Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Head over heels

Velma and I headed for the snow last weekend for the first time this season, and I was looking forward to snowboarding on Saturday and then probably relaxing in the cabin for the rest of the holiday, with plenty of reading by the fire and maybe some sledding or snow-shoeing. We went up with a few coworkers of Velma's, two of whom have a small house in Markleeville.

On Saturday, the others were going to cross-country ski and so I was the only one who headed for the lifts. I went to Kirkwood and got my rental and headed out on the slopes. It was a pretty awesome day, sunny and beautiful, but the snow wasn't too hard yet. I'd been to Kirkwood once or twice before, but not for a few years. Some of the names of the runs were familiar, but some weren't. But I was looking forward to some more challenging double black diamond runs because I'd become a little bored last year with the ones I'd done in north Lake Tahoe. So I headed up Wagon Wheel — one of the long lifts — toward the top of the mountain.

I headed up and shooshed down those slopes a few times, having fun and getting my legs back after a year's hiatus. The previous couple years I'd made the mistake of assuming I should play it safe on the season's first few runs and just stick to the greens and blues while I remembered what to do. But they invariably were way too easy and I'd be off for the blacks straight away, feeling like all I did was waste a bunch of snow time on bunny slopes. After my second year I didn't really need much of a refresher each subsequent year. I just needed to get back on fun runs and it all came back to me.

Which it did this year too. I was having fun, and it had all come back to me quickly on the first one. And Wagon Trail and The Wall are great, long runs. Not to steep and not too wide, but big and really long, and plenty of fun.

Well, to cut a long story short, I caught an edge and high-sided (translation: I went head over heels), and landed straight on my shoulder. I heard it make a simple three-pop "Craccck" as I hit and instantly knew I'd either dislocated it or broken it. A second later I'd come to a halt and realized I'd also had the wind knocked out of me pretty good.

After a moment or two I'd gotten my breath back but I could tell I'd knocked my shoulder good. I was feeling around myself to make sure everything was working and in its proper place, and to see if anything hurt too much to be moving it. When I reached my left hand up to check the right shoulder I could tell I had a problem. "That big bump isn't usually there," I thought. Well, it hadn't broken the skin, so I was not going to panic. And I wasn't hurting that bad at all. I could move the arm a fair bit, so I assumed it was probably just dislocated.

After about five or ten minutes of people shooshing by, a few stopped close enough that I could holler over to one guy, asking him to send up the Ski Patrol. I'd be foolish at that point to try to get down under my own power, unless I was going to walk. No sooner had the guy headed off, than Heather of the Ski Patrol showed up (she'd spotted me a few minutes before) and asked me if I needed assistance, to which I heartily agreed. As she unpacked some materials to make a sling, she asked, "Have you ever done this before?"

"What?" I returned. "Asked for Ski Patrol's assistance, or dislocated a shoulder? Neither, actually."

She made me a quick sling and her counterpart showed up and I slid onto the toboggan so he could take me down. I had crashed at a spot nearly all the way down Buckboard (dammit, it isn't even a hard run, it's a blue!), so it only took a couple minutes to get to the clinic.

The medicos took over. Kirkwood has a small clinic equipped with an X-ray setup so they can fix up most anything that typically comes off the slopes. In a couple hours they'd patched me up with an arm-brace to immobilize my right arm, a few X-rays to take to my doctor back in the Bay Area, and some Vicodin. The doctor was surprised at how much mobility I had considering it was actually a broken clavicle after all; he had also thought it was merely a dislocation, until the X-rays were done. So I didn't bother with any pain medication other than the two Tylenol they gave me while I was there. But I figured it'd be another story in a few hours and I'd better head back and get ready for a night of pain.

I was surprised that the actual shoulder did not hurt more, but during the examination the doctor was pretty sure I'd probably separated some ribs from their cartilage. I was definitely sore around the ribs once I started rubbing my chest and back and neck to see where it hurt most. In fact, the ribs have definitely been the most painful part of this journey for the past few days.

I left the clinic, turned in my rental stuff, gathered my stuff from the lockers, and headed back to the car. I was going to have to drive myself about a half-hour back to Markleeville with one hand. Using a manual transmission car. I wasn't too worried about that, as I've shifted with my left hand before just to see if it could be done. But I definitely had to take it slowly. For one thing, it was just too difficult to reach 5th gear with my left hand, so I didn't bother. And turning my head and neck to check both ways before making a turn was problematic at best. Luckily, there were few other cars on the route back. I even stopped to pump gas in Markleeville (and thanked bog that I didn't literally have to pumpit), and then at the general store for some Tylenol and a couple packs of frozen corn to ice my shoulder with.

I made it back to the house just as the others were driving away, going out for an hour or two of snow-shoeing and exercising the dogs, Poor Velma was so appalled and worried at my news that I had to insist that they all leave on their short trek, and that I'd be fine for a couple of hours. I was going to drink some wine and see if I could ice my shoulder and read a book at the same time.

The rest of the weekend was a lot of fun actually, despite being incredibly sore a lot of the time and at least uncomfortable all the time. On Sunday the five of us tackled a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle depicting a painting of a fresh water marsh from the Audubon collection, one so detailed that we thought we might not finish until 2 am. It helped me get my mind off the discomfort even though I was hobbling around the table hunched over like a cripple and forced to use only one hand. And we finished before 11 pm.

Sleeping the first night was incredibly uncomfortable, made easier only because I decided it was time to give in and take the Vicodin, and made worse by the fact that I had to sleep the whole time on my left side, parts of which kept going numb. At one point my entire left leg became so cramped that all the other pains caused by the actual injury paled by comparison and I had to get up and walk it off, or hobble it off as the case may be. I must've pinched a nerve or something, because it's two days later and that leg is still pretty sore.

One of the things I'm most bummed about is that I broke my streak. I'd gone my entire life without breaking any bones. All those mountain biking days and not a single major incident. But this spill in the snow took me out.

It's going to be interesting to see how much I can work at my computer. My right side is pretty out of commission, what with an arm strapped to my chest and my ribs so tight and achy that my torso's shaped sort of like a squiggle. Right now as I type this, I've got my tablet on my lap because it's really not possible to reach my mouse. Typing is not too difficult but I have to prop a pillow behind me and I have pretty limited movement. Plus I have a heating pad balanced on my shoulder and I have to put my feet up so I can reach the keys. Let me just say I'm fixing a lot more typos than usual.

Tomorrow I see a local doctor, but the doc on the mountain indicated that while this was a nicely broken shoulder, this sort of break should mend without loss of movement or permanent damage. I'm going to be pretty useless for a few weeks, especially until the rib pain sorts itself out, but otherwise I should be fine long-term.

So, no more 'boarding this year, but next year I'm gonna have to make up for lost time.

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Anonymous Brian Schmidt said...

Sorry to hear it Mark! Time to start a new streak of not breaking anything.

2/19/2008 01:56:00 PM

Anonymous anne said...

Get better soon!

2/20/2008 10:29:00 AM

Blogger The Frays said...

That sucks! I hope you're still up for a beach house visit (I'll keep the kids from climbing on you)next weekend! And hey, vicodin is your friend. Heal fast!

2/20/2008 02:46:00 PM

Blogger Ozark Handspun said...

Whatever happened to tuck and roll? Poor Velma! It happens to the best of us. I was 18 again when I broke my first bone. Heal fast.

2/21/2008 03:25:00 PM

Blogger mamakohl said...


I hope you heal quickly!!

2/25/2008 07:50:00 AM


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