My last ever chair lift ride – Les Gets, France, February 2014
Apologies for the lack of Saturday snapshots for the past 2 weeks. I have a good excuse though… Two weeks ago I was skiing in the French alpine resort of Les Gets when I had an unspectacular slow-speed fall. The slow speed meant that my skis stuck in the snow but my bindings did not pop out and so my legs twisted till I shattered my femur. Shattered. As in multiple pieces. Much drama followed, and much pain. The executive summary was that I was skidooed (is that a word?!) down the mountain in massive pain (no drugs with the piste paramedics) to a medical cabin where a doctor arrived, poked around in both my veins to get an IV in and failed. All I recall hearing was “Merde!” Merde!” and even in my state I knew that was not good. His alternative? An intramuscular shot of ketamine. “You weell feel a leetle strange” he said. No, I beg do differ. You will feel as if everything you know and love is receding from you and you will say to your husband “I love you. I am dying.” over and over. You will experience visual and auditory hallucinations that seem like a cross between a very full-on rave, The Matrix, and death. You will recall the feeling of your injured leg coming free of its ski boot but not the pain (although you will scream like a damned soul). You will take your first helicopter ride and remember about 1 second of it – the doctor’s face above your own and a rotating blade somewhere above his face. I’m afraid I cannot recommend ketamine as a recreational drug.
I came to in a A&E in Thonon-les-Bains hospital with not a single familiar face around me. People were speaking a language I could not understand, I threw up from the ketamine, and I had a very clear paranoid fantasy that I had been taken somewhere away from the friends for my organs to be harvested. Even in my state I tried to swat away the poor nurse who tried to take my temperature with an ear thermometer. I tried to talk to the ancient Chinese man on the gurney next to me, shirtless with white wispy hair and electrodes all over his chest. Surreal is not the word. Some time later Nick arrived, I was X-rayed and the orthopaedic surgeon told me I had a broken femur and would be operated on that night to have a rod and screws inserted. All this after 44 years of not a single night in hospital and not a single blood test. I came to in the recovery room just before midnight with metalwork in my bone and 21 staples on my thigh and from there I was taken to the room where I would stay for another week, severely anaemic and fighting with travel insurance over when I could go home.
After much administrative drama, on Monday 17 Feb a nurse was sent from the UK and together with Nick I was taken on a stretcher by ambulance from hospital to Geneva airport. There we were rolled into a passenger assistance unit – big metal box on a hydraulic lift that lifts disabled people into aeroplanes. On the plane I sat across 3 seats with my leg elevated and with oxygen cannulas in my nose – and the nurse checking my blood pressure periodically. Drama is not the word. From Heathrow another ambulance collected me and took me on a stretcher to a private hospital in London where I spent three nights receiving the most incredible care I could have hoped for, particularly from the young orthopaedic surgeon that the insurers eventually recommended. After Nick spent 2 days outfitting our spectacularly disabled-unfriendly home with kit for me, I came home on Thursday night to start the long road to recovery – a minimum of 6 weeks on crutches and if there are signs of bone growth then, I might be able to start rehab.
As for skiing, I have loved it more than any other activity that I have ever participated in, but I am done. My accident made me realise that even with the best technique and skiing conservatively, bad freak accidents can happen and it’s not a risk I am willing to take again. For Valentine’s Day in the French hospital I got a pair of snowshoes. I am still passionate about the mountains and the snow, but it’s time for a new sport.
Saturday Snapshots is a series of non-food photographs published every Saturday on CookSister. Previously featured photographs can be viewed on the Saturday Snapshots archive pages. Many photos featured in Saturday Snapshots are available to buy as high-quality greeting cards or prints in my RedBubble store, or even as high-quality A3-size calendars. If you want a custom calendar with your own selection of photos, starting with any month (not only January), please e-mail me and we can discuss your requirements.