “I broke my wrist. Can you recommend a hospital?”
After a few cheery obscenities, he recommended Rose Medical. The patroller put my arm in a jury-rigged sling made of bubble wrap, cardboard, and gauze.
Ethan retrieved me. I screamed, yelled, and backseat-drove the whole way down to the hospital.
“Where’d you learn to park, New Mexico School for the Blind?” I grumbled after he spent ten minutes aligning the car with the painted lines. He chose to chalk it up to pain and accompanied me inside.
It took two hours before the x-rays could be uploaded and interpreted to mean I had a fractured radius. It took another half-hour before I was told to lie down in a bed so my bone could be reset. Once that happened, it only took two minutes for the doctor to come in, followed by a resident, a first-year med student, a nurse, and three MAs.
Before a live studio audience, the doctor explained what to look for as she injected my wrist with Lidocaine to numb it up.
“See that little flash there? That’s marrow. Usually that’s a bad sign, but in this case, we want to see that.” She then offered the med student the opportunity to try injecting a little deeper into the bone. I stared steadfastly at the ceiling and kept my mouth closed, afraid of puking on the hot first-year if I looked.
Then came the setting. Perhaps because I hadn’t shrieked in agony (the nurse later said that I was among their more stoic patients; I was glad he was impressed because he, too, was fine to behold), she offered the resident the first shot at setting it.
“First of how many?” I croaked.
The resident was unable to set it successfully. Fortunately, the doctor decided to give her a demonstration rather than another try. There was no pain since I couldn’t feel anything, but if she’d continued to narrate what needed to happen, I doubt I would have been able to retain my stomach contents any longer.
The crew of my own personal reality show left. I looked at Ethan.
“How nice! You got to be a teachable moment,” he crooned. I rolled my eyes.
“Whatever. Can you take a picture for my blog?”
Soon, armed with a Vicodin prescription and a soft cast, we left the hospital. I will undergo surgery to put a titanium plate in my wrist on Monday, which should hopefully restore me to full use of both hands after only a week of not being able to open bottles, wash my left arm, or pull back my hair by myself. Ethan, who has been my bitch for the past few days, looks forward to my sooner-than-expected recovery; we both thought I would be in a cast for weeks. We’re both happy that I’m ambidextrous. I’m sure one or both of us would have jumped off the top of the Cash Register building if I’d been unable to use my dominant hand.
I do kind of regret that I won’t be able to follow the Loveland ski patroller’s example. When I shakily asked if I’d still be able to ski with a bum wrist, he chuckled.
“I went up to Snowmass and broke my wrist in my second day,” he said. “But I paid for two weeks of lodging, and I wasn’t about to let that go to waste. So I taped a ski pole to my cast and kept going.”
Then again, I can’t get much over my cast. Long sleeves are out, and I don’t think I can ram it through the sleeve of my parka. So it’s just as well this ordeal will be over only a week after it started, even if I will have to undergo anesthesia. It’ll be great. I’ll spend the day yelling at Ethan to get me a freshly-killed unicorn sandwich. After what he’s had to put up with already, it shouldn’t be much of a stretch.