We were kindly invited by Laura, my baby brother Michael's sister-in-law, to spend Christmas in Gstaad, Switzerland.
On Dec 28th, I decided to switch from my snowboarding lessons - where progress was slow and bruising, to skiing, which I do poorly but at least can stay upright for more than ten minutes at a time.
I agreed, with Tom, a cousin of Michael's wife, to share an instructor, Rolf. We all departed for the Eggli mountain and Rolf and I hit the chair lift with enthusiasm. Well, me with some trepidation, because it can be tricky to get off those when you are as clueless a skier as I, but somehow I made it off the machine and remained upright. I mean, it's been 4 years since I last skied and 15 years since I did a chair lift; it wasn't bad going!
Rolf and I skied down the top part of the mountain a couple of times and rode up on the T bar. The T bar was easy, but I had the feeling that Rolf was making this so. The third time down the mountain, Rolf looked at the T bar, shrugged and said "This time, let's go down the mountain".
One of those flashes of insight, which I have stupidly trained myself to ignore (because of all that scientific training, the requirement for evidence and such rot), told me that I should NOT go down the mountain. I was tiring; I could feel that I wasn't leaning forward enough in my boots, my toes weren't pointing quite enough, the skis didn't feel like extensions of my feet; in summary, I still felt as though I were strapped into two slidey bits of plastic on a slippy, slidey mountain.
But the silly, rational part overrode that insight with sensible thoughts like "If the instructor thinks you are doing okay then it will be fine. And then you can use the chair lift to get back. And you'll feel great when you get down there!"
We made a left turn down a narrower part of the piste, where I had to turn three times in quick succession - and was just beginning to feel comfortable, when the Rolf urged me to join him further down. At the last minute, I lost my nerve; he was on a narrow section, in front of a tree and I wasn't sure I could stop in time. So I swerved towards the apparent safety of the fresh powder at the side of the piste.
Wrong, wrong, wrong!
As I snow-plowed into the powder, my right ski connected with something very unpowdery, and stopped abrubtly. The left ski slid neatly beneath that locked right ski and when the boot connected, I fell forward with the force...and didn't come out of the bindings, but instead felt my leg break against the top of the boot.
Well, panic, panic, screams for help, the instructor came over and held me as I struggled to stay conscious, waiting for the rescue sled.It was a long and painful 25 minutes. I wondered vaguely what the next hours and days would hold in store. My worst case scenario was a minor break, a plaster cast and back to the ranch in time for tea.
But no. The face of the radiologist (at Spital Saanen) fell when she saw the break and she said, abruptly; "It's broken and for sure we have to operate".Well, the rest was 48 hours of pure pain, pain, pethidine shots, an untimely fever, a quite wonderful operation under epidural, during which I opted for Mozart and sedation, quite a lovely hour by comparison with the rest.
Then 48 hours with the epidural still in place to spare me the horrors of post-operative agony, then the return of the pain and more lovely pethidine. Once the fever and intestinal effects of that fever had cleared my system, I felt surprisingly strong and was able, with crutches, to hobble to the bathroom and give myself a shower and change of hospital gown.
So they let me go. All in all, as wretched it is to be in hospital and in pain, a ski injury isn't much to complain about. It's partly your own fault and you aren't actually sick.I thought a lot about Jane, and Monica (whose leg was chomped by bacteria within an inch of her life), and I couldn't feel sorry for myself. But I did feel sorry for poor David and my kids. Anyway, it's home to bed and three months recuperation for me. What will I do with myself?