Published March 19, 2010
I sit here in front of my computer with some residual morphine and about 10,000 other drugs in my system. It makes writing a lot of work for the first time in my life. My broken back offers only some minor pain right now because of who knows what.
I know I’ll be rambling but at least I’m back at the desk and doing what I like—sharing the ups and downs of a life spent lurching from one near-disaster to the next. This near-disaster of a broken back was closer than I care it to be.
Here’s what happened: I was traveling in excess of three miles an hour but not yet up to four. In the middle of my second turn of the day, a wide snowplow I might add, my right ski pre-released. I stepped out of the ski and my body was suddenly horizontal. My ski was stuck on edge and I landed on my back on the edge of it. Turning on skis this winter ended abruptly for me when the x-ray technician said, “You have a compression of your T-6 vertebrae.” In the scheme of things it was a minor accident unless it happens to you.
I promise not to bore you with my minor aches and pains. As I sit here working on the keyboard I look at my two hands. They are over 85 years old and I am the only person in the world that owns them. They have been to a lot of places and have done a lot of things.
They have held ski poles for a lot of winters; steered sailboats though high winds and almost dead calms; and held hammers and pounded nails as I helped get the cash for the filming of the first six or seven of my feature films. They have changed the settings on my lenses from Alaska to Argentina and from Zermatt to New Zealand and almost every ski resort in between.
This is the first time I’ve ever missed a day of skiing because of a ski injury. Why, I don’t know but it is probably because I have always been so cautious on my skis. Does it come from the early years of skiing without safety bindings and no insurance? Perhaps.
The audiences always assumed I skied where the people in the movies skied. All I really did was some very long traverses interrupted here and there with a kick turn. I remember some hills being so steep that when I put three traverses together I wound up 100 feet higher than where I started.
They say a positive attitude is the best medicine to take for a quick recovery. If that’s true I should be back out on the snow in a couple of days. Does it do any good to complain? If so, who do you complain to?
Laurie and I are living the rest of the winter here in Montana and are excited to meet new people every day. As I told her the night in the X-ray lab, “Laurie don’t worry. What I have is curable and yes it will take time but before we know it you will once again be waiting for me at the bottom of the chairlift while I lurch between one turn and the next.”
My injury is a very mild one when I talk to some of my other friends who have been bent and broken more times than a rodeo cowboy. Take, for instance, our friend Greg LeMond.
Greg had won the Tour de France three times when his career was interrupted when he was shot in the back in a hunting accident. He still has eight or 10 lead shotgun pellets imbedded in his heart and the doctors can do nothing about them. After a two-year layoff due to the hunting accident, Greg won his third race by eight seconds. That was the margin after racing almost 2,000 miles across France. Greg is a super-human guy who has survived pain and is still almost impossible to beat down the hill on a pair of skis.
Sorry for the disjointed ramblings this week as words sneak out of my drug-laden brain. Stay tuned for the next adventure.