There’s no way to keep this brief, so here goes:
Last Saturday, I was skiing at Liberty Mountain, Pennsylvania, coaching their alpine race team. The weather had been foggy and rainy all day, a once hard-as-rock snow surface turned into a slushy, peeling mess.
On our penultimate run of the day, the kids, my fellow coach, Tyler, and I were taking a run on Lower Ultra, making giant slalom turns. The snow, by this point (12:40pm), was really soupy. About 3/4 way down the run, I caught the edge of my right ski in the snow. I was going approximately 40 miles per hour, and was now hurtling, with little control, toward a stand of trees and rocks.
My instinct was to avoid hitting the tree, so I tried to self-arrest, stopping myself before going off the trail and into the woods. I tumbled and tried to stop. My left ski released. My right ski planted itself perpendicular to the fall line, sank into the snow, and stuck, while my body kept rotating counter-clockwise. The ski didn’t release.
Something snapped. I tumbled one more time, and my right leg whipped around and landed in an awkward way, rotated out of a normal position.
“Fuck,” I thought, “I’m really hurt – and nobody knows I’m here.”
I didn’t move, not wanting to injure myself further. Adrenaline masked the pain. Two lift attendants saw the crash and called the ski patrol. Patrol arrived within 5 minutes, as did some of my fellow coaches. I was put on a backboard, my right leg rotated 45 degrees outward from its normal position. Had I dislocated my hip? Had I broken my hip or leg?
This would not be known until I could get to a hospital. The ski patrol loaded me on the backboard onto a sled and took me to the resort base, where I was transferred to an ambulance (the EMT with the ambulance recognized me from the Civil War Century – the ambulance was based in Fairfield, PA). Having had no pain medication, this really hurt, but I pushed through the pain.
30-or-so minutes later, we arrived at Gettysburg Hospital, where I was whisked into an exam room. I was given an IV drip of pain meds, which helped blunt the searing pain. I was given X-rays, which showed a dislocated (i.e. spiral) fracture of my right femur, a couple inches below the femoral head, and other damage that may have been pelvis fractures.
No wonder I hurt!
Given I was skiing so fast at the time of the fall, the orthopedist at Gettysburg wanted me to be transferred to a level one trauma center for my next steps. So I was given another ambulance ride, this time to George Washington University Hospital. Ativan helped me sleep through the whole ride (save for the last two miles, where I helped the drivers find the hospital).
New X-rays determined that only my femur was broken (very good news), and a CT scan showed no internal injuries. Early Sunday morning, I had surgery to repair my femur: four pins and a rod are my latest additions. Four hours of surgery produced a repaired, but very sore and tired, me.
Since then, I’ve been working to heal. It’s not easy. I can’t currently bear weight on the repaired leg. My upper body strength isn’t great, so standing up and using a walker is very difficult.
But I’m carrying on. I’ll be transferred to an outpatient physical therapy facility in the next day or two, where I’ll likely spend two weeks. I hope to be back on my bike by late spring, and skiing again next winter.