Saturday, March 25, 2017

Bell-Shaped Curve of Emotion

The NCAA Championships were suddenly over, and they ended on a low note this year.

These photos kind of capture the emotion of the day. Scraping around in the bushes.

But on our way back home, we had time to stop for a couple hours' worth of sightseeing in Boston. 

As for me, after our Boston stop, I made another stop. This time in Colorado for a week's worth of alpine skiing in the Rocky Mountain sunshine. First stop was Steamboat Springs.

Everything was going great, and memories of a rough week at NCAA's were fading and being replaced by sunshine and great snow.

I was minding my own business, knifing giant slalom turns through sun-softened spring snow, when I hit a rock submerged under a couple inches of slushy snow. I was getting insane angles like Ligety, and the ski was fully loaded, mid-turn. There was a crunch the moment my outside ski arced directly into a hidden rock, as my femur punched down through the meniscus and broke off the top of my tibia.  I knew the prognosis was going to be bad even before I fell. Strangely enough, it didn't hurt at all. The knee simply didn't work any more.

This guy, Pete, offered to give me a ride down in his sled. I'd never been in one before so I said "sure". 

As fun as it was to get a ride in the sled, I was pretty bummed because I knew the next six days of ski vacation were out the window, as well as the entire Alaska spring skiing season.

You don't have to look too closely to see that the tibial plateau is broken, and the femur had to bust through the meniscus to get to the tibia. 

I had another first on this trip: my first overnight stay in a hospital. 

About three hours after the accident, the local bigwig orthopedic surgeon (an official US Ski Team doctor) dropped by and told me that I needed surgery and if he was going to do it we needed to do it immediately because he was leaving town early the next morning to float the Grand Canyon. The timing couldn't have worked out any better for me. No waiting time. (And apparently they've invented some kind of synthetic bone graft material, so they didn't even have to harvest a piece of bone out of my hip for the graft.)

Here's his handiwork:

And then he stapled me back up. I guess stitches are no longer in vogue.
To me, this knee does not look normal. I suppose it will work itself out.
So in the end, I hope some good can come of this. I've been spending more and more time working with the alpine team in recent years, and I am really enjoying being involved with that side of the sport. But sometimes I wonder if my lack of knee surgeries hurts my credibility with the alpiners. Like, if I've never even had one torn ACL or one broken leg, I haven't gone through initiation yet and I'm not really legit in their eyes. If that's the case, I'm hoping this experience will change all that.  Now I've got my first-ever ski injury in the books, even if it took me 48 years' worth of skiing to achieve this milestone.

As interesting as this adventure has been, I guess I won't be too disappointed if it takes another 48 years before my next broken leg.

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