I went to get my bandages off last week. I asked the doctor if I could go skiing again now that I could fit a glove and coat over my hand.
“No, hold off on that for a month,” he told me. “I want you to get some more stability in that wrist first.”
Naturally, two days later, I rammed my glove on over my sexy new wrist brace and took the plunge down the intermediates at Loveland (all they have open right now, alas). I skied more wussily than normal–intellectually, I know that with a titanium plate in it and a stiff brace over it, that wrist is as protected as it’s ever going to be. On the other hand (ha), I also know intellectually and every other way that if I fall on that arm, it’s going to hurt like hell.
Still, it felt so good to get out there, breathe fresh air, and get the ol’ respiratory system working double again. So I considered myself physically prepared for a visit with my boyfriend’s stepfather (hereafter referred to as my “father-in-link,” courtesy of my editor at We Love Cult). We would all go up to Loveland, get him and his sister discounted lift tickets, and spend the day skiing.
This was to be the last stage in a fun but still clusterfuck-prone weekend. I continue to maintain that even if we hadn’t seen the midnight showing of Die Hard at the Esquire the night before, we would still have gone into it exhausted. After all, there was the holiday party with my high school friends before the movie, and we’d gone skiing with my cousin that day. Sunday would have been a great day to sleep until noon.
But no. Even though we were both tired to the point of physical illness when we got up at 7:30, Ethan insisted that we couldn’t cancel.
“If I feel better in two hours, I’ll spend the rest of the day feeling guilty,” he declared. “Besides, he and my mom will give me hell.”
“You sure you can’t tell them about the migraine? I’ll totally back you up,” I somehow managed through my fatigued lips.
“They’ll think I’m faking it.”
“What if I have a diabetic emergency?”
He grimaced. “Then my mom will call repeatedly to make sure you’re doing all right.”
All thoughts of sleep exited my mind as I rushed to don my long underwear.
Loading the car was a silent affair, as was most of the drive up, much to my dismay. Usually I’ll handle the drive up to the ski area just fine, not thinking about pulling over to take a nap until the way back.
This time, however, the mountains looked blurred around the edges, and the blue sky begged me to drift off into it forever. I continually slapped my cheeks to try and resist.
When it occurred to me to think about it, I started getting nervous. Injuries occur most frequently when you’re tired, and I was already down most of an extremity from a day in which I had been appropriately energetic.
But I sure as hell wasn’t getting that far up in the mountains just to turn around. I told myself I could cut out before Ethan and his relatives if necessary so I could get a nap in. And with that reluctant resolve, I pulled into the parking lot.
We’d decided for expediency’s sake to skip breakfast in Denver and get it at Loveland’s cafeteria. It would save the ungodly amount of time it takes to make coffee, and that way we’d already be on the mountain and primed to go when Ethan’s family arrived.
We sat down to our huge, carb-heavy breakfasts. Carbs are good things to avoid as much as possible when you’re a diabetic, but I figured I could use the boost for skiing. Besides, my trusty insulin pump would be able to compensate.
I’d just finished the last of my toast when Ethan’s phone rang. They were in the parking lot, gearing up. I threw my trash away and went to the bathroom.
A high-pitched noise followed me. I’d heard it when I started eating it, but since we were right near the cash registers and kitchen, I figured it must be a malfunctioning piece of equipment that Loveland needed to fix.
It was a malfunctioning device, but it was all on me to fix. As soon as I was alone in the stall, I recognized the sound of my insulin pump telling me it had stopped insulin delivery. Two days before it was supposed to.
I rushed out without remembering to pee. “We’ve got problems,” I told Ethan.
I explained that the insulin pump decided to crap out on me and that I had–well, no time at all, actually, before my blood sugar went off the rails.
“I can do a couple runs, maybe,” I said mournfully, “but I’ll probably need to stop to puke and pee after each one.”
“So we’ve got to get back to Denver.”
I nodded, pretty sure I could already feel the toast and potatoes hitting my bloodstream. My stomach stirred angrily.
Ethan buried his face in his hands. He let out a burst of laughter that sounded like the last cry of a Death Row inmate.
“I mean, if they’re willing to drop you off, you can stay up here and ski,” I suggested.
He shook his head, a strange gleam in his eye. “Nah. You’ll probably need me to drive, right?”
“Well, no, I mean, I’ve driven while totally high before–” Then I remembered how excited Ethan got at any prospect of talking to his parents for five minutes on the phone, much less spending a day with them. “Actually, yeah. I do think it would be best if I had a backup driver. Just in case.”
