2.05.2008


It is now time to talk about the concussion.

That's not an entirely accurate way to put it. There have actually been a lot of concussions. More than is healthy for one person to have, but that's just one of those it-is-what-it-is situations, not much I can do about it now, except maybe try not to have many more (I've done real good, haven't had any in a couple years now! Knock on wood! Just not with my head, that is...).

But this is a discussion about one concussion in particular. This was one of the worse ones. Technically I think the worst ones were the ones where I blacked out - I'm no neuro doc but it seems to me that smashing your skull hard enough to make consciousness depart your mortal carcass for a few minutes is probably on the worse end. This concussion, however, did not (to my limited memory of it) involve a loss of consciousness.

That's the funny thing about this concussion, however - I can't remember it very well, because the physical affectation in this case was a loss of short term memory, rather than a loss of consciousness.

If you've never lost your memory, don't bother. Its decidedly something one should not want to lose. Actually, the experience of doing so made me a great deal more sympathetic to the issue at large (from the pithy - movies like Memento, et. al., to the more serious - Alzheimer's, et. al.). Losing your memory is, if nothing else, quite a frightening prospect. Its rather hard to define why, but the best way to attempt it would be to say that losing your memory is tantamount to losing your identity, in a sense. If you lose the ability to recall at will the basic summation of life experiences that comprise who you are - what you do for a living, where it is that you live, who your friends and family are, etc. - well, you've lost who you are. You've lost yourself.

Thankfully, I only lost a little bit of mine, but even that was enough of a glimpse of the precipice to keep me from wandering too close to it again in the future, by choice. Well, for the most part, at least - I still struggle with the temptation to jump off of things, almost daily. Yes, I realize this is probably some kind of disease in its own right. No, I do not want to be cured of it. So, back to my memory loss. Enough with the prelude and tell the actual story already...

I was skiing. I looked around and I could tell that I was on the side of a mountain,
standing on snow, and I still had a ski on my left foot. It was cold, but sunny, and although there were no chairlifts in sight to confirm it, I was certainly skiing on ski resort territory, as opposed to backcountry. I could tell that from the wide swath cut in the trees and the mounds of snow uphill from me that had to have been constructed by snow cats.

So, I must be in the terrain park. That's where I am. I am in the terrain park. I must have just eaten a landing, but it wasn't that big of a hit - how did I miss stomping it? Doesn't seem like a jump big enough to make me...

That's when I saw the kid. He was standing there, now just off to the side of the landing zone for the hit I was standing at the bottom of. He was looking at me with wide eyes but not saying anything.

Missing the kid was the first (and, pretty much, the last) memory that came back to me. I had been lining up to throw a 540 fakie landing (spin 1.5 times and land backwards), and as I was just about to lift off, I see the kid come flying out of the trees on the side of the run, headed directly across the landing zone that my trajectory would be depositing me in exactly 2 seconds later. I had just enough time to re-correct the torque I was throwing my body into for the spin before I left the ramp, so for the most part I was able to keep my body aimed at the landing while in the air. But the sudden change of plans had thrown my weight back on my skis and no amount of rolling down the windows was going to get me on top of my feet for the landing - all I could do was try to make sure one of my skis didn't hit the kid first and cut him cleanly into 2 smaller kids, each with less limbs. I had heard stories of dudes who had done this, horrible bloody stories of red snow everywhere for days after. Manslaughter trials. No joke. I was in mid air and I was freaking out.

I landed hard on the back of the kid's skis. Had he been a foot further under me he would have been crushed, I had my skis out of the way but my body hitting him like that probably would have collapsed most of his torso. I bounced hard and then rolled, and came up rather quickly onto my feet with the one ski still on my left foot.

And the first thing that came to my mind, as I stood there shaking it off, was that I had absolutely no idea where the heck I was. I did not know where on the planet I was standing, or how I had gotten there, or what I was doing there, or who I was doing it with. Every ounce of context had vanished. So I stood there, dumb, until I saw the kid, which brings us back to real time, in the story.

Rage consumed me rather instantly. I stomped on my left binding with my free right foot and then I started straight at the kid, telling myself I would not hurt him but I was going to drag him rather forcefully to ski patrol and have his ticket yanked and have him remanded to day care for the rest of the day where he could pose no further threat to anyone on the mountain. I was pissed, and the kid saw it, and started trying to pole away, but I was already on top of him, and had him by the back of his coat.

Right about when I grabbed him, however, was when I started to realize just what a haze I was really in at the moment. I distinctly remember having the realization that I had bigger problems than corralling this idiot kid at the moment, and I just kind of let him go and stood there. I guess maybe he slid off at that point, but I don't remember very clearly. I think I just stood there for a while trying to decide what to do. I'm not sure if anyone talked to me or not, but at some point I had my gear back on and was skiing down the mountain, having made the rather clouded decision that I should probably go find ski patrol and tell them that I wasn't sure where I was or how I got there.

The next thing I remember I was outside the door of ski patrol. I must have been having some kind of mental problem with kicking my gear off and storing it, because I remember a ski patroller grabbing my skis, and then grabbing me by the shoulders, steadying me, and helping me walk into triage, or whatever you call it on a mountain.

