One week ago, Kyle had an accident while we were night skiing. I am glad to report that he is doing much better.
Last Sunday, we decided to go night skiing. We had a good couple of runs. The snow was a bit icy, but that's somewhat to be expected when the thawed snow from a spring afternoon starts to freeze again when the sun goes down. We decided to take one last run down Frenchman. It's one of my favorite runs and the past few times I've been skiing, it's been closed because they've been grooming it before re-opening the run for night skiing. So, that night I figured it would be a great run to take because of their pattern of grooming it before night skiing. We got on the run and we were quickly able to determine that they had not done any grooming recently. Conditions weren't perfect, but like I said, that's to be expected. We skied ahead. As usual, Kyle went in front of me (he's a much better and faster skier than I am).
I rounded a turn and I was surprised to see one ski and one pole in the middle of the run. Fifty feet below I saw the other ski, the other pole, and five feet below them, my boyfriend was curled up in a ball. I got to him as quickly and safely as I could and I took off my skis. He was just laying there, moaning for a few moments. His goggles were down around his chin and his face, neck, and goggles were all covered in snow. It looked as if he had been sliding on his face for some distance. I moved his goggles to the back of his helmet (thank God he was wearing his helmet!) and I noticed that there was a stream of blood across his face. After a quick check, I saw that it was coming from a cut on the side of his nose.
I didn't rush him to get up. I could tell he was in pain, but I didn't know what was hurt. I figured it was probably his back, as his herniated discs often give him terrible pain. He sat up on his own and clutched his right knee--the one he has had two knee surgeries on. Great. He also said his shoulder hurt--not the one he injured playing Broomball; the other one. He didn't say anything about his back hurting, so this was one positive thing I was able to cling to.
He looked at me and asked what was going on. "What happened? How did I get here?"
I replied, "I don't know. I was uphill from you so I didn't see what happened." I thought he was just asking me how he fell. At this point, I had no idea how little he knew about what was going on.
He asked, "But, where are we? What happened? Where are my skis?"
I pointed uphill. "One ski and one pole are up there. It must have come off when you fell. The others are here."
Kyle muttered, "This is so weird. I don't know what's going on."
I replied, "You had an accident, Kyle. You crashed."
"OK. So, where are my skis?"
"Are you joking with me or do you really not know? I just told you one of them is up there." I pointed uphill and he looked in that direction.
"Woah. That's my ski. What's it doing up there?"
"You crashed and it came off."
Ten seconds later, Kyle looked around and said, "I can't figure out what run we're on. Hey, that's my ski. What's it doing up there?"
This happened more times than I can count. I'm realizing at this point that he has a concussion, which, on top of his other injuries, means he is definitely not skiing down. We need someone else to come down this run so that they can call Ski Patrol for us.
In the meantime, he repeatedly asks me if his nose is bleeding. Each time, I explain that, yes, there is a cut on the side of his nose and it is bleeding. Not ten seconds later, the question comes again. "Is my nose bleeding?" I pause before answering and I think he sees some concern in my eyes. He asks, "Did I just ask you that?" I respond with a simple, "Yes." He apologizes, but I assure him that it's not his fault, I know he can't remember right now, but it'll be OK.
I was scared. I asked him some questions about earlier that night, that afternoon, the day before, Friday, Thursday, going back in time until he was able to remember something. I was trying to keep my cool, just gathering information. The most recent thing he was able to remember was from Wednesday. May I remind you that the day this all happened was Sunday. His mind had lost four entire days. I was worried.
We saw someone coming down the run and we flagged her down. Kyle asked if she could bring his ski and pole down. I walked uphill to meet her and explained that he had experienced a bad fall and was having memory problems, as well as an injured knee and shoulder. I told her that he wanted to ski down but I knew he was in no shape to do that. I asked if she could call Ski Patrol for us. She told me she was a first responder and she would definitely help us out. While I was walking the ski and pole down, she apparently asked him four questions to determine what he was presently oriented to. I got there as she was finishing. She told us she was going to call Ski Patrol and to stay right where we were. Kyle tried to say he was OK, that he would prefer to ski down. She told him that because he only knew the answers to two of those four questions, she needed to call for help. (I asked him if he knew what those questions were, and to no surprise, he didn't remember.)
