In our school district, there is a wonderful winter sports program for elementary school students. For a very low rate (or free, if they qualify) kids sign up for one of several winter sports options: ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, or snow shoeing. The kids have a 90 minute lesson after which they take a break, get a snack, warm up, and then head out for another hour or so of 'free ski'. At my school, we go on four Monday afternoons beginning just after the New Year. (I know we are way more than 4 weeks into the new year, but because of one snow day and MLK Day, this was our last week of the year.
My chaperoning duties are at "the mountain" and for weeks 1 - 3, I basically stood at the bottom of the 'bunny slope' and encouraged new skiers and snowboarders. I am not a great skier and I don't love to ski but I can handle the 'green' hills and low-level ski speeds with lots of turns and snow plowing. As happened last year, by week 4 all of the 'bunnies' had graduated to the chair lift and, thus, I was tapped to join the beginners. No problem.
During their lesson, I tagged along with the ski instructor and basically stayed in the back of the line of ducklings to make sure everyone made it down okay. We had one kiddo who skied okay but struggled mightily when he fell because getting up was not in his wheelhouse. No big deal, as I was in no hurry to get down the hill myself!
We took our break when the lesson ended, warmed- and snacked-up and I hit the slopes again with the same group of 8 kids. Joining me from the school was our PE teacher, Ali (henceforth to be dubbed Angel Ali)... We would have had a third teacher but she tweaked her knee skiing and asked me to take her place. No problem! I live to serve!!
So, Ali is VERY good at what she does and she took these 1st & 2nd graders to the top of the mountain and basically continued their lesson... in other words, they were required to stay in a line, following her as she skied backwards down the hill. She has high expectations for these kids and they do GREAT for her. I'm not sure how many runs we took, 3 or maybe 4, and things went great. She identified kids that were going too fast and needed to leave more space. She demonstrated good turning which the kids did very well following. Again, I was the caboose just sweeping up those who tipped over and needed encouragement.
At 3:40 (yes, I looked at my watch) we were on the ski lift and the child sitting next to me - the one who struggled so much to get up off the ground when he fell - said, "How many runs do we have left?" I said, "This might be our last one or there's a chance we can squeeze in one more after."
We lifted the bar, put the points of our skis up, and skied off the chair. Suddenly, his left ski was crossed over my right. I tried to correct it but very quickly my right leg and my left were going in very different directions.
"Oh, my God. I can't believe this is happening."
My knee twisted horribly as I fell to the ground.
"I'm not going to be able to run my 40-miler."
My leg was in a wrenching, terrible position.
"All those people. All those miles. All those 4AM, 0 degrees miles. For. NOTHING."
Then, aloud: "Ali! Get it off. Get it OFF! Get the ski off!"
"I'm not supposed to move it."
"It's bad, Ali. It's BAD. GET IT OFF!"
"I know it's bad, Phoebe. I can see it's bad. I'll try to get it off, I just don't want to hurt you more."
Thank God she listened to me instead of her first responder training.... the ski, after what felt like an eternity, was off. I picked up my right leg with my hands and flipped it around to a somewhat normal position. I felt, at that point, many joints and things moving around and (hopefully) back into place.
"What the F&** just happened? This is the stupidest, most obvious plot twist EVER. Goddamn it!"
Meanwhile, Angel Ali had all the little ducklings moved over to the side of the mountain out of earshot, thank goodness, because although I thought I had refrained from cursing out loud, I did left a few fly. (Who could blame me, honestly?) Another chaperon group got off the lift behind us. It was ELLIOTT'S group. I saw the mom in charge of that group and said, "Where's Elliott?... I don't want him to see this." He had a minor mishap getting on the ski lift and had decided to call it a day already. He was in the lodge. Thank goodness!
Another adult - not with our school but a familiar face - offered to ski our group down the mountain so Angel Ali could stay with me. Ski patrol had been called. I said from the get go "I am not skiing off this mountain. I am NEVER skiing again!" I cried on and off from there, not from the pain of the fall but from the pain of everything I worked for turning to dust (well, I probably thought "turning to shit", actually) in a fraction of a second.
Jake and Jess, ski patrol gods, arrived on the scene. I attempted to maintain some sense of humor with them. I was feeling light headed, as is my MO when I get injured, and Jake said if I needed to puke it should be on Jess. Okey doke. I again explained that no way, no how was I skiing down the mountain (or ever again... canNOT emphasize that enough!) so I got a ride in the sled with Jess skiing.
"If I had any kind of sense of humor right now I would ask you if were Dasher or Dancer.... But I am in NO mood."
"I'm Vixen, actually."
Good one, Jess.
As she skied me down, I had a nice opportunity to wallow in things. I put my head back and got a nice, short cry in. She turned back to ask if she was going too fast.