The doc lady took one look at my eyes and said "Whoa," which must have meant I was as about as dilated as a boy can be. I remember she smelled nice and I must have been a bit more uninhibited than usual, so I told her so. Then they laid me down and did a once over for other injuries, but I kept telling them it was just my memory, and nothing hurt. So she starts asking me questions, beginning with the requisite "How many fingers am I holding up, and then moving on to the more interesting probing of my now non-existent memory.

What's your name?

David. David Knowles. I live and work in the New York City area. I don't know how I got here.

Where are we?

We're at a ski resort. But I don't know where. We're in America. You're American. (Bright, I know.)

Do you know what day it is today?

No.

Do you know what month it is?

(deliberating pause) No. Its sometime in winter. (Continuing with the bright theme. She was kind of cute too, so I was trying to impress her maybe, I think.)

Do you know what year it is?

Its 2004! (Yay, go me! It had been a memorable New Years, and it suddenly occured to me that New Years was the first thing I could clearly remember.)

Are you here with anybody today?

I don't know. Probably? I still don't know where here is. Where am I?

You're in Vermont. You're at a ski resort in Vermont, you've had a fall and a pretty serious concussion. What's the last thing you remember about this trip, or before it?

("New Years," I thought but didn't say. I thought about it, hard, for a minute. It hurt to concentrate that hard.) I remember I was at work the other day. It was a Thursday, I think, and I left work early. I...I can't really remember anything after that.

Good, that's good. (She wasn't very convincing.)

Wait, so what day is it then?

Its Saturday. Try to remember if you came here alone or with people, can you remember how you got here?

(Its SATURDAY? Where the heck did Friday go??? - this would be a question that I would never really be able to answer, although my friends told me about it, later. I wasn't sure how much of what they told me I believed, though.)

Can you remember who you came here with? She interrupted my pondering and positioned herself between me and the wall I was staring at and tried to get me to focus on her. I think this was when the pain started kicking in, so I was fading.

(I came back around for a few seconds...) No. Not really.

Try. Did you talk to anyone recently? Do you have a phone?

(A cell phone! That's a good idea. Wait. Mine's not in my pants. I took it out. I always take it out when I ski, ever since I shattered that one in the half pipe in Breckenridge. I wonder where I put it. I wish I had my cell phone.) No. No. I don't have my phone. I don't know where it is.

OK. You need to stay here for a while. Why don't you lay down?

I think I kind of started to drift off but I distinctly remember them making sure that I stayed awake, which was incredibly annoying, because I can't really remember ever wanting to sleep so bad in my life.

The rest of the day was still kind of hazy. At some point started using one of their cell phones to call whatever numbers I could remember. I started with Grace, Grace would be in the city, tied to her desk at KPMG, which she basically never left. Grace might know where I went, but Grace didn't answer her cell phone. I may have remembered a couple other numbers, but didn't reach anyone, and was down to my last option: call home and tell them what happened.

I couldn't bring myself to do it. Mom would freak before I could get the explanation out, and I was in no state to sort things out after that. I asked pretty doctor lady to talk to her for me. I think she did, and eventually I was talking to a relatively calm mom, telling her who I could think of to try and call who might know who I had come to Vermont with, so that the ski resort could try and find them. Somehow (I have no idea how), we eventually figured out I had come up with Fal and Marcy. I must have left them at some point to go hit up the terrain park, and that's when I had my run-in with the ground.

Marcy and Fal found me at the end of the day, still in a daze. Marcy is a physical therapist or something similar so after talking with pretty doctor lady she returned and declared to Fal and I that our trip was over and they were taking me home.

I still, to this day, can not remember any of that Saturday before hitting that jump, or anything from the Friday that came before that Saturday, or the Thursday night before that. I remember work, and leaving it, but I don't remember meeting up with them, driving up, what we did on Friday or Friday night, who we stayed with, where we ate, nothing. We did it all, I'm quite sure, but I have a blank spot where those memories should be. The next real thing in my mind is that freaking kid.

So, yeah. I wasn't wearing a helmet. It was a jump that I would never need a helmet for unless something freaky like that happened, but something freaky like that happened, that time. I've worn a helmet for the most part when I've been riding in the parks ever since, but I've never since needed it, which is annoying. I don't like wearing the cumbersome thing, and the more I ride, the more laid-back (and less helmet-needing) I get, except for when I'm bombing runs, when I should probably be wearing one anyway.

That's the story, about as clearly as I can remember it. In retrospect, if I had been a little more on the ball, I would have dragged that kid to ski patrol, and I probably would have done a better job of hitting on the doctor.

2 comments:

Nickie said...

I saw the picture in this post, read the first sentence, and knew I had to respond. A few years ago I went skiing with some friends from church. I was trying to master one particular slope when a little boy - no more than 9 years old - skis right in front of me. To keep from hitting him, I (literally) skied off the side of the mountain. Granted, this was West Virginia so it wasn't nearly as dramatic as it sounds. Anyway...next thing I know I'm laying at the bottom of a very large dropoff - skis and poles nowhere to be found - and I hear laughter. (Apparently I wasn't very graceful.) As I laid there all I could think was, "why are they laughing at me...I could be concussed." Lucky for me, I wasn't. I found my poles, snapped my skis together, and hiked to my original destination. When I arrived I was met with tearful friends, and a memeber of ski patrol driving a snowmobile with a matching stretcher. He asked if anything hurt and I said only my pride.

Oh, what we go through for the things we enjoy.....

bethanylynne said...

Next stop...other interesting injuries that are less serious...

Add that to your list of future posts. Please. :)