Overcoming Tahoe Trauma

30. December 2015 Milestones, Travel, Winter 0
Overcoming Tahoe Trauma

“Wanna go to Tahoe? We’re leaving tomorrow night.”

Jessica presented me with this glorious dilemma over lunch earlier this week. My last trip to Lake Tahoe was sparked by this same spontaneous question almost exactly a year ago–by the same person, same time of day, also while at work. We were going to meet up with the same group of people on the same mountain, Heavenly. As much as I was craving to go back to the snow, I had to pause and take in this strange feeling of déjà vu.

When I went on this similar trip last year, I fractured my arm when a kid crashed into me from behind as he came speeding down the hill uncontrollably with no warning. I flew down the slope on my snowboard and, before I knew it, I was laying in the snow, screaming in pain and barely able to move. It wasn’t long before the ski patrol came down to the rescue, transporting me down the rest of the way on a sled, wrapped up in a blanket eerily resemblant of a body bag.

Long story short, what was supposed to be a weekend trip ended after an unfortunate half day and a careless, unsupervised child. My radius had snapped into two, and I was told that I needed surgery to properly piece the bones back together. My friends took care of me and brought me home later that night, and I couldn’t be more grateful for their support.

After the next few days of grueling pain and tears of frustration in my struggle to book a surgeon before the holidays, I finally managed to schedule my operation on Christmas Eve. I walked into the operating room with high spirits and my newly made ugly Christmas sling; then left with a metal plate, seven screws, and lots of Vicodin to numb the pain.

Getting Back on Track

After that, I went through months of physical therapy to regain strength in my arm. It was frustrating for me to be so limited in my movement at a time when I was actively running and taking cardio classes I really enjoyed (much to everyone’s surprise). After a lifetime of laziness and a lot of pride in my fast metabolism, I had just gotten into the rhythm of a physical fitness routine for the very first time, and was optimistic about reaching new fitness goals in the new year. For the first month or two, I wasn’t able get moisture in my cast or my bandaged laceration–that means no sweat or shower water touching my arm. I had limited range of motion from my left elbow down and couldn’t handle lifting heavy objects–it was a struggle just picking up my laptop. My lack of exercise negatively affected my mood and motivation as I felt my energy levels drop and my (little) muscle slowly turning to fat. But through it all, I was able to maintain a positive attitude, counting down the days till I was allowed break a sweat.

As I began my transition to getting active again, I couldn’t wait till my workouts were no longer limited to just leg days. My PT sessions consisted of elastic band stretches, repetitive dumbbell exercises, and massages to my wound to make sure the healing tissue wouldn’t grow around the “hardware” on my bone (…gross). In every session I asked my physical therapist when I could start taking yoga and cardio sculpt classes again. Spin class seemed like an easy one to get back into at first, but the arms surprisingly do a lot of work to support the upper body in these sessions.

Through the recovery process, I became increasingly aware of the muscles being used in different exercises and the limits of my abilities to do these while healing. I constantly had to find variations in yoga poses and weight exercises to make sure I wouldn’t hurt myself–and a lot of the time it still hurt. In the last of my PT sessions I received guidance to re-teach my body to do push-ups–starting from the wall, moving on to a tabletop, down to my hands and knees, until I was finally able to support my full body weight in a normal push-up, which I was only recently able to do.

Looking back at it, I recovered pretty quickly, and my injury wasn’t nearly as limiting as other stories I’ve heard. At the time, the setback in my routine had me feeling discouraged and impatient. I wanted to recover faster, but I knew I needed to listen to my body if I wanted to heal properly. As I carefully pushed my limits, I channeled my frustration into motivation to get stronger. And just like that, 2015 became the healthiest, most active year of my life.

Getting Back on Snow

Going back to Heavenly again after this incident was a scary thought to overcome. But after all the hard work I put in to reach fitness goals that had once seemed unattainable, I had to reward myself with the breathtaking magic of a powder day. I was back in the snow for the first time since my accident, hitting the slopes on the one-year anniversary of my operation. It was a beautiful White Christmas Eve and Day. And I got a great day and a half of cross-training!

Leave a Reply