This is a story with many layers. I submit it as a tribute to our knitblog and medical communities. Much of this was dictated by Mr. Etherknitter, who rejected the idea of co-blogging. I think he is shy.
We love to ski. It is exhilarating. By definition, it takes place in mountains. It turns the cold, dreary drudgery of winter into a pure, bright joy. Just read my previous post. (Foreboding music queues.)
On a beautiful, groomed slope at Deer Valley, Mr. Etherknitter and I were making simple, happy turns. It was stockinette stitch, if you will.
He hears a loud scritch in the snow, a yell. Impact. He is thrown forward 30 feet. Glasses and goggles flying, he spins to a stop. I had stopped to rest, and saw a chilling sight up the slope. A pile of skis and poles, in one spot, and a skier lying on the ground, black jacket, and tell-tale red boots.
Slowly, he moves, calls me on the cell.
"Are you okay?" "I don't know. Something is wrong with my knee. No. Not my knee. My leg is broken." "i'm coming up." The cell phone goes back in the fanny pack.
I'm screaming at him from downslope. "OPEN OR CLOSED?" "OPEN OR CLOSED?" Closed means the bone hasn't cut through the skin, and we can get it fixed in Boston. Open means the bone is through the skin. The clock starts ticking at the moment of injury, and it MUST be fixed within six hours to reduce the risk of infection.
"Open!" he yells down.
"FUCKFUCKFUCK" I scream. I see heads turn. They aren't the ones whose life has been irrevocably altered.
I climb up to him, uphill. I now completely understand oxygen debt. At first I hiked in skis, then I stopped, took them off, dug the toes of my boots into the steep slope, and stopped every three steps to try and breath. It took an eternity of ten minutes to reach him.
Ski patrol got there first. I can see as I climb that he is sitting up. That means his neck is okay. His head is probably okay.
With far more composure than I ever thought possible, I sat in the snow next to the assailant. A young man, sixteen years old, lying winded a few feet away. I don't yell. I don't berate. I just tell him:
"Now listen. You need to learn from this accident. You have to understand that you have altered my husband's life and my life for the foreseeable future, and you have made it into a nightmare. I want you to understand what you have done and use it to learn. I hope you heal well."
I really didn't, but I also didn't want ski patrol to shoo me away before I had a chance to make my point.
They splint Mr. Etherknitter's leg, bring him down to a waiting snowmobile. They take us to the ambulance at the base. I ride in front, he is in the back having an IV started. The ambulance crew puts in the backboard that was forgotten by ski patrol. I call back, "How is his oxygen saturation? Is he okay? Does he have neck pain? How are you, dear?" He is stable.
I feel so helpless. I have to find a surgeon who won't screw up his leg, and an anesthesiologist who won't kill him. I don't know anyone in the medical community here. I make a cellphone call to the chief of my department. His secretary says he is in a meeting and unavailable. "Missy, this is an emergency. I have to speak with him NOW."
He calls the chief of the anesthesia department at the University of Utah. I start hearing the same surgeon's name from multiple lips. I throw the dice, commit myself to the bet.
This is the part not for the squeamish. Really. It will take me a very long time to learn how to live with what I saw next. The staff takes the gauze off his sock. They cut the sock. His tibia has exploded through the front of his leg, created a six inch by three inch gash, with bone sticking out. He can't see yet what I see, and agrees to let them take off the ski boot. I tell him NO. I ask the nurse to give him morphine first. Several attempts at pulling the boot yields a dose of 20mg that finally has some effect. The boot is pulled off by SIX people. They are very good at what they do, but he almost passes out. As they take the boot off, and tip it to free his heel, blood pours out onto the stretcher from the boot. My sweet man. I can't let myself cry yet.
The chief of anesthesia comes down to the ER. He arranges for a wonderful clinician to take care of Mr. Etherknitter. He rearranges an extremely busy OR schedule and makes it possible for the operation to start before the timer runs out. I meet the surgeon. Young. Brash. From New York, and quoting data, studies, experience. Exuding confidence. I like him. GO.
It was the longest, loneliest, bleakest three hours of my life in the postsurgical waiting room. I couldn't call anyone because I couldn't cope with MY response OR theirs. Complete strangers saw the look on my face and reached out. When they found out I was alone, they hugged me. I was an unusual sight in the waiting room: ski jacket, ski pants and ski boots.
The surgeon and the chief of anesthesia rematerialize together. "Boy that was a pain in the ass to fix."
"What do you mean, 'a pain in the ass'?"
"It was a PAIN in the ass. He has really good muscle tissue and strong bone. I had to open another incision proximally (higher up) and reach in and yank it into place."
He described what he did. A large metal rod spans the whole tibia. Lots of screws. Complexities involving location of fracture relative to tendons, and what the limitations were. And are. Now, I can only cross my fingers, and trust in the Higher Ether. It's going to take months to heal, and to find out what we need to deal with next. He answers every single question, and I am satisfied.
So far, a bad story. A long, cautionary tale. But it's not the real story here.
Mr. Etherknitter is trying to take it in stride. (His pun.) He dislikes being helpless and dependent. And there's a possibiity that future surgery may be necessary.
I start to understand PTSD. It will take some careful thought and an effort of will to go back to the slopes.
What I've really come to appreciate is our community. It was powerful in fun times (Rhinebeck, SPA, local get-togethers), but incredible in a crisis. You can't feel anything close to worthy. The condo didn't have internet access, so I went to the local internet cafe, and sent off three emails. A tidal wave of support and love swept over me, enfolded me, helped me.
Cassie made me take care of myself, talked me down, set me straight. Juno helped me feel normal. Claudia stepped in with sympathy and professional opinion. Marcia lent me her Park City son to help me move from the condo to the hospital room, a drive of about 20 miles. Margene opened her heart and herself to whatever I might need. The email support has been stunning in sympathy and generosity. Mr. Etherknitter was moved to help write this story.
Tom, son of Marcia, chauffeur extraordinaire, below. He actually managed to stuff a week's worth of ski luggage into a Mazda RX-7. Amazing.
Once you look up from your feet, you see the sun. I can't begin to list my saviours. Our knitbloggers. The hospital staff. Our neighbors. Even the ski resort.
So today, it all seems feasible. I plan to sit with the DH while he snoozes, and I knit. He likes that.