So there I was, in Japan, in February, enjoying a whole lot of snow and generally minding my own business when suddenly my season ended with a high speed crash and a broken ankle. I’m now spending a lot of time on my back and I thought I’d write the whole experience up on the blog.
I would seriously not recommend trying the following at home...
Break a leg
I have to admit, as crashes tend to be, it was a pretty stupid one. I was tired, heading down to get some warm gloves, last day of the holiday snowboarding, on some pretty lumpy pistes, in poor visibility (check that run of excuses) when I came to a run-in to a traverse. For those non-snowboarders of you, a traverse is a flat piece of ground in the middle of a run, and as a snowboarder it is something to seriously avoid in case you come to a halt and have to walk a bit. For sporty types we are, as a race, strangely adverse to using energy to do things like walk when we don’t have to. So to avoid the danger of walking, I got up a lot of speed to shot straight across the traverse, like I’ve done a thousand times before, and I wasn’t really concentrating (alright this was probably the main problem) and I caught a back edge and flipped into the air.
The first impact was on the very front of my board and it was then that my ankle shattered. Apparently my body was designed with some oversight because it seems to have some flaw where bits of it snap if it comes to a instant stop from 50mph. I flipped over a few more times but the damage was already done.
Snowboarding crashes are funny things (not laugh out loud funny) and quite often you have a lot of time to think about things as they happen. This is pretty much what went through my mind at the time...
- Catch edge: ‘Opps’
- Whilst losing contact with the ground: ‘Fingers crossed I come out of this one OK.’
- Upside down now: ‘Hang-a-banger, this is going to be awkward.’
- First impact: ‘Yup broken ankle there.’
- Next flip: ‘Wow this is hurting quite a lot already and I’m only just starting.’
- Next impact: ‘Twisted other ankle. Not so bad that one. Normally I would be complaining about this but seeing as I have clearly just broken by other ankle I might let this one pass.’
- And so on.
I took off my board straight away and I knew my left ankle/leg was broken.
So a bit of waving at people (I was on my own but fortunately on a piste) and some British lad stopped and he called out the ski patrol. A fair few people went straight by before that lad stopped. Not sure why they think I was laying on the floor waving at them and shouting for help. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and guess they thought I was performing some really weird new interpretive freestyle tricks. Think I read a similar story in the Bible some time so this must be a normal thing. Anyway good skills by the British lad.
So the patrol guys get to me and I have to take off my boot. I asked them to cut the laces because I know it was pretty bad. They were palinly amazed by my carefree attitude to lacing systems “Are you sure?” They checked with me three times. I was pretty calm at this point despite shaking like a Polaroid picture due to shock, and I was able to calmly answer their question - “Yes I’m bloody sure! I’m not ripping my fucking foot off for the sake of an old pair of boots. Cut the bloody laces”
They did also ask at this point if I would like a taxi? I thought this was a strange one, but apparently a taxi is an ambulance in Japan. Good knowledge to have there.
Then I get my first ride in a blood wagon. In Japan they also supply two guys that ski down beside side the sledge whistling like their at an early 90’s rave. It was quite a long and bumpy ride down but the music helped, I can see now why those Hamlin kids were so into that Piper geezer. On the whole though, it’ probably not up there with my most enjoyable descents.
Japanese ski patrol on the whole. Good service and friendly too. Two thumbs up.
Getting the op
So I get to hospital and get the X rays and the news isn’t good. I’m buggered. I have to wait for the swelling to go down so for the next 14 days I went around with a broken foot. In that time I did manage to get my sorry ass back through Japan and home. Thanks to Tom and Big Mountain Greg (two guys from the hostel) for helping out on the first night and packing me on the coach.
The most rotten experience after breaking my leg was the service of my snowboard travel insurance from Dog Tag insurance. I spent the first 5 hours after busting by leg in discussions with this company while they tried industriously to find a loop-hole so they wouldn’t have to help me. They found it in the end. Apparently, as this holiday had not originated directly from the UK, I was not covered. Cheers for that. They had already told me they wouldn’t cover the translation service I needed at the hospital as I should contacted them and they would have provided a service. They weren’t clear on explaining exactly how I should have contacted them. I guess I could have explained to the Japanese hospital staff that I needed to make this call but to do this I would have needed to speak Japanese and therefore I probably wouldn’t need a translator. Hang on a second, that’s a bit Catch 22. Luckily for those of you who like happy endings my work had insurance which did cover my medical expenses.
Anyway bad news is that it wasn’t just my leg that was fractured it was the ankle itself and it was quite a mess...
Then I spent a week in hospital. 6 hours of surgery and considerable amount of pain later they managed to patch me up with screws and metal plates...
Never trust a Fisherman!
Possibly the worst and most controversial moment in hospital though was when my dad went to Pizza Hut to get me something other than the hospital food (which was of course disgusting). I was really looking forward to the pepperoni pizza I had asked for. However when he came back, in what is some of the worst decision making I have ever seen in my normally dependable dad , he decided to change the order. Apparently he thought that this was an ideal time to experiment with food and on the spur of the moment he ordered something ‘more interesting’. You never really feel like trying new food when you have got a broken leg or any illness for that matter, but imagine what you would feel like if this is what you got..
Ingredients of ‘more interesting’ pizza:
- Processed crab sticks
- Tuna fish – from a can
- Chedder cheese
- And Tomato sauce – No actually there was no tomato sauce I’m lying. It was in fact drowning in Thousand Island Dressing!
Why? What the hell are Pizza Hut doing? This pizza horror is called the Fishermans Favourite. I can only imagine it is the favourite of the same insane fisherman who also endorses Fisherman’s friends. Is it me or are all foods starting with Fisherman’s guaranteed to be disgusting? There has never been a successful restaurant on a fishing boat has there?
I always knew that as a snowboarder time was short before I would do something to break myself. Good news was at least I broke myself snowboarding and not just crossing the road which would have been a shit story. Bad news is that with the surface of the joint messed up looks like I’ll be enjoying some premature arthritis. I will have to give up running and football and a lot of the sort of snowboarding that I have always done.
Because I always knew this would happen eventually I have taken this news with an almost Gallic laissez faire. When it comes to snowboarding perhaps my biggest skill has always been riding far too fast it. Over the last few years I have been learning new skills like jibbing and buttering so that I can enjoy snowboarding in all conditions. I hope to keep snowboarding but I think my hooning years are behind me so it will just be soft boards for me from now on.
Any way I’m back at my place with a skinny robotic leg and in 6 weeks time I can start using it to walk in circles.
Enough about me, here are some other people hurting themselves...