When skiing turns nasty: my $2K ambulance ride

Back in 2007, I was a hot skiier. Fresh off the back of a season (90 days straight skiing), I knew every bump, every crack and every obstacle on the mountain. I had one gear: fast.

Enter my cryptonite: first trip away with my new girlfriend (GF), combined with an excruciatingly painful afternoon on the bunny slope. There on the left of the bunny slope was a temptation too great for any mortal overly confident skiier, and completely irresistible to any man spending the afternoon on the bunny slope with his GF – yes, a terrain park – (a) it was a chance to show off and (b) it was a chance to momentarily end the boredom.

Terrain parks are fun, aren’t they? Well, typically – but only if you’re 17, riding a pair of twin tips and in possession of cat-like reflexes. Enter me. 35 years old and slightly overweight. Yep, that’s me in the picture; grinning like an idiot.

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So it happened. Spread out before me at the top of the terrain park, were three jumps – all about 30 m apart, and all about the same size (2-3 m). I waited for several ‘tweeny’ aged grommets to clear the jumps. They did. It was my turn. Waving to the GF, I pointed the tips and slowly accelerated toward the first jump. It was icier than I thought. I hit the first jump at surprising speed. All was ok, position in the air fine – if not a little ‘back seat’. Second jump surprised me. It came up fast. This time I was definitely backseat and traveling faster than I’d planned – big air, but still ok, not panicking, but nervous. Third and final jump – completely unprepared, back seat all the way, ski tips straight up n the air, body vertical, upside down completely unrecoverable. Thought process: “F*uck, I’m in trouble”.

I landed fair and square on the back of my neck. Can’t remember if I passed out. All I do remember is thinking ‘shit, I’d better get up and move otherwise one of those grommets is going to slice me open with their snowboard’ (I was obscured from view). I stood up, only to fall straight back down. Not in a controlled way, but more in that sickening kind of way where you fall on your face. The GF was watching at this stage, and rightfully she knew something was wrong.

I manged to get up, get my skis on and ski over to the side. It was from this point that things went from bad to worse. After checking for broken bones and/or cuts, and reassuring the GF I was ok, it slowly dawned on me – like a slow rolling fog – that I couldn’t remember where I was! I knew I was skiing on a mountain, I knew my name, my GF and where I worked, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember where I was staying or what I had eaten for dinner the night before. They call this severe concussion.

Remember of course that I was supposed to be looking after the GF, who had never skiied on this particular mountain. She was beginning to panic, and all I could say was ‘sorry babe, I think I’ve done a number on myself’. Ski patrol arrived soon after and immediately started running a series of diagnostics as per the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). My score 13 – so not so bad, but still seriously concussed, owing to confusion and slurred speech.

GCS

So they placed me on oxygen and put me in a rescue sled and towed me – behind a skidoo – down the mountain to the medical center. Falls Creek Ski Patrol were brilliant. I can’t say that enough. GF who was now in tears had also been transported to the medical center by Ski Patrol.

So I’m in the medical center. Doctor is grumpy, and wants to observe me for an hour or so. So we wait. 15 minute observations: pulse, blood pressure and dumb questions: Tell us your name? Who is the prime minister? What day is it? If you think I look kinda freaky in the picture below, its not surprising. I was under observation with a suspected subdural hematoma (that’s Dr speak for a bleed on the brain).

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I am then told I need to go ‘down the hill’ for further observations, to Mt Beauty Hospital. They’d already fetched for an ambulance under a Code 2. That’s not Code 1, lights and siren, but so I found out later, it is pretty much billed as one. Cha-ching!! Most expensive taxi ride in history: $2,240. I sat in the front passenger seat with the driver, chatting his ear off the whole way down – but having no recollection of the question I’d just asked. It was like ‘Groundhog Day’ for the ambo. But he was good value. An old guy, with adult kids. He makes his whole family wear helmets when on the snow. Much of our conversation revolved around just how dangerous it can be.

We got to the hospital, where impressively enough the GF was waiting for me. The concussion improved rapidly and I was showing no further signs of deterioration. My memory came back owing to the better supply of oxygen off the mountain. I was later discharged at about 10 pm after spending close to 8 hrs either in a rescue sled, medical center, ambulance and finally a hospital. I now wear a helmet when I ski and I have not been anywhere near a terrain park since. I have a story to tell, but I’d hate to repeat it. At least now I claim the maximum points in the ‘ski magazine ‘how hard-core are you’ test ‘. Yipee for me.

Note to Rachael. I did actually enjoy skiing with you on the Bunny slope babe – truly honestly 🙂 🙂

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Image: The Falls Creek Ski Patrollers who rescued me (and the GF). Can’t remember your names guys, but if you see this – thank you so much. You’re awesome.

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