Sooner or later you're going to hurt yourself hurtling yourself down a frozen mountain attached to a plank of wood. Here's the worst of my snowboarding injures...
If you chuck yourself down a mountain with a waxed-up, fibreglass coated plank strapped to your feet on a regular basis, hurling yourself off rocks, hard packed ramps and an assortment of metal structures… at some point you’re going to get hurt. And by hurt, I don’t just mean bruised knees or a bit of whiplash, as that happens fairly regularly. I’m talking about the kind of hurt which requires hospitalisation, surgery, great expense and inconvenience, and which brings your holiday, and invariably your season, to an abrupt end.
Unfortunately getting hurt seems to happen to me with inordinate frequency and I’ve managed to clock up three season-ending breaks in the past six years.
The most recent one happened towards the end (thankfully) of an otherwise amazing trip to The Three Valleys in January. This time I snapped my radius quite spectacularly, rendering it alarmingly S-shaped and requiring urgent surgery.
French healthcare may not be cheap, but it’s good and efficient, so as long as you’re covered by the appropriate insurance, it’s not a bad place to smash yourself, as places to smash yourself go.
Having ridden (cautiously) down to the medical centre in Mottaret, I was on the operating table in Moutiers Hospital within a couple of hours. Not bad at all when you consider that you could easily wait that long just to be seen in A&E back in the UK. Sadly they weren’t able to fast track my recovery and I was hospital bound for a further three days. Fortunately I’m able to speak French so was able to communicate with the nurses, doctors, surgeons and fellow patients, which made the whole experience a lot less traumatic. However, given that I was to have a metal plate drilled into my arm using ten screws, under local anesthetic, it might have been better to be blissfully unaware!
Those four days were undeniably worse for my other half who had to find a hotel in what is hardly a tourist hotspot, and spend the hours, when not “letting me win” at Scrabble, wandering the streets of the suicide capital of France.
Four days, and four grand, later (a drop in the ocean compared to 20 grand for a broken ankle in Colorado a few years ago) we were finally able to resume what was left of our holiday: two days, which we spent recovering from the ordeal at our friends’ chalet in St Gervais.
Even though it’s only been a few years since my last break, I’d forgotten how frustrating it is for a part of your body which you rely on heavily (typically it’s my right arm, and I’m right handed, and write for a living!) to be suddenly reduced to nothing more than a limp and painful appendage, which is not only rendered useless, but also becomes an obstructive annoyance which impedes even the simplest of tasks. Unless you embraced the return of the poncho, it’s nigh on impossible to find an outer garment with sleeves big enough to accommodate the massive cast that’s housing your wounded limb, forcing you to adopt an awkward shawl-like arrangement on one side of your body, which hardly serves to shield you from sub zero temperatures in the Alps, or the UK.
Showering is also a slow and laborious procedure in which the bandaged limb has to be wrapped in cling film and tentatively held as far away from the water flow as possible, while you fight to open, squeeze, and attempt to catch the contents of the shower gel, all with one hand. And you can forget about attempting to wash your good arm.
However, you do learn to adapt, out of sheer necessity. Pretty early on I learned to do a one handed ponytail, or at least some semblance of one, when, on asking my other half to do it for me, he couldn’t even figure out how an elastic hair band might work.
There are certain things that are simply impossible though. You have to be pretty dexterous to tie shoelaces or fasten a bra using only one hand. Unsurprisingly, the man was able to help with that one though!
After six painful weeks in a removable cast, I was told that my break was mending and I was finally able to start physio. However, far from the wrist flexing and weight lifting that I had envisaged, so far it has involved more in the way of finger lifts than anything more physically demanding. Mind you, it’s amazing how tiring finger lifts can be for a damaged arm which hasn’t been used for 6 weeks!
It’s fucking tedious, but I just keep reminding myself that I’ve had worse, and far more inconvenient injuries, and that there are a great many out there with far worse afflictions.
Maybe I’ve lost a few brain cells in my many tumbles, but my main focus is on being able to get back on my snowboard before the season’s out. That and being able to type with both hands again!
For more stories about British snowboarding read Catherine’s blog here
Follow Catherine on Twitter