Ethan’s stepfather was appropriately concerned by the news. After making inquiries as to my immediate health, he wasted no time in making sure we could still get them discounted tickets with our passes. We stayed just long enough to help them save eleven bucks, then headed back down the mountain, our skis untouched on the rack.
The drive back was uneventful, and though I was almost literally green around the gills by the time we got back to our apartment, I successfully fixed my pump and hit the sack while my blood sugar leveled out. We have yet to hear how the skiing was, although there hasn’t been any new snow in a while and the open terrain was pretty slim. If we had to miss a day, we couldn’t have picked a better one (although I did tell Ethan that I would have gleefully gone the whole day, barfing and urination be damned, if there had been fresh powder).
And by the way, Loveland Ski Area makes a damn fine breakfast. They better have, considering I drove two hours just for that meal.
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, I broke my wrist. The next day, following the advice of Rose Medical Center, I scheduled a follow-up appointment with a hand surgeon to get the stupid thing put in a cast or something. The options were pretty vague to me, since the hospital gave me a prescription for Vicodin along with a few sample pills to get me started.
Ethan drove me to the doctor’s office and offered to come in with me when I got called back. I waved him off, which was really stupid in retrospect. I’d decided just before getting in the car that one Vicodin wasn’t enough, so I took two. I was now higher than most layers of the Earth’s atmosphere and thinking that the uncomfortable-looking table would make a great place to take a nap.
The doctor came in and frowned over my x-rays. He explained what was going on there. I nodded and made note of the pretty colors.
“We’ve got three options,” he said. “We can either leave it in that splint and see if it heals up on its own, we can put it in a cast, or we can do some surgery. You’ll regain more use of your hand right after the surgery.”
“I like option # 3 the best,” I said to him, or at least, to one of him. He left and got his assistant to schedule me for surgery.
On Sunday, the Vicodin wore off and I panicked over what I’d agreed to. I was convinced that I would be among the incredibly minuscule minority of patients to die on the operating table, and since I don’t believe in an afterlife or anything like it, I was not okay with that.
Naturally, I didn’t sleep so great the night before the surgery. Of course, that could also have had something to do with not taking Vicodin at all, knowing I would need to get up at 4:30 for my insanely early surgery.
Ethan somehow managed to direct the car to the surgery center without hitting any old ladies in wheelchairs, and I got directed to the back, where I got to answer all kinds of completely non-privacy invasive questions such as, “What medications are you on?” (one of ’em: birth control) and, “When was the date of your last menstruation?” (the answer: “Just finished it.”).
The nurse said, “We need to give you a pregnancy test.”
So in addition to the upcoming pokes, proddings, and possible death, I would also need to pee in a cup one-handed. Excellent.
They got me set up in a bed and brought Ethan back to keep me company and receive some post-op care instructions. I don’t know what would have happened if he’d decided he couldn’t handle the stress. I can only assume I would’ve needed to dig up a responsible adult on Craigslist.
He got himself settled in. “Guess what,” I asked proudly.
“I’m not pregnant!”
He nodded. “Too bad. That would’ve been a hell of a lawsuit against the birth control company.”
Soon the anesthesiologist came in. He was a confident, friendly man with a great bedside manner, and my fears of death by intravenous injection were quickly assuaged. I didn’t start to worry again until the surgeon came in, had me sign a consent form, and then took out a pen and held it against my bad arm.
As my cousins and I discussed later, it was both uninspiring and reassuring at the same time. Sure, he had all the paperwork and the splint to prove that it was my right wrist in need of a metal plate, but hey, screw-ups happen. It was probably just as well he made a note of the correct arm, especially if he’s still at the same stage I am of needing to make an L with his thumbs and forefingers to identify sides correctly.
They wheeled me into the OR. I squinted at the anesthesiologist.
“Did you already put some knockout drugs in my IV?”
“I sure did,” he said.
“That would explain why the ceiling’s moving,” I said.
Suddenly, I was in another room. “What else do they have to do?” I asked the nurse, alarmed.
“Nothing. You’re done,” she said brightly.
“I didn’t even get to count back from 100!” I marveled.
Ethan took me home, where I spent the rest of the day sleeping. I told my dad about my experience, or lack thereof, on the operating table the next night.
“They think patients under general anesthesia can be used as models for what death is like,” he said. “If there is something going on there, there sure aren’t any brain waves registering.”
“Well, I can tell you there wasn’t anything going on up there yesterday,” I responded. Both he and Ethan resisted the urge to make jokes about this usually being the case.
So if that was my first taste of death, it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great, either. It just…wasn’t.
