Since I last updated my blog a lot has happened. Last month I wrote about getting my swanky new custom made seat from Aspen Seating. It is quite a long process to get it exactly as I like, but I had just had the back rest changed to be more suited to my level of injury. It now curves round my side a little more and it feels great. This was sorted, I was gearing up to go to Park City in Utah for some races in a couple of days, when suddenly something pretty major happened.
I was still getting used to my new seat, and after a day of slalom practice, I wanted to see how it felt if I had the backrest moved forwards a bit. I did this and went out skiing on my own (something I often do if I haven't got a friend to ski with). I had a great morning, took some runs with people I saw out on the hill, and was feeling really good. I was nearly done for the morning so went up the chairlift in order to get to a point where I wanted to ski down from.
In America, the majority of people don't pull the bar down on a chairlift, I don't really know why but that's the way it is. Monoskiers included. I'll usually pull it down when I can reach the bar but on this occasion I was too far forward to reach. This is quite often the case, but as it takes a lot of effort to get off the chairlift at the top, I've never been worried that I'd come off. Little did I know...
I was sitting with my arm on the back of the chair whilst mid-way up. When I took my arm off and faced forwards, I felt myself slipping off the front of the chair. I clearly remember, at that moment, thinking I was going to die. Seconds later I landed on the ground - 28 feet below. I recall feeling amazed that I was still alive and my head, neck and arms were okay but I just couldn't believe what had happened and was in a state of shock. I also had a great pain in my chest and was hyperventilating. I had landed in a pile of soft snow. If it wasn't it might have been a very different story.
Shortly after, ski patrol arrived, gave me oxygen and moved me carefully onto a backboard on the sled. We weren't far from the ER room so they got me there within minutes. I remember being very scared and in a lot of pain but the team in the ER were absolutely fantastic. I've got to know a few of them there so they were very concerned for me. I was put on a drip, given painkillers, oxygen and they gave me some x-rays. They found I had badly broken four ribs on my right side and punctured a lung. Because they were concerned that I'd done further damage below my level of injury I was sent by ambulance to the hospital in Denver.
When I arrived, my mum was called, who then booked the next flight out of London. I had numerous tests and scans in the hospital but was very out of it with the strong painkillers so this time, and the few days following, are very blurred. Luckily I had no further damage but because my ribs were badly broken they wanted to operate a put a metal plate to fix my ribs, they did this the following morning, and as I came round, my mum had arrived. I was very glad and grateful to see her.
I spent the next four days in ICU being very well cared for by the wonderful nurses there. I had visits from lots of people from Winter Park and felt very blessed with so many messages of love and support. At the start I could barely move due to pain, but with each day, I felt better and better. After ICU I spent three further days in hospital. Then, having been discharged, my mum and I stayed in a hotel nearby because I had been advised not to go up to altitude for a few more days.
A week following my accident we came back to Winter Park. It was lovely to see everyone and I think people were assured to see that I was okay. By the sounds of it I had been the talk of the town! After a few days in Winter Park my mum and I booked flights to San Diego. I was intending to go at the end of February but figured that, by then, I would be ready to ski so decided to change my flight to go then to recover. It would have been tough to stay in Winter Park unable to ski.
We stayed with a friend of mine in Carlsbad, a small town outside of San Diego, California. It was perfect. He had a guest apartment right beside his own, and it was all geared up for wheelchair users. He also broke his back six years ago. His intentions behind making his properties accessible were so they could be a place for people to heal. It couldn't have been more ideal for me! He lives a five minute walk from the ocean, close to all the shops and restaurants, but also has a backyard where we could sunbathe in private! It is the most wonderful place, and I had one of the best holidays I've had in a long time - despite the broken ribs! Kalim was very generous letting us stay there - it couldn't have come at a better time. I will certainly be heading back there before too long!
I'm now back in Winter Park, have been spending a bit of time in the gym stretching and starting to lift a bit (as well as making the most of the hot tub and steam room - got to help surely?!) This weekend is the Wells Fargo Cup race which I'm sad to be missing out on but am hoping to be skiing by Monday which will be a month after my accident.
Lots of people have told me that injuring oneself is part and parcel of ski racing, which I guess I knew. It was a very scary thing to happen but I just keep reminding myself how lucky I am and how much worse it could have been. I was disappointed to miss out on the races at Park City, especially because it would have been my chance to improve my points. This will have set me back a bit and may well have implications for the near future - namely, qualifying for the Paralympics in 2018. But, thank goodness it wasn't worse, I may have never skied again, so I can only be grateful and be glad that I have a guardian angel watching out for me.