Well, I’ve made it 24 years, four months, and one week before any injuries that required a trip to the hospital. That streak ended today in a probably glorious flailing of limbs as I crashed full speed while skiing and somersaulted a good 15, 20 feet down the run.
Let’s back up a little, shall we?
I’ve been on a ski trip with a group of JET buddies in nearby Niigata Prefecture since Friday night. I had a wonderful time skiing on Saturday; conditions weren’t great, as it hasn’t snowed in a while, so the snow that’s still on the mountain was more slush than anything else. Still, it being my second time on the slopes, when I made it down this one beginner’s run like five times without crashing, I felt pretty good about myself.
The second day dawned just as beautiful and clear as the one before it. We got on the slopes earlier than we had yesterday, and soon we were at the top of that same beginner’s run, ready to race down. Just one problem; the slope wasn’t covered in slush anymore. It was covered mostly in ice. We went down the first small hill before the steeper, longer, second hill, and I was already getting nervous. It was much harder to stop and control my speed than it had been yesterday. Still, I decided to give it a shot.
At first, I tried winding my way down carefully, zig-zagging as good as a skier on her third day of skiing could, but my skis were acting funny because of the ice. Soon, I found myself racing down the mountain, going much faster than I was used to. I still felt somewhat in control though. There wasn’t anyone around me that would cause me to need to break fast or anything so that was good. Eventually, though, near the bottom of the hill, I saw I was rapidly encroaching on a parent and child skiing duo. Even though I was still decently far away from them, I decided to turn slightly and give them a wider berth, just to be sure. I started to turn to the right, my skis starting wobbling, then my left one slipped, and my left side slammed into the ice as I tumbled, tumbled, tumbled, before coming to rest face down, head facing the top of the slope, right under the path of the ski lift.
It’s all fun and games until…
I immediately knew something was wrong. As one part of my brain was laughing at the image of my skis and poles scattered all over the slope and the sight the people on the ski lift probably got, the other half was concerned with the odd sensation in my left arm. I landed with it in an L shape beside me, and I could move my fingers, but the arm itself was in pain. I didn’t want to move it. One of my friends skied up behind me, and asked if I was ok. The laughing in my head had stopped at this point, and my concern was growing. I gave a weak groan in response, and she quickly popped her skis off. A passing Australian stopped and advised my friend what to do next; they collected my gear and put my skis in the snow in an X shape behind us to warn other people on the slope to watch out.
Soon, friends were calling to me from the ski lift and hurrying down the mountain to get to me; eventually I was in a crowd of gaijin, while a member of the ski patrol carefully took my jacket off and started feeling my arm. She said she didn’t feel anything broken, but I should go to a hospital anyway. A few of my friends volunteered to take me, and I stood up, arm in so much pain I felt dizzy, and slowly walked to the car.
The hospital was only 10, 15 minutes away, but it felt like forever. Every jolt, every bump was agony, and I kept fidgeting, trying to find a spot, a pose, a position that didn’t hurt. I went into the hospital without shoes on (had to take the rental ski boots off and didn’t feel like trying to get my big snow boots on), and, while my friends filled out the paperwork, tried not to burst into tears. I was so worried that something was broken; I was already stressing about all the things I might not be able to do with one arm. Like shovel snow. Or tie shoes. Put a bra on. Do dishes. Type quickly. Blow-dry my hair. Carry groceries. Eventually, we were told to walk down a hallway and wait there…. 10 minutes go by, and I decide to sit on the floor and rest my arm on the seat. I was crying by this point and just wanted to find some spot that didn’t hurt. I’ve never been in so much pain before with no way to make it stop.
FINALLY they said the doctor could see me (part of me feels like that only happened after a nurse came out, saw me sitting on the floor, head in hands, crying in pain…). I groaned a little at the prospect of standing up, then, in going to get to my feet, slightly rotated my left shoulder, and POP. It slid back into place.
…someone dislocates a shoulder.
I must’ve given an audible gasp, because everyone was instantly concerned and started to rush over. I said, “WAIT…” and slowly moved my arm. No pain. It had been stuck in the same position as I had landed in for the last I-don’t-know-how-long, and suddenly I could move it. I looked at my friends and the nurse, and they looked at me, and I wiggled my arm a little bit.
“…I think my arm was dislocated and I just popped it back into place…” The nurse looked at me and said, 「よくになった。。。」(You got better…) Eyes wide, she escorted us into the doctor’s office. The doctor looked at my face; I think I was still in shock at this point, and the nurse said again, 「。。。よくになった」.
「ええっ？」(Whaaaat?) came the doctor’s inevitable response. He felt around my arm a little, then they took a bazillion x-rays, and he informed me that nothing was broken! It was indeed a dislocation. Then they gave me a sling for my arm, told me not to do anything crazy with it (apparently, until the muscles heal around the joint I can very easily re-dislocate my shoulder…), and told me to come back tomorrow so they could check it out again.
When we went back up to the front, I made eye-contact with the people behind the front desk for the first time; I’d been in too much pain to do it before. The guy stared at me in disbelief, and said that my color looked better. And that’s when the nurse said to everyone behind the desk, “Her shoulder was dislocated, but she popped it back in.” 「えええええええええええええええ？？？」and a chorus of すごいs (amazing) followed.
And that is the story about my first injury-related trip to the hospital in my 24 years of living. I’ll try to be more careful next time I decide to ski down an ice slope 😉