Wednesday, March 02, 2005


What a day... It started with me ready to have my best downhill run ever, and ended with me in the hospital. After inspection, I was warming up on the trail adjacent to the downhill. Suddenly I was lying on the ground with 15 or 20 people standing around me asking me in various languages if I was OK. I was really confused because I couldn't remember crashing. Thinking about it more, I could remember that I was in Klosters at a race, but I wasn't sure what time it was or whether today was a race day and, if so, what event we were skiing. At one point, Tyler skied by and asked if I was OK. I remember responding, "I can't remember shit." Ski patrol (or "SOS," as it's called here) showed up and asked me what happened. I was starting to piece it together. I remembered skiing down the final pitch on the hill, trying to carry a lot of speed down onto the flats. But on the far right-hand side of the trail, where I was skiing, there was a big compression at the bottom of the steep pitch, a sort of gully followed by a decent-sized roll. I was aware of the terrain, having crashed there during warm-up the day before when it caught me by surprise. This time I thought I was prepared for the compression and would be able to ski right through it by staying strong and deliberate. It didn't turn out that way. I remember staying upright as I hit the compression, but it must have thrown me off balance so that I flew off the next roll off-kilter and slammed into the ground face-first. Or so I can conjecture, based on the goggle-shaped pattern of the bruises on my face.

I felt fine apart from a little soreness in my neck and face. I asked if I could just ski down, but the toepiece of my binding had snapped off from the binding plate on my ski, so that was out of the question. (My watch snapped off my wrist too, but someone found it, luckily — it was a high school graduation present from my parents.) The ski patrollers must have gotten me out of my monoski and into their sled, but I don't remember that part. I just remember riding down in the toboggan — my first time ever — and looking up at the sky. By now I had realized that it was downhill race day and that I would miss the race. I got angry at myself for making such a stupid mistake and blowing my shot at what could have been my first World Cup podium. I think I started crying.

In the patrol room, Ralph stepped inside and asked how I was doing. I said I would be fine, and that he should "go get 'em." (He later told me it was like a scene in a bad movie. You know, like, "I'll be OK. Go win it for me!") A doctor showed up and introduced himself, and our team physio trainer Alison arrived too. They wanted to take me to the hospital in an ambulance since I'd obviously had a concussion. They also put a neck brace on me. At the time this seemed unnecessary, but as I'm writing this now my neck sure is sore. At the hospital, they let me get into my wheelchair. They X-rayed my neck and made me lie down in a bed for a couple hours for "observation." Alison left to go find our team doctor, Peter, who had been taking another injured athlete to the airport. A nice Australian-born nurse checked on me every so often; it was a comfort to talk to someone who spoke fluent English. A Swiss doctor arrived and introduced himself. My X-rays showed some stiffness in my neck but no fractures, he said. Even though I was showing none of the usual concussion symptoms like dizziness, nausea, or tingling in my hands, he wanted to keep me in the hospital overnight as a precaution. When Peter arrived, though, he convinced the other doctor to release me into his care and let me go back to the hotel for the night. By the time we sorted out all the paperwork and drove back to Klosters, it was 5:30 pm or so. (The accident had happened around 10:45 am.)

It turned out that there had been a lot of casualties at the race that day, with numerous holds to get injured racers out of the safety fencing. One guy even had to get airlifted to the hospital by helicopter. My teammate Hannah finished her run and then crashed into the fence in the finish area while trying to stop, injuring her knee. Nick crashed three gates from the finish, but was unhurt. Other than us three, it was a good day for our team, though. Laurie took second in her class, and Joe won the race in my category, the sitting men's. Chris took third. (results) In fact, the guys on the podium were the same three who had been fastest in training the day before, and in the same order. Since I had been fourth the day before, it was painful to realize that I certainly would have had a shot at a top-5 finish or even a podium.

Because of the concussion, I'm not allowed to ski for the rest of the trip, and maybe not for a week or two after that. There's just too much of a risk of a much more severe head injury if I were to crash again. So right now, the super G race is about to start and I'm chilling in the hotel for the day. I have plenty to do: books, music, DVDs, Internet, chatting with Hannah, getting my watch fixed. Tomorrow and the next day, I think I'll go up to the hill and watch the GS and slalom from the finish area. Then on Saturday, we'll fly home to Colorado.

My face is pretty bruised up — I should have someone take a picture — and my neck is sore, but I feel pretty much fine. I slept soundly last night except when Peter woke me up periodically to make sure I was OK. It's a huge bummer to miss these last four races, especially when I was skiing well and had a good chance of moving up to the B-team based on the final World Cup standings. But as everyone keeps reminding me, at least I'm not hurt worse.

If anyone else has any good concussion stories, post them in the comments section, would you?


Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever had a concussion but I was running down the stairs once in junior high school and the boys in front of me were all jumping over the last four steps and I forgot that I was 13 and that meant I was taller than most of them. So I jumped up to go over in a leap instead of just jump out, and the next thing I knew there were shattered lines over my eyes and this boy Milan telling me it was okay to cry, though I wasn't. I had no idea what he was talking about and was surprised to find myself lying in the stairwell with a great big bump on my head from the flight above upon which I had knocked my adolescent head.

:) Bowties

benderbro said...

When I was 5, I fell off the slide when my friend and I were horsing around at the top. I landed face down on asphalt (I have a cap on my front tooth because of that). I spent the rest of the day and evening blacking out. I woke up while I was being carried into the school by my friends, when I was asked my phone number by the lunch ladies in the school, in the car with my mom on the way to the doctors and then a few times at home while I was in a chair. The rest, as they say, was all a blur.