There are two things I do not remember about Sunday the 17th of February. One is a period of time lasting at least thirty minutes. The other is a helicopter.
I am a strong, healthy person. Or at least, I was until I overbalanced while turning on my snowboard; a beginner, I was no stranger to falling over, but a combination of speed, confidence and a little ice meant that this fall was more serious than the others.
I remember blood, against the crisp white snow.
I remember pressing tissue to my nose.
I remember hanging on tight to the snowmobile and worrying I would drop my gloves, then thinking that new gloves could be bought easily, that it wouldn’t matter.
Then, I remember waking up in the middle of the night with a blood pressure cuff digging into my arm, IVs in the crook of each elbow and an eye that somehow refused to open properly.
Injury is one of those things that happens to other people. I am young, and indestructible. My family has its share of health problems, but even then, we have mostly stayed out of hospitals; to find myself waking up in one, with no recollection of getting there, was more than a little shocking.
Apparently, there was a helicopter. On the Saturday, we saw a helicopter landing at the ski resort–after averting our eyes from the dust, we asked a staff member what was going on. “Gosh,” we said, “it must be pretty nasty if they need to take them to hospital in a helicopter.” Gosh, indeed. It was.
A week later, I am out of hospital, but staring it in the face as I prepare for surgery on my skull, a titanium implant in my eye socket to shore up the damage caused by a mountain punching me in the face. My black eye has receded, just in time to be reawoken. My head is doing its own merry thing, deciding at turns to pound, spin, float or simply feel a little disconnected from my eyes, as if the wiring wasn’t connected up properly after it fell apart.
As luck would have it, my regular doctor is out. I don’t claim to have a close relationship with her, but I have at least seen her a couple of times, including the joy of a routine pap smear on first encounter — what a way to break the ice. The stand-in, an avuncular man with a smile that belies his serious demeanour, admonished me when I asked about recovery time. Everyone is different, he said. You have had quite a serious injury, young lady, he said. You can expect a month or more to get better, he said.
The world does not stand still, brain injury or no. There is product to ship and a deadline to hit. There are decisions to make, and designs to charter. For the next month, there will be none of these. I am not supposed to even use a computer much.
I am not sure how to spend my time.
My mind feels unusual, and I am starting to understand when people are “not feeling like theirselves”. Walking into a store, I get overwhelmed and walk out. Driving feels difficult, and I choose not to, for the most part. Even walking down the street, especially on steps or curbs, feels like it demands more effort than it should.
This will pass. In a week or two or three or more, it will pass. In the meantime, I have eye surgery to look forward to, another hospital stay and hospital food, and mini goals to tick off, like a day without medicine or a day when I got something, anything done.
The thing I miss most, so far, is exercise. This surprised me. The triathlon will probably be off, now, but there are plenty more later in the year. The Crossfit Games, already something I was considering ambitious, now become almost unthinkable in their audacity. The mud run might be a celebration, or a disaster. Who knows.
I need to stay active. For me, this has become a lifestyle and a necessity, not a choice, not any more. I have not exercised in the past week, beyond walking to the local high street and back. I toss around thoughts of a bike trainer, of low impact routines, of ways to keep moving without jarring or thudding or raising my blood pressure.
In hospital, they asked if I was an athlete. My resting heart rate is around 45.
Given where I have come from, and where I am now, I find this question incredibly flattering; with a BMI of 27 and a bodyfat percentage almost exactly the same, I would make a strange kind of athlete. I cannot do a pull-up. But there is plenty I can do, much of which I could not do a year ago.
Although there is even more left to conquer, I am grateful that I have been able to be so active, and discover a form of fitness that gets me up in the morning. Because I am certain of one thing, at least, and that is: without my current level of good health, and a year of Crossfit behind me, I would be looking at a lot more than a titanium plate and a couple of nights in hospital.
The girl they brought in after me, the helicopter trauma red to my green, had a broken neck.