Monday, March 2, 2009

The Accident

It was my first run on my second day of skiing at Snowshoe. I decided at the last minute to ski on Sunday because of the snow overnight would make for nice conditions. Tom went on home to Charlottesville, and I stayed behind with Raphael, another club member.

[I have been skiing on a regular basis for 7 years. I even took advanced lessons a few times on trips with the Washington DC ski club. Yesterday I started the black diamond trails at Silver Creek.]

Around 10 am, I started skiing and realized right away that my legs were tired and unstable from the previous day, but I felt that I just needed to take it easy and warm up. But only after about a minute on the Upper Flume, I fell and slid off the edge of the trail. Then I hit a tree broadside with my right lower back. The wind was knocked out of me, but I never lost consciousness and I was wearing my helmet. No one saw me fall, and Raphael was ahead of me and did not know what happened.

After I realized I could not crawl up the embankment, I thought that I was going to be there for a while. The ski traffic was light because it was Sunday and early in the morning. But I did not panic and I listened so I could time my cry for help (I was having trouble breathing, and it was hard to yell loud, probably because of the rib fracture that I learned of later). After about three tries, a nice lady skiing with her two kids heard me, called ski patrol, and then crawled down the embankment so stay with me until help came. So it was only about 1 minute until I was found, and less than 2 or 3 minutes for ski patrol to get there.

Ski Patrol

I was thoroughly impressed with ski patrol at Snowshoe. All the proper procedures were followed, and they used the backboard to hoist me up on to the trail. Then I got a sled ride down to the Ballhooter lift, which was bumpy and seemed to take forever. I felt bad for the other skiers when they had to stop the lift for so long to load and unload me. Next was the stinky, bumpy ride behind the snowmobile to the Snowshoe clinic. Both rides were really painful because I was on a hard backboard and they strapped my legs down flat to the board which put a lot of stress on my hip and lower back.

Once the Snowshoe doctor decided that I was going to the the hospital, he gave me some morphine which helped only a little. They wanted to cut off my ski clothes, but I would not let them. It was a long bumpy ride to Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, 30 miles/45 minutes.


From Snowshoe II 2009

Pocahontas Memorial Hospital is a very small acute care facility, but the service was good and quick and the people were nice. They did x-rays right away, but it seemed like forever until they took me off the backboard. Then they did CT scans with contrast in the little building next door. The scans were emailed to another facility, and 20 minutes later, the diagnosis was one fractured rib and three fractured lumbar transverse process (little mini ribs that stick out of your spine). I was very fortunate that I did not break the part of the vertebra around the spinal cord or damage any internal organs.

I am not sure when Rafel showed up, but he was very helpful with calling Tom, getting the nurse for me, and keeping me company. AND I found out he is a neurologist. He was able to answer a lot of questions I had about long term nerve damage, among other things. Eventually the ER doctor released me and I tried to get into the wheelchair to go home with Raphael. It was the worse pain I ever felt, and I had to be helped back onto the bed. I realized that there was no way I could sit in a car for the long ride back through the mountains.

So the ER doctor admitted me to the hospital and I told my friend that he should head home since Tom was on his way. Time went by fast because I was sleeping, and soon Tom was there to rescue me. But the doctor was worried because I could not urinate naturally (without a catheter). So he decided to transfer me to Roanoke Memorial Hospital because there could be other neurological problems that were beyond the scope of the facility.

Transport to Roanoke

We left Pocahontas at 1:30 am via ambulance transport in a snow/sleet storm. Tom followed in the Subaru and I was worried about him staying awake, but he pulled through. I slept off/on the whole way, but the beginning of the trip was painful because the roads were very windy and bumpy. They made the stretcher was as comfortable as they could with extra foam pads and pillows. Three hours later we arrived at the Roanoke ER.

Roanoke Memorial Hospital is very nice and a big contrast to Pocahontas. They sent me for another CT of my spine and gave me more IV pain meds. Tom and I spent the rest of the morning, until 10 am, in the ER. I don‘t remember much of this part because of the valium, but I talked to several doctors, including a trauma doctor. If I did get a diagnosis from the doctor for the last CT, I don’t remember it. But I don't need surgery, thank God.

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