Ski Patrol arrived and started doing their tests and such. They were getting the sled ready and Kyle was still trying to convince us he was OK. He said to the Ski Patroler, "I'd prefer to ski down." The Ski Patroler said, "Oh, really, you would?" and Kyle, hopeful that he was going to get his way, responded, "Yeah, I would." The Ski Patroler just said, "Well, sorry. I can't let you do that. Now have a seat here and lie back." A second Ski Patroler came to the scene and I helped them tape his head to a back board and they started him on oxygen. They explained that they hoped the increased oxygen would help the flow to his brain, increasing the chances that his memory would improve.
At this point, it was snowing hard. The first patroler started making his way down the mountain to the clinic, with Kyle in tow on the rescue sled. After a little conversation about the night's events with the other patroler, I started skiing down toward the clinic myself. That was the most nerve-wracking, loneliest run I've ever taken. The snow was coming down hard and I was so cautious so I wouldn't fall. The light was dim with my goggles down, but I couldn't put them up because of the heavy snow. I felt like the only person on the mountain, because in reality, most everyone was probably already done for the night.
I got to the clinic and they already had Kyle in a bed. A receptionist was asking me questions about Kyle: date of birth, mailing address, etc., etc. Believe it or not, this was the one time we did not bring cell phone or insurance cards with us. Wouldn't you know? Luckily, after a few phone calls, I was able to get what I needed.
I talked to the doctor, talked to Kyle, they did x-rays of his shoulder and knee, I talked to the doctor again, talked to the ski patroler about an incident report, filled out a form, talked to the doctor again, called someone to cover for him at work the next day, talked to Kyle, filled out another form.
They confirmed that he had a strained MCL in his knee, a separated shoulder, and a pretty significant concussion. The concussion was the most worrysome for me to think about. It was scary how little he was remembering about the night. However, while he was there, he did have improvement in his memory regarding the previous few days. They told us that he didn't need a CAT scan immediately, but if his condition worsened, we would have to go to the emergency room.
After some instructions to me, they discharged him and I drove us back to his place. Meanwhile, the snow was coming down hard and we were in white out conditions. There were some very scary parts of the drive back to Summit Cove. There were moments when we could not see anything and we didn't know where the road dropped off. Once we were in Summit Cove, I was taking the turn by his condo slowly, but apparently it wasn't slow enough. The back end of the Civic spun around and I didn't know where we were headed. I was not in control of the car. We spun 180 degrees and stopped in the middle of the road. I was able to get us pointed in the right direction and we turned into his complex. (Unfortunately, he does remember that portion of the evening!)
I set my alarm to wake us up at 1:00 a.m. (per doctor's orders) to make sure he was doing OK. We got through the night OK and he lounged around the enitre next day. We were a bit concerned that his headache was not going away and he was getting sharp pains in his head occastionally, but after a day, that did start improving.
He made an appointment with the orthopedic doctor to find out about his knee. That doctor told Kyle that it appeared to be soreness and possible tearing within the hamstring muscle, not any part of the knee itself. That was a relief to Kyle, but yesterday he was questioning whether that is true or not, as he still has a lot of pain in his knee.
All in all, he is doing much better. His memory is back, with exception to the events immediately before and after the incident. He still doesn't remember much of his time at the clinic, but he has shown marked improvement with memory in general. His headache is gone and his shoulder is doing a lot better.
Again, I am so grateful that we were both wearing helmets at the time. Kyle is a very advanced skier and has skied that run numerous times. Neither of us would have expected that a "routine" run would have caused him a fall that led to a serious concussion. He wasn't doing tricks. He wasn't skiing in the trees. He just went over a roller and, to this day, nobody knows exactly what caused his fall. I do not dare think of what kind of damage may have happened if he had not been wearing his helmet.
Skiing is risky. Later, I found out that earlier on that same day, someone died at the Keystone Clinic. It was the eighth skiing death in Summit County this season. The 42-year old man was wearing a helmet, but his impact with a tree caused irreparable damage. The run that man was skiing when he died? Frenchman, the same run Kyle was on when he had his accident. Eerie. When I found out, I told Kyle, "Thank you for not being that guy."
I am so glad to say that one week later, Kyle is doing much better and he continues to heal well.