In the meantime, I can type two-handed again, albeit slowly and somewhat painstakingly with the thick bandage wrapped around my wrist. That should come off on Monday. Since I can’t get my ski glove or parka sleeve on over the cast, I’ve been unable to indulge in my favorite hobby of skiing, and my ass is not-so-slowly growing in size, hastening that hopefully distant day when I get to taste death for real.
Have a bright and happy weekend, everyone!
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.
Ethan and I have a new hobby when we’re on the ski slopes. It’s not skiing, either. We’ll get on the chair, take a run, go back for another round, get to the top, and one of us will say, “I have to…well, you know.”
And the other will roll their eyes, knowing exactly what needs to be done. In fact, whoever hasn’t made the comment is already going about that particular business.
I’m referring, of course, to adjusting our ski boot buckles. Back in the old days of my no-nonsense Darth Vader boots, adjusting a buckle was easy. I either tamped it down or loosened it up by a notch and sucked it up after that.
But sometime in the past ten years, they’ve come out with these damnable microadjustable boot buckles. You can still adjust by simply taking one or all of your four (or three, depending on how much money you felt like shelling out to feel superior to other skiers) buckles to the next notch.
But you don’t have to. If the boot doesn’t feel like it needs to be tightened or loosened by a whole notch, you can simply screw or unscrew the buckle to tighten or loosen it by fractions of millimeters.
Ethan and I are now, therefore, on the never-ending quest to find the Perfect Boot Setting, the setting that will make our feet feel as though they were encased in velvet bedroom slippers while still providing adequate ankle support.
If we can just give that buckle over our arches one or two good twists to the right (I still have to hold my fingers up in the shape of a L to determine which way is righty-tighty and which way is lefty-loosy. This gets really confusing when I make both thumbs point to the right), we keep thinking, we’ll have it down cold.
This, of course, is bullcrap. Ski boots are never comfortable. They’re constantly either too tight or too loose, and no amount of tweaking will force them to be otherwise. Just as the same run can be in vastly different shape than it was five minutes ago, or the weather here in Colorado can go from sunny and seventy to a blizzard in ten minutes, there’s always going to be something different nagging your lower extremities than there was on the last run.
Alas, microadjustable buckles give you the illusion that you can make it right. It’s the latest in a sadistic move by ski boot manufacturers of the world. It might also be the cruelest, second only to coming up with the design for ski boots in the first place.
Ethan and I, like our fellow pow-hounds in search of the perfect patch of gnar, will doubtlessly continue to believe in the illusion. I will be taking my boots to the Loveland ski shop, in fact, to get them custom-fitted. Hope springs eternal.
And insanity is sometimes defined as doing the same act repeatedly and expecting different results each time. I’m sure that’s not related at all.
Today was opening day at Breckenridge, the one mountain on the Epic Local Pass that I have never visited before in my totaled nineteen years of living in Colorado.
Kind of like all the other ski areas Ethan and I have visited over the past few weeks, we figured there wouldn’t be much open, but it was worth checking out just the same. After all, we already have a pass. We wouldn’t be wasting money buying a ticket.
We might have wound up wasting money on parking, however. We finally arrived at the mountain only to discover that the only open skier parking lots were paid lots. Not only did I not have any cash, I also didn’t see the need to pay $10 for a full day when I would only be skiing for a few hours. In fact, I didn’t see the need to pay $10, period.
So I circled the block and duly noted the 3-hour parking limits. I tried the small strip mall across the street from the lot and noted the warnings that cars not belonging to shoppers would be towed. I also made note of the surveillance cameras they had to enforce the notion that they were Not Fucking Around.
Fortunately, there was a grocery store just beyond the strip mall, and the lot was blissfully surveillance-camera free. If you or your loved ones ever get mugged for your groceries at the Breckenridge City Market, it is not my fault.
Ethan and I put on our foot-shaped bowling balls–er, ski boots, grabbed our skis, and huffed and puffed our way to the gondola. Still, walking the extra two minutes was, we agreed, totally worth the ten smackers we’d saved.
We boarded the gondola and faced a ride so long and with so many stops for mid-point loading and unloading that I wondered if we’d wandered onto a Rocky Mountain set of No Exit, or perhaps Waiting for Godot.
I started grousing as we picked our way past boozing snow bunnies and bros on beer breaks just to get to the bathroom. “You know, Loveland doesn’t charge you for parking. They also don’t make you walk way too far–and any distance is too far in ski boots–through shops you can’t afford anyway just to get to the lift like Keystone does!”
Ethan nodded in agreement and ran the best he could in ski boots to reach the bathroom. I posted my plea for Loveland to hire me as their new PR person on Facebook with this, in my humble opinion, catchy motto: “Loveland: For when you just want to fucking ski.” Also apparently for when you just want to fucking split infinitives.