"Dammit. Busted crying."
"No. I'm just furious at the situation."
Ali met me in front of the first aid and between reiterating how PISSED OFF I was, I immediately went to Mom Mode. She told me not to worry about my kids. Of course, I knew that the staff would make sure they were taken care of, but I wanted them to come see me. I was afraid they would hear I was hurt and in first aid and then panic. (Who knows what kind of story my fall would turn into by the time it reached the bottom of the hill!?) I needed them to see that I was hurt but not HURT. There was also the little factor of Gabriel, who was at daycare and expecting Mom to come pick him up in the next 30 minutes.
As things go in a small town, Gabe's daycare provider is a ski instructor as well. On Monday's she teaches snow boarding to our kids and so she was at the mountain. (She has helpers that cover the daycare on these days, lest you think she just locks them in and crosses her fingers!) She was heading home soon and happily took Tom and Elliott with her to her house. (Her daughter also happens to be in Tom's class, BTW). She promised she would look after them as long as she needed to. Another Angel!
Jake and Jess and another first aid attendant (whose name I don't remember) got me out of the sled and onto a stretcher. They missed one of the seat belts so my first 'lift' was unsuccessful. "This is going to affect your tip, you know." Jeeze, I was hilarious. These folks, let me tell you, were outstanding. I felt taken care of, listened to, and teased just enough to maintain my sharp edge. Jake sort of knew me already because he is good friends with a theater friend who ALSO works at the mountain. Small world, isn't it? So, we sang some songs (he knows about Tommy VanScoy, the diamond king, so we sang a jingle from those '80s radio commercials. He was disappointed when I told him I was no relation....) I don't recommend getting injured on the slopes, but if you have to do, I hope these folks are on call at first aid. BRAVO!
Meanwhile I was trying to get hold of Scott. There is no cell service at the mountain so I had to use the house phone. Scott was in rehearsal so I knew he might not pick up. Little did I know that he saw the call come in but ignored it since he didn't recognize the number. I left a message. Or ten.
While I was getting assessed, several of my co-workers came and went making sure I had my stuff, figuring out how my car might get to the right place, and just generally being awesome. The school nurse brought me 400 MG of chewable ibuprofen. (I asked for something stronger from the bar but she was not so inclined. A girl can try!) It was decided that my principal would drive me in my car to the ER. After a desperate search for my keys by 2 co-workers, I remembered that I had locked them (on purpose) in the car. I have a keycode and with all the junk you need to haul around skiing, it's better for me to lock them in so I don't lose them. Code revealed, the Angel Ali got my car and drove it around to the first aid door.
After a bit of Keystone Cops-style efforts to load me up in the back seat, Kelly, the principal, chauffeured me to the ER. I texted her husband who had left the mountain just before all the excitement ensued. I'm sure he was thrilled to know he needed to pick her up at the hospital! I called Scott a couple more times and he, at last and realizing it was my second call within a couple of minutes, answered saying:
"Can you hang on a minute?"
"No. I'm on my way to the ER."
That got his attention! So, Scott went to pick up the boys, Kelly drove me to the ER, her husband picked her up at the ER so she could go home.... And I sat in the ER for a while.
I have already revealed my disappointment with what I heard from the ER doc. After the X-Rays he said I did not seem to have any torn ligaments but that I likely had very badly damaged cartilage. The cartilage, said he, would mean the end of distance running.
Cue the hysteria. Actually, cue the horrified feeling. The hysteria hit in the car because I was not up to having the ER folks dealing with my sobs. I wanted my Mommy. So I called her on the way home and revealed the worst and best things about this.
The worst thing:
With all of the effort I have put into running, and especially the Pay it 40ward run.... With the enormous sense of self I get from running... With so much of who I am being wrapped up in my identity as a RUNNER.... Honestly, this is the worst things that's ever happened to me.
The best thing:
I am almost 40 years old and, honestly, THIS is the worst thing that's ever happened to me?! My children are all alive and (basically!) well. My husband is topnotch. I have a house that I can almost afford. We eat everyday. I have health care. We know joy more than we know sorrow. While I have lost many that I hold dear, I've not lost a parent. I've not lost a sibling... and that's A LOT of siblings!
Holy crap. If THIS is the worst thing that's happened to me?.... If THIS is as bad as it's been...?
Time to wipe my tears, suck it up, and figure out how to be in this world as it is now, not how I wish it was.
Well, I was ALMOST ready to do all of that.
Things look better today (Wednesday) but this post is long enough. I am on a LONG road but I'm still on a road, not in a ditch. Much much more to come.
Thank you again, everyone, for your outpouring of kind words and generous spirit. Pay It 40ward lives on, but it will be in a slightly different form.