I peered down the hill — nothing but powder. Pushing off, my ski tips sank below the fluff, sending sprays of fluff up.
“Wow, that’s some great skiing!” said my fellow ski instructor. As I continued down the hill, my spirits soared. With my instructor’s exam only six weeks ago, I felt good about my skiing, and even better about life in general. We’d had an amazing weekend, going dog sledding, and skiing fresh powder at Steamboat — the ultimate Colorado winter weekend.
Fast forward two days later. It started out at work that afternoon. My wrist started to ached while working at my computer. It’s nothing. It’s just too much work using the mouse, maybe a little bit of carpal tunnel.
Twenty-four hours later, I was in agony. My wrist and thumb throbbed with a throbbing pain. Still, I minimized it. Ok, maybe I sprained it. I’ll just use some ice, rest it a bit. But a small nagging voice in my head told me it might be something more serious.
Thursday brought a foot of new snow to Winter Park — a skier’s dream. Scheduled to teach on Friday, I should have been psyched. By late Thursday I knew I would not be enjoying any powder runs with my students. I could barely tie my shoes.
Friday, after another day of terrible pain, I gave in.
“Bryon, I need to see someone, this isn’t getting any better. I called my regular doctor, but they said they couldn’t take me. Let’s go to urgent care.”
Sitting in the waiting room next to a guy with his shoulder in a sling and a bag of ice on his collarbone, I started to second-guess my decision. It’s nothing, they are going to send me home with an ice pack, telling me to take Advil.
“Well, it’s probably just a sprain or carpal tunnel you aggravated, but just to be sure, let’s take some x-rays. You can look at the x-rays with me.”
I followed her to the computer.
“Oh, this isn’t good.”
“Do you see this? You’ve fractured one of your carpal bones. I’m going to get you a brace to wear, and you’ll have to follow up with an orthopedist.”
Shit, there goes the ski season. The first 24 hours, I denied reality. She’s wrong, she read the x-ray wrong. Nooooooooo.
Then I did what any newly diagnosed patient does — I got on the internet. The news got worst — scaphoid fracture has poor blood flow. Scaphoid fractures can take months to heal. And on and on.
I’ve been active my whole life. The first time I ever broke a bone was four years ago, when I broke my pinky toe. It hurt like hell. But I kept skiing and working out despite the pain.
Years ago, a friend of mine joked that about that old phrase people use at a party, “What do you do?” She said the joke was that in Boulder, they aren’t asking what you do for a job. Instead, they want to know what sports you pursue. Are you a runner? Do you rock climb? Do you ski?
I sit here tonight contemplating weeks ahead without doing. No skiing, no weight lifting, no shoveling snow, no rock climbing. The thought of that terrifies me.