We got in five runs in a total of two and a half hours. No, the open runs were not that long nor that challenging, but the lift lines sure were. This, however, was not the fault of Breckenridge.
November is universally recognized as ski season in this state, and while people might have been wary of going to A Basin’s or Loveland’s opening days for fear of early-season rocks, Breck’s solid choice for an opening day drew expectedly large crowds, even for a Friday.
The discouragingly long lines did persuade us to hang up our skis after reaching our bare-minimum for calling a ski day such, however. We went in to the cafeteria to grab a snack and some drinks.
I mused that the chili sounded good. Ethan looked at the menu.
“Better be, at $9.75 a bowl.”
“Seriously?! I think we get a discount with our passes, but still!”
We passed on the chili and decided to get the moderately less price-gouged cheese fries. I got a drink and went up to the counter to pay.
“Just those?” the cashier asked. I nodded and took out my Epic pass.
“And I have this,” I proudly proclaimed.
She looked at it, puzzled. “So…you already have a Resort Charge on there?”
“A what? No. Does this get me any discounts?”
She shook her head and rang up the order. Eight-plus dollars for some cheese fries and a hot chocolate.
“No discount,” I groused to Ethan over what really should have been the best damn cheese fries of my life. “The Super-Pass Plus? You get discounts at Copper, Winter Park, AND Steamboat!”
“Yeah, same with Loveland.”
“This is bullshit,” I further declared. “I know all ski areas fuck you up the ass somewhat on food prices. But at least Loveland has the decency to use lube!”
He nodded in agreement. He also nodded in agreement when I asked if I could pitch that to them as another motto. I get the feeling he’d stopped listening by that point.
We finished our obviously gourmet snack and took the endless gondola back down to the parking lot. And even though my feet hurt in new and fascinating ways from my extra-long walk back to the grocery store, I still maintain that the saved ten bucks was totally worthwhile.
I’ll still make a profit even after I get the Krazy Glue to cement my pinky toes back on.
It had been a day of skiing, if not a particularly long nor hard one, and I wanted to take a shower.
I took off my glasses and turned on the faucet. I am quite literally legally blind without my glasses, so when I saw something brown shoot away from the drain, I squinted at it. I stuck my face into the tub to look, getting perhaps a foot away from it. Finally, I yelled at Ethan, “Hey, is this a thing a clump of hair, or does it have legs?”
He’d already taken off his glasses when he stood next to me and squinted. After a couple seconds with no more luck discerning its nature than I’d had, he went and put his glasses back on. Then he returned.
“Whoa! God damn!” he yelled. “That thing is huge!”
I left to get my glasses.
“What is that, a centipede?” he asked.
“I’m pretty sure that’s Cthulhu.” I stood up. “Well, I don’t think I really need to take a shower.”
Ethan chuckled. “Oh, Pewter,” he called.
“That thing could eat the cat!” I snarled.
“Fine. Get me a piece of paper or something,” he sighed.
“I’ll just get you half the roll of paper towels.”
“What? I don’t want to kill it!”
“It doesn’t deserve to live! It just flipped me off!”
But he got that quivering-lipped expression on his face, so I went to grab a piece of paper.
After a few cries of, “Damn! He’s fast!” Ethan succeeded in getting it on the paper, which he raised triumphantly. I stared at it suspiciously, then stared at his naked body.
“So what are you going to do with it now?” I wanted to know.
He looked down as if surprised to discover he had no clothes on. “Good question.” He thrust the piece of paper at me. “Here.”
“Get that thing away from me!” I shouted.
He grimaced and headed for the back door. “Let’s just hope none of the neighbors come home right now.”
He took the monster centipede down the back stairs. I heard an, “Oh, shit.”
“Yeah. I just lost him. Right near the door, too.” He scrambled around. Since I’d been all for putting the creature out of its misery, I let him figure out its whereabouts by himself. I’d just go read up on Wikipedia about hypothermia treatments.
I heard the back door open and quickly close. Ethan ran up the steps.
“Did you get him safely out in the cold, where he’ll likely freeze to death or wind up right back in our bathtub?”
He hopped quickly in the shower, rubbing his hands together. “Yup! I still say we should have gotten Pewter to go after it.”
“Pewter doesn’t go after bugs. Besides, it was so big, the cat could have turned it into his own personal pony.”
Ethan started giggling. “I’m just imagining Pewter with a little cowboy hat and spurs, riding a giant centipede.”
He kept giggling. I joined him. Soon, we were laughing with all the hysteria of two people who knew that there was a giant centipede lurking just outside our back door. Plotting.